Writing book club discussion questions is something writers put off and sometimes never get around to. But readers like them, so you might as well get it done. I’ve recently written some, and it’s not as tough as it seems. Here are some guidelines to help you get started.

Ambiguity. If your novel leaves anything up in the air as to what really happened, this makes for a great question. Readers love to determine the how and why of ambiguous events. (Did you believe the mayor’s version of events? Why or why not? What do you think really happened?)

Motivation. Any question that gets to the heart of a character’s motivation, especially to behave in a socially unacceptable way, will make for a lively discussion. (Jasmine shares privileged information with a reporter. Why? Claire says she stole the painting to protect it, but what were her real reasons?) I’ve discovered that readers bring their own experiences into a novel and often perceive things in characters that others don’t, even the author. It’s fascinating.

Fate. Questions that discuss the course of events and whether those events are inevitable will generate strong reactions from readers. (Did the young boy have to die in the end? Could the story have gone in another direction and still been effective?)

Coincidence. Does the story rely on a major or minor coincidence? Was it believable and did it work for you? Was the story plausible overall?

Values/beliefs. In what ways do the events and characters reveal the author’s values or world view? What is the author trying to say about [insert hot-button topic here: women, race, sexuality, discrimination]? Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs?

As readers, what are some of your favorite book discussion issues?

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