Fourteen questions to ask yourself about your book:
1. What is the genre of this book? What is the subgenre?
2. Does this story take place in the “real” world (real except for certain elements, like a nuclear attack on Los Vegas that the hero has to stop in a thriller), in a “crossover” world (real but with vampires and werewolves, as in an urban fantasy), or a secondary world (as in fantasy or science fiction or magical realism). If it is a cross-over or secondary world, you’ll need to do more substantial world-building.
3. What is the plot template for your book? (McGuffin, Romance, Mystery?)
4. What is the subplot for your book (may be the same or different from main plot type).
5. What is the target age of readers (children, middle grade, YA, adult)?
6. What is the target word count, based on genre and target age?
7. Is this book part of a series, and if so, is it a continuous saga or an episodic series?
8. If it is part of a saga, where in the overall story arc is this novel?
9. If it is part of an episodic series, does the main character show up in earlier or later books?
10. What level of complexity does this book require, based on its length, target age and position in a series? (The longer the book, the larger the story arc, and the more sophisticated the audience, the greater complexity the story is likely to require).
11. How many main characters will this book have? (The greater complexity the story has the larger cast of characters it is likely to require).
12. What person and tense works best for this story? (First Person present tense, Third Person past tense, Omniscient?)
13. Does your book ever break the Fourth Wall or play with novel structure (as in a postmodern or experimental literary novel).
14. What is the tone of your book? Humorous, serious, realistic, heroic?
Twelve Questions to ask yourself about your main characters (protagonist, antagonist):
1. Who is your protagonist/antagonist? (Answer the questions for both.)
2. What does s/he want? What is the outer goal? (It should be concrete)
3. What does s/he need (the inner goal) and how does this conflict with the want?
4. What is his or her special talent?
5. What is his or her wound?
6. What is his or her relationship with mom and dad?
7. What is his or her relationship with authority? Friends? People in general?
8. What five minor problems does he or she have at the beginning that will be dealt with by the end?
9. How does your protagonist change from the beginning to the end of the book?
10. How does the antagonist and/or problem outmatch the protagonist at the beginning of the book, and how does this change by the end, or how does the protagonist prevail despite this?
11. How do the other supporting characters change their opinions of antagonist and protagonist by the end of the book?
12. How does the conflict and resolution between protagonist and antagonist illustrate the theme of the book?
Twelve questions to ask if you’re writing a fantasy (for sf, replace magic with the speculative technology):
1. What is the price of magic? (Magic should always have some cost).
2. If magic were analogous to something prosaic, what would it be?
3. How many people have magic? What percentage of the population?
4. Is there more than one form of magic? 5. How does one acquire the ability to use magic? Heritage? Education? Possession of an object?
6. What constitutes mastery of magic?
7. How is the protagonist’s magic uniquely different or powerful (or absent)?
8. Are there rules for using magic? 9. If so, who enforces the rules? 10. If so, what how are transgressors punished?
11. Is the protagonist basically trying to follow the rules or defy them?
12. Does the story work just as well without magic? (If so, your magic is superfluous rather than embedded into the story.)
Twelve questions to ask if you’re writing a romance:
1. What is the heroine’s goal that has nothing to do with winning the hero’s love?
2. What is the hero’s goal that has nothing to do with winning the heroine’s love?
3. How do the heroine and hero’s separate goals conflict with them finding love?
4. Why is the heroine afraid of (or mistaken about) love? 5. Why is the hero afraid of (or mistaken about) love?
6. What genuine conflict do they disagree about? (rather than just what misunderstanding or lack of communication keeps them apart)
7. Is the heroine hiding any secret from the hero?
8. If so, how could her secret destroy his love for her?
9. Is the hero hiding any secret from the heroine?
10. If so, how could his secret destroy his love for her?
11. What inner changes to the heroine and hero need to make to overcome the distrust and fears they have?
12. What concrete actions (proofs) will they each make to prove that they have achieved this inner transformation, making them each able to embrace love and each other?
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