Thursdays Tips: Where Does it End?

I’ve noticed a lot of buzz lately about story question. Many writers’ blogs are covering this great topic. I want to today as well, only from a different angle. 

First, though, let me define what story question is. Story question (also known as main dramatic question or dramatic question, etc.) is the essential hook you include in the very first scene of your story that snags readers’ attention and keeps them reading. It’s the question your story will answer before it’s through.

For romance, story question is simplified: Will the H/H (hero and heroine) overcome the obstacles and get together? Of course, with a romance, you can include other questions: Will Fred save the ranch? Can Suzie find love again? But the story question in a romance is whether they’ll end up together. And to fit the romance genre (rather than the “love story” genre), the answer to that question is “yes” and the story should end HEA (happily ever after). (The “love story” genre can end with or include a tragedy where either the hero or heroine dies--not an HEA ending.) 

For a mystery, the story question is linked to the case: Can they solve this mystery?

For women’s fiction, the story question is as varied as your heroine’s problems. You’ll have to choose a problem and ask if it can be solved. 

Story questions are tied to moral premise and theme, but they’re personalized to your character because character sympathy is what keeps readers reading. 

And this brings me to my article’s point for the day: How do you know when your story is finished, when the tale has been told? 

When you’ve answered the story question. 

That’s why romances often end with implied good times ahead. “Will you marry me?” “Yes!” Sometimes, you can include the wedding itself. 

Yes, readers want to read on to see the characters thrive now that the bombs have stopped going off, but not for too long. Don’t drag out your ending. Readers have imaginations. Let them carry the story forward if they like. 

So, here are some tips:
  •        Know your genre.
  •        Know your story question and write it out to refer to as you go. It’ll keep you on track as you write and essentially advance your characters toward the answer.
  •       Make the story question obvious in the first scene so readers know the “goal” of the story.
  •       Know how your story ends.
  •    Once you’ve answered the story question, end the story. The story’s over. 
So, do you know your story question? Have you answered it? Don’t let word count overly influence story length because then there’s the temptation to stuff the story with fluff. Story question should influence story. If it does, you’re more likely to have a strong, logical story from start to finish.


  1. Great post, Annette.

    Let's say we start our book from the hero's perspective. Should our happily-ever-after ending be in the hero's perspective? Or does it matter, especially if they both have story questions to resolve?

    Thanks, Annette! I appreciate you and all the wonderful editors at PBG!

  2. Thanks, Dora, I'd say for a more satisfying ending, bring things full circle, in other words, end with the character with which you began. I hope that helps!