I was thinking about a movie I saw earlier this year, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Easily one of the top movies I've seen in 2015 (as of June 7th). This movie was unlike anything I've ever seen, yet it drew me in due to familiar elements that I look for in movies and novels. I'm not sure if there is a magic formula to create a good story, but I do believe there are certain must-haves to make something special. 1. Satisfactory Resolution--I list this one first because, to me, nothing is more important. You can have the greatest elements of a story and an extremely original idea that no one has ever done before, but it won't mean anything if your ending sucks. I've pounded through 355-page novels that was great until about page 350. Ruined the whole experience.
2. Intriguing story--Doesn't necessarily have to be a wonderfully new story, just something that will engage me. 3. Characters--And by characters, I mean good characters, characters that stick out in your brain long after you've enjoyed the story they were a part of. Not just the good guys, but the bad ones as well. Characters that do what they do and do it well.
4. Entertaining conflict--A shorter word for this would be action. However, I was hesitant to title it as such because I've seen great movies where there wasn't one explosion or fist thrown (Gentleman's Agreement, Stranger Than Fiction, Boyhood, etc.). The action or conflict is typically a tense situation that progresses swiftly towards resolution.
These are the four keys that I try to embody in my writing.