Tuesday’s Tutor: Questions for Getting Started

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

I was thinking of writing a book based on . . . of course . . . an old fairy tale. I’ve always loved those old stories. I’ve read a number of rewrites, like Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment and Jessica Day George’s Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. I always like another take on an old, familiar story. But I was stuck.

I’d thought of doing two or three old ones—decided they’d been done to death. Looked at my lovely collection of Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book, The Red Fairy Book, The Green . . . Purple, Orange, etc., etc., Fairy Book(s) and finally came up with an interesting mash-up of two different old tales.

But I couldn’t get started. Didn’t know how to begin. So I didn’t.

Well, eventually I did a NaNoWriMo November session on the idea, and I’m in the process of finishing and rewriting it now. But why was it so hard to start? And what could have helped get me going?

I’ve long believed that writing is another way of thinking, and I should have just started writing anything. But I didn’t. For a long time.

More recently, my husband had thought of three young people (think Middle Grade or MG) who all went to the same school. But he couldn’t seem to get going. Having been there, all too frequently myself, I chose the more indirect method of emailing him a list of some pretty typical writer’s questions. Hopefully, they’re helping. Hopefully, they’ll help you too:

1. What would your Main Character (MC) WANT more than anything else in the world?

2. Who/what is keeping her/him from getting it?

3. What is s/he willing to do to get it; how far will s/he go?

4. Whose betrayal (or seeming betrayal) would hurt him/her the most? How/why would that person do that to him/her?

5. How would your MC react to that hurt or betrayal—what would s/he DO about it?

6. As an alternative to a betrayal (or an addition to ?), what would the loss of your MC’s most important ally (through death, moving away, illness, etc.) mean to your MC? How would s/he react?


Ask each of your other major characters (sidekick, villain, mentor, etc.) the same questions—on paper. How do all those answers intersect, overlap, inform the other problems or concerns in their lives? How do they change the direction of your story line? Mine your own answers for gold!

See you day-after-tomorrow for Thursday’s 13!

 Have questions about writing (grammar, punctuation, getting published, etc.)?  Brenda Bensch, M.A., a teacher of multiple decades’ experience in Utah’s university/high school/community ed. classrooms (English, fiction/non-fiction writing, study skills, drama, humanities, debate, etc.), invites you to “Ask The Teacher” at http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com


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