Every story begins with a premise – what is the story about? When is it happening? Who is involved and where is it taking place? Knowing these as well as the whys and how’s of your story provide a strong layering, especially at the beginning, that gives depth and insight to your characters and storytelling.
Who – it’s important for the reader to understand who is telling the story. Is it the main character, narrator, protagonist, antagonist, love interest, or supporting cast? There can be one POV character or multiple and it needs to be clear who has the most to lose so we as readers know who to root for.
What – It’s necessary that your protagonist has a main goal or goals for the reader to grab onto. What stands in their way? What are the antagonist’s main goals? What are the main characters greatest needs, strengths, weaknesses, flaws and how do they affect their behavior?
When & Where – putting your character(s) in a specific time and place helps to ground your story for your reader, avoid confusion and give them context. When could be a time of day, season or year. Where could be a place your MC starts, has come from or is going to. When is the highest conflict in your story? When is it resolved? Where does is start and where does it end?
Why – It’s essential for your protagonists stakes to be high and the conflict strong. You should consider why it’s important for your MC to reach their goals and what will happen if they don’t? Who is making the situation worse and why?
How – Do the protagonist and antagonist clash and conflict? How are they similar to one another? How do they interact to bring out the best and the worst in each other? Do they transform over the course of the journey? How are the conflicts and issues resolved to make a satisfying ending?
Asking yourself these questions will help you to evaluate your story and make it stronger for your reader by adding clarity and texture to your characters and their journey.