This is one of the most common questions in screenwriting and literature. Some believe that the terms are interchangeable while others can’t grasp the difference.
Here's the difference: A THREAD
Story Covers the Who, What, and Where:
When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer must hunt the beast down before it kills again.
That’s the story of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
So if anyone asks you want your story is about, the logline is a great place to start. It covers the basic elements of your story. It doesn’t go into detail about how, when, and why everything happens. That’s saved for the plot.
“Based on” a True Story:
The characters, storylines, and most scenes are primarily based on actual occurrences. There are creative liberties taken for sure, but most of the depictions within the script are based on what actually happened and how it happened.
Films like Schindler’s List, The Right Stuff, Lincoln, 127 Hours, and Apollo 13 are excellent examples of screenplays that did their best to depict the actual true stories.