At some point you must take a merciless look at your work. If you’re a plotter, you may hit this moment before you’ve written a word in anger. If you’re an organic writer, then it might be a reckoning you postpone until after you’ve finished a draft. Either way, the questions are the same. Are your characters flat or round? How does your structure hold together? Do individual scenes pull their weight? These exercises may seem staid and dry compared to the creative riots of idea and plot work — but there is still plenty of room for surprise as you find patterns and possibilities that aren’t always so apparent down there in the weeds.
There are a lot of character interview templates out there (some more coming this way too no doubt), but I’ve always particularly liked this one for its nice balance of brevity and depth. Quickly get under your characters’ skins. Try it.
Scenes are the essential building blocks of your story. Get them right and much falls into place. These questions focus on the execution of your scene as well as the work it is is doing within your story. Use it in revision or before you begin writing. Try it.
John Yorke’s Into the Woods is among the best books on story structure available. It builds a compelling case for a five act structure that revolves around a midpoint — a coming to knowledge. Many works that are traditionally analysed in three acts, Yorke shows, also conform to this structure. A great benefit of writing towards and away from a transformative midpoint is the tautness it can lend a story — no more sagging second act! Checking your outline against these questions a few times during the planning or editing process will get you thinking usefully about your structure. Try it.
All your work is saved ready for transfer to your favourite word processor and your quest for the perfectly shaped tale.