Story - Term Overview


A story is a generally short type of narrative, based on real or fictional events, in which a group of characters develop a relatively simple plot. In the literary field it's one of the subgenres of narrative, widely cultivated by writers of very different traditions. There are also folk tales, transmitted orally or that belong to the heritage of informal culture.

While human beings have been fond of telling stories since their origins, they didn't always do so under the paradigms of the story. Formerly legends and oral stories were told , with some pedagogical purpose, that made them close to the fable.

In other cases, mythological stories were told that explained the origin of the world or some episode of a specific deity or hero. Today, instead, they are cultivated as an art form in itself.

The tale is a modern genre. Its name comes from the Latin computus, "calculation", since it's basically about listing the events that make up the plot.

On the other hand, their plots tend to be opposed to those of novels due to their length, since the latter tend to be more voluminous. However, that criterion is debatable, since the boundary between a long story and a short novel can be very narrow.

Characteristics of the story

In general lines, a story is characterized by the following:

- It's a short narrative, closed in on itself, recounting a relatively simple series of events from its beginning to its end. This means that it contains all the necessary elements to understand the story from cover to cover.
- It tries to narrate in a more or less direct way, without so many delays, errors or ramblings, these being more typical of the novel. A story should be able to be read from cover to cover, in one sitting.
- It has a single storyline, in which one or more characters converge, through a variable set of actions or twists and turns. The number of characters in a story is variable.
- It has a unity of effect, a trait that it shares with poetry. This means that through its reading it's sought to generate an aesthetic, reflective or emotional effect, for which the story has all the necessary tools.
- It's written in prose, and always has a narrator (or occasionally, more than one) through whose voice the events of the plot are narrated. Said narrator may or may not be part of the characters in the story, and may speak in the first (me) or third (he / she / them) people.

Types of stories

There are many ways to classify the story, according to different criteria. For example, if we take their length into account, we can differentiate between a short story (10 pages or less) and a long story (more than 10 pages), despite the fact that these extensions are, in the end, subjective. There is also the micro-story or mini-story, whose length doesn't usually go beyond a page, sometimes not a paragraph.

Another way of classifying stories attends to their content, and to the "theme" in which the plot can be circumscribed. Thus, we can talk about:

- Fairy tales: Generally intended for a child audience, they take place in a fantastic world that can be easily distinguished between good and evil, and they usually contain some kind of moral or final effect, which brings them closer to the fable.
- Fantastic tales: In which a fictional world is represented very far from the real world, with its own laws that allow the existence of magical creatures, supernatural powers, etc.
- Realistic tales: That they develop in a world similar to the real one, operating with the same rules of verisimilitude or credibility.
- Horror stories: Whose plots revolve around the supernatural or situations designed to arouse fear or anguish in the reader.
- Tales of science fiction: That they are set in near or distant futures, utopian or dystopian, or in parallel worlds, in which science and technology are different from the real ones and allow the exploration of unprecedented situations.
- Police tales: Also called detectives, they usually have as their narrative axis a crime committed (usually a murder) and a detective or investigator in charge of solving it.
- Satirical or comic stories: Those designed to make your readers laugh, through crazy, funny or ridiculous situations.
- Erotic tales: Finally, those that address romantic or intimate themes, especially related to sexuality.

Parts of the story

A story has, from Aristotelian logic, three distinguishable parts, which are:

- Home: In which the fictional world unfolds and the characters are presented, already immersed in the narrative plot. Ideally, it's the stage in which we should know what things the main characters want.
- Complication: Intermediate stage in which the plot becomes more dense, complex or intricate. This is where the elements that make it impossible for the characters to satisfy their desires usually emerge.
- Outcome: The closing of the story, in which the anecdote comes to an end. Here we usually find out whether or not the characters got what they wanted, and why.

Story elements

In most stories we will find the following elements:

- A narrator: Who is the one who tells the story, whether or not part of it, and who refers the facts from an objective or subjective position, depending on whether it's a witness narrator, protagonist narrator or omniscient narrator (who sees everything and everything he knows).
- Some characters: What are the fictitious entities to which the plot occurs. They can be many and of a very different type, but there is always someone central to the story (protagonist) who may even be the one who tells it (narrator-protagonist). There may also be characters who oppose the protagonist and who try to prevent him from doing what he wants (antagonists) or simply accompany him during his journey (secondary characters).
- A time: That there are really two: the real time it takes to read the story and the fictional time, the time that passes within the story and that can span minutes, months, years or centuries.
- A few places: That they are nothing more than the locations or locations in which the events narrated take place, and that they can be more or less described in the story.
- A plot: Which is the sum of the twists and turns and the events that occur to the characters, organized in such a way that they logically occur in time, whether in a linear way or not.

Difference between tale and legend

Generally, a story is distinguished from a legend by its origin: stories are artistic pieces that have a specific author, while legends come from folklore or popular tradition and, therefore, don't have a single author, but are property of a people or an entire nation. Thus, it's often spoken of Latin American, German or Chinese legends, but the tales of Cortázar, Borges or Kafka.

In addition, the stories have an aesthetic aspiration, that is, they belong to literature and as such are artistic pieces. Instead, legends reflect the feel and culture of a locality.

On the other hand, legends don't have a unique way of being narrated, that is, a definitive text, as is the case with stories (that is why we can buy Borges stories in different editions and they will always be the same). The same legend can have different forms of elaboration, depending on who tells it.

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