As a primary school teacher, I have helped children plan stories in their literacy lessons, and we talk in very simple terms about the “story mountain”.

Here’s an example from the Communication4all website (a fabulous resource for teachers by the way!)

 In my own writing this is my initial general idea, I have to admit. Old habits die hard.
Character; situation; problem/obstacle to overcome; resolution; change in the character. I tend to think of the character’s journey first, based on the character’s personality and background; then think of the setting and specifics afterwards.
I suppose it depends on the theme of the story.
Yes, this is a very simplistic summary, but it helps clarify my ideas!
The “character arc” is another way of thinking it through.
Useful articles:
I remember once hearing Philip Pullman say that he didn’t plan his stories in any great detail. Instead he liked to be open to ideas as they came to him. On the other hand I’ve heard JK Rowling say that she had planned the outline of all her Harry Potter books before she had written the first book.
I have written a book with minimal planning and found I have spent a lot of time re-editing and improving things afterwards! When I wrote a sample for a book packagers, following a very tight spec, I found it helped me focus much more on the word and sentence level. I thought the quality of my writing was much better.
So for my next book, I will try much tighter planning, and see how the end results compare!
We all have different ways of working. Let me know what works for you!
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