An idea, with a sprinkling of characters, add a dash of something you know or something which has happened to you in the past, and cook for about a year!
The title and the plots. Not forgetting the characters.
discovery, insight, revelation and action.
Tie up the beginning statement.
Ironically the place to start is the content, then formulate a beginning, then tie in an ending.
My stories teach moral lessons in a small, yet very important way.
realistic characters even if you hate them it can't all be a fairy tale
A good story line, characters that are relate-able, setting that is understandable, a plot that is one-of-a-kind.
OMG -- sorry for the shameless plug here -- but if you listen to Episode 15 (of my inane PODCAST at http://www.lprants.com ) - "Advocate for the Predicate"; you will learn exactly what elements I think a great story contains.
The basic ingredient for a story is humanity. Something human. By that I mean, something that interests a person, affects a person, heals a person...
Strong description that draws the reader into the environment. A strong narrative and a character with atributes that readers can identify with.
An interesting main character and a dead end/fucked up situation other wise it's boring.
a protagonist, a juicy plot, magic and a saucy bird with big boobs.
The usual good guy/bad guy stuff. I think your main character needs to be multidimensional. Which is just another way of saying confused about things, I suppose. The more dimension your characters have, the more time your readers will spend trying to figure them out. Conversely, the relationships they have with each other need to appear in levels too. Nobody completely loves or hates someone. By nature, we have mixed feelings about most of the people in our lives. I think a really good storyteller takes everything and presents it with different views and with shades of color. I get a lot of comments about one character in my book, Darrell. Readers spent time trying to figure out if he's gay, straight or just a freak. I want them to ask questions and wonder about the characters and the author that creates them.
You need to offer a satisfying conclusion. Nothing is worse than reading a story and at the end wondering what just happened. People need closure in real and fictional lives.
Plot, structure, desire, transformation.