When you create a story you usually begin with a general idea. Perhaps you have a certain character in mind, a specific setting (real or fictional), a conflict, a theme, etc. No matter what you start off with, that general idea needs to be developed. That’s where the pre-outline questions come in. Answering the pre-outline questions that follow will help you to establish what you want with your book, what you want your book to be, in some bigger strokes what kind of plot you want to have, what kind of characters you want to write about, etc. For those of you who write non-fiction, you will get to answer questions about your niche and develop ideas from that.
Remember that the questions that follow have no “right” or ”wrong” answers. Keep evaluating your responses — look for those that offer meaty possibilities or intriguing ideas — until you feel you’ve exhausted the angles for the time being. If you don’t yet know the answer to some of the questions, feel free to skip them and return to them later in the process of discovering your story.
Remember that your answers are not set in stone. This is not the end of your creative process — this is just the beginning.
Pre-Outline Questions for Fiction Writers
1: What kind of story do you want to write, and what genre will it fit into (example: fast-paced action adventure, supernatural thriller, epic medieval fantasy, etc.)?
2: Will you write in past or present tense?
3: What point of view will you write from?
4: Will this be a long or a short story? Why?
5: What do you not want your story to be?
6: Who is the hero/heroine?
7: What is his/her goal?
8: What is his/her motive?
9: Who is your main antagonist?
10: What is his/her goal?
11: What is his/her motive?
12: Can you name one or two minor antagonists (example: a bully, or someone else who does not see eye-to-eye with your hero/heroine)?
13: What are their goals?
14: What are their motives?
15: What kind of geographical setting do you want in your story (example: a real place, a historical place, a fictional place, etc.)?
16: What kind of social setting do you want in your story?
17: Name four or five big moments that will occur in your story?
18: Can you think of at least two complications for each of these moments, and will these complications make your characters uncomfortable?
19: Which character will be most affected by the inciting event (the inciting event being the event that starts off the plot of your story)? Is he/she your hero/heroine?
20: Does this character have at least two major problems in his/her life? Which offers the most potential for conflict and drama?
21: How will the main antagonist and the minor antagonists work against your hero/heroine and stand between your hero/heroine’s goals and desires?
22: Will the minor antagonists oppose the main antagonist?
23: Will the minor antagonists oppose each other?
24: Where will the story end (with a happy ending where the hero/heroine win, tragic ending where the hero/heroine lose, an unexpected ending, etc.)?
Go back to look over your answers and highlight the ideas you believe are most intriguing.
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Pre-Outline Questions for Non-Fiction Writers
1: What kind of book do you want to write (example: a memoir, a self-help book, a step-by-step guide, a textbook, a travel book, a collection of essays, etc.)?
2: What feel or tone do you want your book to have (example: academic, inspirational, helpful, etc.)?
3: What is your goal with your book (example: to educate others of your niche, to help solve a specific problem, to create another stream of income for your business, etc.)?
4: What do you not want your book to be?
5: What niche will your book be about?
6: Do you have all the expertise needed to give your audience the best information possible, or do you need to research something?
7: Are you able to turn the knowledge of your niche into several books (example: several books on recipes for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, several books on the different aspect of interior decoration, etc.)?
Go back to look over your answers and highlight the ideas you believe are most interesting or helpful.
There you have at least some pre-outlining questions you can use to develop your initial idea. Fell free to tell me how it goes.
Have you used any of the pre-outlining questions? Did the questions help you develop your idea?
Do you want a Scrivener or Microsoft Word template that will help you with the outlining of your story?
The Master Outline Template includes story structure templates, character creation templates, world building and setting templates, scene planners, and more.
Want to know more? Check out the book How to Outline Your Book with Pre-Outline Questions:
Don’t know where to begin with your new writing-project?
How to Outline Your Book with Pre-Outline Questions is a short ebook for both fiction and non-fiction writers to help you get started with your work.
In this book you will find several questions you can ask yourself before you begin writing your work. These questions can be used to brainstorm ideas or topics as much as to get to the essence of your work.
What if you have multiple ideas for books you want to write but don’t know which one to write first? Don’t worry. In this book you will also find an exercise on a ranking system that will help you see which book you would benefit from writing first.