Dwight Swain says you only need to know four things to be able to write.
how to group words into motivation-reaction units
how to group motivation-reaction units in to groups of scenes and sequels
how to group scenes and sequels into story pattern
how to create the kinds of characters that give a story life
He also says
There is no magic key. No universal formula. No mystic secret.
All of this and the rest of chapter one in Techniques of the Selling Writer made me feel better. So today I go forth with a renewed sense of ability and some confidence and I say that I know how to do all of the above, therefore, I can be a writer. I am a writer. It’s okay.
A motivation-reaction unit is “write a sentence without the character, then one about the character.” A scene is Goal, Conflict, Disaster and a sequel is Reaction, Dilemma, Decision. A story pattern is like a suspension bridge. It has two main pillars and goes from start to middle to end, with the middle being a “moment of grace” or “mirror moment” where the character has an epiphany. Pillar one is where the character commits to the quest and leaves his old world behind, and Pillar two is where he makes the final effort, equipped with his new insight from the midpoint.
At the end, he returns triumphantly (or not) having proved himself worthy of saving the village.