Every good story begins with some type of hook in the first chapter, where an unhappy situation of the main character's life is revealed. The following chapters depict the ups and downs of the character's journey to either success or failure, often depending on the type of person the character displays.
The first step is the main character decides to change their life, or someone else, or circumstance might make it for them. From there the character either accepts this challenge or not but makes a decision and takes actions to change some aspect of their life. This leads to a challenging journey of discovery. With each new decision, action, and outcome, the character will meet with more challenges where, again, they will either succeed (temporarily) of face defeat, regroup, and make another attempt or take another direction. The more emotional turmoil the character displays over these challenges, the more the reader identifies with that character and becomes more involved in the story.
The ending usually reflects on the beginning in some manner, and whatever changes are manifested in the story, the character either accepts how they have changed as a person or accepts the changes in their life.
Along the way, other characters will also affect the main character's emotions, drive, and the results of their efforts.
This all seems very simplistic, but while the story pattern remains similar, the story arc can change in infinite ways, which is what makes the writing original and makes the reading a pleasure. Further, all of this depends on the author's purpose and planning while writing the story which translates a simple plan into a difficult, time and thought consuming the experience.
Please visit the following author's websites to learn their opinion on this topic:
Anne de Gruchy
Dr. Bob Rich