These are starter points for plotting out a story, but in no way are they rules. Most stories will however fall into these because these elements were taken from various forms of story whether in games, movies, short fiction, long fiction, etc.
Something that has happened in the past before the story starts that drives either story or character.
Weakness + need of MC
The weakness should be something that holds the character back from getting what they want.
This is what drives your character above all else. Remember every MC and character should have a strong goal that readers can relate to.
The thing that forces your character into the story. It should be something they can’t go back from, and if they can easily live their lives after the inciting incident, then it’s not good enough to drive the story.
This is where your theme comes into play. A great theme is complex and more than just good vs evil, powerful vs weak, etc. A lot of times it is framed in an if, then way.
A mystery in your story is something that can be either a part of your main plot or one of your subplots, but it’s there to keep the reader wondering and guessing and paying attention. If you are going to introduce a mystery or puzzle, give the reader the conclusion in that book or at least a piece of the puzzle.
These are the people who are usually a part of the B story world that are there to actively help your MC reach their goal.
This is your antagonist or the forces working against your MC.
This is a character that seems like they are there to help but are actually working against your MC and their goal. A lot of time, they’re there since the beginning and are a part of the A story.
To add more conflict and tension to your story, you can add a Fake Opponent which is a character that seems like they are working with the antagonist, but have secret goals and desires that are more aligned with your MC, so they end up switching sides or revealing a double nature later on.
Readers want to learn something from the plot and grow with the narrative, so authors work in major reveals that pull their plot along and give the reader big Aha! moments.
This is the plan the antagonist cooks up to achieve their goal and do away with the MC.
This is how your MC decides to react to the opponent’s plan.
This is the second reveal. You don’t need to have an exact three reveals. You can have as many as you want but three big ones is a safe number to have throughout.
This is the element of your story that makes it clear why the MC is doing what they are doing and can’t go back to their normal life or pretend that everything is okay.
Attack by ally
Toward the end of the book, it’s good to ramp up the tension by having an ally backstab the main character, halting their plans. This does not have to be an attack by the Fake Ally.
As the book is ramping up toward its climax, the MC is going to seem like they have lost everything and there’s no way out, but only if the ending is a good outcome for the MC. If the ending of your book has your MC not getting their goal, then the Apparent Defeat will be an Apparent Victory where everything seems to be going perfect for them.
This is a moment in the book where something gets revealed to the audience but not the main character causing ironic conflict between what the MC is expecting to happen and what the audience knows will happen. It’s not a mandatory story element, though, and does not have to be in your story. This one is super tricky and hard to work into the plot but adds depth and tension.
This is the third big reveal given to the readers.
Vision of death
Nearing the climax, it’s good to place a whiff or hint of death to showcase the seriousness of the problem and push the MC even closer to realizing their goal and main desires.
MC’s final plan
This is the plan that the MC cooks up that they think will really get them toward their goal and solve all their problems. A lot of the time, this plan fails, allowing for a huge self-revelation moment later that will allow them to see what it is they should have been doing all along
This is the big showdown moment where everything begins to clash and really rev up toward the climax.
During all the events leading up to the climax, the MC is going to realize something about themselves and the way they’ve been living life that is wrong and see how they can fix it and move on to achieve their goal.
This is the moment when the MC makes their grand decision that plays back into the overall theme and moral argument. It’s when their actions accurately showcase what the moral argument is.
The moment when everything finally comes to a head and the two opposing sides go toe-to-toe. This, like the battle, can be figurative and literal. This must be the element of your story that finally ends or solves the issue that was put into motion by the inciting incident.
This is the point in the story when things wind down and we see the world in the aftermath of the MC getting what they want.
This is the point in the story when the reader gets to see the MC in the world after the climax and resolution.