A day unlike all days; a volatile balance leading to a disturbance and imbalance; a wide gap between what a character wants and/or needs; ensuing tensions and complications as counterforces come into play; a distinct sense that, when all is said and done, things will never be the same; a quest or dilemma that's worth the candle.
Character, plot, writing that doesn't make me scream...was this a trick question?
Pick up any writing textbook. Today, not all stories fit a precut pattern. Sometimes, I think, "More's the pity." I remember hearing Madison Smartt Bell talk about "the architecture" of fiction. I like that better than the current free form, seemingly undisciplined stuff that can't even qualify as stream-of-consciousness. Never did much like James Joyce.
A good story is one that you can't put down once you've started reading it.
What's happening to who, where, when, and why.
Im an ADHD adult, so it has to hold my interest with every single word.
plot, characters, dialogue
I had studied with John Gardner, who was a brilliant guy who believed that the first line of a story was the make it or break it. I dunno. The basic ingredients of a story are the plots that play in your head like a very loud radio with a song that you love and can't get enough of so you write it.
A decent plot, believable characters, realistic dialogue. It doesn't matter if they're in another dimension or a different time--if it has those elements, it should keep the reader engaged.
An interesting story line, interesting, multi dimensional characters that speak in their own individual voices, a twist, and an uplifting, surprising ending...or a sad one, but still unexpected.
Tension, friction, revelation. Pain and gain.
Then most important ...I think ...is that people are looking for answers...even though subliminally...perhaps...they are seeking ways around their issues...
and so it was for me...that my favorite stories had helped me through my own troubles...
Five bicycles tied to a trellis, a horse named Susan, the Japanese underground system, and a suicidal cloud. In short, imagination. That's all you need for a story. All the other stuff is what you build around it. It's helpful to have a good tension between meeting and frustrating expectation too.