Fiction Worksheet

This is a list-making, vaguely algorithmic way to sketch out a story:

  1. Write a one sentence premise. This should include something about the setting and situation. An agent provocateur incites a Luddite plot at a pen nib factory in Victorian Birmingham.
  2. List about a dozen characters with brief descriptions. Sarah works as an seamstress, and is Barb's mother.
  3. For each character, describe something they desire. Sarah wants emotional revenge on Barb's father.
  4. Compare the desires of each character. Write a new list of points where the different characters' desires conflict.
  5. For each conflict in the list above, write a one sentence summary of a scene which illustrates the conflict.
  6. Organize the conflict list into something as close as possible to a narrative. Add a small number of elaborative or connecting scenes if necessary.
  7. You now have an outline. Writing rough preliminary draft.


Fundamental questions author must answer

What is the crucial choice/change the main character must make?

The Premise

One place to start with a story is the premise. It should be pithy. Try to phrase it as a "what if..."

What if a man's sister-in-law became convinced that he murdered his wife? What if a heavy smoker had to quit cold turkey or else his family would be harmed?

About the character

How is the character in conflict with his setting? (i.e.—in what way does he misapprehend the theme?)

What does the character want? What does the character need?

What does the character have at stake?

The resolution

What is the price the character must pay for resolution?