Keep it pacy, interesting journeys and characters. The main protagonist must have a succession of attempts at learning lessons, failing, nearly succeeding etc. until finally the lesson is learnt. A couple of protagonists can have journeys but feel there must be one main one. The antagonists must not be too evil or bad and the story is much more interesting if there is a feeling of compassion for them, or at least we sense his/her/their humanity or vulnerability in some way.
I tell my writing students that the basic ingredients are a solid set of characters within a logically consistent story line with a dramatic central conflict and resulting in a satisfying resolution. However, in my own writing, I don't think I have any "basic" ingredients. The story tells itself, fills itself out, and then empties itself onto the page. Each story has its own "basic" ingredients, in other words.
|Technically, a story should have an introduction, a plot and a dénouement. But a technical account does not merit the paper it’s written on. To my way of thinking, literature should communicate ideas, points of view and feelings. While writing “Crooked,” the story of a lady astronaut compelled to steal a space shuttle to save her life, I held back very little.
Here are the basics for one of my books, "The Trail to Golgotha."
At age twelve, Joachim travels with his family to Urushalim to make a blood offering in Herod’s temple. In a city plaza, he witnesses a gory scuffle between Zealot insurgents and occupying Roman forces. Ushered into the civil government’s fortress, he’s questioned by the procurator and meets a young prostitute—they’ll run into each other again.
After this first outing, Joachim can’t stop thinking about the world beyond his village. At seventeen, he leaves home to work among the pagans of Caesarea Maritima; in the magnificent Roman port city, he learns Latin and falls in love with a married woman—fate will bring them together a second time.
Heartbroken, the handsome son of a Galilean carpenter moves on to practice his trade in the shipyards of Tyre. When he protests the sacrifice of infants to Baal, the Phoenician priests assault him and he must leave that city too.
Chatting about first principles with a young Greek philosopher, Joachim travels east along the Silk Road. In Bactria, he’s taught the story of Zarathustra by a prostitute and the tenets of Zoroastrianism by priests of the temple-of-fire. In the Punjab, he chances into the arms of a young widow who persuades him that life’s purpose is living and that no wisdom exists beyond happiness. When that spell is broken, he journeys across northern India, learning Buddha’s teachings.
At age thirty, Joachim returns to Palestine. A famous ascetic baptizes him in a river pond before he retires to meditate in the desert. In deprivation, he finds his high calling and proclaims victory over the devil. Soon after, he begins to preach in the fishing villages around Lake Tiberias. In due course, he and his followers will challenge the temple institution in Jerusalem.
The spiritual authorities are annoyed by Joachim’s defiance. Accordingly, they falsely accuse him of sedition before the Roman governor. With candor, Joachim faces his judges: an irritated religious council convicts him outright; to keep the peace, the governor is willing to let him die; the agnostic ethnarch of Galilee declares him insane. Yet, “the charmer” has transformed the thinking of many: the governor’s wife pleads Joachim’s innocence before her husband and the captain of the guard frowns on the ignoble sentence pronounced against him.
But Joachim’s “death” atop a Judean hillock is inevitable. Then, the disappearance of his body produces much speculation. Later, those touched by the carpenter turned prophet immortalize his doctrine and assist the birth of his legend.
I think that basic ingredients of a story are the characters, plot, scenery, era, feelings.
You need to have an idea to start with. Ideas are the basic foundations of your plot and without plot, you have nothing. From there, you should create your characters. Your protagonists, your antagonists, and some of your side characters. You can have the best plot in the history of fiction writing, but without likable, believable characters your story won't get very far.
Linked into your plot, you should have a setting. Whether that's a modern day city, futuristic space ship, or a fantasy world of your own creation, you need to know where your plot is taking place and what kind of environment your characters will be interacting with.
Of course, all of this means nothing without some kind of writing skill. The story should be as free as possible of typos and grammar mistakes (though they still happen from time to time, even in published works). The average reader should be able to understand what you're writing. Using big, fancy words is all well and good, but if readers have to have a dictionary beside them to understand what you're saying...they'll loose patience very quickly. An excess of large words will only get in the way of the story you're trying to tell.
Structure, Sensibility and Spice.
Strong characters and a compelling underlying theme. The basic elements of the hero's journey. A strong desire or need by the main character. Worthy opposing forces and mentors.
First of all to make sure that events are well arranged.
Secondly story telling in that you should remember that you're not writing for or to yourself but other.
Also humour is very important. For if you write a dry story, it'll never entice and attract readership.
The command of language.
Sticking on the theme.
There is no water tight rule.
You probably hear this from every serious writer, but it’s worth restating: it all begins with a character. It doesn’t have to be a likable character, or even someone you would want to talk to in real life. Characters become interesting from the way you develop them, the amount of empathy you invest. All the other elements of the story—plot, theme, setting, point of view, etc.—will follow from there, in one way or another. I don’t like rules per se, because most interesting stories bend them. But I don’t recommend that new writers try that: before Picasso invented Cubism, he had his Blue period. You have to know the rules before you can break them effectively.
Love, fear, hope, inspiration, and imagination.
A beginning, a middle and an end. It has to be interesting, the reader must care about the subject, and it has to be well written. Also, the writer must write what he/she knows, that is very important.
There are as many answers to this questions as there are
writers, story tellers, and educators of the craft. While this question
is often times asked of a writer, whereas it should more often be asked
of readers. A story should bring relevance, attraction, interest,
and meaning to a reader or the story will never be told. The craft
of writing offers it’s practioner's a wealth of approaches, methods,
and tools that can be employed to help them in telling their stories.
Which of these things a story may or may not contain only
serves the purpose of telling a meaningful story.
In my opinion the three key ingredients of a story are:
a) believable and sympathetic characters
b) an engaging plot
c) realistic settings
For example, my Virtual Trilogy concerns a billionaire computer expert who would appear to have the world at his fingertips, but has been deeply wounded by the murder of his wife Maria. The plot of the series engages when the incredible possibility of saving her from death unfolds itself through the application of his own amazing technology to harnessing the ancient forces within the Great Pyramid of Cheops to turn back time. To make the settings realistic I actually travelled to the places mentioned in the books and experienced what the characters would have experienced in being there.
I think a great story must have a character that you want to succeed no matter what. Someone who you root for and you feel what they're feeling so you can take that emotional journey along with them.
Clearly characters must come first, and without a problem for them to solve there is no story. Setting has to delineate the scenario that this action must operate in.