Does your story have an MDQ? What’s the MDQ you ask? The BIG QUESTION, i.e., will your character blank? “Will Billy find his bicycle?”, or “Will Janie learn to eat her vegetables?” Basically, “Will my protagonist achieve his or her goal?” The MDQ, aka the Major Dramatic Question is pretty important when writing a story. Without this question there is no story.
If you’re struggling with how to present your MDQ, go to your child’s bookshelf or the children’s section of the library or bookstore. Pull books off the shelf and look at how the author presents the MDQ. Don’t worry, the store workers won’t kick you out. They don’t know that you’re gleaning valuable insights from some of the best children’s authors out there … for FREE! It’s your secret…
Here are a few clues to help you in your search.
1. The MDQ will be apparent in the first few pages of a children’s book, the first two page-spreads for a picture book.
2. These questions are not necessarily part of the story text, but they will pop out at you after reading the first few pages, sometimes the first few sentences.
3. If you still have trouble figuring out the MDQ, think about what would drive you to finish reading the story. The MDQ gives readers a reason to turn the page.
Once you’ve found the MDQ in several books, your mission is not complete. It’s time to go home and pull out your own manuscripts that you’ve been tapping away at and can’t quite figure out what’s not working. I guarantee you’ll be reading and revising your work with a new perspective.
One last thing, and this part is very important–be sure that you don’t answer the MDQ until the last few pages of your book—the last two page-spreads for a picture book. Once you answer the MDQ, the story will feel complete for the reader. If you keep writing too much after the resolution, the reader will lose interest. In other words, don’t answer your question on page one!
Check back again for more writing tips.