Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Story Critique

The Story Critique

by A.E. Albert

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” 
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Correcting typos and grammar errors is necessary to polish any manuscript.  However, the foundation of a great book is a good story.  Is your story great? 

Feedback from others and self analysis is imperative to the writing process.  As most writers know, the completion of the first draft is just the beginning.  Start with your own critique and if possible, have others give you theirs.  

Does your intro grab the reader?  Are your characters vibrant and three dimensional?  Does your main character have a clear cut goal?  Is tension spread throughout your story?  Did you deliver an ending that kills?

Find out.


  1. Does the beginning grab the reader?
  2. Who are the book’s intended readers.
  3. Does the book reach many audiences?
  4. What audiences could it reach?


  1. What is the core focus/conflict/goal?
  2. Is there a disaster that will happen of the goal is not achieved?
  3. What must be done to achieve the goal?
  4. Is there forewarning that shows that the impending disaster is approaching?
  5. Does the protagonist make any sacrifice in order to reach the goal?
  6. Do characters receive rewards or dividends along the journey?
  7. Are there preconditions? Small obstacles in the plot that make achieving the goal more difficult.
  8. Do events happen in an order that makes sense and in line with the plot?
  9. Are there twists, turns, false leads?
  10. Are “hooks” in the plots distributed throughout the story?
  11. Are the hooks where they should be?
  12. Does every scene in some way connect to the overall plot?
  13. Is there a theme or a message?
  14. Does conflict change throughout the story?
  15. Is the story always building to the climax?
  16. Is there Drama, tension?
  17. Are there lapses in logic?
  18. Make note of where text has digressed or gotten off track of the core plot.
  19. Are there areas that need more explanation or unanswered questions?
  20. Are there plot points that don’t lead anywhere?
  21. Is there a range of scenes? Long, short, action, dialogue, good outcomes, bad outcomes.
  22. Any recommended cutouts.

Character Development

  1. Protagonist and antagonist is clearly distinguished.
  2. The protagonist wants something, this goal is difficult.
  3. Do characters maintain their characters throughout?
  4. Do you have empathy for protagonist?
  5. Is there character growth?
  6. What is holding certain characters back? Do they have vices, quirks, pet peeves? What are their strong points/weaknesses?
  7. What are the character’s dreams, aspirations, and greater purpose?
  8. Does the protagonist have a physical, as well as an emotional journey?
  9. Do the characters contribute to the plot development? (Events don’t just happen to them; they change events through action and personality.
  10. Does the story need more characters? Does it have too many?
  11. Does a character's physical appearance reflect their inner self?
  12. Do the characters have a back story?


  1. Is there enough dialogue?
  2. Is it too long in parts?
  3. Does dialogue reveal character or plot?
  4. Is a character’s dialogue true to their character?
  5. Does the dialogue fit in with the setting/time/place/age?


  1. Does the narrator describe the internal world of the protagonist?
  2. Is the narrator’s voice compatible with the plot, characters?
  3. Does it tell the story to intrigue the readers.
  4. Is there a balance between narration and dialogue and events?

Writing Style

  1. Does it fit the genre?
  2. Is there Humor?  Is it appropriate?  Does it balance with the plot?
  3. Are tenses used appropriately
  4. Is the story paced well? 
  5. Is there a contact build up to the next obstacle?
  6. Are tenses used appropriately?
  7. Is there contrast? Good-evil, rich-poor? (juxtaposition)
  8. Is the writing clear, concise, uncluttered?
  9. Is there a balanced use of adjectives and adverbs?
  10. Does the story have unnecessary words?
  11. Are character, scenes, events, setting describe with enough detail. Or are they described with too much?
  12. Does each chapter lead into the next logically?
  13. Does the chapter end with a cliffhanger?
  14. Is the POV appropriate?


  1. Is the time/place believable?
  2. Is it well researched?
  3. Is the setting brought to life empirically? Are the senses expressed through words?


  1. Is there a range of moods? Light, tense, funny, serious.
  2. Is there emotional impact and will it connect with the reader?


  1. Does the outcome match the story?
  2. Is the climax at the right part of the story?
  3. Does the story end when it should?

Is your Story great?  If the answer is no, have no fear.  


Then do it again.  And again.  

Every work begins as a lump of clay.  Just keep moving your fingers.

Need help? cons