Story Secrets

In this short video (<4 min), I discuss Story. What is “STORY” in the archetypal sense of the word? How does it differ from plot? What can the Harry Potter series teach us about Story?

View the video to see the Harry Potter clips. Otherwise read the transcript below.


Hi, I’m Lara, a writer, editor, and story coach, and I’m going to teach you a little bit about story.

[Verity Lane channel jingle]

What is story?

To answer that question, I want to take the most well-known story probably the world has ever seen—Harry Potter.

What is Harry Potter about?

Is it about a young boy named Harry Potter and his adventures as he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns how to perform magic, and comes face to face with his archenemy, Lord Voldemort?

When you think about Harry Potter, if you’ve seen the movies or read the books, what lasting images come to mind?

Why do you think Harry Potter is such a lasting series?

Is it because Harry Potter was the chosen one?

Hermione: She’s only interested in you because she thinks you’re the chosen one.
Harry: But I am the chosen one.
<end Clip>

Because he’s a wizard that goes to a wizarding school?

(Clip of Hogwarts)

Is it this, him fighting an arch nemesis?

(Harry and Voldemort cast spells and curses)
<end CLIP>

Or is it this?

(Harry, Hermione, and Ron after the Battle of Hogwarts)

Harry Potter’s wizarding school, his abilities, the places, the characters that are so complex and lifelike and lovable—these are just characters; these are just ideas. They’re concepts. And concepts don’t make a story.

They don’t even make a plot.

I once defined story as “a character believably interacting and conflicting en route to a goal.”

That’s plot. You have a character with a goal, and then you have a character trying to reach that goal, amidst all of these conflicts getting in the way. The longer your story, the more conflicts they have.

But that’s plot.

So what’s story?

Story is an irreversible change from beginning to end.

“You’re a Wizard, Harry!”—that’s the beginning of the story, right? That’s when Harry learns that he’s a wizard…

No, that’s the beginning of the plot.

The story begins when Harry loses his family.

The story ends when Harry has a new family.

The Story of Harry Potter is a boy who finds friends, and belonging, and a family. That’s the Story of Harry Potter. That is the underlying Story that all of us can believe in and all of us can understand. The plot shows us the Story.

Check out to see how story goals made the stories of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and How to Train Your Dragon.

I’ve talked about plot at length. I have a whole series of the 8 C’s of Plot that you can use to map out your story if you’re an outliner or a planner.

If you’d like to find out more about what makes a story, how to write plot…this spring, I’m launching StoryWorldCon, an online convention for writers of stories of any genre, for any ages. StoryWorldCon is going to be a place for you to meet other writers, to exchange work with them, to find critique partners, and to also learn from me how to write a story, how to come up with ideas, how to revise your story, and how to get that story out to agents.

I’m so excited about this, and I can’t wait to share more information! But that’s going to have to wait until later this spring, so stay tuned!



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