3 Big Questions That Demand An Honest Answer In Your Book

Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 39: 3 Big Questions That Demand An Honest Answer


Writers Write creates and shares resources for writers. This post is about the three big questions that demand an honest answer in your book.

Welcome to week 39 of Anthony’s series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week’s post here.

[The 52 posts in the series are also available in a downloadable, advert-free workbook. Buy it here: Write Your Novel In A Year Workbook]

Goal setting

  1. Continue writing the scenes or chapters of your book.

Breaking it down

3 Big Questions That Demand An Honest Answer In Your Book

1. How well do you know your characters?

Earlier, we spoke about the need to know your characters better than they know themselves. This is so important – if you don’t see these characters as living, breathing creatures in your imagination, they won’t come alive for the readers.

If you haven’t already, this is the time to start working on your character sheets and getting to know their back story. In Writers Write, we discuss the importance of building their socioeconomic, physical, and psychological elements.

You have to know the psychology of your characters, to understand what motivates their behaviour in the story. More important, you have to understand how they will be challenged and changed in the story – otherwise, you won’t get a character arc in the story. They’ll remain flat and two-dimensional.

For dramas, romances, and other genres a fully developed character is critical, so it’s worth spending the time on this before you commit to a final draft.

2. How well do you know the world of your story?

At this point, you should be asking yourself: Have you done enough research to make your story world come alive on the page?  Setting is, if you think about it, another ‘character’ in your novel. It may stay in the background, like a watermark, but the reader is aware of it all the time.

In my book, I realised that I have maybe overlooked research in my setting.  I’ve glossed over some of the details that would make it more authentic. Luckily, we have access to some great resources on the internet.

If you want to know how long a journey will take by car – or even on foot or by bus – you can use Google maps to help you. Some authors will even print out a city or street map to help them build out the setting in their novel.

For houses, apartments, and restaurants you can use property sites, or review sites – these often have great descriptions of the places – and pictures too.

If you need to find out information on subjects that dominate your story – it could be horticulture or handguns, Mississippi mud pies or motorbikes, you may need to talk to some experts. Remember people love talking about their careers and hobbies. You can also email interest groups or societies to find valuable research material, or even your first beta readers.

3. Does your plot make sense?

One thing we can never forget is that plot is predicated on causality. Every plot point in your story is about cause and effect, action and reaction – it’s a chain reaction and you must understand the ‘chemicals’ causing it.

This ties back to character motivation. This is the big ‘WHY?’ question. At every point of your story, ask yourself: Why is my character doing this?  It must be very clear or otherwise you will lose your reader.

If you’ve done your homework on characters – see the first question – this will probably come more naturally. But it’s a good idea to go through your draft and interrogate the plot. Why? Why? Why?

As writers, we have to create that all-important ‘suspension of disbelief’. Yes, you make stuff up but it has to be believable – it can be improbable, fantastical, out there – but it has to be believable. You have to sell the reader on your characters and your story.

Timelock — Two To Five Hours

  • Spend a half hour or hour a day writing your scenes or chapters.

5 Quick Hacks

  1. Imagine your characters are all attending a dinner party. Select a good venue and menu for them. Dress them.
  2. Instead of a back story, give your characters a ‘future story.’ Write about where they’ll be in five years.
  3. Could your story take place anywhere else? Write about what ties your story to your setting.
  4. Create mood boards for your setting – either on cardboard or on Pinterest.
  5. Write a book review for your novel. Would a reviewer find it plausible?

Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.’ — St Jerome

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

Top Tip: The 52 posts are also available in a downloadable, advert-free workbook. Buy it here: Write Your Novel In A Year Workbook

by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 38: 3 Criteria For A Perfect Scene
  2. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 37: Rules Of The Game
  3. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 36: 3 Must-Have Scenes That Reveal Plot

Top Tip: If you want coaching when you learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Robin E. Mason

    I don’t set a time table for writing my novels, (plantzer not plotter) but it does take me closer to a year than the 90 days one of my friends pressured me to do! just.not.possible!! Especially when I went historic with the third one!

    I enjoy your posts, always full of great tips, thanks!!

  2. Anthony Ehlers

    Thanks, Robin. I think we all approach the process in our own way. The idea is to get the book finished – by any means necessary. My blog is just to let others know, ‘We’re on the same journey.’ So glad you’re enjoying some of the tips.

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