This is the fifth installment of my Questions for Beta Reading Series. I’ve covered some general questions, characters, structural questions and world building. Now I think it’s time to delve into plot a bit more.
I covered some of these questions in the other posts and I think the structural one would go very well with this one, if you are looking at your story mechanics. That being said, this series may have repeating questions so the readers don’t have to click all over the place. The structural questions are more about awkward sentences, narration, tense, etc.
Plot is important. Unless your work is character-driven your plot is the thing that will keep the reader reading. There are some basic questions I think would help people hone in on the problems with their story flow.
Hope this helps you!
Disclaimer: Every Question on this page should be followed by “Why?”
Character Development with Plot
Whether or not a character is convincing is very important but there are some things that are just as important.
Does the character seem relevant to the plot/characters?
How would the story do without the character in it? Are they vital?
Do they develop smoothly in the story?
Were there any characters that did things which didn’t make sense?
Did their personalities change without any reason/transition/transformation?
Some plots go in a direction that doesn’t make sense for the character progression. It just feels like the author was trying to shock their reader… they probably did… just not in a good way. Something going sideways in a way that doesn’t make sense can make me put down a book and roll my eyes.
These questions are designed to pull information out of the beta. Be careful here, you don’t want to ask questions that make them look for something that may not be there.
How did you feel about the direction of the character development?
How are you feeling about the story? Or, are you enjoying the story?
How do you feel about what’s happening to this character?
What do you think about the way the world is developing?
This brings me to a similar topic although, not always the same thing. The plot twist. Most writers put a deliberate twist in their plot. I would encourage beta readers to write their feedback real-time (I do) so the writer gets a genuine reaction from their plot twist.
Another tip to writers, don’t say the word “twist” if the reader isn’t surprised it didn’t work very well and it makes the reader wonder what you’re talking about. If it is too predictable you’ll know with the answers to questions like these.
What did you think about this part of the story?
Was the change of direction predictable?
How did you feel about the story development in this part?
Pacing is huge. If the reader isn’t spellbound by your plot, they may get bored.
Don’t ask the reader “How do you like the pacing?” It’s not a specific enough question and I have trouble answering that one myself without writing an essay! Plus, you may not get much information out of them, I’m just crazy like that. Ask them questions to make them think about their reactions more in-depth.
Were there any parts of the story you skim through, pages or paragraphs?
Was there anything in the story you were anxious to find out? Did I make you wait a good length of time or did the anticipation fall?
Did you devour the story or was it something you kept putting down and coming back to?
Are there any parts of the story that were boring?
Chapter breaks, as I stated in another post, effect the pacing of your story. Not only that, it effects whether I want to put the book down or not. Even this small change can improve the impact of your story and the likelihood of skimming.
How did you feel at the end of the chapter?
Were you excited to read the next chapter?
What kinds of questions did you have at the end of the chapter?
Did you put down the manuscript at the end of the chapter?
Sub Plot Relevance
Sub-plots need to serve a purpose. They need to expand the story and help it grow. In some cases it builds characters or the world. But it needs to serve a purpose. If the reader doesn’t care about the subplot or want it… it should definitely be fixed. Develop the characters more or decide if it serves your story in an engaging way.
Again, don’t say “sub-plot” the reader will have a stronger reaction to the question being phrased in connection to the story. They need to know exactly what you’re interested in concerning their reactions.
What did you think about the characters in this (subplot line)?
Do you like (subplot) this part of the story?
Were you anxious to get back to the main story or did you enjoy this?
Did you skim through that chapter about ________?
Can you see how (the subplot scenario) tied into the story?
I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction. As such, sometimes there are whole chapters that develop the world. Sometimes those chapters are so foreign to me, I don’t know why I’m reading it. Let us know the relevance off the bat, it will hold a reader’s attention.
This isn’t only about chapters though. Sometimes, especially without reason to care, the world can get boring. And that effects your pacing.
Did you like this part of the world?
Were you interested in the politics/religion/history?
Did it ever feel like I was too technical or over descriptive?
Did you skim this part about ___?
What do you think about (world building element)?