What is a “Story?”
(SF or otherwise.)
A character with a problem.
Every story is about a character trying to deal with some sort of difficulty. Characters who have happy lives, who are content with their lot, and who have achieved their goals are not good fodder for fiction. The people we read about are people in trouble.
The central problem.
Most genre stories can be thought of as revolving around some central problem, or problems. The central problem(s) can be considered to be, in some sense, what the story is “about.” Will the mystery be solved? Will the protagonist survive? Will the rebellion succeed?
Begin with a crisis…
Whatever the length you’re dealing with, short story or novel, you want to begin with a character in crisis. The reader should find characters in difficulty within the first chapter, the first page, and ideally, the first paragraph. Structurally, it may not be possible to have the story’s main problem begin on the first page, but every story should begin with some problem, often with the first line.
…end with a resolution.
If the story is organized around a single central problem, it ends naturally when you’ve resolved that problem. If the story deals with a series or complex of problems, it ends when the last problem is dealt with, or when all the problems identified as most important are solved. A story can persist as long as there are problems to deal with.
What makes a Story SF?