At first it seems obvious; audiences need to understand the story, both in the concrete sense of “what is actually happening”, and the more abstract level of ideas, themes, and overall meaning. “What is the story about?” “What is the story trying to say” These are important questions to consider when editing a story.
1. Different plots engage the same question/issue.
One of the most prevalent issues in the Harry Potter series is the issue of prejudice. Audiences first encounter it through the Dursleys and their treatment of Harry. Because of Harry’s magical parentage, the Dursleys malign and mistreat Harry. Ironically Harry’s other main antagonists, Voldemort and his followers also begrudge Harry because of his heritage, but in their case they feel that he is “not magical enough”, since he is born of a muggle born wizard (his mother).
How many here have struggled to “return to their story”? You sit at your table, pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard, but you’re not “ready” to write yet. You don’t “feel” the characters, or their world.
1. Isolating the story to a single location.
Most of the time this amounts to isolating or trapping multiple characters in a single location, which was already covered in Characters #3, focusing on characters in the same location.
1. One conflict/resolution leads to another.
In Harry Potter, particularly books 1 & 2, the overarching conflict is unraveling a mystery, (What is hidden in the castle? Who opened the Chamber?). Within this larger conflict, the characters engage and complete numerous smaller steps, some planned, while others are unexpected. As they progress, each resolution leads to the next step in the plot.