First comes the idea.
Then the idea grows into a concept, then comes plot.
The plot begins to form and thicken into a full blown short story or novel.
What the heck is a plot and how do you know what the plot is before you even begin writing?
I have tossed around these very questions over and over again. I've read a myriad of books like The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson (an awesome book), 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias (very informative) and several others.
Grasping a plot is essential to writing a complete short story and/or novel. The main character must go through a change, internal or external. He/she must have conflict and resolve that conflict by the end of the story/novel with the character learning something, gaining something, or even dying.
All plots need good, strong emotional characters; a beginning, middle and end; dramatic action; scenes; and thematic purpose where the main character experiences some emotional breakthrough or understanding. He/or she must undergo this change to resolve the story.
In order to understand how to write a good plot you must read The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. For short stories check out Donna Ippolito's blog www.expert-editor.com and click on Characters and Plot—a very informative article.
You stir and mix and simmer until the plot thickens and Voila you have a finished short story/novel you can be proud to have written.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!