What makes it a story.
You can have the most interesting characters anyone has ever created, but if all they're doing is getting up, grabbing coffee, going to a 9-5 job, getting home and going to bed, nobody's going to read your book.
I'm willing to bet you just skimmed that last sentence, because even that was too boring to read. :)
Now, if that 9-5er is suddenly caught up in an unbelievable, heart-pounding, death-defying, life-altering situation, yeah, you'll stick around.
Because that's a plot.
If you're anything like me, coming up with a plot just might be easy. For me, I can come up with a scenario where character A is caught up in such and such, and character B comes in and does this, and the plot ends with them falling in love... yeah, I'm pretty sure that even someone who isn't a writer could do that if they tried hard enough.
But it's the plot that is so deep, so complicated and unexpected that it keeps the readers glued to the page – that's what we're going for.
So how do we get it?
I'll bring this back to my example. In March this year, I got the idea for a book. Something about a Roman soldier who is involved in the crucifixion and ends up becoming a Christian.
It's a start, but it's not a story.
So I kept at it. I kept thinking and rolling around different scenarios, adding and deleting things, mapping it out, researching, and I ended up with a story.
It's all about being creative. Oh, and having the word that is both dreaded and longed for: conflict.
It doesn't matter what form it takes. Your protagonist could be fighting with other people, circumstances, controllable or uncontrollable forces, or their own thoughts. Or maybe even God Himself. There has to be something that is up against your character. There has to be a solution. And Your character has to be willing to do what it takes to get to where he wants to be.
Let me break it down:
Plot = Characters + Conflict + Course of Action + Roadblocks + Solution
With a few little sub-plots mixed in :)
The point is, it's complicated, and a whim of an idea about somebody who does something isn't going to cut it. You have to be willing to dive into your story, look around, and create problems. Then you have to create somebody who's going to stand up against those problems (or run from them). And then you have to go in there yourself and figure out how you're going to fix those problems.
It's kind of like real life, only you're pretty much holding their lives in your hands. You have to decide between thousands of different scenarios, and place your characters in the perfect one that not only challenges them, but also brings out the best in them and teaches a lesson.
It has to change not only the characters' lives, but also the readers' lives. It has to be a plot that a reader can't put down, because you put that much into it.
It's a lot of pressure, it's a lot of work, and it's not easy. But I'm telling you, being able to sit there and look at a story that's done, that's published, and that actually came together is SO worth it :)
Now I'm turning over the microphone to you. Tell me your plots, your ideas, your suggestions, and most importantly your questions. No two plots are the same, so while I can give you the advice from my experiences, I can't help unless you let me.
So don't be shy! Share your thoughts in the comments.