A story, much like a human being, has numerous stages of development. There is the idea; the point of conception. In the development of some stories there is the 'notes' process. This process consists of writing blurbs about the idea in a notebook or perhaps on your PC or laptop. (Imagine that during this paragraph there is 1950's instructional-video music playing and everything you're reading is being narrated in the same style.) The notes period could be considered gestation. Then, of course there is the actual writing of the story. This I suppose is akin to the birthing process. Now, after these various stages of development you have a rough draft. A rough draft is very much like a baby. It is the story but it hasn't matured. Thus, the rough draft needs to be workshopped. It is this workshopping or maturing that, hopefully, produces a story with a fully formed IDENTITY.
Stories need to know who they are. A story that knows who it is and what it's trying to communicate is like a mature human being. It has purpose. It has a good grip on what it's strengths and weaknesses are. It knows what it's trying to say. A story with a weak or partially formed identity has trouble effectively communicating who it is. Let's face it, if the story doesn't know who it is we aren't going to know who it is.
Okay, you've been metaphorized (yeah, I know it's not a word) to death. Now we'll get to the point. I recently saw the movie 'Kick-Ass'. The concept is clever. A teenage kid fed up with injustice and bewildered at the fact that nobody has tried being a superhero decides to try it for himself. This is the basic premise for the story. Had the story built it's entire arc on this foundation I think it would've genuinely discovered who it is. However, what it chose to do instead was follow the previously mentioned story line and follow 2 other pretty major story lines. Not only that, it started out being a story about what would actually happen should someone with no training attempt to be a comic book superhero and devolved into a story about...well...pick pretty much any other action/superhero story where at least one of the main-characters' actions are motivated by revenge. The primary problem with the 'Kick-Ass' story is that it seems to lack a fully formed identity. It couldn't decide wether to be a story about the reality of vigilante justice or the relationship between a father and daughter where the father has suffered some pretty severe mental trauma due to the loss of his wife. It couldn't decide wether to be a parody of superhero movies or the re-imagined form of the superhero genre. In short it was still going through puberty.
When you've finished the next novel you're reading or movie you've seen take a moment and think about the identity of that story. Did it know who it was? Was the story given the chance to become what it was meant to be? Did the storyteller, like a good parent, give that story the time and attention it needed to develop it's true identity?