Novel Beginnings- The Judges Questions
Novel Beginning Questions by Category
- Does the novel open with a compelling hook that makes you want to continue reading?
- Does the writer engage the senses making it easy for you to visualize the scene(s)?
- Does the author provide a sense of time and place that has what Donald Maass calls “a palpable reality”?
- Are the main characters multidimensional, with evidence (or at least hints) that they have weaknesses as well as strengths?
- Do the first few pages give an effective introduction to the protagonist and his/her goals, motivation, and conflict? Does the reader have a strong sense of the protagonist’s character?
- Does each major character exhibit a unique voice and distinguishing personality traits?
- Is the protagonist sufficiently interesting to produce empathy (or at least curiosity) in the reader?
- Does the conflict arise believably from the characters’ motivations and goals?
- Is there sufficient conflict (internal and/or external) to sustain the reader’s interest?
- Do the dialogue and narrative provide characterization and move the story and/or relationships forward?
- Does the author present the work with a distinctive voice and an engaging style of expression?
- Is each character’s voice consistent and appropriate for his/her age, education, gender, ethnicity, etc.?
- Is point of view handled correctly?
- Is the dialogue natural, not stilted or overly narrative?
- Is the voice of the major character distinct enough that not every line of dialogue needs a dialogue tag?
- Is the entry presented professionally and following the format required by the contest? Is the manuscript free of typographical, spelling, and punctuation errors?
- Is the story told in a clear and focused manner without annoying overuse of adjectives and adverbs?
- Is the work without grammar errors; or, if errors exist, are they necessary for the story’s atmosphere?
- Does each scene have a clear and necessary relationship with the scenes that precede and follow it?
- Does the opening scene show promise that the reader has entered an original but plausible world filled with inherent conflict and great emotional appeal?
- Does the proportion of showing versus telling produce an active and engaging story flow?
- Are the necessary backstory and exposition presented in an artful and well-balanced manner via narration and/or dialogue?
- Is the pacing appropriate for the unfolding story – does it move rapidly enough to sustain interest?
- Candidly assess the total impact of this novel beginning. Realistically evaluate its likelihood of enticing a successful agent or editor to request to see the entire novel for consideration.