If you have or have not written a novel, book or short story yet; these questions may help you get a better story out of yourself. There are countless tips online and hundreds of books that explain how to write a good story. They detail plot mechanics, character building skills and so much more- often to the point of being too much for anyone to grasp easily. There is a better way.
Simply ask yourself a few questions about your story and be honest with yourself. Being honest with ourselves is the hardest part of this writing tip. More often than not we try to fool ourselves into thinking we have it all covered or that little paragraph in the middle of the chapter will be ok so there is no need to go back to it again.
If you do not think honesty with yourself is possible, this writing tip will not help you. I suppose you could pass your story and these questions off to a friend, but intimate knowledge of the plot and characters is in your head and the answers need to come from you.
Assuming you have a plot worked out and a good outline on paper or in your head of where the story will start and where it will end- let us get on with the questions. I will also assume you know the basics of how to structure a novel.
Is my beginning going to grab the reader’s attention? The beginning of your story should be exciting or interesting to keep the reader going. Go back to your story and read the first eight or ten paragraphs. Could one of those paragraphs turn into a better beginning?
Does the ending of your story force the reader to think about the plot a little deeper? Ending a good story should be approached like a college essay. Point the reader back to the beginning of the paper and make them tie it all together.
Who is telling the story and are they the best character for the job? There is not a lot of explanation for this writing tip, but you need to look at the person telling the story and make sure they are doing a good job.
Did you expose your characters emotions and inner thoughts to the reader? People want to get to know the person they are cheering or booing. Can the reader get a sense of the character of your characters? Emotions are powerful and readers want to know what the characters in your story are feeling or what kind of person they are behind closed doors.
Can readers form a mental image of where your novel is taking place? Describing the set your novel is playing on is just as critical and a good plot. Make sure readers can visualize the sights, sounds, smells and everything else as the characters in your novel are experiencing them.
Does your novel have enough characters or possibly more characters than are necessary? If you cannot keep up with all your characters while writing the story, there is a good chance the reader will not be able to keep up with them while reading the story. However, some stories require a lot of characters such as a story involving a mass conspiracy to overthrow a government or a “Houston, we have a problem” type story. You will have to work this problem out on your own, but be honest with yourself and get rid of extra characters if they are not critical to the plot.
These five questions can help you write a better novel or short story. You do not need a library of books about writing books and you certainly do not need to spend hours reading books about writing when you should be writing.
Do you have any tips or questions? I would love to discuss them in the comments below.