Conflict is one, for sure. Gotta have conflict. Physical conflict, emotional conflict, moral conflict, philosophical conflict... some sort of conflict. Without conflict of some kind, some hurdles that the protagonist(s) must overcome, there really is no story, in my opinion.
I think the first thing required is a exciting opening, or hook to draw the readers in. Along with mystery, suspense, and a threating situation.A protagonist with a problem or impending problem that needs a cast of charcters to help solve it, and of course a manacing villain
You have to have well-developed characters that really pop out of your story. Without them, you have nothing. After that, you have to have a good plot, interesting, spellbinding, something unique and all yours. It's fine to borrow from other people's ideas, but eventually, you need to find your own voice.
1. Character--think of being an actor in a film. As you write, you become your character in the book.
2. Pacing/Plot--these go hand in hand because if the plot is excellent, but the pacing is too slow, you'll lose your reader. And vice versa.
3. Know the rules of writing--so you know when you need to break them.
4. Respect--respect yourself and your editor. Get your manuscript read and critiqued by at least 3 people before submitting. Don't turn in sloppy work.
Obviously a beginning that captures the readers interest, whether it be a poem or a story or a paper. Realism that makes the story believable even though it may be a work of fiction. It must have a central theme that locks together the beginning, middle and the end. Humour is an important ingredient that should not be overlooked.
Whether fiction or nonfiction the story must have a good hook,
descriptive sentences, dialogue. And, of course, a beginning, a middle and an end.
It has to start somewhere, go someplace and end someplace else or end with a bang. The characters have to be believable, have something to contribute to the story and the story has to have an interesting subject or plot.
By journalistic standards, the Who, What, Where, Why and How is where a story begins.
By creative standards, it is simply to 'hook' the reader, lure them further, make them fall in love with your words, keep their interest, build their passion (never let them fall), then...leave the reader with a euphoric high at story's end; leave them wanting more.
It's all about what you hope to do with it. I mean, when I write I need characters, I think I need characters. But some people can present ideas without characters and just describe a landscape and some people can write whole stories without details. I really like to read experimental fiction so it's difficult for me to lay our what I think a story needs because there's always someone who can prove me wrong. I could even prove myself wrong if I tried.
I believe that gripping characters and a well thought-out plot are essential. A few surprises for the reader never hurts, either. I like the central characters to be unique in their own way, but still be someone the average person can relate to on some level. Make the story personal to the reader, and they cannot help but to drawn into the story.
What do I think? Ask Aristotle. No wait, he's dead.
Story is about conflict. Conflict is about the collision of ideas, themes or images, even color and contrast can suggest conflict.
So story might just be as simple as, force "A" collides with force "B." They bump heads for a time until a resolution is achieved. One in which they are both destroyed, become fused or individually changed in some way, all of which leads to a new equilibrium.
I think that works.
Who then are characters? Characters are place holders, variables that represent thematic and emotional values that are also mobile, able to move up and down the intensity chart as the timeline of the story unfolds. Characters serve the story not the other way around. Not for me at least.
Dialogue: "Talk, talk, talk. All you ever do is talk! Why don't you actually do something for a change?" I have fun with dialogue but it's not why I write a story. It's part of the character's possessions, not my personal soap box.
Setting is relative. People get married while skydiving, while scuba diving or mountain climbing. A year later, they're all arguing over whose turn it is to take out the trash.
Why tell a story? To entertain the audience. Without entertainment value there is a loss of story function. If you doubt me, go tell your kids why they need to pick up their dirty clothes again.
Strong men and women; believable plots and fantasies.
Description: Paint a picture, like an artist, describing what you see and feel, making the scenery and characters believable; it establishes the feeling of reality. Description of scenery helps one to imagine and feel the atmosphere. Since we canít be there physically, we can be there mentally.
Emotion and Conflict: Itís the difference between a dull or a lively recounting of a story. We have fear, love, anger, and frustration. When you feel the emotion inside, so will your readers. Show! Donít tell!
In my genre - romantic suspense/thriller - the plot is very important. Without twists and turns to keep those pages going, nothing will develop.
Of course, the characters need to have a great deal of depth and likeability, even the bad guys. Another basic ingridient is to NOT bore the reader with lengthy explanations. Wrap the reader into the story, don't just tell the story.
Who says what and why.