To me, writing stories is much like baking a cake. There are the main ingredients that you usually have to use:
- Idea (Sugar)
- Plot (Flour)
- Character (Butter)
- Setting (Eggs)
Of course the quality of the ingredients will have an impact on how good your cake/story is. If you use margarine instead of butter your cake probably won't be as rich in taste and texture. Likewise, if you use a stock character rather than one which has been fully rounded, that has their own quirks, dreams and flaws, your story may become a bit flat and unoriginal.
Once you know what you're doing with your ingredients, you've become a competent cake-baker, you have the chance to experiment. You may vary the portions slightly or you may add your own ingredients creating chocolate, lemon or carrot cakes instead of run of the mill average. Not that there was anything wrong with the cakes before, but they didn't have anything that made them different. The same goes for your stories. You can vary the types of characters, the setting or you can add another element such as structuring your timeline, or mixing it around.
And finally, there is the icing. Of course you don't have to put icing on your cupcake but be certain that if you do you'll attract a lot more attention. People want cakes that have variety and can offer them something unique. It's the same with writing (bet you didn't see that coming), you need to show your style through your choice of words. You need to make your writing stand out from the crowd by offering something different, your own personal twist.