And now for something completely different: How about a magic trick?
Think of your favorite story—book or movie. (Hell, say it aloud, if you’re inclined—I can’t hear you.) If you’ve got several candidates, just pick one quickly, at random.
Got one firmly in mind?
Betcha I can tell you how the plot unfolds.
Here goes: The protagonist is faced with an unforeseen crisis that upends the status quo, and, after some initial resistance, accepts the call to adventure. Through a series of trials and setbacks in which both allies and enemies are made, our hero finds the strength to rise to the challenge and, in doing so, achieves personal catharsis (what we in Hollywood call the “character arc”), returning once again to an ordinary state of affairs… a little bit wiser for his troubles. The End.
How’d I do?
It’s a little general, I’ll grant you—I probably wouldn’t wow them in Vegas with that act—but, at your story’s most basic structural level, that pretty much sums it up, no?