by Rebecca Talley
When I first started writing, I didn't understand the importance of the story question and that it's imperative to establish the story question at the beginning of the novel so the reader knows what it is the main character most wants, in this story, and what will happen if she/he doesn't get it. This creates tension and when the reader understands what's at stake she/he will root for your main character. Without a story question, the story itself falls flat.
In a murder mystery, the story question is generally: Will Joe the Detective find out who killed the blonde woman? In a romance, the story question is usually: Will Anne fall in love with David? In other fiction, the story question can be almost anything: will Sam find the hidden treasure? Will Sarah find happiness in her new life? Will John turn his life around before it's too late? Will Alison stop the aliens before they take over earth?
The author must know the story question. Without it, a story will flounder and readers won't know who to root for or why. Readers have to understand why the story question is so important to the character. What will happen if Sam doesn't find the hidden treasure? Will he lose his family? His life? His chance at happiness? Why is it so important for him to find that treasure?
Once you, as the author, know the story question, you need to work it into your story, preferably within the first chapter to compel the reader from the first few pages to keep reading. The rest of the story will then be in search of answering that story question.
How do you work in the story question? You can do it through dialogue, action, inner monologue, or description. It's up to you to choose the best way to give the reader the information.
Think about your own work-in-progress. Have you established a story question? Have you made it clear to the reader what your main character wants, what stands in his way (also known as conflict), and what will happen if he doesn't obtain his goal?
Let's play a game. In the comments, list the story question either for your own WIP or for a well-known novel.
I'll start. In my novel, Altared Plans, the story question is: Can Caitlyn find love again after being dumped at the temple? The rest of the novel has something to do with that question.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
by Rebecca Talley