Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why Writers Should Read-Discussion Questions

Happy Independence Day!

There's a certain thrill to reading a book with a group of friends. 

One benefit: the challenge encourages all members to actually read a book or at least a chapter. 

If the one chapter friend finishes and attends a meeting, he/she is sure to be hooked on reading more. 

Who could pass up treats, cocoa/coffee/tea, laughter, and discussion?

For this reading challenge, I read Beth Vogt's Wish You Were Here. 

When looking for a unique idea to present for this Why Writers Should Read series, I found Wish You Were Here to be  the first non "issue" book to include discussion questions. (by non "issue" I mean this book did not deal extensively with topics such as abuse, mental health, domestic violence, etc.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find the discussion questions after finishing the last chapter and thought it would be a great benefit to book clubs or any group of readers.

Discussion questions not only become a valuable marketing tool but also transport the reader to a deeper understanding of overt and hidden concepts within the story.

What I learned from Beth's discussion questions:

1. One- Yup. The first ingredient is one. One question for each chapter. To include more questions could potentially shorten discussions, inhibit brainstorming, and squelch good ideas. Pick one fabulous question to stir an evening full of discussion.

2. Start with a reminder sentence. Some readers read the chapter last Thursday, some read it while Johnny Jr spit up in the crib, others read it last night, but kind of...forgot some of the chapter. Beth writes a reminder sentence, directing the reader's memory to a particular section of the given chapter.

3. Inclusion- To deepen each chapter question rephrase the question to be directed to the reader. For example:

(this is the discussion question for chapter 2)

"Allison shares an unexpected kiss with her fiancé's brother, Daniel, which causes her even more confusion about marrying Seth. Should Allison have told Seth about the kiss and that she was having second thoughts? Have you ever done something impulsive and regretted it?"

Can you see how all three pieces fall in this short paragraph? One question, started with a reminder sentence, ending with a deeper experience for the reader.

By participating in the discussion questions the reader not only gains the entertainment value of the book, they also gain insight from friends regarding issues addressed in the story.

Have you participated in a book club? Perhaps you read a book with discussions on your own, what did you think? Have you considered including discussion questions in your WIP?
What other component can help us develop good discussion questions?

Once again I am looking for reading partners for another two week challenge. Will you commit with me to read one book in two weeks?


This blog post is by Mary Vee
Mary lives in Montana with her husband and loves to hear from her three college kids. She writes contemporary Christian fiction and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories.

Come Step into Someone Else's World with Mary's writing

Come visit Mary. 
Her new web site launched this week!
Or her ministry blog to families:
Or email her:


Julia M. Reffner said...


Great post. I read the discussion questions, but you have me thinking about what kind of discussion I would want to be led by my own stories and as a result that I need to deepen them.

Enjoyed reading with you!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Hi, Mary,
I've enjoyed these posts where you analyze other books -- and it was fun to see you take a closer look at Wish You Were Here. As an author, I'm looking forward to interacting with the book clubs reading WYWH and discussing these questions with them either face to face or via Skype. Writing the questions allowed me to use some of my latent journalism skills too. ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I just finished WYWH and loved it! And I thought the questions were excellent to dig truths out of the story.

There was an underlying "issue" in it that didn't go too deep, but I thought really spoke to the kinds of things people turn to to cope. (rubbing her wrists when stressed) I thought Beth dealt with that brilliantly.

And may I say the last kiss in WYWH was....sigh...SUPER SIGH-WORTHY!!!!

Great post, Mary!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Julia, That's a good question to ponder. The discussion questions will lead/guide the reading groups. That is a heavy responsibility. Good point.
We're on for this next reading challenge.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Journalism skills! Aha. No wonder. Well done.
I remember Casey, one of our Alley Cats, saying she has done skype with authors for a book club. Fabulous idea. Anyone wanting to skype with Beth about book, message her on FB for an available time.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

I agree. Beth blended the issue of cutting into the story also other issues, won't spoil it for those who haven't read it yet. By doing so,she deepens the story and present real life settings.