62 Questions for Novel Planning

I collated these questions during my years at university – some from creative writing teachers, others from exercises or books. This list is not meant to cover every question you’ll need to consider when writing a book – it just covers some main ones.

Planning isn’t always for everyone; & even as a planner myself, sometimes it can feel daunting, the amount of work that goes into novel planning. Sometimes you can’t work out where to begin. These questions cover a range of things, although they don’t cover everything they will give you a place to start. When I first heard them, they gave me new things to think about that I had never thought of before. I hope you guys find these useful.

Main Characters…

  • What are two problems in the main character’s life?
  • How do these problems affect others?
  • What is the main antagonist?
  • What is the main antagonist’s goal, values and motivations?
  • How will the antagonist attack the main character’s weaknesses?
  • How will the antagonist stand between the main character and what they want?
  • What is the main character doing to obtain their goal?
  • What does the main character actually need?
  • What lie does the main character believe, that is keeping them from what they need? Prompting them to believe they must get what they want?
  • What truth must they discover?
  • What weakness or flaw is central to main character’s life as a result of the lie?
  • How are others being hurt or affected by the flaw?
  • How will they have changed by the middle of the story?
  • What scenes will demonstrate how they’ve evolved? Also how they’re still flawed?
  • What is main characters big revelation in the climax (work out what they need?)
  • How does main character behave with authority figures?
  • How will they behave with love interests?
  • How would they behave at work?
  • How would they behave if being attacked?
  • How would they relax?
  • What would be the worst 10 things that could happen to the main character?
  • What are 5 unexpected situations the main character will be in whilst trying to obtain their goal?
  • What key events get your character engaged with the inciting incident?
  • What has shaped the main character to think and react the way they do?

Minor Characters…

  • What archetypal roles need to be brought in as minors?
  • How will the minor characters affect/oppose the main character?
  • How will minor characters oppose each other?
  • How do minor characters view the main character?
  • Who do the characters live with?
  • Who do they fight with?
  • Who would they like to spend more time with?
  • Who do they actually spend time with?
  • Who do they most admire?
  • What are their religious views?
  • What is their overall outlook on life?
  • Do they like themselves?
  • What would they change?
  • Are they lying to themselves?
  • Where is their morality?
  • What is their confidence level?
  • What five words would they describe themselves with?
  • What five words would others use?
  • What are three traits the character would like to be known for?
  • What is their self awareness like?
  • What is their greatest joy?
  • What is their greatest pain?

The Plot…

  • How do we frustrate the reader by making these goals harder to obtain?
  • How does this influence the story to follow?
  • How does this event create conflict between characters?
  • How does the inciting event grab the readers attention?
  • What events in the characters past, lead up to the key event?
  • What unresolved issues can further complicate the events after the incident?
  • Which characters will be narrators?
  • What is your hook?
  • What will immediately grab your reader?

Target Audience…

  • What audience are you writing for? (Age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs)
  • What feel and tone do you want to present in the prose?
  • Will it be fast paced or leisurely?
  • Will you write in past tense or present?
  • What is your perfect novel?
  • What elements grab you most from your favourite novel? (action, romance, humour, plot twists, sad endings etc?)
  • Which POV will you write in?

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