What sort of questions should I be asking my beta readers?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BETA READERS:
When I send out my chapter to be read over by my beta readers, I always include a set of questions typed out at the bottom, grouped into different categories such as: plot, pacing, character, setting, etc.
You might want to tailor the questions depending on the genre or which chapter it is. For example, if it’s the first chapter you’ll want to ask them about how well your story managed to hook them, or if they managed to easily get an idea of the world you’ve introduced them to. If it’s the climax you might want to ask if the action scenes are fluid, and if the plot twist/s were predictable or surprising.
Here’s some example questions that you could use:
- What is your first impression of the main character? Do you find them likable? Annoying? Boring?
- After reading it for the first time, what is your first impression? Was it cohesive and compelling? Boring and confusing?
- Did the first sentence/paragraph/page efficiently grab your attention and hook you in?
- If you were to read this chapter in a bookstore/library would you be convinced to buy it? Or would you need to read further before deciding? Why or why not?
- Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, what’s going on, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, what were you confused about at the beginning?
- Does the first chapter establish the main character efficiently? Do they feel believable?
- Could you clearly imagine what the characters looked like? If not, who?
- Who was your favourite character and why? Has your favourite character changed? (if this hasn’t changed feel free to skip this question)
- Are there any characters that you do not like? Why do you not like them? (Boring, annoying, problematic, etc.)
- Was there ever a moment when you found yourself annoyed or frustrated by a character?
- Could you relate to the main character? Did you empathise with their motivation or find yourself indifferent?
- Were the characters goals/motivations clear and understandable?
- Did you get confused about who’s who? Are there too many characters to keep track of? Are any of the names or characters too similar?
- Do the characters feel three-dimensional or like cardboard cutouts?
- How familiar have you become with the main characters? Without cheating could you name the four main characters? Can you remember their appearance? Can you remember their goal or motivation?
- Did the dialogue seem natural to you?
- Was there ever a moment where you didn’t know who was talking?
- Were you able to visualize where and when the story is taking place?
- Is the setting realistic and believable?
- How well do you remember the setting? Without cheating, can you name four important settings?
- Did anything about the story seem cliche or tired to you? How so?
- Did anything you read (character, setting, etc.) remind you of any others works? (Books, movies, etc.)
- Do you feel there were any unnecessary scenes/moments that deserved to be deleted or cut back?
- Do the scenes flow naturally and comprehensively at an appropriate pace? Did you ever feel like they were jumping around the place?
- Was there ever a moment where you attention started to lag, or the chapter begun to drag? Particular paragraph numbers would be very helpful.
- Did you ever come across a sentence that took you out of the moment, or you had to reread to understand fully?
- Was the writing style fluid and easy to read? Stilted? Purple prose-y? Awkward?
- Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in facts, places, character details, plot, etc.?
- What three things did you like? What three things did you not like?
- Can you try predicting any upcoming plot twists or outcomes?
- Was there ever a moment when your suspension of disbelief was tested?
- Is there anything you’d personally change about the story?
- Was the twist expected or surprising? Do you feel that the foreshadowing was almost nonexistent, or heavy handed?
Feel free to tailor these to your needs or ignore some of them if you don’t think they’re useful. Basically, your questions are about finding out the information about how others perceive your own writing and how you can improve your story.