Anatomy of a Story

Here’s something fun I came up with the other day when I was supposed to be working. I’m a bit of a science geek so it seems perfectly natural for me to think of writing in this way and I’m surprised I’ve not thought of this before.

All stories have an anatomy, like we do, and though the structure and general layout may be different, all the organs are necessary and present.

Firstly, they need a brain. In a literal sense, all these things are supplied by the writer but lets imagine instead an open book with its insides on display and a hoary old professor pointing to the various parts with a stick. “The brain,” he croaks, while droopy eyed students study a spot on the wall with vague interest, “the brain is the most vital part of a book. Without it the other organs would not survive, there would be no story, no ideas…in short, the book would cease to exist.”

This dramatic statement does not have the effect he hoped it would and the sea of slowly nodding heads hastens him onto his next piece, the one he suspects everyone will want to see.

“The heart!” he cries, flourishing his stick at the glistening organ, still pulsing gently from the centrefold of the page. A couple of students raise their heads, startled out of near sleep, and gaze at the heart, trying to decide if it is worth their staying awake for. It is not. They drop their heads. The professor continues, unabashed. “The heart provides the emotion but more importantly, it gives the rest of the story its motivation and urgency, its passion.” He wiggles his bushy eyebrows at a young man in the front row; yes, we are hot blooded men, we know about passion, am I right? The young man blinks at him stupidly.

The professor sighs. He decides to move on with the lecure. 

“Here,” he continues, his voice falling into a drone fitting for the mood of the sleepy lecture theatre, “here are the lungs. They breathe life into the story. Without them, the characters would not live and the story would be a motionless dull thing.”

He moves his stick further down; he is nearly at the bottom of the book and not once have his budding students shown an interest in his talk. “Guts,” he says. “The stomach gives the story guts. It digests what the rest of the organs have provided, ideas, passion, a desire to live, and absorbs the important, most useful parts; the bravery. That’s what every good story needs. It needs guts to follow through on its ideas and speak up for itself.”

The professor’s weary eye is caught by a hesitantly waving object. It is an arm. A student has raised an arm and is asking a question. He almost shouts out with excitement. Instead he steadies his voice and says, as calmly as he can manage, “Yes, you at the back?” as though there are a myriad of waving arms grasping for his attention. A few dozy heads looks around in vague curiosity. Not because they’re interested; it’s just habit.

The girl is bashful and quiet but he can hear her question clearly over the noise of the silence. “So…how does all that get you a publishing deal?”

The professor hangs his head in despair.

4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Story

  1. This is great, not just as a story but also as a analogy for fiction. Good job. 🙂
    Gonna go check to make sure my novel has all the necessary organs lest I accidentally create a Frankenstein’s monster of a book!

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