When asked about your story, there are several questions you need to be able to answer in a clear manner without having to think about it. These few short questions are the core of what your story is about. They will be the driving force and origin of the conflict that makes this a story instead of a dull explanation of the day to day life of an uninteresting character.
What does the protagonist want?
This could be almost anything. Maybe they want to be known as a hero. Maybe they just want to stay home and be left alone. Perhaps the thing they most desire is world peace. The sky is the limit here, though the closer it is to the desires normal people have, the better. The goal of your protagonist should be something the reader can relate with.
What is interfering with that desire?
This is the core of the conflict for the story. Our would-be hero turns out to be weak and clumsy. The poor fellow who wants to just be left alone finds that that simply isn’t an option. Most likely due in no small part to some outside party disturbing their comfortable home. Conflict drives story so this is vitally important. No conflict, no story. Period.
What is the decision the protagonist has to make?
Based on what they want and what is getting in the way of what they want, we now have to answer what decision the protagonist is faced with. Do they accept that the thing interfering with their goals is unavoidable or do they stand up. Generally the decision is an either/or option. Sometimes there might be shades of choice. The longer the story, the more likely it is that they will have to choose the option of fighting for what they want. Shorter stories might get away with giving in to the conflict, but only if there is some sort of twist to make it interesting.
What are the negative consequences of each choice?
No matter what the protagonist chooses, there is going to be some negative outcome. Failure and success alike with each choice will result in something gained and something lost. Often, the situation that results in the least negative outcome is the one the protagonist will lean towards. This is where the goals come in. There has to be a reason why they are willing to face down the consequences of their choice. There is a chance that they don’t know these consequences outright or they might not have chosen the path they do.
Putting it together.
If you can answer each of these things in a few short sentences, then you have a basic outline of what is most important in the story. It says nothing of the ending, it doesn’t tell anything about what is going to happen. All it does is tell you how things start out and where they have the potential to go. If written well, these few sentences can easily be a major selling point to get your work published. Almost certainly they are going to need noted in the query letter. A clear and concise explanation of the story core like this is invaluable. Of course, if you can’t answer all of these questions, don’t write the story yet. Wait and start writing it after you have a better grasp. Trust me, these are very important questions.