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What Is A Single Story Definition And Examples


A “single story” refers to the idea that our understanding of a particular person, group, or culture is often limited to a narrow, one-dimensional perspective. Various factors shape this perspective, including the media, education, and personal experiences. 

When we are exposed to only one version of a single story, we risk overlooking the complexity and diversity of the people or culture we are considering. It can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, and even discrimination.

In this way, the concept of a story is a powerful reminder of the importance of seeking out multiple perspectives and being open to new ideas. We can create a more inclusive and compassionate society by broadening our understanding of the world and its people.

1. What Is A Single Story? 

A single story is a beautiful and concise piece of fiction that captures the essence of a narrative quickly and engagingly.

A short story is a beautiful work of prose fiction that can be enjoyed in just one sitting, typically lasting between 20 minutes and an hour. Great news! Short stories can range from 1,000 to 15,000 words, allowing writers to explore their ideas and creativity. Short stories are concise and to the point, typically ranging from 10 to 25 pages. While they may be shorter than novels, some come close to novella length. It’s incredible how much can be conveyed in a few words! A piece of fiction shorter than 1,000 words is known as a “short story” or “flash fiction,” while anything less than 300 words is called “micro fiction.”

2. Examples of Single Story

Stories are the basis of creation and a part of almost everything we do, especially in cultural activities, documenting, and reporting in any form. So, they are shared in many ways, such as through oral and written stories, journalism, TV, film, radio, fine arts, live performances, music, etc.

There are an infinite number of tales in literature because, at its core, literature is just the art of telling stories in writing. For thousands of years, humans have been recording their tales on paper. Most of what we know about human history and society comes from books. So, here are a few illustrations:

Example 1

Shel Silverstein is known for writing poems that tell strange and memorable stories. Here is “Masks,” one of the songs in his collection of a single story, Everything On It:

  • Her skin was blue.
  • He did, too.
  • He kept it hid
  • She did, too.
  • They tried to find blue.
  • Throughout their whole lives,
  • Then went right on by—
  • And never found out.

You just read an entire tale told by Silverstein in only eight lines of poetry. Many poems from a Book Publishing Company accomplish the same thing in fewer words. A narrative doesn’t have to be very long in any case.

Example 2

A fairy tale is a well-known fictional narrative genre. Fairy tales are often prefaced with the infamous “Once upon a time,” which gives the single story an aura of magic and mystery.

The prologue to the fairy tale only contains a snippet of information about the plot and provides only a brief introduction to the main characters.

There was once a man and a woman who longed to start a family but could not. The woman eventually came to think that God would grant her request. The tiny back window of this home opened up to a magnificent yard brimming with exotic plants and aromatic herbs. No one dared approach the garden, protected by a high wall, because the sorceress who lived there was feared and powerful.

Example 3

Newspapers and magazines are, of course, full of stories. You know that a news story tells about things that happened. Here’s a part of a story from CNN Tech:

Alibaba’s Singles Day is the biggest shopping day of the year and has again broken records. 

During this year’s shopping rush, the tech giant made $17.8 billion in sales, breaking the record of $14.3 billion set in 2015. 

When you read a single story, you find out what’s happening worldwide. Here, Tech Crunch talks about 11.11 Singles’ Day in China, the biggest shopping day in the world. In particular, the story talks about how much money Alibaba made at their most recent Singles’ Day event.

3. Types of a single story

Humans have told stories for thousands of years, possibly since the dawn of civilization. They exist in the past and present of people of all races, religions, and nationalities, in all geographical areas and linguistic tongues. Given this, it’s clear that it takes work to cover or describe the idea of a story entirely. Some people believe that life is a collection of tales that never end. Everything has a history, even the most mundane activities like going to class or working.

Many types of single stories can be harmful and perpetuate stereotypes. Here are some common types:

  1. The single narrative is the most basic type of a single story and involves only hearing one perspective or version of events. It can be limiting because it doesn’t allow for the complexity and diversity of experiences and perspectives.
  2. Stereotypical stories: These are stories that perpetuate stereotypes about certain groups of people. For example, the stereotype that all Asians are good at math or that all Black people are good at sports.
  3. Hero or villain stories: These are stories that portray certain groups of people as either heroes or villains. For example, the hero stories about European colonizers “civilizing” “uncivilized” people or the villain stories about Middle Eastern terrorists.
  4. Marginalized stories: These are stories that exclude or marginalize certain groups of people altogether, rendering them invisible or unimportant. For example, the absence of LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream media for many years.

4. What Is The Purpose Of a Single Story?

Learn about the simplification and impact of stories in The Power of Perspective: How to Write a Book Review into a digestible narrative. It can make the world seem more understandable and manageable by reducing it to key ideas or stereotypes. 

Additionally, a single story may reinforce existing power structures by promoting certain narratives and suppressing others.

However, the danger of a story is that it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings, leading to discrimination and inequality. By recognizing the limitations of single stories and seeking out diverse perspectives, we can gain a complete understanding of the world and work towards a more equitable society.

5. What Makes A Short Story Interesting?

Explore the art of short storytelling in How to Write a Comic Book Script, and there may only be one or two key characters with no backstories. Every word and part of the story has to work harder in this short, tight structure.

Most short stories have one main plot, not several smaller ones like you might find in a book. Some stories follow a standard story arc, with exposition (description) at the start, rising action, climax (the highest point of conflict or action), and an agreement at the end. 

On the other hand, modern short stories often start during the action (in media res), putting the reader right in the Middle of an intense scene.

Short stories often had a central theme or moral lesson in the past, but now it’s common to find stories with unclear finishes. This kind of story doesn’t have a clear ending. So the reader can read it in many different ways, showing a more complex view of reality and how people act.

Key Aspect and Profound Details

Aspect Details Examples/Comments
Definition Understanding of a person, group, or culture from a one-dimensional perspective Influenced by media, education, personal experiences
Risks Leads to stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination Overlooking complexity and diversity
Importance Promotes multiple perspectives, inclusivity Broadens understanding, fosters compassion
Types Single narrative, Stereotypical stories, Hero/Villain stories, Marginalized stories Examples: Asian stereotypes, European colonizer hero stories
Impact Simplifies complex issues, reinforces power structures Can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, inequality
Characteristics of Short Stories One-time/place setting, limited characters, focused plot Varies from traditional story arcs to in media res
Role in Society Integral to culture, history, documentation Core of literature, varies in form (oral, written, media)


Stories are a big part of everything we do, including what we read, do, talk about, and think about. The single story also helps us understand history and society; people have written and passed them down since the beginning. Stories have always been at the heart of writing, and they always will be.

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