It can be hard to get useful feedback from friends and family. The key is to ask specific questions — questions that will get them to notice their own reactions as an ordinary reader. Honest answers to these questions will prove invaluable to any fiction writer.
1) Is there anything you didn’t understand?
• Was anything confusing or hard to follow?
• Was it ever hard to figure out what was going on?
• Did anything not make sense to you?
• Were the events in the story believable?
• Were you caught up in the story? Or were there things that interrupted the flow and reminded you that you were reading a made-up story?
• Did you ever get characters confused, or forget who a character was?
2) Were you ever bored?
• Were there points where your interest flagged?
• Were there parts that felt extraneous or unnecessary?
3) Did you want to know more?
• Were there characters you wanted to know more about?
• Were you left wondering ‘what happened then?’ at any point?
• Was there anything else — setting, theme, messages — that you wish had been explored more?
4) Did the characters seem real?
• Were the characters believable? (Were they ever unbelievable?)
• Did you care about the characters? (Did you ever not care?)
• Which characters did you like? Which characters did you hate? Which characters left you indifferent?
5) Did anything seem like a cliché?
• Did you ever roll your eyes at a plot twist?
• Did any of the descriptions or metaphors feel tired and unoriginal?
With inspiration from Orson Scott Card’s concept of the “Wise Reader,” from pp.121-124 of his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Writer’s Digest Books, 1990).