Monday, March 4, 2013

Story Brainstorming Questions and Self-Editing Dialogue Checklist

by Stephanie Morrill

We're continuing the celebration of the Go Teen Writers book release with more free printables for you!

These lists are found in the Extras section of the Go Teen Writers. They've been on the blog before, but we updated them for the book:

Story Brainstorming Questions
When you have a new story idea, these questions are meant to help you take it deeper.

Character Questions (for major characters):
Who is my character?
What is she named and why?
If I had to describe her in one word, it would be:
What’s her family like?
What does she value?
What lie does she believe?
Why does she believe that lie? What happened in her past that caused her to believe it?
What is her main goal in the story?
Why is she ideal for the journey and why is she not?
Who are her allies and who are her enemies?
What will my main character sacrifice?
How does she need to change?
What happens if she doesn’t meet her goals? Why are her goals important? How can I make
that worse for her? Who else could it impact?
In what ways is she operating against society and in what ways is she operating within?
What part of her past can come back to haunt her?
What is her greatest fear?

Other Character Questions:
What does the antagonist want?
Does my antagonist have a secret he’s trying to keep?
Who will make sacrifices for my main character throughout the story?
What character could come out of the shadows and “shine?”

Story Questions:
What’s the best place for the story to start?
How do I think it will end? What is the climax?
Does my story have a theme? Why does this book matter?
What kind of hurdles will there be in the journey? How can I make these harder? How can I
make them “cost” my main character more?
What is my storyworld like? Are there political, historical, or environmental situations that
might affect my character’s journey?
Is there magic in my story? If so, how does it work? What are the rules, costs, and
limitations for it?

Self-Editing Dialogue Checklist
A writer on the Go Teen Writers blog asked if we could make one of these. Hopefully you 
find it helpful as well!

__ Are you trusting your dialogue and using action beats, or are you trying to make up for weak
dialogue with lots of, “she retorted” and “he exclaimed” and she “expostulated”?
__ Are your characters strategic about what they say, or are they just blurting things out? Did
they enter the conversation with a plan?
__ When your characters receive tough news or bad breaks, are they processing the situation and
experiencing grief in a realistic way?
__ Have you fallen into a “Q & A” pattern anywhere? Where one character is doing nothing but
asking questions and the other character is doing nothing but answering them?
__ Do your characters use different words for the same thing, or are their phrasings too similar?
(Grocery store can also be the market, purses can also be handbags.)
__ Are you letting character/story information come out naturally, or are you trying to explain
too much with your dialogue? (“Gee, Bob, I’m so glad it’s our anniversary today and that we’ve
been married for seven years and have two beautiful children!”)
__ Does every character behave and interact as though they believe they are the main character?
__ Are you using contractions?
__ Is your  dialogue age-appropriate? Or are your toddlers elegant and your grannies saying
words like “peeps” for anything other than marshmallow chicks. (*Shudder.* Don’t know why,
but I hate the word peeps.)
__ Do you have too many “group” conversations? (Conversations with four or more.)
__ Is “small talk” bogging down your story? (Hi, how are you? Good, how are you? Good. Nice
day we’re having. Sure is. And so on.)
__ Do you have a good balance of internal thoughts and dialogue? Does the reader get a sense of
not only what the point-of-view character is saying, but why he’s saying it and what  he feels
about the conversation in general?
__ Have you considered conversations from the perspective of all the characters involved, not
just the point-of-view character?

Click below for the printables!:


  1. Really useful thanks!!! I was doubting my dialogue a bit but now i see I was worried about nothing :) so great timing!! As always ;)

  2. Great checklists, thank you so much! I just know this book is going to be of great help, can't wait for the book version of it :D

  3. Thanks again Stephanie!!

    I love the whole check off thing! It allows me to keep track of what I'm doing so far in my book (other wise its turns into a disaster!)
    I find I've never been really good at dialogue and in the parts of my book where there is dialogue, they seem a bit off.
    So, thanks for the check list! I'll be sure to use it!

  4. Sure thing, guys! Glad they're helpful for someone besides me :)

  5. Also, Jill's award winning fantasy YA novel is free on Kindle today. Even if you already own By Darkness Hid, you can support her by downloading it:

    1. Awesome! Will download it a soon as I get home. Thanks for letting us know :)

  6. I hate dialogues! I'd rather set the scene than make my characters talk. Haha. Good thing most of my MC's are "men of few words"
    Great checklist btw. Helps a TON!

  7. I bought your book yesterday and it's just as amazing as your blog! (Better since I can carry it around with me. :) ) I haven't made it to the extra's section, but it looks like it must have some handy tools!

    Thanks for the link to Jill's Kindle Book, I wouldn't have known about it otherwise! I already hopped over to Amazon and purchased my free book. :)

    1. I'm so glad you like it, Rachel!

      And By Darkness Hid is a great book. I'm not much of a fantasy person, and I still loved it :)

  8. Thanks for the checklists; those are so helpful :D

  9. Thanks for the helpful list!

  10. I already copied the story and character questions, but the dialogue list will be really helpful! Thanks!

  11. Whoo-hoo! These lists are awesome. :) And I love the printable versions--great idea!

  12. Ooh! Thanks for these checklists! I haven't seen the dialogue one before.

    I have a lot of group conversations in my book, since my main character and three main secondary characters hang out together a lot. I've noticed that in my group conversations one or the other of my characters ends up being forgotten though. Sometimes my MC, which is bad. Any suggestions for how I can fix this? I need all of the characters and they all spend a lot of time together.

    And :) will check out Jill's book!

  13. Thanks so much! I think I'm pretty good on dialogue, but (again) I need to come up with more lies. Other than that, I know my MC pretty well. And thankfully, he's funny. :)

  14. Thanks for these lists! Great resource!