Story Questions: What are they?

Story questions with William Goldman
William Goldman was at pains to ask the right story questions prior to writing his novels and screenplays.

Asking the right story questions: In his book, Screenwriting, R. G. Frensham quotes William Goldman as saying: “Movies are about story: is it well told, is it interesting? If it isn’t, it doesn’t matter how talented the rest of it is.” This is also true of the novel as well as the stage play.

So, how do you give yourself the best chance of writing an interesting, well-executed story? This post offers some suggestions: 

Having chosen your story idea, you should begin to implement it by going from the general (idea) to the specific (individual characters and events). Here are a number of questions intended to help you clarify, expand, and tell your story in an effective way. Write a paragraph in answer to each one.

Nine story questions that will help you write a better story

1. Why do I want to write this story?

2. Who do I think will want to watch/read it?

3. What is it about? 

4. Who is it about?

5. Why is it about this character rather than some other?

6. What is the importance of background or setting?

7. What is the most fitting genre for the story? 

8. What is the moral of the story?

9. What is the main theme of the story?

In answering these questions you are preparing the soil for planting and harvesting. It gives you the time you need to probe your own motivation for writing the story and forces you to think about its deeper structures. 

Summary

Answering a number of pertinent story questions prior to writing your story helps you to explore the elements, structures, and motivations that are necessary in telling a tale that is interesting and well-executed.

2 thoughts on “Story Questions: What are they?

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Perhaps the biggest aspect that predetermines whether we pick up a book or stream a television series or movie is the name of the title of the story. A great title leads to great questions. Schindler’s list – Who is Oskar Schindler ? , why is he making a list ? who or what is on the list and why ? Sophie’s choice – What choice must Sophie make, what will determine her choice and how will it affect her?

    Two words – that’s all you need to capture the imagination of the viewer/ reader. Kill Bill – Quentin Tarantino makes no effort to hide his intend. He could have called the film The Chronicles of Beatrix Kiddo. But what makes the title choice so powerful is that it summarize the whole film by setting the tone and it also establishes all questions – who is Bill ? Who wants to kill him ? Why does this person want to Kill Bill? Will this person succeed or fail?

    Jurassic Park , Kill Bill , The King’s Speech and Forrest Gump – In short keep the title short

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