Just coincidentally, I’ve come across some notes and handouts from the time, long, long ago when I did that writing course I’m often talking about. I thought I might share this helpful bit of information.
The only attribution I’ve come across is that it came from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
It’s titled: Checklist for your story:
When you finish your story you might want to run through this list of basic ingredients and check them against your story:
1. In one simple sentence sum up to yourself what the story is about (eg: It’s about a mousy woman, seduced and dumped by her employer, who gains revenge and redemption by making him grovel in the dirt at gunpoint). If you can’t do it in one long sentence, maybe you have problems; maybe it’s not yet clear in your mind.

2. Do you have your principal characters wanting something, something very important to them? Is that aim made apparent to the reader?

3. Do you indicate to the reader what the main character’s basic problems – or at least foreshadow it – very early in the story? Is there a hook in the first paragraph to get the reader’s attention? Do formidable obstacles stand in the way of the protagonist’s aim? Is there an antagonist; is he or she a worthy one?

4. Is it clear for whom the reader should pull? Do we know whom or what we’re against?

5. Does the dialogue propel the plot forward? Does the conversation reveal character and motivation? Or is it merely talk?

6. Does the story unfold in scenes? Or is there too much telling and not enough showing?

7. Is there inherent conflict expressed or implied on every page, in every scene?
8. Does the story grow in tension until the resolution?

9. Is the ending, whether sad or happy, a satisfying one? Is it consistent with what we know about the protagonist’s character? Is it brought a bout by the character’s action?

10. Has the reader seen a change occur in the characters and their situation? Are things different than they were at the beginning of the story?

4 thoughts on “Checklist for your Story

  1. I think the ending makes the story. For me, If it’s unsatisfactory (sad or happy doesn’t matter) it blows the whole book. I’ve had a few of those and, despite being entertained reading a story, have considered it ultimately to be a waste of time.

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