The basic unit of writing to happiness is the fictional story.
A story is a specific unit. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a protagonist and an antagonist. It has a theme, though usually you can wait it out and the theme will sneak up on you. It has obstacles, helpers, and conventions of dialogue.
A Universal Story is a journey through which a character faces a challenge, must overcome obstacles, and reaches a conclusion. A Universal Story has a particular shape.
If you have had a specific experience and you’ve written it down from beginning to end, you’ve written something, but it isn’t a Story. A Story is not an accurate representation or catalogue of events. It is the presentation of a journey by characters through the selection of elements presented to the audience for their enjoyment and edification. In other words, it is not The Truth. As David Mamet, the pre-eminent dramatist of our time, said, “In a drama, as in any other dream, the fact that something is “true” is irrelevant — we care only if that something is germane to the hero-quest…as it has been stated to us.” Mamet, D. (2000). Three uses of the knife: On the nature and purpose of drama, p. 30. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
A Story is the reworking of real or imaginary events for the effect it has on others.
Aiming a story at others is the mechanism that makes us follow the rules for resolving the problem our work presents. The rules make for good drama, but for our purposes they also force us to explore the issues in front of us and find both our own and the universally applicable answers. We are all poor, clueless authors. We go on this journey and, unbeknown to us, we discover exactly the solution we needed all along. Voila!