As a professor of literature at a community college, I understand the extreme importance of imparting a basic understanding of reading and interpreting literature to students before they can begin to really benefit from studying it. In order to grow from reading literature, you must first understand the basics of how the story is structured, whether it’s a classic novel or an informative article. In any good piece of writing, there’s a beginning, middle, and end that helps shape the path of the story and leads the reader to a thoughtful conclusion. In order to learn when you read, it’s necessary to be able to identify this structure, or story arc, as it’s often called, and understand the importance of it.

The beginning

The beginning of a story serves to entice the reader and introduce them to the premise of the entire story. Without a beginning, there is no story. Every single conversation and experience a person has includes a beginning, though you may not actively think about it. Anything interesting that occurs has to have a beginning, just like anything you may learn started from some point. In writing, a quality beginning is what makes people want to keep reading. While I am wary to state that one of these aspects of story structure is more important than another, the beginning is what leads to the middle and the end. There cannot be a middle or end without a beginning.

The middle

Generally, no matter what you’re reading, the middle is where all the action happens. You got hooked at the beginning, but if the middle is too dry, you’ll never make it to the ending. The flavor of the middle of a story is what determines whether or not the ending is going to be happy, sad, or bittersweet. Oftentimes, the middle is the longest part of a story, so you need to plan ahead in order to make it worthwhile. A lot of your content goes into the middle and it’s often where important lessons are presented and taught.

The end

Finally, the end of the story. Whether you’re writing or reading a story, this is where all the resolution occurs. For a story to be good, it needs to have a quality resolution that leaves the reader feeling satisfied. Maybe the ending wasn’t happy, but it needs to be ended well. No matter what you’re writing, you want the story to feel wrapped up (unless it’s part of a series) and have the reader take away a lesson or idea that the text inspired. With a proper ending, the reader feels content with the work and that they took something valuable away from it.

What this all means

You may be wondering what this all means or why it applies to you if you aren’t currently studying literature. Like I mentioned above, this story structure applies to anything that’s written, whether it’s a great novel or a simple article. Even if you’re drafting an email, there is a beginning, middle, and end structure. If you’re writing something, it’s important to understand this structure in order to capture your reader. If you’re a reader, understanding this structure helps you interpret and pull out the necessary information from whatever you’re reading.

While there is an endless amount to say on this subject, these are the basics when it comes to the beginning, middle, and end of a story. I could go into much more detail on each aspect, what good writing of each part is like, and much more, but I wanted to give a quick breakdown of these parts and why they’re so important.