Testing Your Stories

How many times have you thought you had a great idea for a story, only to have it fizzle out later? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a simple process to test your story ideas, before you invested too much time and energy into them?

As a journalist, I was taught to start every story idea by answering the five w’s (who, what, when, where, why and how. Fiction writing can be approached in the same way, but with a slightly different set of criteria.

  1. Conflict – is your conflict strong enough?
  2. Characters – are your characters true to life? Are they someone your readers can identify with or root for?
  3. Setting – is the setting distinctive? Can we see the town? Smell the trees? Feel the cool air on our cheeks?
  4. Purpose – what is the definable purpose of the story? Is the theme and goal strong enough to pull the characters through the conflict to reach the needed end?