Parts of a story – What they are, functions and characteristics

We explain what the parts of a story are, the function of the beginning, the middle, the ending and what are its characteristics.

parts of a story
The stories have a limited number of characters and adventures.

What are the parts of a story?

A short story is a type of narrative that is generally short, which narrates real or fictional events (or a mixture of the two), starring a finite number of characters and with a relatively simple argument, at least compared to other, more abundant forms of storytelling.

Stories are part of the cultural heritage of societies, transmitted from generation to generation through oral mechanisms (in the case of the popular tale) or written (such as the literary tale).

They are usually distinguished from the chronicles insofar as they narrate imaginary events rather than real ones, and from the novel in that they are much simpler, shorter and pursue a surprising final effect, as explained by the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar through an allegory to boxing: “the story wins by knockout, while the novel wins by points.”

In general, the stories are universally composed of three parts, which are traditionally called the beginning or approach, the middle or the complication, and the end.

See also: Prose

Beginning or setting of a story

parts of a story beginning
The beginning of the story provides the information necessary to start the story.

This is the initial stage of the story, in which the reader must be introduced to the recreated world and the characters that star in the story. It is here also where the reader’s attention is captured and he is involved in the events of the plot, providing him with the necessary information to start the story, as well as the initial questions that will invite him to delve into the reading.

Every beginning of a story usually responds, in its own particular way, to the following questions:

  • Who is the protagonist (s) of the story?

That is, what characters will we be accompanying throughout the story and who they are, what is their starting point in the events narrated. There can be main characters and minor characters.

  • Where and when do the events in the story occur?

This means that we must place the reader in the spatial and temporal framework of the events, so that he knows if the story occurs in the real world or in a fantastic one, and if it takes place in the past, the present or the future (and which one). of all of them).

  • What do the protagonists want?

Every story is the story of a desire, an expectation, something that the protagonists seek, voluntarily or involuntarily. Whether it’s becoming a knight errant, conquering the desired girl, overthrowing an evil king, or simply saving his life, the characters must have a motivation that can be seen from the start.

Knot or complication of the story

parts of a knot tale
In the knot, the situation raised at the beginning is complicated, broken or altered.

The complication It is the stage in which obstacles, impediments or unpredictable events arise, that threaten to stop the advance of the protagonists. It is often called a “knot” because the line of the plot becomes more tangled, less linear, it begins to spin.

Generally this occurs when the situation raised at the beginning becomes complicated, broken or altered, forcing the characters to make decisions, carry out actions and face challenging situations.

Every complication of a story usually answers the following questions, in its own particular way:

  • What problems arise along the way?

That is, what obstacles could prevent the protagonists from getting what they want, or what challenges they must face to get closer to achieving it. These impediments can be of any kind, but they must be of sufficient importance for the protagonists.

  • What antagonists are there?

The film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) said that a story is as interesting as its antagonists, that is, the characters who oppose the protagonist and who seek opposite objectives, whether they are villains (evil characters) or simply from competitors for the same purpose.

  • What are the consequences of the drawbacks?

Overcoming the obstacles will generally have a cost for the protagonists, that is, unwanted consequences that will make the journey more exciting. This may be the loss of an ally, some kind of injury or simply the discovery of an uncomfortable truth, but the important thing is that they confront the protagonist with an important decision-making.

End of the story

parts of a story ending
The outcome reveals what is the result of the search for the protagonists.

If the complication represented the break with the order established in the beginning, the outcome implies the return to a new order, which may well be the recovery of the initial situation, or the establishment of another. In any case, the outcome is characterized by the resolution of all obstacles along the way, and the final revelation to the reader of what is the result of the search for the protagonists.

In this sense, the outcome usually answers the following questions:

  • How are complications resolved?

The reader must find out what was the reason for the resolution of the knot, that is, if it was due to the decisions made by the protagonists, if external factors intervened, or if something unexpected happened. All this, of course, must have consequences and repercussions on the lives of the protagonists.

  • Was the protagonist’s wish fulfilled?

This is a fundamental question: did the protagonists get what they were looking for, or not? Did they fail in their endeavor or did they change their mind? Did they discover something more important along the way?

  • What is the end of the story?

The closing of the story must be the establishment of a new order of things, which can be close to the ideal (a happy ending) or it can be catastrophic (a sad ending), or some intermediate point between both options.