A good idea shaped by the elements of character, dialogue, plot and structure and written with passion and the good use of words and visual imagery. Wish I could bring them all together all the time!
The first things to sort are characters. Then, a plot. Then locations. But it doesnt address the real problem; how to begin and end the story. I try writing a begining, then decide later if it needs changing. Then I decide an ending. Then I do what I can in between, to fill the middle and complete the plot.
Plot, character, improvisation and a little bit of sparkle.
Humour, mystery, and a sense of place. Good characters are a must of course and the element of surprise is a joyful thing.
These would depend very much upon the type of story in question! If, for example, it is of the supernatural then supranormal events would be continuously winding like a coil around the central theme; if it is a short story then the chapters must generate sufficient "pace" to move both the characters and the story along - in other words there must be the basic quality of "readability" which, of course, is to some extent subjective.
I think a story must have a point to make. In the training I do, in public speaking, I always say, "Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point." Of course, the opening must be attention-grabbing, and there should be appropriate drama to keep the reader engaged. The words should create mental images and encourage the reader to feel involved.
Conflict and characters
I am basically not interested in "story" insofar as that means a simple linear progression of external events. Even if that is made slightly more complex by varying the time perspective.
I am more interested in the exploration of "internal" reality where we approach the human condition in its complex weave and its relation to what goes on in its external manifestations. The literary aspect of phenomenolgical description interets me.
And there are specific forms of expression, languages, that are used in these sorts of literary works. This obviously relates to what I said in answer to the previous question. It is the area that Wittgenstein so meaningfully refers to as that part of experience where one must be silent - whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent - but the silence is that of ordinary language...a new, "illogical" language is required.
A story of sorts may be a useful means to convey these areas of experience, but not as an end in itself. When you finish a book the greatest feeling is that you have been led to discover something about human nature that you perhaps never considered before. Indeed, in works like Ulysses, the reader is in someway constructing areas of thought that are not in the work itself. We are not the passive recipient of the narrative, we are actively engaged in its development.
Entertainment. That is the only ingredient to be considered, forget arty notions about literature and the urban intellegensia's insistance that to qualify as literature a book has to be unreadable. The duty of the writer is to entertain his readership, and if he can not do that then he should quit and get a job on the Guardian
Life experiences in writing need balance and emotion. Facts are important if covering your own life as this will support your story and being open about your feelings gives the reader an insight into that experience.
I dislike the standard conventions that creative writing education assert are necessary for a story. I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules other than there has to be a strong idea, a genuine point to a story. In the past I've played with perspective, chronology and style in what might be deemed an 'avant garde' manner, but as long as there is a certain level of skill and consistency there, the story will work.
All of the best stories are based on a quest - be it for a fundamental truth, a lost love, self-awareness or a serial killer.
A story should be written so that everyone will understand it. I think it should be written as though I were talking to someone. No fancy words that people can't understand. Lingo that people talk everyday.
The characters! They can write their own story. I mean they could formulate a plot by themselves after they are created. They can reach a climax with the writer as if they were a part of him or her. It is an amazing part of writing that really gets me excited. I love creating people on paper through words and descriptions. It gives them a bit of life.