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5 Questions To Ask Yourself When Writing Successful Fiction

Updated on November 24, 2010

Ask Yourself These 5 Simple Questions When Writing Your Story

What makes a good story? Can it broken down into parts and analyzed? Some would say yes and others no, but all can agree that certain aspects of a story have reoccured in literature again and again. Although there is no recipe or framework that can guarantee you a successful short story or book, these guidelines will help you through the your tentative writing process.

1. Who is your Main Character? A fairly simple question that can sometimes drive fiction writers crazy. This is not so much identifying who out of your cast of characters actually is the protagonist, although in some stories it can be, but is more about defining who that character is as a person and their development. They should be credible to an audience as well as interesting. Common characters, like a detective, or a professional athlete will have certain qualities that your readers will subjectively expect them to have. An athlete will have competitive personality about them and well as natural athletic ability. A detective will have deductive reasoning skills and see things logically. Sometimes going outside these norms is what makes your protagonist really fascinating to your readers. Remember though that it becomes necessary as a writer to then thoroughly convince your readers why this character is different. Don’t treat it from a distance so that it sounds as if you were writing encyclopedia entries instead of stories. But instead give your main character a physical and emotional intimacy that makes readers feel so close to the character that, for those memorable moments, they become that character.

2. What does the Main Character want? Give your main character a goal. A motive. A want. It could also be something your character wants to avoid or escape. It must be something tangible however, and direct. Goals that are too broad can not capture the reader’s attention enough to relate to them in some way. The feasibility of this goal is also important. No matter how outstanding and “god-like” your character can be, conquering world hunger and bringing about world peace are just too much for one person. A small goal can always resonate a larger message, and are always better attention grabbers. This point is crucial to the story because its the reason your readers will want to stay on for the ride.

3. What external problems get in the way of accomplishing the Main Character’s goal? What internal problems complicate this problem? Give your main character some conflict. Without conflict, there is no story or plot. The problem the protagonist faces is what makes the readers eager to turn pages and see them through their goal. It could be a single antagonist, a villain. Perhaps it’s multiple characters, an organization, a town, a gang. Or it could even be a force of nature. Many stories rely on the main character’s internal struggle: the decision to do good or evil, to act, to rebel, to go against the flow. This combination of conflict is your meat and potatoes. Before anything, say to yourself, what is the problem here? Because your readers want to know how the main character is going to overcome it.

4. How is the problem resolved? What aspect of the protagonist’s character is involved? There must be a definable ending. The ending can be considered positive, the main character accomplishes their goal, or negative, the main character falls short of that goal. The choice, and overall message your trying to convey is entirely up to you. But the point here is that a climax to the plot needs to occur, and all or some aspect of the main character needs to be involved. There should be no ambiguity as to whether or not the goal was achieved. Your audience needs a sense of reward, or closure to what they read.

5. What about all this engages an open-minded audience? Ask yourself what would make a reader want to pick up your story and read it. What interesting point of view did you use, setting, problem, ending, choice of characters? As a writer, you need to know who you are writing for. Most times amateur authors will say that they are writing for themselves, and for the gratification it brings them. I’d argue that you need to be writing for an audience. You should write fiction because you want others to read and know your story. Therefore, know who your writing for, and write with that audience specifically in mind and dare to impress them.

In a way, rules are made to be broken. Literature is an art and as such can allow its artists to decide what goes what doesn’t in their piece. Remember though that you have to know the rules in order to break them. The general public will always ask themselves these points when engaged in your story, and effectively answering them will always help you refocus your work. Keep in mind that successfully published books were always carefully developed and edited over time, and as a writer you must know that this is a process. Sit down and really think about your main character, his/her problem, the resolution, and what makes this interesting. Share what else you believe constructs a good story in comments below, and happy writing!


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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 3 years ago from Ljubljana

      I believe there are two kinds of approaches to the story in general. You can focus on the character or characters and everything should come from the characteristics, or you should focus on the problem (whatever it may be) and create character or characters according to your needs (solution of the problem). I tried both and both can be very fun and exhausting too:)

      Thanks for your tips. They are very useful for beginners!

    • Anate profile image

      Joseph Ray 3 years ago

      Nice hub.

    • ryuhawk profile image

      Hector Franco 7 years ago

      Thank you hope it helps! Happy writing!

    • equinelover909 profile image

      equinelover909 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great tips!

    • profile image

      ankigarg87 7 years ago

      excellent hub ! thanks for tips

    • jaianniah profile image

      jaianniah 7 years ago from Berwick, Pennsylvania

      Very useful tips for new writers! Well-written! Congrats and welcome!