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Story Analysis Questionnaire

I often see the question, "Do I need to read books to write books?"

I believe you do. Even without a formal education, through reading you absorb story architecture, effective dialogue, vivid scene setting, use of language, etc. I honestly don't understand why someone would wish to write books if they don't like them! Publishing is worse odds than playing the lotto if they are looking for a quick buck.

Analyzing story through reading is a powerful tool. By opening the cover and dissecting the construction of each scene and chapter, you become familiar with story architecture. Find a book that interests you and take notes as you read. Reading for pleasure and reading for mechanics are different experiences.


1) What was the genre/subgenre?

 What was the overall problem the story centered around? Can you identify it (a battle to be won, a mystery to be solved, a relationship to be resolved)? 

3) Note the key events that happen in each chapter or scene. Were questions raised or answered? Conflicts started, extended, or resolved? Important information or background given? Did any of them feel like wasted page time?

4) Where was the setting for the book overall and each scene? How was it described? Did evoke emotion? Did descriptions include the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch? Did the location support or contrast the action and dialogue? For example, a humorous moment at a sad occasion, etc.

5) Who were the characters? How were they described? Were the descriptions vague or highly detailed? Were you satisfied by the descriptions? Were the characters unique or caricatures? What were the details of each main character that you gathered along the way? Were they overly repetitive? Were any of the characters too stupid to live? Were any of them unnecessary? What made you love/hate each character?

6) Note the chapter when each character was introduced. Were they dismissed from the story? What was their final disposition?

7) Looking at dialogue, was important information relayed in each exchange or did it kill time? Was there conflict or tension in the exchanges, perhaps humor to break the tension? Mark the conversations that felt critical and those that bored or annoyed you. Did the conversations elicit emotion?

8) Was there a physical altercation, battle, or chase scene? Break down the action and reaction beats. Was there a recovery?

9) Were there subplots? List the details. Did they add to the story or detract from it? Were the subplots or secondary characters' stories resolved?

10) Mark places you lost interest and segments where you could not put it down.

11) Highlight segments that made you feel emotion: happiness, sadness, anger, tension, anticipation, anxiety, fear, love. Did a section bring you to tears or make you laugh out loud?

12) Could you determine a theme or themes? What passages addressed theme? Were there specific statements by characters or incidents to reinforce theme?

13) Did anything turn you off about the story or their writing style? What would you do differently?

14) Were you left feeling satisfied with the story or do you feel the writer let you down at the end? What could have been done differently to fix it?

You can learn a lot by reading top selling books in the genre you wish to write in.

Here are several worksheets to help you with this process:

Story Building Worksheet

Scene Building Worksheet

Character Building Worksheet

Dissecting Agatha Christie

Story Analyses

You can find more free forms

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