The Story Question

16 Jul

As you may have surmised from my last post Pick a Story and Write, I have been battling with my Muse about my novel. In an effort to get back on track I went back to the beginning. No, not the opening scene, the real beginning. I opened up my writer’s notebook and re-read my story question. Story question? Yes, story question. What is this story about? Who is involved? What is the major plotline? What is the major conflict that needs to be overcome? Sometimes it’s called your elevator sales pitch. You know, you step into an elevator at a convention and standing there is the editor-in-chief of the publishing house of your dreams. It’s just the two of you and you decide to pitch your idea for a story. You have 12 floors to sell it. If it works you end up with a mutli-book contract. If you fail, your only route is self publishing. What do you say? If you have created the story question, you have half a chance. The story question is the 30,000 foot level view of your story. You shouldn’t give the details away. But you need enough the capture the person’s attention.

Since I’m not quite ready to pitch my story to the editor of my dreams, I use the story question to help keep me focused on where I wanted to go in the first place. When I review my story question, I ask myself, is the story I’m writing and the story question on the same track? Am I keeping with the flavor of the initial idea? Is the new direction better than what I originally intended? Do I need to modify the question or the story?

I strongly suggest that if you have not already done, take some time and craft a story question for your current project. Or, if you have a project that died too soon, try to craft a question for that story and see where you may have gone wrong with it.

My question has changed slightly since I first crafted it. However, the main points are still the same. Everytime I read it, I get a feeling of excitement that helps me press onward. I can see the individual scenes that need to take place to answer the question.

Here is my story question for “Smoke and Goblet”:

When a master thief tries to fence a stolen item, he finds out that it is not just another bauble but also, a phylactery that contains the source of all fear. The situation deteriorates when he finds out that the previous owner stole the item from a necromancer with an insatiable appetite for creating new thralls. With the necromancer, the previous owner, and even his own fence wanting him dead, can the thief find a way to dispose of the object without becoming dead, or worse and still make a profit?

I would love to read some of your story questions. Sell me on your idea. I have a twelve floor elevator ride to listen to you. 🙂


Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Other Strangeness


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7 responses to “The Story Question

  1. annewoodman

    July 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, Dennis. Great elevator pitch/story idea. Even a quarter of the way into my second novel, I am not an accomplished elevator pitcher. I think I’m going to wait until I’m more confident about my abilities before I share… but I like the concept of using your story idea as motivation. Sounds like your novel will have plenty of tension and opportunity for side plots. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Dennis Langley

      July 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

      The elevator pitch scenario scares me to death. If you blow it by floor 4, you have eight floors of awkward silence. Yikes!

  2. Daphne Shadows

    July 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Even after the destruction of the human planet – murder finds its way into the hearts of what little survivors fight for life. That’s about all I’ve got so far. I suck at loglines and I hadn’t given it much thought until I came across this post. (I only just finished plotting this one.) It doesn’t involve the MC or what the main problem morphed into. I need to work on it!
    I like the idea of your novel! Necromancy isn’t something touched on all that much lately.

    • Dennis Langley

      July 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Sounds like a good start. No matter how bad things get, humans can make it worse. Your setting has huge potential. As you think through your MC and conflict, update your question until you have it fleshed out. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Sara Flower

    July 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I like this story question idea. I am going to try this for my next WIP. 🙂

  4. Dennis Langley

    July 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Thanks, It is a great way to get the critical story pieces in place before you ever start writing. An added feature is when someone asks you what you are writing, you have an answer already to go.


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