There are 3 things every story needs (all right, 4 if you count a hunky hero): action, emotion and theme. Yep. That's all.
But what exactly does that mean? Pull up a chair, little buddy, and let's chat . . .
Think of action as the moody teenager, the drama, the oh-my-goodness-what-in-the-world-is-going-on. Action is physical. It's concrete. You can see it, smell it, feel it, taste it. And it's all created by your characters' goals.
Yeah, that old dead horse again. Sorry, but you need to know what your characters want so that you don't give it to them. That's what dictates the action and creates tension for the story and for your reader.
This is the inner journey of your characters. They start out in one frame of mind and by the end of the story should be in a different one, hopefully a better one. Think of this as an emotional before and after picture.
What's your character's flaw? Give him one. By the time you type 'THE END' that flaw should be fixed or at least changed into something better. The climax of the story is when your character comes face to face with that flaw.
Stop groaning, you big baby. This really isn't that hard, just a little abstract. Basically it's the universal truth that you're presenting in the story, be it forgiveness or justice or loss or whatever.
When you identify what your theme is going to be, then you can use symbolism or settings or even word choices to drive that truth home to the reader.
Every great story incorporates these 3 elements into the tale. Go therefore and do likewise.
I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me
two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the
latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti
phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?