What is your story about? The difference between situation and story & the problem with fan fiction

Well titles like “milked by the Yeti” aren’t about too darn much!

dandelionscifi

“…good SF is usually about something (and often something very profound, such as whether or not God exists).” – Robert J. Sawyer

When I meet other authors, one of the first three questions I ask is “what is your story about?” (We can discuss the other two another time.) This generally turns into a description of the environment and the characters. Then I follow up with “That sounds like an interesting character/world/time/situation, but what is your story about?

Let me expound on the difference. Lois Lowry could have described “The Giver” as “It takes place in the future. Every one is assigned a job for their entire life. One person can absorb all the memories from the people and there’s an old man and he’s going to die and pass all his memories on to a teenage boy.” When you read “The Giver”, you know that it’s about life being…

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