Week 46 12-18/12/2016 # 25 Questions Before Trying To Write A Story

– 4 min –

Last week I wrote about how important it is to know thyself first, before trying to write a good and convincing story. Don’t worry, it’s not necessary to know yourself completely first, because who does anyway? But what is important, especially when you’re stuck in a desert of no ideas, like I still am somewhat, is that you don’t keep struggling or scrambling to find ideas anywhere, but that you give yourself a sense of direction in your search. That you know what it is you’re looking for. And that comes from the inside out. Or as Lajos Egri points out in his book The Art Of Dramatic Writing (1942), which I mentioned in last week’s post, that you know what your convictions are, because from those will flow multiple premises, the statement you will want to make in your story, a point you will want to prove at the end of your story (and if you’re completely lost at this point, I recommend you read that previous post first). This is what will give you a clear direction, a destination. Without it, both your story and yourself will continue to wander around aimlessly, and in utter frustration.

So, in order to get closer to and (re-)discover those convictions, several questions came to my mind, but also practical questions, to help me get ideas to what kind of stories I want to write. It came to the 25 questions written below, which I know can be many more, but I figured let’s start with these 25 first, because the point is to discover and to get ideas and to start writing, not to keep answering questions endlessly. I have ordered them somewhat thematically, but they don’t have to be answered in that order of course. Answering question 7 first, might give you easier prompts for 1-6, for instance. The questions definitely give me a much better sense of direction. I hope they will benefit you as well, even if it’s just a little bit.

25 Questions Before Trying To Write A Story

  1. What areas in my life are important to me? And how important are these value-areas to me?
    • Family
    • Marriage / Significant relationships
    • Parenthood
    • Friends / Social Life
    • Work
    • Education / Self-development
    • Social Status
    • Money
    • Hobbies
    • Spirituality / Faith
    • Physical shape / Healthy living
    • Nature
    • Art (all forms)
    • Contributing to the community / environment
  2. What are my core values? (examples or just google core values)
  3. What codes do I live by? What are my convictions?
  4. What premises can I draw from those? (see Lajos Egri ‘The Art Of Dramatic Writing’)
  5. What are my biggest desires? (see also my post on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)
  6. What are my biggest fears?
  7. Which movies, series, stories do I LOVE? (divided in 2 categories)
    1. Which ones can I watch / read over and over, multiple times a year, would I take with me on a winter holiday to watch at night in a cosy cabin, and never get tired of, bored with? (Some of mine are: Shrek, Julie & Julia, Finding Nemo, As Good As It Gets, Amistad, Argo, In Her Shoes, Love Actually, The Princess Bride, Sex & The City, A Few Good Men, The Firm, The King’s Speech, Star Wars: A New Hope)
    2. Which ones thrill, capture, provoke, question, make me think, blow me away, but I don’t necessarily would like to see many times? (Some of mine are: Frost/Nixon, Syriana, No Country For Old Men, Fargo, Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, The Godfather, American History X, The Incredibles, Zero Dark Thirty, Inception, Interstellar, Hell Or High Water)
    • What do I love about them (A and B), in general?
    • What is it about them that I keep watching / reading them over and over (A) or don’t want to see / read them often, despite loving them (B)?
    • What feeling do they leave me with?
    • What genre are they?
    • What themes do they have?
    • What topics/subjects are addressed in them?
    • What are their premises? (see also question 4)
    • What messages are in the movie/story?
    • How are they linked to my value-areas, core values, convictions, codes (questions 1-3)?
    • Are they about something I love, miss, want to have or hate and hope to never have?
  8. Which kind (from question 7) do I want to write? A or B?
  9. What genre do I like, am I drawn to, and do I want to write in for this story?
  10. What kind of plot am I drawn to, and do I want to write in this story? (From the book 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias, here is a helpful checklist from it.)
  11. What kind of dramatic situations am I drawn to, and do I want to incorporate in this story? (From The 36 Dramatic Situations, Georges Polti.)
  12. What needs (from the hierarchy of needs by Maslow, see also question 5) do I want the story to address, will be the main focus of the story?
  13. Do I want to write about a topic I really like or address something I really hate? Or fear or question?
  14. Do I want to write something based on a real story, historical event or person, or completely fictional?
  15. Which premise do I want to use, what do I want to say (this does not have to be something serious)?
  16. What is the feeling I want the reader / the audience to come away with, have at the end?
  17. Do I want to write a story mainly focusing on the relationships of and between the characters (character driven), or mainly focusing on the plot (plot driven)? (see also 20 Master Plots, question 10).
  18. Do I want the protagonist(s) to get a great opportunity or an unpleasant disruption in their life, as their inciting incident/main event?
  19. Will the story be related to a specific holiday, season, life-event?
  20. Will the story take place in the real world or an imagined/fantasy world/situation?
  21. Is the story meant for live action or animation? Or does that not matter?
  22. Where (location) does the story take place? Or does that not matter?
  23. Will the story take place in the future (dystopian), present, or past? Or a combination of?
  24. Will the story take place over many days, weeks, months, years or a much shorter time span?
  25. Will the story have a time-limit (race against the clock) or just an option-limit (run out of options)?

Once you have answered questions 1-7, you won’t have to answer those again every time you start writing a new story, but it doesn’t hurt to revisit them, because most of them will probably change over time (she tells herself as well).

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