Writing excellent fiction depends on a lot of things, but one of the most important is learning what questions to ask. Asking the right questions will help you to create stories that resonate with powerful emotion, strong characterization, and page-turning plots.
So what are the right questions to ask? Here, in my opinion, are the most important:
• What if? This may be the foundational question to outstanding fiction writing. This question determines the creation and direction of your plot, the development of your characters, and the final outcome of your story. What if questions can include the following:
—What if I write a mystery instead of a romance? How would that affect my story?
—What if I make my protagonist a middle-aged woman instead of a twenty-five-year-old? How would that change my story?
–What if I have my protagonist lose her job because she refused to lie?
• Why? Why questions have to do with your character’s motivation. When you ask why your character would do something, you create a plot that is plausible. Why questions reveal if and where your plot lacks logic. Logic is essential to plausibility which keeps your reader in the fictive dream.
• What next? This question is related to the Why? question in that it has to do with the plausibility of your plot. Plots are built in linear sequence, with every effect stemming from a cause. When every effect in your story is the result of an earlier cause, then your plot will be stronger because it follows the natural law of cause-and-effect, a law that is built into your reader’s psyche.
As you ask yourself these three basic questions when writing your story, you will find that you are creating richer, deeper, and more powerful stories that will resonate with your readers.
And now it’s your turn. What questions do you ask yourself when writing a story?