Story Analysis

What is a Story Analysis?
A story analysis report, typically around 6–8 pages in length, provides feedback on the overall structure and presentation of your story. The main goal of this service is to guide you in preparing a revised and improved draft that will keep your readers engaged. The report will also provide a valuable insight into how an experienced reader views your manuscript in its current form.

The main topics that the report will consider are:

  • plot lines (progression, consistency, resolution),
  • the characters (believability, motivations),
  • handling of dialogue,
  • reader engagement and pacing,
  • perspective (appropriateness, consistency).

The report will also provide feedback and suggestions for improvement on the writing style and writing quality.

The report will conclude with a statement as to the editor’s opinion on the overall quality and suitability for publishing of the current draft, and a list of recommended actions.

Who will carry out my edit?
Developmental editing requires a different skill set to copy editing, and not all editors are equally suited to both roles. At Book Helpline, story analyses and content edits are always carried out by an editor with experience and expertise in developmental editing and creative writing. In providing an opinion, the editor will take great care to be objective and constructive, with emphasis being given to providing concrete suggestions for improvement.
Will the editor read my entire manuscript?
Yes, the report is based on a reading of the entire manuscript.
The fee for this service depends on the length of your manuscript.
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Story Analysis
The following excerpts illustrate the type of feedback that would be provided in the report. The fragments are closely based on actual reports, although some of the details have been edited to protect the confidentiality of our customers.
This report touches on the higher-level issues that cannot easily be addressed in the accompanying content edit. While many of the comments concern aspects of the plot and characters that need further strengthening, I first want to stress that overall, I think the fundamentals of the story are very promising. I hope this report will support you in putting the finishing touches on what should be a great book.
In this story, it’s quite common for several chapters in a row to focus on the same person. This approach ensures that the story develops at an easy pace with little back-and-forth between the different characters and scenes. There are, though, a couple of issues that need attention. First, the focus on a single character for several chapters at a time sometimes results in a tendency to go into too much detail. This slows down the pace of the story and risks losing the reader’s attention. Examples that could benefit from some streamlining include the description of the first date, and the story about Robert mistrusting Jess.
The second issue is that the timeline isn’t always easy to follow. For example, when it’s evening in Jess’s storyline, and it’s evening in James’s storyline in the next chapter, is this the same evening? In at least one case, the timeline doesn’t feel right – Jess reported that the ring had been sighted in Kensington several chapters before Chris offered to sell it to the antique dealer.
A number of times the personal pronouns are ambiguous: he/him, they/them. I’ve indicated this when I noticed it. While you can often use personal pronouns, if there are two men in a sentence, make sure it’s clear who the “he” or “his” refers to. It can be unclear to the reader.
The good news: you have some very good descriptions of nature. The chapters set in the mountains are very evocative, and the description of the gang entering the apartment is excellent. The fight with Grayson is wonderful too, with Chris stepping in to save the day. Some chapters and scenes read very fluently and require little editing for grammar, whereas others are “messy” with many repeated words and poorly structured sentences. Nothing that can’t be fixed, though!
Helen’s character doesn’t receive much attention. She is present in the first four chapters, but then doesn’t reappear again until Chapter 32. That is a very long gap for a viewpoint character.
As I mention in the content edit comments in the margins, I miss information about what happened exactly in New York. I would prefer to see this ‘live’ rather than be told about it in hindsight. There is also a completely different issue: how can Marcus be so certain that Simon and David are involved in the mystery?
I would like to suggest you combine these two issues, maybe as follows...
Dr Samuel Birch is the main viewpoint character. As mentioned before, he is well-drawn and a good viewpoint character. He is also more relatable in his profession, a doctor, than would be his brother, who is of higher station. The choice to have him be fairly new to the setting in which the book occurs is clever, as it allows the reader to discover things about the area and people as Dr Birch does, and lends an authenticity to this portion of the writing. It also gives a good foundation for characters needing to explain things (sometimes at length) to Dr Birch, without it seeming like too much of an info-dump via dialogue. Dr Birch’s character is shown to be intelligent, kind, and skilful, and it is believable that he could be caught up in such a mystery.
Additionally, the body of the text seems to be an amalgamation of styles and spellings. For example, date formats are given in British style – 10 October 1741 – while a full point is given to the contraction for doctor – Dr. – which is typically only given a full point in American English. Practice is spelled with a second c, which is the American spelling, not the typically British.
Other grammatical and formatting issues include hyphenation, the use of which versus that (of concern depending upon the desired style – American or Oxford), and spacing. All these issues would be addressed with a more in-depth edit, should the author desire.
In the note included with the story analysis request, the author expressed concern that he had received reviews that stated the novel could be cut by a third. I disagree that this much needs to be cut from the novel, as it has a clear path and leads the reader to the conclusion in a well-thought-out manner and with good pacing, for the most part. However, I do believe some brevity in relating the archdeacon’s traits by other characters would serve the novel well and help to maintain the pacing set by the protagonist’s mounting discoveries.
Also, the editing of the dialogue, as previously mentioned, would help to smooth out the pace.