Pointers for Writing Book Discussion Questions

image by geralt
image by geralt

Before you write your discussion questions that appear at the end of your book, keep in mind the viewpoints of book clubs and of authors/publishers.

Book Club Viewpoint

 

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Book clubs care about the following elements for discussion:

  • Readers’ expectations
  • Author’s presence (intrusion, world view, reason for writing book)
  • Enjoyment (how quickly engaged, recommendable)
  • Themes/messages (importance, relevance to reader)
  • Plot (credibility, predictability, page turner, formulaic, twists)
  • Characters (relatable, admirable, real, believable, likeable, memorable, how they change, how their pasts affect them, their new awareness/perspective)
  • Actions (plausible)
  • Setting (importance, as a character, representation of culture and era)
  • Symbols (metaphors, significance)
  • General feeling (amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored)
  • Book structure (chronological, number of point of views, interlocking short stories, narrative devices, flashbacks)
  • Ending (as readers expected, readers’ satisfaction)
  • Comparisons to author’s other books

Author/Publisher Viewpoint

 

Authors draw from the book-club viewpoint. They’re interested in leading readers and book club members through engaging, meaningful discussions so readers will:

  • image by StartupStockPhotos
    image by StartupStockPhotos
    enjoy the story and characters again;
  • understand how characters changed and how this might help readers grow or have a new perspective;
  • find moments in which readers related to characters or situations; and
  • express their concerns, delights, thoughts, differences of opinion, and emotions.

Tips to Create a Discussion Question

 

1a.  State succinctly a story instance concerning a character, social issue, or event.

1b.  Ask readers how they understood the instance, how they would have reacted or done something differently, how their opinions changed when they learned more, and/or to give similar instances in their lives.

2.  Ask  readers to recall passages they found funny, touching, sad, or made them angry and to express why they felt that way.

Here are possibilities to use for 1. above:

Characters:

  • definitions of themselves
  • vulnerabilities or past hurts
  • methods to deal with their fears
  • choices
  • misjudgments of others
  • sacrifices, temptations, release or fulfillment of dreams
  • offer, acceptance, or rejection of forgiveness
  • growing or deteriorating relationships
  • accomplishments (something they can do at the end they couldn’t do at the beginning)
  • differences in two characters’ beliefs or in how they operate

Other:

  • Scriptures mentioned and how they relate to characters, events, or issues
  • Symbols and metaphors
  • Social causes characters support
  • Social issues addressed
  • Setting’s impact
image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Examples:

  • Marshal misjudges Darla’s motives for attending Carl and Cynthia’s wedding. When Marshal blasts Darla, she leaves town, devastated. If you were Darla, what would you have done? When have you misjudged someone else and what were the consequences?
  • Candice mistrusts Michael in his relationship with Samantha. And she’s suspicious of Leo trying to take her job. When was a time you struggled with trust issues? How did you work through them?
  • What did Stephen sacrifice for Marla? Why? What was the result? What is something you have sacrificed for someone? How did your sacrifice affect you and the recipient?
  • Which scenes made you laugh? Which made you emotional?

Tips to write discussion questions for novels. Click to tweet.

What type of discussion questions engage you?

Irony Wakes Up Your Reader With the Unexpected

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Definition of Irony

 

Irony is a literary technique in which the writer sets up the reader’s expectation and then reverses it.

Common Examples of Irony

 

  • Andy opens the door to a blast of snow that stings his face, then says, “Nice day.”
  • A finicky chef comes home to his high-tech kitchen and nukes a TV dinner.
  • A giraffe has a garage full of ladders.

Types of Irony

 

Verbal: The character says one thing and means the opposite.

image by OpenClipart-Vectors
image by OpenClipart-Vectors

Dan would kiss her tonight. She could feel it in her toes. He’d skirted the armchairs for a change and sat with her on the love seat. What else but kisses could be on the man’s mind? She breathed in his musky cologne, and studied his lips.

He tapped her hand. “You know, Simone, I don’t think you took me seriously outside. If you don’t get the grunge cleaned off your carburetor, your Camaro could break down.” He scrutinized her face. “What’s the matter?”

“Don’t stop talking dirty to me.”

Situational: At the end of a narrative, something happens that’s unexpected or contradictory.

image by ruben_gal0
image by ruben_gal0

Rick approached the porch, his hands in his pockets.

Nance managed a thin smile. “I’m so glad you came over, Rick. Johnny’s been acting strange. I wonder if he wants to scare me off so I’ll break up with him and he won’t feel like the bad guy.”

Rick sat beside her on the top step and grasped her hand. “Come on, Nance, Johnny adores you. You know that.”

“Then why’d he break our date in front of his friends.”

“You know jocks. They need to save face around other guys.”

“He’s never been that rude to me. And how about Saturday when he went inside the house to wash off car grease. I asked him to bring me a soda, and he didn’t.”

He squeezed her hand. “Sometimes when men work on something like cars that mean a lot to them, they forget everything else.”

“Yesterday, I made myself a Cobb salad, and when I turned from the refrigerator, he was chomping it down.”

“He probably thought you’d made it for him.”

“I guess I’m being overly sensitive.”

Rick stood and pulled her up.

She nodded toward the door. “You want to come inside for a ginger ale?”

“Naw. Come watch me beat some sense into Johnny.”

Dramatic: What a character says, contrasts with what the reader knows is true.

End of scene A on the porch swing:

angel-1152844_1280Sally kissed Ronnie passionately, then pulled away. “I gotta go. My boyfriend, Tim, is waiting for me. He has a ballgame tonight. Will you come over while Tim’s gone?”

“Sure.” Ronnie tugged her ponytail. “Wear your hair down, darlin’.

 

Start of scene B outside the house of Tim’s friend, Ed:

Tim accepted the can Ed slapped into his hand. “Thanks, man. We’re gonna beat them Blue Devils tonight.”

Ed pointed behind Tim. “Sally’s comin’ up the sidewalk.”

Tim turned and grinned. “Have you ever seen such an angel in all your life?”

Irony can give your story unexpected flavor. Click to tweet.

How have you used irony in your stories?

Juxtaposition Boosts Comparisons – Behind the Scene

image by Hans
image by Hans

 

Definition of Juxtaposition 

 

Combining my research: Juxtaposition is a literary technique in which the writer places two story elements side-by-side for the reader to compare and contrast. Elements can be characters, places, concepts, events, actions, or objects. The elements are related but distinct. The comparison can show irony, humor, or sadness. 

Common Examples of Juxtaposition

 

  • All’s fair in love and war.
  • Making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
image by johnhain
image by johnhain

Examples of Possible Comparisons

 

  • Good and evil
  • Despair and hope
  • Spring and fall
  • Poverty and prosperity

 

 

Examples of Juxtaposition in the Elements

 

Characters

Purpose: Highlight our protagonist’s failures.

Introduce into the story the protagonist’s successful brother, best friend, or colleague.

Places

Purpose: Shape a character’s beliefs about prosperity.

The character is invited to an estate with lovely gardens, opulent buildings, and stone statues. On the way home, he gets lost and ends up in a shantytown. Show how he reacts to each place.

Concepts

Purpose: Show despair in the strong and joy in the weak.

A self-centered, successful prizefighter suddenly becomes a lost child at the deathbed of his frail grandmother. His grandmother, who raised him, pats his hand and praises God that she’ll soon be with the Lord, whole and joyous.

image by ThePixelman
image by ThePixelman

Events

Purpose: Contrast in third world countries suffering during war and peace.

A soldier runs through a village fighting the enemy, his Uzi rat-tat-tatting. In the next scene inside a hut of a nearby village, a nurse missionary ministers to a woman sick with malaria. The sick woman’s two young sons sit cross-legged on the dirt floor, playing a game with stones.

Actions

Purpose: Differentiate between leaders and followers.

At a women’s military boot camp, women are sent on a long run. The women complain. They can’t go any farther. This isn’t training; it’s torture. A woman, a peer among them, jabs a finger at a telephone post ahead and yells, “Come on. You can make it to that post. It’s not that far.” The women stagger on to the post. The same woman points to the next post and shouts the same thing.

Objects

Purpose: Show man’s penchant for rebellion that hurts only man.

On the grass beneath a billboard depicting a man dying due to smoking cigarettes is an accumulation of cigarette butts.

Juxtaposition can support important story comparisons. Click to tweet.

How have you used juxtaposition in your stories?