W is for So What?

As a teacher of analytical writing, I often have to ask my students to think about an argument by first stating their opinion about the argument and then asking themselves the question: “So what?”

This applies to writing pros as well.

So you’ve written that awesome fantasy novel crammed with all the lovely creatures, characters and sweeping New Zealand-like vistas you can imagine or you’ve penned that vampire romance with the plot that is not (in your opinion) run of the mill.  You’ve churned out a powerful drama about betrayal, lust and the death of a lovable character.  Now you must ask yourself: “So what?”

What I mean by this is simply what is this story contributing to the grand scope of things?  What is the underlying message of your prose?  Below are ten questions you should now ask yourself about your novel.  If you can answer yes to any of these, perhaps you should consider a major overhaul.

  1. Is this story written to piggyback on the fame of any other writer?
  2. Is it difficult to nail down the universal theme that my story expresses?
  3. Is this story using the words “was” and “were” or any other “to be” verb more than five times per page?
  4. Does my protagonist reach a goal too quickly or too easily for a proof reader?
  5. Is my villain one dimensional? (Kind of the Darth Vader argument: “There is good in him”)
  6. Is my protagonist one dimensional? (He/she is too perfect or not flawed in some way)
  7. When reading through my chapters, are the settings not readily seen by the reader?
  8. Are the settings only backdrop? (Settings should always echo the mood or tone of the scene for a richer experience for the reader)
  9. Is my resolution at the end of the novel without closure?
  10. Is there another subplot I would like to explore?

Hopefully these questions will help.  Now I’m off to write the end to a happy and humorous chapter and I’m planning to shift it toward terror.  Should be fun.

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