Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 457–480 | Cite as

What makes a good story

  • Allyssa McCabe
  • Carole Peterson


Three different ways have been selected for analyzing a story's structure, each focusing on different types of information. (a) Episodic or story grammar approaches stories as problem-solving episodes, emphasizing goals and activities to achieve them. (b) Labov's high point structure emphasizes affective information and sees stories as organized around emotional high points or crisis events. (c) Deese's dependency analysis emphasizes linguistic complexity and, in particular, the way propositions are related to each other through a relationship of either coordination or subordination. Stories were scored according to how well they realized good structure in each system, and the three scoring systems were relatively independent of each other. Adults were asked to rate 3-to 9-year old children's personal narratives in terms of how good a story each was, and their ratings were compared to how the stories were scored in terms of all three systems. None of the systems completely explained the subjective quality ratings; rather, all three seemed to contribute in different ways to subjects' ratings, with the best narratives generally deemed sophisticated and complex in at least two of the three systems.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allyssa McCabe
    • 1
  • Carole Peterson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySoutheastern Louisiana UniversityHammond
  2. 2.Memorial University of NewfoundlandCanada

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