Two weeks ago I talked about why I don't like message-less stories. I mentioned that a reader likes to think while they read. At that point, I nearly said, "The point of a story is to make you think."
Yet, I wasn't sure if that was completely true. I knew that the point of a parable was to explain an idea through story. The main point there was the idea, and the story was just a mechanism to explain it. Yet, what was the point of story? Logically, I eventually fell upon the idea that the point of story is to tell a story. That seems obvious. And it is. Yet, the point of a story is not that simple.
A story tells us the story of a person. Or it tells us what happened at a certain time. It chronicles the stories of those in history. Or it takes us somewhere to other worlds. The point of a story is to tell a story, to explore themes through story, to show us what life is, was, or will be like.
And yet, the story in itself is not an entity. Few people like a novel for the story alone (though if there is a bad story, that decreases a novel's enjoyment considerably). A novel must also have compelling characters in that story. Throwing a character into an action scene may grab a reader's attention, but why should they care about the character if they don't know him or her? Again, why should a reader care about a character if life is just cookies and roses? There must be conflict to a story and deep characters inside the story.
That is what makes up a good story, but what is the point of the story in itself? The point is to tell the story. And this is where the truly difficult part comes in, because I want to get a theme across. I want to show a character's redemption. I want to make the reader gasp as I reveal a shocking twist. I want a good story, good characters, and a strong theme. And yet, if I exalt one of those elements above the others, I have something that has a great theme, but lousy characters. Or I have a great story, but its pointless and soon forgotten. Or I have marvelous characters in a plot that doesn't make much sense. The balance is the most difficult, yet the most vital part of the story.
The point of a story is to find a way to tell a good story, explore a good theme, and detail how real people would react in those situations. There's no one to exalt above the others, and that is the point.
Any thoughts? What do you think is the point of a story?