Story Types – Idea

The last time I blogged about Orson Scott Card’s 4 story types, it was all about Milieu structures. Exploring strange worlds.

This week is focused on idea stories!

Idea stories are all about characters’ quests to answer questions presented at the forefront of the story. Their investigation, or discoveries, fuel the narrative. Usually, the protagonists are described as intelligent or experts in the field of whatever the mystery is, setting them up for potential success. It won’t be emotion or determination that solely gets the protagonist through the story. Speculative fiction thrives in this particular story type, whether that’s mystery, sci-fi, horror, or any other. Allegorical stories tend to fit well into this story type as well.

One example I see over and over when discussing idea stories is the bank heist. The main character finds themselves in a lot of debt, or unable to buy something substantial, and rationalizes that robbing somewhere is the only answer. The conclusion of this story will come about once the heist has concluded, with a bit of how the MC celebrates (or mourns) afterward.

Some great examples of this can be found in movies. Modern films that have a big focus on idea stories is anything Marvel has been pushing out lately. Captain Marvel’s memory loss, Ant Man’s heist of the yellow jacket suit, a number of movies attempting to take the infinity stones.

If you’d like to read a fairly quintessential idea story, I’d recommend picking up The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Another would be Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, the novella that Arrival was based on.

Idea stories are usually ideal to serialize as the focus is on the problem at hand, rarely about character growth. Sherlock Holmes, or someone like Jack Reacher, changes relatively little over multiple stories. For this same reason, you normally can’t expect too much meditation on the characters themselves. My personal favourites in this category are Cliver Cussler’s Oregon Files books, featuring the crew of the SS Oregon.

If you have any thoughts, or felt I missed anything, feel free to let me know. As for me, I’m attempting to focus on some new story ideas and will likely be taking another course in the near future. Other than that, just catch me on Twitter and say hi!

Keep turning the page,


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