I looked back at the "Is Your Story Worth Pursuing?" how-to chapter, and I found that I didn't agree with a few of the points on there anymore. So here's my own Yuffie Story Litmus Test.
Disclaimer: this is just a personal checklist that applies SOLELY TO MY STORIES. It is NOT the be-all, end-all in storytelling, and it absolutely isn't an exhaustive questionaire. You can definitely get a low score here and still have a phenomenal story, and vice versa. If you find it helps you better visualize your story and spot potential problem areas, awesome! If these questions don't apply to your story, don't worry about it.
I would encourage all of you to create your own "story litmus test" based on what you think a story should encapsulate.
Fill this out yourself, but it would be even more accurate if you give this to one of your readers and ask them to fill it out about your story! See an outside perspective. You may think your character has a clear goal, but maybe it's not easily apparent to the reader. etc.
With that, let's begin!
1. Name your protagonist(s). Write out in a sentence or two their main goal in the story.
10 points if your protagonist(s) has a solid goal. (If you have multiple protagonists, they all need a solid goal.)
5 points if the goal is vague or not easily explained.
0 points if your protagonist doesn't have a goal.
2. What obstacles stand in the way of your protagonist's goal?
10 points if you can name at least 3 major obstacles.
5 points if you can name one obstacle.
0 points if there are no obstacles.
3. What does your protagonist do to overcome the obstacles and achieve their goal?
10 points if your protagonist actively meets each obstacle and solves the problems by themselves, for the most part. (ie. they're not simply sitting there letting other characters do the work or letting deus ex machinas solve their problems.)
5 points if your protagonist has a plan to reach their goal but doesn't actually do anything about it.
0 points if the protagonist has no plan and does nothing to reach their goal.
4. What are the stakes and consequences?
10 points if something really bad will happen to the protagonist if they fail to achieve their goal.
5 points if something bad will happen, but it doesn't directly affect the protagonist in any significant way.
0 points if there are no stakes or consequences for the protagonist if they don't achieve their goal.
5. What does your protagonist sacrifice to achieve their goal? This could be risking their own neck for something, stepping out of their comfort zone or overcoming a phobia. Maybe they give up a special object they cherished.
10 points if the protagonist sacrifices something to reach their goal
0 points if they don't make any sacrifices.
**Give yourself 5 bonus points if the protagonist sacrifices something for another character**
6. What is your protagonist's inner conflict?
10 points if you can name an inner conflict that hinders their progress in overcoming external conflict(s).
5 points if the protagonist has an inner conflict, but it doesn't really tie into the main external conflict of the story and doesn't hinder their progess.
0 points if the protagonist has no internal conflict.
7. Moving on to the setting! Does the setting create problems for the protagonist? For example, it could be the rainy season and the protagonist can't get where they need to be because all the roads are flooded.
10 points if the setting/enviornment/climate causes a big problem for your protagonist.
5 points if the setting creates only minor obstacles for your protagonist.
0 points if there is little to no interaction with the setting that causes problems for your protagonist.
8. Is your protagonist changed from the person they were at the start of the story? For better or worse.
10 points if your protagonist undergoes a major change in character. They can also choose to remain the same, but they cause other major characters to change or learn an important lesson.
0 points if the protagonist doesn't change or cause a change in others.
9. After the readers finish your story, what message(s) will they walk away with?
10 points if they come away with at least one big message or life lesson.
0 points if the story didn't offer any messages for the readers or teach them anything important.
10. Has thinking about, talking about, writing, or rereading this story ever made you tear up? (not out of frustration)
10 points if your story has ever made you cry! :)
5 points if it gave you strong emotions at some point.
0 points if you feel nothing when thinking about your story.
Now add up your score and see where you fall:
90-100 = Your story has all the right stuff. Congrats!
80-89 = Not bad! You're on the right track, but there might be a couple areas you can tweak to make them even stronger.
70-79 = You're getting there. Keep developing and adding more layers.
0-69 = The story needs reworking. Probably from scratch. Maybe put it on the shelf for a while, give it a break, and come back with a fresh pair of eyes. Don't be afraid to completely rip it apart and start with a clean slate.
No matter where you fell on the scale, look at the areas where you didn't get the full 10 points and figure out how you can rework your story to get it there. And remember, a story can get a low score and still be phenomenal, or it can get a high score and be crap. Use this test as a guide, not the sole determinant of whether your story is good or not. Again, I encourage you to create your own test based on your values as a writer and what you find to be most important in a story.
Try filling this out for your favorite published books too and see where they fall! Share your results for your story and some published books in the comments below.
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