4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book“No such thing as a stupid question.”

Sounds good, right? Sounds like, “Yay! Let’s be inquisitive and creative and learn stuff!” But here’s the problem: there is such a thing as a stupid question, and the bigger problem is that stupid questions are not just missed opportunities, they are actually counter-productive to curiosity, creativity, and learning.

As any writer can tell you, the writing life is full of questions:

“Why doesn’t anybody like my protagonist?”

“How can I ever find time to write?”

“Why is this so hard???”

These are all good questions. They’re specific, and they’re focused on the problem—which means they’re ultimately focused on the solution. But not all questions are created equal, and if you’re not disciplining yourself to ask good questions, your best-case outcome is a long, circuitous bout of flailing before, if you’re lucky, you finally find a suitable answer.

Why Asking Good Questions Is a Crucial Skill for Writers

Writing, perhaps more than any other art form, is about harnessing creativity with logic. As historian David McCullough says:

Writing is thinking clearly. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.

This starts and ends with the ability to identify challenges and frame appropriate questions about them. Mystery author Sue Grafton once said something that has become the paradigm for my entire approach to writing:

If you know the question, you know the answer.

In short, good writing is not about finding the right answer. It’s about finding the right question.

Mind-blowing, right?

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Finding the right question is first and foremost about developing the logical skills to strip away all the wrong questions.

The Difference Between a Good Question and a Bad Question

So what’s the difference? What makes one question “good” and another “bad” to the point of uselessness?

I receive a lot of questions from writers. Most are pretty simple; most are the same questions I see and answer over and over again. Some are so brilliant, they help me see answers I hadn’t previously realized was looking for. Others, however, demonstrate that the writer’s primary obstacle is not whatever it is they’re asking me about, but rather a failure to look deeper into themselves and do the hard logical work of figuring out what they’re really asking. Because if they did that, half the time, they wouldn’t even need to ask.

The common pattern in good vs. bad questions is simple:

Good questions: specific.

Bad questions: vague.

This goes for just about anything in the writing life, whether it’s plot-specific questions (“Why isn’t my story working?”) or personal questions (“Why am I blocked?”). If you’re struggling to find an answer, it’s probably because you haven’t yet made the question specific enough.

Instead of knowing your story isn’t working and just leaving it that, you have to drill down to find the question at the crux of the issue: “Why is my Second Pinch Point missing?” or “Why is the Big Bad acting like this for no reason?”

Suddenly, boom. The answer (or at least, the road to the answer) is staring you right in the face.

4 Questions You Definitely Shouldn’t Be Asking

Today, I want to go over four of the most common “bad” questions I receive. I can’t give you the answer to any of them. But I can show you how to ask better questions that will help you find your own answers.

1. Don’t Ask: Will You Help Me Write a Book?

My Reaction:

Castle confused Nathan Fillion

Well, yes. I mean, no. I mean, of course, I’ll help you write a book: here’s the link to my website!

The Problem:

Here’s the thing. You don’t need help to write a book.

*cue panic*

No, really. Writing is a solitary endeavor. Writing is nothing but hard work down in the trenches of your soul. I can’t follow you there. You don’t need me holding your hand down there. Will I cheer you on? You bet. But I can’t help you write a book. No one can. Only you can do the hard work of reading, writing, learning, and thinking. Frankly, I can give you all the answers there are, but they won’t mean a thing until you’re ready to start asking the right leading questions.

Questions to Ask Yourself Instead:

What is my specific roadblock? Why am I not yet writing a book? What knowledge and/or tools do I need to make that first step forward? What is the best entry point for writing that first word? What am I afraid of? What is holding me back? How did other writers before me learn how to write a book?

Questions It’s Okay to Ask Other Authors:

At this point, after asking yourself all the above questions, you should have plenty of stuff to work on for the time being before you require feedback from others. Although it can sometimes be worthwhile to ask other authors how they started writing their first book, be real about whether you’re just chatting things up as a procrastination technique from the load of work now in front of you.

You won’t have a legitimate question for other writers until you’ve dug down so deep into the process you’re getting to questions like: “Which is better for my story: omniscient or third-person POV?”

2. Don’t Ask: How Do I Write a Book?

My Reaction:

Uhhh, sure, but… where to start…? You just, you know, start typing. Oh, wait, but then there’s, like, story structure and outlining, and theme and character building. You could maybe take a workshop or two. Or, you know what, here: [link to website]

The Problem:

This question wins the award for Most Vague. Basically, all this question does is establish that you want to write a book. That’s totally awesomesauce. But it’s not a good entry point to the actual process. Honestly, I’m still learning how to write a book. Basically, you just jump in and start swimming. Start typing, start studying, start thinking.

Questions to Ask Yourself Instead:

What do I already know about writing a book? What holes does that yet leave, leading me to specific areas in which I know I can start studying? How do my favorite authors put words together in a way that makes magic on the page? How can I mimic that?

Questions It’s Okay to Ask Other Authors:

What was your first breakthrough insight as an author? What was the biggest mistake you made in writing your first book? What resources have you found most helpful in improving your writing?

Your goal should not be to get another author to lay out the entire path for you (they can’t, if only because their path is going to be totally different from yours), but rather to gain insights from the specific steps they took to get that first book written.

3. Don’t Ask: Where Do I Start?

My Reaction:

Keira Knightley Thinking

Why, you begin at the beginning, of course.

The Problem:

Although similar to the above question, this is the better question since it’s ever so slightly less vague. At least it’s acknowledging the need for an obvious starting point! However, it still demonstrates the disadvantage authors are at when they fail to dig down for specifics.

As already acknowledged, this question has a very obvious answer. But if “start at the beginning” is not the answer you’re looking for (and no one ever is), then you already have a leg up on knowing you need to ask a better question to find the answer you’re really needing.

Questions to Ask Yourself Instead:

Am I ready to just start typing this novel? Do I feel I’m lacking some crucial understanding about either writing or storytelling? What information do I need to find before I can move forward? Do I need to do some research? Do I need to understand more about the story itself before I start writing? Should I outline before writing the first draft? What’s the best way to outline a story?

Questions It’s Okay to Ask Other Authors:

Remember, you’re not looking for other authors to tell you how to write (because, really, when you’re asking that, you’re mostly just wanting them to hold your hand through the process—or maybe even do all the hardest work for you). Instead, you’re looking for insights you can learn from their own way of doing things.

To that end, ask questions such as: What is your first step in your writing process when you start a new book? Do you outline? Why or why not? What are some key elements for a good opening chapter? What are some pitfalls to be aware of in beginning a new story?

4. Don’t Ask: What Should I Write About?

My Reaction:

Siriusly

*opens mouth* [confused face] *closes mouth* Why, would you even…? *clears throat* Dear Person, I am about to save you a life of misery and wrist pain: If you can not be a writer, then don’t.

The Problem:

Okay, for starters, I really, really don’t get this one. If you don’t have something to write about, why do you want to write? Writing, like all of art, needs to come bursting out of you like a volcano. We write because, first and foremost, we have something to say—or even, perhaps, to discover what it is we have to say.

If you don’t know what to write about, then wait until you do. Or, if what you’re really asking is, “What should I write about that will sell a million copies?”—then stop right there and gut-check yourself. First of all, I cannot tell you what story will sell a million copies (after all, if I knew that, I’d write it myself), and second, you’re not writing for the numbers, remember, you’re writing for the words and your own love of them.

Questions to Ask Yourself Instead:

What kind of story do I want to write? Do I really, really, really want to write it? Can I not write it? Why do I want to be a writer anyway? How can I take this little kernel of a good idea and make it better? What kind of story do I wish my favorite author would write for me?

Questions It’s Okay to Ask Other Authors:

Honestly, on this one I have to say: just don’t. You could maybe ask for feedback on whether someone thinks an idea is a good one. But, personally, I wouldn’t go there. If an idea is good, you just know it. You love it. You can’t stay away from it. Your own passion is what will drive the project forward and turn it into something great. You don’t need another writer’s permission to do that—and why risk their cold water if, in their own subjective opinion, it doesn’t do it for them?

***

Asking worthwhile questions about your writing is ultimately about taking responsibility for your writing. Vague questions are very often lazy questions. Lazy writers do not succeed. Successful writers do the hard work of learning how to think clearly, logically, and specifically, so they can immediately zero in on the questions most likely to help them find the right answers.

This does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t seek advice or feedback from your peers. We all need objective opinions to help us see ourselves and our work clearly. We can all benefit from the knowledge of those who have traveled the path ahead of or beside us. But neither should we rely on them. It’s not their job to find answers to our questions. Writing is, after all, a solitary journey. You have to make your own way. And the best way forward is always via informed, purposeful questioning.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What is your process for finding the best answers to your pressing writing questions? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Ms. Albina says:

    Good article, I am going to do third person omniscient pov. When I am finished with my novel I may have about 33 chapters when it is finished. I still have 21 characters in this novel also who live on a fictional planet.

  2. I think my mouth fell open in regards to all those questions… if your asking those questions then you might possibly be writing for all the wrong reasons

    I like to remind myself if you want something that badly you’re going to have to put the work in, it’s not easy, it’s revision after revision after revision but you can get there if you put the work in (forgive the repetition) and once you’re there youre not going to be asking those questions …. best of luck to all ❤️

  3. Lovely post! I think the trickiest bit about where to start comes for those who, as you described some time back, love words more than their own stories. For such, I would start with: what truth or perspective would you like to impart? Or, rather, what feeling would you like to share? But I think the most important piece of advice you had was the hardest (and one I’ve heard most often): if you can not be a writer, don’t. Creativity is not at root a capability, but a personality trait, and it’s one with a very low chance of significant reward.

    I’ve managed to coerce most of my friends and family to read my novel, with mostly positive feedback, and requests to send them the sequel. Then, after reviewing my own work, harsh critic I am, I’m still quite proud of it as a first effort. That, and 1800+ reads on a free website are reward enough for me. It made the 2+ years of teaching myself to write during late nights and weekends worth it. It’s making my soon-to-be finished second novel worth it. I suspect that’s the minimum personal drive required, but it’s been satisfying so far. (However, if anyone’s in the same boat, let me know! I’ll likely read yours if you read mine.)

    Anyway, my two cents.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Excellent thoughts. Another question (although not necessarily a “bad” one) that I receive often is “how can I keep from letting the unlikelihood of financial success with my writing get me down?” To that, I always say that, yes, it’s hard and sometimes depressing–but, in writing as in any creative art, the end is not the point. The journey is the point. The act of creating is where the joy and the fulfillment comes, *not* in being published, paid, and recognized. It’s hard to accept that sometimes, but it’s the gospel truth.

      • I agree. I’m no gambler, which is why I have to focus on the probable outcome, not the best case outcome. The probable outcome is that I’ll have a book that I would want to read, and a few other people will too. For me, that’s enough.

        It would be nice if the creative process were so ecstatic that it didn’t matter if a single other people looked at the work, but how many people are quite that self-contained?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Hear, hear. Write the kind of book you’d like to read. It’s a guarantee there’s someone else there who’d like to read it too.

          And, as for writing even if no one read it, I have to say: I would. I write, first and foremost, for the love of writing–because it’s a need inside of me, the inherent way I communicate with myself. I also enjoy being published and read, but they’re two separate experiences. I would keep writing even if no one ever read me again, and, in some ways, it might even be a better experience. :p

          • No doubt that’s a part of why you’ve been so successful: the drive to write, and write well. 🙂 I just feel like there are other options. For me, crafting a computer game would scratch a similar itch, and I’ve put most of one together.

            Writing, so far, has been a superior experience on all fronts. I’ve felt a greater sense of accomplishment, produced a better product, needed a smaller time investment, and had less need to keep up with a related set of technology. And, importantly, the feedback has been far more compelling.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

            That’s probably true. I am singularly ungifted in other artistic venues. :p

  4. Thank you for this! The last couple weeks have been a rough one. While I may have a myriad of questions about writing and about the process, I can safely say I haven’t had to ask those, so it makes me feel a bit better. Now, as I’m sure you know (since I write to you often XD) I do ask questions. One of the things I love is to see how other authors work, mostly to get a sense of what might work and what might not. I don’t want others to do the work for me, but I often get caught up in the details, sometimes to a point that I think I miss the point XD. So it’s nice to have a framework to look at.

    I’ve always written because it was something I HAD to do. It was an outlet, a way to vent, an escape. It has been a lot of things over the years, but what’s never changed is that I HAVE to do it. The frequency has certainly changed as has my perspective. I’ve learned so much, especially through you, Katie, about the craft of writing and it’s opened up new avenues, made me look at things in an entirely different way. I now know why I don’t like something, or I do. Before, I went off instinct and couldn’t answer the question ‘why’.

    Though I am currently trying to get published (that being a dream), it isn’t the only reason I write. Sorry for the babbling XD Once again, thanks for this article. It helped with some doubts that I wasn’t even aware of.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Asking questions is good. And I totally agree about the value of learning from how other authors do things. It’s definitely how I’ve learned. There’s an element of permission in it: “Oh, that works for you too?! Then I must be on the right track.” But, as you say, that all starts from a foundation of your own active discoveries.

  5. This is unfortunately very true… and I haven’t even had a ton of experience with other, younger writers, being pretty young myself! 😛
    Honestly, I think if you’re having to ask questions like this you’re just being lazy. Looking for the easy way out; looking for someone to tow you along without having to do any of the big thinking work yourself. And if that’s the case, then you’ve probably got deeper problems than just story problems. 😛

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Which is okay–to a point. Sometimes, we just need people to point that out to us, so we can understand more productive avenues for the future.

      • That’s definitely true. In my experience it’s too easy to get caught up in gathering opinions and never actually start writing, but yes. The wisdom and experience of others can certainly be learned from.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          That’s why I think it’s so important to balance reading and writing. Both are necessary. We need to make time for both. One without the other, is incomplete.

          • Preach it. 🙂

          • As well as keeping up with my favorite ongoing on-line serial, I’ve taken short breaks from writing to read whole novels. Storming; Men, Women and Children; Bastard Out of Carolina and To Kill a Mockingbird were recent ones.

            A few weeks ago I read a review for Tom Perrotta’s new novel Mrs. Fletcher. Looking now at an accompanying piece which profiles the author, this comment was made:

            Screenwriting has started to shape his fiction subtly, Mr. Perrotta said. Instead of writing fragmented scenes or “a collection of moments” that adds up to a novel, he’s started thinking of chapters as distinct episodes with their own narrative arcs, a technique that gives “Mrs. Fletcher” a strangely propulsive quality, even though the dramatic stakes are not all that high.

            Isn’t that what you’ve been teaching? With the obstacle/decision progression, each scene becomes that distinct episode, telling a brief story with it’s own arc that fits into the whole.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

            “Strangely propulsive quality”–yes, I think that sums up my entire approach to narrative fiction. :p

  6. Writer as volcano — I like that. This summer my lava has gone dormant, so I daily head out on walkabouts. After a couple of hours I land at a cafe where I sketch ideas on blank pages. But nothing yet has caught fire. No lava, no eruption. And that’s okay. For 25 years I’ve been burning pages with my enthusiasm but now nada. But I reckon that nada is better than writing something lifeless. The only questions I have are for strangers I meet along my walkabouts — I ask: “What’s the meaning of life?” and they run screaming in the opposite direction. It’s been a great summer, K.M. ~ PjR

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Sorry to hear you’re going through this right now, PJ–but, at the same time I’m not, you know? 🙂 Sounds like you’ve got a great perspective on it. Life runs in cycles. To learn and experience the verdant lushness of growth, we also have to go through dormant periods of recovery and reflection. It sounds as if you’re using yours very fruitfully!

  7. M.L. Bull says:

    A good “pep talk” for writers or want-to-be writers. I liked your wit in this blog while getting your points across. Lol. ? In my 16 or so years of having an interest in writing, I never asked any of these four questions, but I still enjoyed this post. There is a lot more to writing than some people think, which I learned over the past years from doing my own research.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I honestly think learning to ask better and better questions has been the key to allowing me to grow into a better and better writer. I think that’s probably true for most of us.

  8. I think asking questions really propells any kind of storytelling. When I come to a tough part of the writing process, I always start asking questions, and they will show me what’s likely and what’s not. Sometimes they will let me into deeper parts of the story, or guide me into secret parts of the characters’ soul.

    Asking question is one of the most powerful tools a writer has, and we should use it wisely 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes! That’s my process as well–my entire outlining process, actually. I ask myself question after question to break through walls.

  9. Mike Purvis says:

    Another great post – I am definitely a better thinker when I’m writing. I had written a short novel many years ago – hit a few road blocks on the journey to get published (“we do not accept unsolicited works” letters), and as a result just got back to the day job and figured getting published was for other people. I’ve rekindled my desire to write and will figure out how to get published when I have some thing worthy. I’m enjoying the journey and doing the work. Your posts, books and workbooks have been immensely helpful (I’m loving the outlining process), and have given me some great insights – thank you!

  10. DirectorNoah says:

    Thankfully, I have never asked any of those questions. I think writing a novel can be very hard and quite daunting at first, but if you have that burning passion to write stories, you will easily overcome this fear. For me, writing is like a powerful complusive urge, something that I must do for my wellbeing and contentment. I’m always happier if I’ve written or planned out something on my novel during the day.

    I think asking questions about your story is healthy for a writer. I makes you explore and think of different ideas and avenues to enhance your story, perhaps discovering something interesting that you might not have thought to incorporate before. I can usually work out any problems in my story on my own, and try to find a solution. Many I can resolve, but sometimes you get stuck, and need a bit of help and some answers to get past a tricky problem, or to understand something about writing. That’s where your posts are so invaluable and inspirational. And asking questions and advice from a professional like yourself ?, has really helped me understand some writing formulas, see through problems more clearly, and changed my view of the writing process in a totally new way, which has improved my work tremendously. I’ve learnt so much about the writing craft from you and your amazing articles.
    Thank you so much, and your help is always greatly appreciated. ?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Asking questions is extremely healthy. I often think of Meg Ryan’s quote from I.Q.: “Question everything.” When you’re stuck, take a step back and look at things from an entirely different perspective. That’s why I love the questions: “What if?” “What’s expected?” and “What’s unexpected?”

  11. I write because I need to express the ideas rolling around in my head. I think I’d either explode or go numb if I didn’t appease my desires. I love writing. At times, it consumes me. That said, it is incredibly difficult and frustrating. Whenever I feel particularly down, I look at this:

    http://thescalexwrites.tumblr.com/post/116938607022/writing-a-book-is-so-easy/amp

    It makes me feel a lot better that I’m not the only one going through the love/hate relationship.

  12. An interesting post. It made me realise that, at the beginning of my writing path, I didn’t ask many questions. I just wanted to get my story on paper. I had mentally outlined it on a long bicycle trip and when I got home I just started writing. Then I asked myself how other authors go about the process in order to see if I was going about it in the right way. I realise now that there isn’t a right way or a wrong way. It’s what suits you best. I now ask questions when I get stuck and your article was a great help. I can focus on asking exactly what I need to know in order to move forward. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I actually think it’s probably good that authors aren’t asking *too* many questions in the beginning. We’d quickly get overwhelmed. It’s best to live in ignorance for a little while until we gain enough momentum with our writing to discover some of the best questions to start asking.

    • J.M Barlow says:

      Yeah, I’d gone years and years – all the way through elementary and high school and my early adulthood, up to a few years ago refraining from asking questions. I never felt the need for ones like these. The answers to the questions above are just obvious.

      It’s like this… I’m a carpenter, and all day long I deal with people of varying intelligence. ……. and the number of questions I hear on an average day that could just be answered with “Use your eyes.”…. Katie I know just how you feel. Technical questions, I have no problem answering. Good questions. But the stupid ones? I just want to flip my cut table over! (Sometimes I do it! I pretend I’m joking so people don’t think I’m a nutter).

      Whenever I ask questions, I really try not to ask stupid ones with obvious answers… I encourage people to use their brains and think critically as much as possible. Now, people who ask these questions over and over, hoping they’ll get the answer they are looking for from a different person or on a different day?

      O
      /|\
      /\ __|___|__

      – JMB

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

        Now you’re making me wonder what the stupid questions are that apply to carpentry. I’ve probably asked my fix-it guy a few of them here lately. :p

  13. Good stuff. I like M. Wscard’s comment and your reply best. A couple of years ago I asked a favorite author what he would do differently/if he had regrets from his early writing days. I got three minutes of ego vomit in reply. There’s no shortcuts, we have to run our own race.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yeah, don’t have regrets. I’d do everything the same over again, mistakes and all. Our mistakes are what make us who we are.

  14. “Where do I start?”

    For me the answer is always: in medias res. Starting with the first word and the first sentence on the first page is for chumps. Plus it’s too much pressure…I’d rather get in a groove and write the first chapter when I’m on my game and feeling comfortable. This is critical for me.

    “What holds me back?”

    I’m like Trey Parker and Matt Stone in that episode, “The Simpsons already did it!”

    Sometimes a story seems like a good idea, and then I realize there are X amount of stories with the same or similar premise. Then I think: “Should I read those stories first to avoid cliches, or should I write my story in complete ignorance of what came before it?”

    Then the fear kicks in that I’ll become too enamored with someone else’s implementation or clever idea, and balk at my own story because I feel I need something comparable. And few things are more depressing as a creative writer than the website tvtropes. Every time I find myself there, I get self conscious about every idea I’ve ever had, picturing some eternally unimpressed hipster dismissing all of it as cliche and tropes. Not good.

  15. Saja bo storm says:

    Katie, Thank you again for a terrific post.
    I know I’ve asked you a few questions about certain writing dilemmas I may have had with my current WIP in other posts.
    I hope you didn’t stifle a snicker, point at my words, silently roll your eyes upward and whisper, “There she goes again. That Saja chick is so daft.”
    But seriously, I love writing so much that when I’m not doing it, I’m not living the life I was born to have.
    And the question that I always ask myself about my writing …Is it Clever? Its a good question for me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Nah, definitely not. 🙂 One hesitation I had in writing this post was that people might feel I was belittling anyone who asks questions. But questions are awesome. Even the “bad” questions mentioned in this post are good *if* they lead the asker to realize there are better questions to be asked.

  16. So, I take it that I should write what ‘s in my heart, not what the media wants it seems like.

  17. Great discussion about getting into writing. I share your reaction to the question “What should I write?”–if you don’t have an idea already, why bother? Writing is certainly not a get rich quick scheme…well, if it is I did it wrong.

  18. For decades I struggled to be content with my job, which was basically doing housework and bearing children, but I’ve ALWAYS had a craving to write. Now some personal issues have forced me to decide what I REALLY want out of life, and writing is it. I’m not in a position where I have to make a lot of money but I DO want to share my stories even though not one of my friends or family supports me. Writing groups have taken their place and I am dedicated to writing for as long as I live. For me.

  19. My career as a counselor for the past 20 years has given me the opportunity to hear people’s problems from all walks of life. Helping them clarify their problem, step back and look at options to resolve it, and overcome the fears to move forward, the work it takes to make a change, the ability to reframe, and understanding their limits. And yes, we all have limits that can keep us from doing what we might want to do. One of the techniques I used with success was the magic wand. At one point, I was working with first year college students. Those who were failing and referred for intervention usually said they had no idea why they were failing claiming they were just “not a good student”. So we talked about their days going to class and study behavior and then I would say, “if I could wave a magic wand tonight while you were sleeping and you woke up as an A student, what would that look like from the time you got out of bed, to school, and back home?” And when the majority of students told me their story, it included the behaviors of A students. The story from their point of view helped the student see how their behaviors held them back. We then we had a framework of new behaviors to explore and implement.

  20. David Franklin says:

    Here’s a specific question I find useful (which might help some other people):
    “When should I make the grammar different to alter the mood of the writing?”
    I’ve used weird, off-kilter grammar in places in my WIP to give a spooky feel to the text and thereby alter the reader’s experience.
    Not my idea, I cribbed the technique from Tolkien. But the question is important, you can’t just change the grammar willy-nilly.

  21. Interesting article. I feel the hunch is if you’re a writer you really know the answer to these questions deep down in your subconscious, though it is nice to see them printed out to bring it to conscious thought.
    At least the questions worked that way for me.

    I like the articles. I’m glad I spent a week reading them. I love to write but I get stuck on stuff and frustrated.
    These articles really help give me a starting point to improve.
    ———-
    Today I thought of a new challenge for myself:

    Write down a list of my POV character’s core personalities; how they would be WITHOUT any traumatic backstory or whatever being the influencer. (I’m sure backstory plays into it, but I *really* needed to find out for myself what my characters would be taking that backstory out of the picture.

    I came up with this:
    Character trait:

    Positive, neutral, and negative

    Each of these have to be the same trait for it to work. (I figure for every positive personality trait there has to be a neutral and negative side.)

    “Neutral” can lean either positive or negative, just less positive for that character or not as bad as their “negative”

    Say Perfectionism is the character’s positive trait. Neutral: They spend a long time on a project and reworking it. Negative: may procrastinate or never get a project done.

    Once those traits are figured out, then try to work those into into a scene or wherever you find your previous draft lacking.

    Doing this helped sort out a couple characters of mine with similar personalities to find key differences. I learned that my supposed eager to help, hardworking character wasn’t doing this unconditionally. He expects the same from others and prone to resentfulness.I also learned he likes to show-off (neutral form of “being helpful”) and expects praise for it (negative) or feels let down.

    My other POV character: I learned is also helpful but does it more out of selfish desire. (Feels good about self to have helped as neutral), negative: jealous and resentful if those he helps exceed his skill level.

    Having figured this out ads a new lively dynamic to explain the duality between my protagonist and the main supporting character.

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