Fiction Discussion Questions
- Preview: Before you started to read, what were your expectations of the book? How far did it fulfill them? Were there any surprises?
- Title: Does the novel have an interesting title? What does it mean? If it is enigmatic, when do you realize its significance?
- Opening: How does the novel open? Is it an effective opening? If it engages your interest, if it grabs you instantly, how does it do that?
Ongoing Understanding of Story Elements
- Point of View: From whose point of view is the story told? What is the effect of this? What is their personal perspective? Can we trust their viewpoint?
- Point of View: If the story is told through letters and diaries, or if dreams are used to make revelations, how successful is this?
- Writer’s Style: Writers do not always tell their stories in a straightforward way. If flashbacks are used or if the story takes place in different time periods, is it easy to follow what is going on? How smoothly does the writer shift between the two time periods? Why tell a story in this way?
- Theme: What is the novel's theme? What central message or idea links all the other components of the novel together? Is the writer concerned with social issues, or environmental issues for instance? If the novel has more than one theme, which is the main one? Do the different themes complement one another or are they quite separate?
- Theme: Have the themes been explored in novels before? If they are not original themes, what is interesting about the way this author explores them? Is the theme universal in other words, does the novel explore a message that is true of all people, in all places, at all times? If the novel is an old one, is its theme still relevant today?
- Setting: Where is the novel set? What details are used to evoke the location? If it is a real place, how authentic is the description? How is the setting important?
- Setting: How do settings affect characters? Look at where children grow up in books. Do we associate certain characters in the novel with certain settings? What is the effect of this? Are there "indoor" and "outdoor" characters, and how does the author use the settings in which we see certain characters to shed light on their personalities?
- Setting: If your novel is set against a well-known historical event, how is that event used in the novel? Is it used in an original way?
- Setting, Character, & Theme: Consider the author's use of natural environments and weather. Do the moods of nature mirror the moods of characters? If the natural landscape is described in great detail, what is the effect of this? Why does the author include such details? What do characters' attitudes to nature reveal of their personalities? Does the book have an environmental message?
- Character: What did you find most interesting about the novel's characters? Are they well drawn? How well do we get to know them? Are characters revealed to us through description, dialogue or action? Do we ever get inside their heads; does the writer allow us into the thought processes of characters, and what is the effect of this?
- Character: Are the characters realistic? Where is your evidence? If the characters are stereotypes, is there a reason for this? Do any of the characters seem totally original? If so, what is their most memorable trait?
- Character: Consider the things that motivate the characters in the novel. What is important to the main characters in your novel? Does it seem as if the author favors the values of a particular character? How can you tell? How far do you agree with the choices the characters make?
- Character: If you become emotionally involved in characters' lives, how did this happen? Do the characters in the novel have control of their own destinies? Explore the relationship between Fate and free will in the novel.
- Character: The experiences we go through in life change us. If characters change during the novel, what causes those changes? Are they for the better? Have you ever experienced similar changes?
- Character & Dialogue: Consider the main relationships between characters. What do characters reveal about themselves by their relationships? If there is dialogue in the book, how is it handled? Does it seem natural? Do any of the characters have a particular way of talking that reveals their personalities?
- What was your overall reaction to this book? Can you remember how you felt as you read it? How does the author keep you reading? If you had a strong emotional reaction to it, what caused that? Which parts of this book stick most clearly in your mind? Why?
- What do you find most interesting about the writer's style? Is it unusual? Do you like it? How appropriate is the style to the story? Try to pick out instances in the book which best illustrate the writer's style and share them with your book group.