(These questions work for both Novels and Short Stories)
- Who are your Protagonist and Antagonist? Without these two characters, you will find it hard to get going because this is where your conflict comes from. And conflict is what we want to read about. Your Protagonist has a goal, and your Antagonist opposes that goal.
- Can you tell your story in three lines? This is one of the best tests for your idea. Whether you call it a pitch slam or an elevator pitch, this forces you to consider your story. This is something you will rewrite several times, but try to write one before you start.
- Have you figured out your inciting moment? This is the moment of change for your character. Remember, we don’t start with backstory or flashbacks, and you need to drop your character right in the middle of the action. Your character’s goal often comes from this moment.
- Have you identified your first, second, and third surprises? About one third into your story, you should give your reader a surprise, then the middle should have a bigger surprise, and then near the end, you should have a big surprise or significant plot point.
- Do you have your sub-plots in place? Besides the two main characters, you’ll have a friend character and a love interest. These characters will help you flesh out your plotline and the lives of your Protagonist, and they will provide your sub-plots.
- How does the story end? I need to know where I am going. Some authors believe they shouldn’t know the ending, but I have to know. That doesn’t mean it can’t change.
You will be able to answer some of these with ease. Some you haven’t even considered. This list forces you to think about the whole story, and it is a starting point.
It is important to remember that you can change any of this as you go along, but it helps to get you going. It gives you direction, gives your Protagonist a goal, and enables you to find your Antagonist.