Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ask O: How Do I Find Story Question? Part Three

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends!

Today we’re going to conclude our Story Question series with five quick questions to ask your characters.

1. "What do you want more than anything?" This is one of the first questions I ask my heroine. Then I stare into space (do you do that?) and let her tell me. Usually, she begins with a superficial answer. In my latest book, Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, (coming out later this year, yay!), Ellie wants to provide enough money to pay for her grandfather’s medical bills. She also wants to marry her sweetheart.

2. “C’mon, Ellie, can you go deeper?” As I coax her to delve beyond the surface, I discover at the heart of her longing is a desire to please. She feels unworthy of love, so thinks she must perform to gain approval from everyone around her.

3. “Now, Ellie, why do you want to please everyone?” This forces me to plunge the depths of Ellie’s heart. Well, she wants to please because her parents died when she was young. Even though she relishes her grandfather’s unconditional love, the high-society world she lives in pressures her to be perfect. The only mother-figure she has expects just-right clothes, manners, and appearances, so she never feels like she quite gets it right. Because of this she forces herself to try harder, only to keep failing.

4. “Okay, Ellie, what’s your preliminary story question?” Here it is: Will Ellie be perfect enough to please those around her?

Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere. And this is a secret weapon. The answer to the preliminary story question can be no. In fact, it’s often more dramatic if the reader feels she’s going down a wrong path. Of course Ellie can’t be perfect enough to please those around her. We don’t want her to be. We want her to do something else. And this becomes the real Story Question.

5. “Now, Ellie, is that really what you want?” Ellie shakes her head. What she really longs for is to be accepted and loved for who she is—by those around her and especially by Christ. So the final Story Question is this: Will Ellie get past her desire to be perfect and embrace Christ’s unconditional love?

From there I built a novel!

I'd love to hear your story questions. Feel free to share yours and any tips you may have on how you came up with them.

Happy writing! And don't forget to leave your writing questions in the comments or on my website at


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