On his blog Jason Boog quotes writing advice from horror
H. P. Lovecraft. I like Lovecraft’s deceptively simple definition of plot:
“Plots may be simple or complex; but suspense, and climactic progress from one incident to another, are essential.
Every incident in a fictional work should have some bearing on the climax or denouement, and any denouement which is not the inevitable result of the preceding incidents is awkward and unliterary.
No formal course in fiction-writing can equal a close and observant perusal of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe or Ambrose Bierce. In these masterpieces one may find that unbroken sequence and linkage of incident and result which mark the ideal tale.
Observe how, in The Fall of the House of Usher, each separate event foreshadows and leads up to the tremendous catastrophe and its hideous suggestion. Poe was an absolute master of the mechanics of his craft.
Observe also how Bierce can attain the most stirring denouements from a few simple happenings; denouements which develop purely from these preceding circumstances.”
Bierce’s best known short story is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” but he wrote many more. I second Lovecraft’s assertion that reading the work of masters like Bierce and Poe is a great way to learn.
While you’re at it, don’t neglect to have a look at Bierce’s bitterly funny “The Devil’s Dictionary.” If it just had a few entries on topics like texting or Twitter you would believe it was written yesterday.(If he did wrote one regarding Twitter it might be something like, "A method for boring people with many short statements instead of one long one.")
You can find the writing advice of many more famous writers in my book, Your Creative Writing Masterclass. It's published by Pearson and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)