Writerly tags are, believe it or not, one of the biggest things that make me think about my WIP more in depth. Most of the tags I’ve participated in (the Six Question Character Challenge being my absolute favorite) made me ask questions of my plot and characters that I’d never even thought to ask. For instance, before participating in the aforementioned tag, I had no idea what my MC’s MBTI type was, where my main six characters saw themselves in ten years, or that my villain resembled Anton Yelchin. Getting to know little details about my characters also revealed so much more about my plot, even future book ideas for later in the series! It results in much elation, as you may well understand if you’re a writer. Writing up Six Questions Character Challenge made my week. I love talking about my characters to begin with, but answering questions I didn’t know about them in the first place made the experience so much more enlightening and enjoyable.
The main thing I learned from doing such tags is that one of the best things you can do to further your skills in being a writer is to ask questions of your book. Ask your characters many, many questions. Even ones that are strangely obscure, like their favorite vegetable or whether or not they like eggnog, and do they prefer apple pie or pumpkin pie? (Good gracious, I must be hungry.) You’ll be surprised at the seemingly minor personality details you come up with and how they have much potential in developing the plot; a well developed cast of characters makes for a well developed plot. (Who knows, your entire story might be centered around an accident your character got into while trying to retrieve his favorite vegetable in the middle of a busy street.)
Remember also to ask questions of your plot. Pretend like the overall story itself is a person (a very opinionated one, at that). What does it think of certain scenes, a newly developed character? Ask of it specific questions about development.
You’ll learn that asking questions—any questions—of your book will be worth it in the long run. The answers you come up with will change your perspectives or give you many more perspectives. It’ll convict you to keep a character from death, take out a scene, change the villain’s backstory, maybe give you inspiration for a whole new story idea (you will probably be facing multitudes of plot bunnies, so. Be prepared.)
If you have no idea where to start, you may want to scroll back up and start the post from the beginning. If you know relatively how to start, but want some examples of questions to ask, you’re at the right place. Keep reading, my friend.
Questions to Ask Thine Characters
Interrogate them all. Have them line up outside your room and call out each of their names one at a time for a 10-minute conversation alone with you in which you ask questions and they answer for the sake of their story you’re writing. Each character will loyally make their appearance and answer your questions boldly and honestly. Threaten them with a pie eating contest or killing them off in the next book if they do not adhere to the instruction that there shall be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this interrogation. You are their author. You deserve their obedience.
Here are some questions you may want to add to your list.
- “What is your deepest, darkest secret? (Don’t worry, the secret is safe with me. Trust me. I’m the Writer.)”
- “How would you slay a dragon?”
- “What’s your philosophy about life? You have my permission to get religious or use the number 42 abundantly.”
- “What do you think of the scene where you make your first appearance? Overflow with your thoughts.”
- “Are you currently in love with the piece of cake on my desk or have I pretended to overlook your constant glances at my cup of tea?”
- “What was the worst thing that happened to your childhood and how do you think it’s transformed you?”
- “Define yourself in one word.”
- “What do you want to one day become?”
- “Why would my readers even want to invest their interest in you at all? (Take it from me, I personally think you’re awesome, even if no one else does.)”
- “What could you never afford to lose, no matter the situation? (Get used to disappointment.)”
Questions to Ask Thine Plot
Think of your Plot as the ocean, a never ending wave of intelligence or the biggest, best supercomputer that the mice from Earth ever made. Be proud of it. You created it. Now, ask your Plot some deep questions that drive some deep answers. Don’t play around with your questions like you may have done with your characters. Your story’s Plot is a great and wondrous thing and should be respected. Without it, you would be forever lost in the tormenting hailstorm of curses, despairing thoughts, and all the extra plot bunnies that will descend upon your weak and tired mind. When you are done asking your Plot questions, escort him out of your room with elegance and courtesy and thank him for his time.
Here are some thoughts you might consider asking your Plot.
- “What do you suggest I do to make the plot deeper? Is the sky really the limit, or is reaching the troposphere enough?”
- “Does my message or theme stand out throughout the story?”
- “Where does the plot get too complex?”
- “Is each scene driven by a certain character’s goal?”
- “Where should I raise the stakes? Where should I lower them?”
- “Are my secrets secretive enough, or are they too obvious? Is there enough impact when a secret is revealed to the reader?”
- “Are there any areas in my story that may cause a reader’s interest to slacken?”
- “What is the main mood and tone of the plot, and do I maintain it well?”
- “What is the worst thing I can make my protagonist go through that can still see a good ending in the story?”
- “Is the resolution too imminent? Is any evasive action needed?”
These are only a few ideas compared to the major list I could have come up with if given a whole day. Now it’s your turn to come up with questions to ask you characters and plot. These were only examples, but each writer has different qualifications.
Here are some other links to articles that may give you more ideas for questions to ask.
I hope this was helpful. Go forth to write!