Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Building Your Book Structure around Key Questions

Your writing exercise this week is a simple but powerful one that I teach in my storyboarding classes.  Ask yourself this:  What's the primary question of each chapter in your book? 

Then ask:  How do those questions transition, one to the next, creating a flow that easily carries your reader through the story?

When I use this exercise on my drafts, I can immediately see where I've added scenes or chapters that don't belong.  Maybe they are actually irrelevant (one of my darlings that needs to be saved for another book) or maybe they are misplaced and their question shows me that they need to move later or earlier in the book.
If I can't come up with a question, it's a good sign that the chapter isn't working.  Sometimes I can tweak it enough to bring a question forth.  Then it has its rightful place in the story.  If I can't, it gets moved out.  

Some examples of key questions from chapters in my current book:

1.  Can Red get out of the gorge?
2.  Can Maggie keep the secret?
3.  Will they be found?

Note that the chapter doesn't have to answer that question by its end.  Obviously, some questions are big ones and won't be answered for many pages.  But the questions themselves are a key to whether the chapter holds enough weight.

Play with it, for your book, this week.  Pick a group of chapters you're uncertain about and see if you can find their key question. Then look at how the questions transition from one chapter to the next.

If you'd like to play with this in my workshop next Friday at the Loft in Minneapolis, and get hands-on help with your storyboard at any stage, please consider joining me.  There's still room.  Information here.

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