Four quick paraphrases:
- A character,
- in a situation,
- with a problem,
- who tries repeatedly to solve the problem,
- but repeatedly fails, (usually making the problem worse),
- then, at the climax of the story, makes a final attempt (which might either succeed or fail, depending on the kind of story it is), after which
- the result is “validated” in a way that makes it clear that what readers saw was, in fact, the final result.
Geoffrey A. Landis:
- Require the character to make a choice,
- show that choice through actions, and
- let those actions have consequences.
Introduce the character (“Little Miss Muffett . . .”), introduce the status quo (“sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey”). Establish the antagonist and conflict (“Along came a spider”), build suspense (“and sat down beside her”), increase the conflict (“and frightened Miss Muffet”), and resolve the conflict and provide a denouement all at once (“away”).
A story follows an active character through emotionally charged experiences which change him or her.