1. Is there a hook that pulls the reader into the book and causes him to ask a question?
  2. Does the story start with compelling action?
  3. Does the hook immediately establish tension?
  4. Has the story’s world been set up properly and made clear to the reader?
  5. Is there a strong sense of time and place?
  6. Does whatever goal set up in the opening appear feasible?
  7. Are the protagonist and antagonist introduced in a way that gives a strong impression?


  1. Do the characters have a purpose for being in the story?
  2. Are the characters sympathetic or reasonably unsympathetic?
  3. Have the hero, heroine, villain and their obstacles and goals been introduced?
  4. Is it clear why the protagonist cares about his goal?
  5. Does the hero/heroine continue to be committed to his goal?
  6. Is it clear who is fighting the hero or heroine? Or is it clear that the conflict is between the hero and heroine?
  7. Is it clear what is at stake and what the characters will lose if they don’t reach their goal?
  8. Does the hero have a plan to solve his problem?
  9. Do the characters act as they are expected to?
  10. Is it clear why the antagonist is doing what he is doing?
  11. Do the characters have a perceptible growth arc? Can they do something at the end of the story that they couldn’t do at the start?
  12. Does the hero/heroine learn a lesson by the end of the story?
  13. Do the main characters cause the resolution of the ending?


  1. Are the conflicts being made clear to the reader throughout the story?
  2. Are there multiple levels of opposition: internal, external, relationship?
  3. Do the complications escalate throughout the story?
  4. Does a moral argument add depth to the story?
  5. Do the internal conflicts increase the external conflicts?


Are the actions motivated in a believable manner?
Are motivations provoked by circumstance?
Are motivations planted ahead of time?


  • Does the romance deepen as the story moves along?


  1. Does the plot slow down?
  2. Are portions of the plot confusing?
  3. Is there trouble keeping up with the subplots?
  4. Is there trouble keeping up with all of the characters?
  5. Have revealing scenes been used, or do they need to be tweaked?
  6. Are there resting places for the reader and characters after major plot points?
  7. Is there a continuity of details: descriptions of items in a room, scenery, etc.?

Turning Points/Plot Points

  1. Are there at least two plot twists where something unexpected happens and takes the story in a new direction?
  2. Do the major plot points move the story forward?
  3. Are the turning points appropriately foreshadowed and well-motivated?
  4. Do the plot points steadily build tension with more and more being at stake for the characters?
  5. Do the characters react to the turning points in a believable manner?
  6. After the turning points, does the protagonist make a decision that changes his goal or attitude in some way?
  7. After the first turning point, does the protagonist’s decision lead to the main action of the story?
  8. After the second turning point, does the protagonist face an apparent defeat and everything looks lost?
  9. Does the black moment build logically from major plot turning points?


  1. Does the ending flow from steadily building tension?
  2. Does the resolution tie up all of the loose ends?
  3. Is the mystery or suspense element tied up before the romance?
  4. Does the hero/heroine resolve the main conflict stated at the beginning of the story?
  5. Is the ending unexpected, yet believable?
  6. Is the ending satisfying for the reader?
  7. Does the ending lead back into the story?

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.