What are all of story development questions that writers need to answer as they develop and build their stories?
Story development is the most vital part of writing.
When you have a concept floating around in your head, that’s not enough to grab the laptop, open your screenwriting or writing software, and start typing away.
You need to develop that concept. You need to ascertain whether it’s a story-worthy concept or just an interesting gimmick. You need to give it the meat that it deserves.
Some writers turn to “proven” formulas, structures, and beat sheets to determine what their stories need, but the wise and most talented ones take the time to ask themselves as many questions as they possibly can — because questions force your mind to search for answers. And the answers your mind and imagination conjure encapsulate your story and your characters.
Those questions — and the answers they provide — will guide you through your story development process and help you create the most compelling, engaging, and cathartic stories for readers and audiences.
The wonderful thing about story development is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. You don’t need to be typing. You don’t need to be anywhere near a computer, laptop, or notebook.
You can ask yourself those key story development questions during car rides, walks, runs, bike rides, boring meetings, or lunch breaks.
You can meditate, daydream, or just let your mind wander pondering the answer to the question that will eventually build your stories.
But some writers don’t know what questions to ask themselves — or they only ask themselves a few.
Here we share 99 random story development questions that you, the writer, can ask yourself to jump-start that creative mind and force your imagination to ponder, consider, and eventually answer. And those answers will build your concept, your story, and your characters.
Note: We list them randomly because that’s how the creative mind often works. When you give structure to questions, the process begins to seem like homework or exams. Ideas and concepts appear randomly once the mind is ready to share or has made the proper connections.
1. Who is the protagonist?
2. What’s the main conflict?
3. What scares the protagonist most?
4. Who is the antagonist?
5. What scares the antagonist most?
6. What genre is the story?
7. What’s the core concept or logline?
8. What misdirects can I insert into the plot and story?
9. What tone should the story have?
10. Is my protagonist damaged?
11. What world does the hero live in at the beginning?
12. Where does the story open?
13. What’s the most interesting way to open the story?
14. What’s the ending of my story?
15. Do I want to shock people with this story?
16. Do I want to inspire people?
17. How will people relate to this character?
18. How do I relate to the story and characters?
19. Is there enough conflict?
20. Is there enough humor?
21. Is there any humor?
22. Should there be any humor?
23. What’s the internal conflict of the protagonist?
24. What the external conflict of the protagonist?
25. Has this concept been written before?
26. How can I make this concept different from what has come before it?
27. Why should people care about the protagonist?
28. Is my antagonist a villain or just someone that’s not necessarily evil, but has a goal that is opposite of what the protagonist desires?
Read ScreenCraft’s 15 Types of Villains Screenwriters Need to Know!
29. What additional conflicts can I throw at my characters?
30. What pushes the protagonist into this adventure, quest, or conflict?
31. Do my characters sound real?
32. What are the stakes?
33. What do the characters have to lose?
34. How will the protagonist change throughout the whole story?
35. What will my characters do after the story has been resolved?
36. Which characters should survive?
37. Which characters shouldn’t survive?
38. What story points can my story live without?
39. What characters can my story live without?
40. Are there any mysterious elements I can add to this story?
41. What revelations will the protagonist discover?
42. What revelations will the reader or audience discover?
43. What is the worst thing that could happen to each character?
44. Is my villain stable or unstable?
45. Is the protagonist reactionary, or do they take action?
46. What time period does the story take place in?
47. Would the story be more interesting in a different time period?
48. What are the themes found in the story?
49. What lessons will the story teach people?
50. How do I keep things interesting throughout the second act of the story?
51. Is there something that the protagonist doesn’t know?
52. What will keep readers reading in the opening of my story?
53. Is there any way to make my ending stronger?
Read ScreenCraft’s 7 Ways to Master the Endings of Your Screenplays!
54. Who are the supporting characters?
55. How do the supporting characters relate to the story?
56. What are the physical challenges that the characters face?
57. What are the emotional challenges that the characters face?
58. How are the physical and emotional challenges that the characters face related?
59. What is the structure of my story?
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Read ScreenCraft’s 10 Screenplay Structures That Screenwriters Can Use!
60. What would my protagonist do in a fist fight?
61. Who is the love interest?
62. Is there a love interest?
63. Would my protagonist be more interesting if I switched their gender?
64. Does my story have a diverse group of characters?
65. How can I create more diversity within my story?
66. Does my villain need a backstory?
67. Could the antagonist and protagonist ever be friends?
68. What is the atmosphere like?
69. Should my story be dark and moody?
70. How can I find the humor within a dark and moody story?
71. Does my comedic story have some dramatic elements?
72. What are some creative ways to deliver exposition?
73. Would my story be more interesting if it was told in a smaller window of time?
74. Could I cross the genre of my story with another genre to make it more interesting?
75. Would my protagonist be more interesting if they had a physical ailment or handicap?
76. What emotional baggage does my protagonist have?
77. Could my antagonist be the good guy in the end?
78. What are some twists and turns that I can add into the story?
79. How could I surprise the audience every few pages?
80. What books, movies, and TV series are similar to my concept and what can I learn from them?
81. Does my story have a rhythm to it?
82. How can I increase the pacing of the story?
83. What can I do to play with people’s expectations of my concept?
84. Is my villain’s plot relatable?
85. Are there any redundant characters in my story that I can get rid of?
86. Are there any redundant scenes or moments in my story that I can delete?
87. Is my story too derivative of any other book, film, or TV series?
88. Is my protagonist too derivative of any other existing character?
89. Is my villain or antagonist too derivative of any other existing villain or antagonist?
90. Is my climax fulfilling enough for people?
91. Do I have too many endings?
92. Does my story take too long to get going?
93. Could my story be the beginning of a franchise?
94. If my story is the beginning of a franchise, what is the character’s next adventure?
95. How can I pepper my story with fun Easter Eggs and clues to what happens in the end?
Read ScreenCraft’s Best “Plant and Payoff” Scenes Screenwriters Can Learn From!
96. What can I do to better foreshadow where the characters are going to be at the end of the story?
97. Does each supporting character have their own mini-arc?
98. How can I put more of me and my life experiences into this story?
99. Is this the story that I want to spend months of my life writing right now?
What questions did we miss? Share this post on Facebook and Twitter and add additional important story development questions to the conversation in the comments.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies