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Quick answers to the questions every writer asks their book #writingremedy

Published on

6/24/2015 1:44:13 PM

In which we answer the questions every writer asks their book.

Question: What is my story about?

Answer: Have an imaginary conversation about it.

What? You’re a writer. You’re used to it. It’s not weird.

Obviously it’s vital that you know the core subject of your story, and one way to discover this is to imagine you’re talking to someone about your book.

So here’s what you do:

Imagine that you’ve just been asked, What is your story about? then consider what you would say in response. So just finish this sentence:

‘It’s about…’

Once you’ve done that, imagine having that same conversation with everyone you know. Every demographic. Every age group.

Then, once you’ve done that, imagine you’re put in a situation where you have all the time in the world, and you’re stuck with nothing to do, and those same people ask you to tell your story. Not to say what it’s about, but to tell it. So say, ‘The opening chapter starts with…’ and make your way through the book.

‘Then we discover…’

‘And while that’s happening…’

This method can also help you come up with new ideas, because while you’re telling your story, you’ll think of more scenes to add in your quest to excite your hypothetical listener. You’ll also be able to spot any errors in the structure, because this method lets you see which scenes complement one another, which ones are a natural progression from the other, and which ones are awkward – jumping between two events unnaturally.

Question: Who are my characters?

Answer: Put them into a Hogwarts House.

No, seriously.

Those houses are great categorisations of personalities. And once you’ve figured out what one your characters belong to, it becomes a lot easier to envision how they would act in various situations.

To help, think about your favourite characters, or famous characters similar to your own, and put them in a house.

Katniss Everdeen? Gryffindor.

Todd Hewitt? Hufflepuff.

Tyrion Lannister? Ravenclaw.

Tywin Lannister? Slytherin.

Even if you struggle to place a character in one specific house (it may be common that you can’t choose between two houses), you can analyse why a character fits in both, and as a result be able to define what type of character they are. (Like why do their personalities crossover between two houses?)

Question: What scenes are needed?

Answer: Only the ones you remember.

Let’s help you filter out unnecessary scenes.

Here’s what you do:

Get up from your desk. Go somewhere that isn’t surrounded by your writing. Go sit on a bench. Take a bath, or something.

Get a pen and paper and use one word to write down every big event in your story. Put it in chronological order.

Then read through what you wrote down.

What did you remember?

What did you forget?


This method also gives you a concise outline of how your book is structured. What events take place. What sections are particularly action-heavy. What sections slow the pace. The ups and downs.

So the next time you ask yourself these questions, we hope these answers help.

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