The Anatomy of Story explains how a great story works, along with the techniques needed to create one.
All stories move in this way
Once a character has a desire, the story ‘walks’ on two ‘legs’: acting and learning. A character pursuing a desire takes actions to get what he wants, and he learns new information about better ways to get it. Whenever he learns new information, he makes a decision, and changes his course of action.
A good premise is crucial to your success
What you choose to write about is far more important than any decision you make about how to write it.
Character, plot, theme, symbol—it all comes out of this story idea. If you fail at the premise, nothing else will help. Nine out of ten writers fail at the premise.
Premise: Star Wars: When a princess falls into mortal danger, a young man uses his skills as a fighter to save her and defeat the evil forces of a galactic empire.
Developing you premise
Step 1: Write something that may change your lifeStep 2: Look for what’s possibleStep 3: Identify the story challenges and problemsStep 4: Find the designing principle (what organizes the story as a whole)Step 5: Determine your best character in the ideaStep 6: Get a sense of the central conflictStep 7: Get a sense of the single cause-and-effect pathwayStep 8: Determine your hero’s possible character change.Step 9: Figure out the hero’s possible moral choice.Step 10: Gauge the audience appeal.
We’ll begin by focusing on all your characters together as a part of an interconnected web. Next we’ll individualize each character based on theme and opposition. Then we’ll concentrate on the hero, building him step-by-step. We’ll create the opponent in detail, and we’ll end by working through the character techniques for building conflict over the course of the story.