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Capturing your audience’s attention from the very first scene is crucial.

One powerful technique is to pose dramatic questions that not only pique curiosity but also propels the narrative forward.

In this article, we’ll explore how to craft compelling dramatic questions, use examples from bestsellers turned blockbusters, and share an AI prompt to help you develop your story.

Now let’s get into it.

Posing a Dramatic Question

A dramatic question is a central query that drives your story.

It creates suspense and intrigue, captivating audiences to pay attention and seek answers during every scene. This central question, introduced early, can be broad or specific, but it must be compelling.


  • Gone Girl: The question “What happened to Amy?” hooks readers from the start, setting off a chain of events filled with suspense and deception.
  • The Hunger Games: The question “Will Katniss survive the Hunger Games?” keeps people on edge as they follow her journey.
  • The Martian: The question “Will Mark Watney survive and make it back to Earth?” creates continuous suspense as he faces life-threatening challenges.

How to Consistently Raise New Dramatic Questions

1. Use Cliffhangers:

End scenes with cliffhangers that introduce new questions or dilemmas so audiences stay eager to find out what happens next.


  • Gone Girl: When Nick discovers Amy’s diary with incriminating evidence, the scene ends with him questioning her true intentions and leaving readers wondering about his innocence: “Is Nick really a killer, or is he being framed?”
  • The Hunger Games: After Peeta announces his love for Katniss during the pre-Games interview, readers are left wondering about his true intentions and how this revelation will affect their strategy in the Games: “Is Peeta’s love confession genuine, or is it a ploy?”
  • The Martian: When Mark Watney’s communication with NASA is abruptly cut off due to a sandstorm, the scene ends with uncertainty about his survival and next steps: “Will Mark be able to restore contact and continue his fight for survival?”

2. Develop Complex Characters:

Characters with hidden motives or unclear goals naturally raise new dramatic questions as their true intentions are slowly revealed.


  • Gone Girl: Amy’s meticulous planning and diary entries reveal layers of her personality, raising questions about her real motives and mental state: “Is Amy truly a victim or a master manipulator?”
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss’s complex relationships with Peeta and Gale reveal hidden motives and conflicting emotions, prompting readers to question her true feelings and alliances: “Is Katniss genuinely in love with Peeta, or is she playing a strategic game?”
  • The Martian: Mark Watney’s humor and resilience hide deeper fears and vulnerabilities, raising questions about his mental and emotional endurance: “Can Mark maintain his optimism and resourcefulness in the face of escalating challenges?”

3. Introduce Twists and Turns:

Plot twists can introduce unexpected dramatic questions, keeping the narrative fresh and unpredictable.


  • Gone Girl: The twist revealing that Amy is alive and framing Nick for her murder raises new questions about how he will prove his innocence: “How will Nick expose Amy’s deception and clear his name?”
  • The Hunger Games: The unexpected rule change allowing two victors from the same district raises questions about Katniss and Peeta’s survival strategy: “Will they both survive, and how will their relationship evolve under this new rule?”
  • The Martian: When Mark discovers a critical life-support system failure, it introduces a new question about his chances of survival: “How will Mark overcome this latest setback and continue his fight for survival?”

Building Dramatic Questions with AI

Understanding these components is one thing, but applying them effectively is another. Here’s a prompt you can customize using your favorite chatbot.

AI-Powered Prompt:

// edit bold text in [brackets] //

Imagine you are a master storyteller with 20 years of experience in developing breakout narratives. Your expertise lies in posing dramatic questions that captivate audiences and drive your stories forward.

Consider the following key elements for your story:

• Genre: [Insert Your Genre Here]

• Central Story Idea: [Insert Story Idea or Summary Here – including any details you might have in mind for the protagonist, antagonist, overarching storyline, etc.]

• Protagonist: [Insert Protagonist’s Name and brief outline of their overarching story goal, defining characteristics, backstory, etc.]

Now, develop these dramatic questions:

1. Primary Dramatic Question:

• Define the central question that will hook readers from the start.

2. Cliffhanger Scene:

• Describe a scene that ends with a cliffhanger, introducing a new question or dilemma.

3. Complex Character Question:

• Develop a secondary question based on a complex character’s hidden motives or unclear goals.

4. Plot Twist Question:

• Describe a plot twist that introduces an unexpected dramatic question.

Your Task:

Integrate these elements into your story framework:

• Primary Dramatic Question: [Craft your central question]

• Cliffhanger Scene: [Describe a cliffhanger and the new question it raises]

• Complex Character Question: [Develop a secondary question for a complex character]

• Plot Twist Question: [Describe a plot twist and the unexpected question it introduces]

Reflect on how these questions capture attention, drive the narrative, and set the tone for character development and plot progression. Consider how each question serves as a catalyst for the protagonist’s journey, providing continuous suspense and depth to the narrative.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you’re finding value in TSS, please share it with a fellow storyteller.

See ya next week!

— Dave