The rest of the story: Socioculturel patterns of story elaboration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


In getting the day's news, many individuals never move beyond headlines, story leads, and sound bytes. Rather, in their attempts to apprehend and evaluate matters, readers and viewers process these brief media summaries and proceed to 'fill in the blanks'. They construct the details that media summaries fail to provide. This action embodies a unique practice to which I refer as story elaboration. Story elaboration involves the enhancement, and most importantly, the extension of professionally constructed media materials. When engaged in elaboration, readers and viewers become storytellers themselves. Faced with limited data, they choose to build a narrative of their own - a narrative guided not by professional storytelling strategies, but by rules and scripts located in an audience member's sociocultural context. Using data derived from an exploratory study of media messages and their effects, this article explores four specific elements of story elaboration practices. First, I distinguish story elaboration from interpretation, and I provide a full illustration of the practice. Second, I highlight the social profile of those who typically engage in elaboration and I contrast this profile with that of individuals who refrain from elaborative practices. Next, I examine the theme of media stories, and I probe the links between this dimension and readers' and viewers' propensity towards elaboration. Finally, I explore the 'conventions' that guide subjects as they create story elaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-45
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2000


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Active audience
  • Media
  • Narrative
  • Story elaboration
  • Textual interpretation

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