Story Rules

I’m imprisoned by John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. This classic book has me in its grip and as I was nearing the end of Part 2, Adam, Samuel and Lee are in deep discussion of the age-old story of Cain and Abel.

Lee, the Chinese house servant to Adam, tries to explain to his master why this old story is so relevant.  “If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen.  And here I make a rule – a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last.  The strange and foreign is not interesting – only the deeply personal and familiar.”  (page 268, East of Eden, J. Steinbeck)

Lee’s argument for this thinking is that Cain suffered from rejection, and this universal connection with the human condition makes his story is timeless.

So, there you have it plain and simple, the story must be relevant to the reader, which is why writers are always being told to write what you know.


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