Stories constitute a subset of coherent natural-language texts. To establish text coherence. a great deal of knowledge is needed about people's goals and plans. The process by which this knowledge can be applied is termed explanationdriven understanding. It uses what has been heard previously to help disambiguate subsequent events, but does not constrain the understanding process to "canned" event sequences.
For texts to be stories, they must be poignant in addition to being coherent. This point structure of a story serves to organize the representation of a story in memory so that more important episodes are more likely to be remembered than trivial events. Points also serve to generate expectations about what will happen next in a story, because a story reader is looking for the point of a story as the text is being read.
An important class of story points deals with human dramatic situations, and these most often contain a set of interacting goals that create difficulties for a character. A taxonomy of these goal relationships and the situations they give rise to is useful for detecting a point of a story, as well as for establishing its coherence as a text. When a goal-relationship situation occurs as a problem-point component, it will occur as part of a point prototype. These prototypes specify those aspects of the situations that should be mentioned in order to produce a dramatic effect.
The notion of a story point competes with the idea of story grammars as a way to characterize story texts. The story-grammar approach attempts to define a story as a text having a certain form, whereas the story-point idea defines a story as a text having a certain content. The form of a story is viewed here as being a function of the content of the story, not a reasonably independent object. Understanding stories, then, is not so much a question of understanding the structure of a text, but of understanding the point of what the text is about.
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