Knowing the parts of a story before going into that story is probably one of the easiest things a writer can do to prepare to write. The obvious parts would be Beginning, Middle, and End, but there’s a little more to it than just that. So, let’s look at those parts.
I actually have a little problem with them calling this part of the story the exposition. That’s because we often tell writers to “show don’t tell,” but exposition is telling. So for argument’s sake, we’re going to call this Stasis. This is the part of the story where you set up your reader with what’s going on. This is where you’re introducing your main character and their voice. You might need to set up where they live for the sake of the story or what their job is. But while it’s called exposition, avoid large lumps of text that just informs the reader of things. That makes it less of a story and more of a textbook. Instead, work the information and details into an interesting scene, preferably your next step, the Inciting Incident.
This is usually the easiest part of the story because it’s the thing that usually inspires the story. It’s the what if of the story. What if a boy named Harry Potter woke up one day and found out he was a wizard. Technically, the inciting incident of the story would be Harry accidentally freeing and then talking to a snake. But that’s evidence of our what ifquestion. Your inciting incident is the thing that happens that sets the story into motion. Katniss gets chosen for the Hunger Games, Charlie finds a golden ticket, Tony Stark get kidnapped. It’s essentially where it all begins.
This is the bulk of the story. This is where you start in motion the things that will push your character to the end. This is where plans are made to bring down the Empire; this is where Harry goes to Hogwarts and starts to get wind of an evil plot; this is where Dorothy is making her way down the yellow brick road. This is the part where you create obstacles for your main character to keep them from achieving their goal and help them develop into the character you want them to be by the end of the story.
This moment should come moments before the climax of the story. The crisis is when it seems like all is lost. This is where things start to crumble beyond repair and the main character realizes they have to make a big change in order to fix things. Harry realizes he has to return to Hogwarts to defeat Voldemort; Thanos has returned and is going to snap his fingers again if the Avengers don’t stop him. It’s the final opposition before the war starts.
This should be the most exciting part of the story. If it’s not, something might be a little off. This is the final battle, the showdown everything has been leading up to. In a romance, this is probably the moment when the hero is trying to convince the heroine that they belong together. In a mystery, this is when they’ve got the killer in their sights. Everything in the story should be leading up to this moment. Whatever tension you created in the plot has to finally reach its breaking point here.
This part of the story has many different names, but the consensus is that this is where the reader can finally take a breath. All the tension is gone, and now this is where things are finally winding down. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to have a happy ending. Even tragedies can have falling action and resolution. After Romeo and Juliet kill themselves, the Montagues and Capulets are no longer fighting each other and decide to unite. It’s not a happy ending, but it’s an ending nevertheless, but before the story can end, the climax has to have accomplished something, good or bad.
This is the end of the story. Wherever the characters have landed, this is where they stay, and whether there’s a sequel or not, you have to let the story settle here if only for a moment.