Evaluating Fiction


The story and how it is revealed

  • Is it a good story? Engaging? Interesting?Harriet
  • How does the action progress?
  • Is there conflict? Suspense?
  • Is it believable? (For genre fiction, within the world created?)
  • How do events build to a climax? How do they resolve?
  • Overall, how well-constructed is the story?


The time and place in which the story is set, including details and atmosphere. 

  • Is the setting an important part of the story or simply background?
  • Is it clear in what time and place the story takes place?
  • How does the author reveal the setting?
  • For fantasy and science fiction in particular, is the worldbuilding sufficient?


How characters are portrayed over the course of a novel.

  • How does the author reveal details about the characters? Through narration? Through dialogue? Through action?
  • Are character traits “told” or “shown”?
  • Are the characters believable?
  • Are they well-developed and “fleshed out”? What about secondary characters?
  • Are there stereotypes employed?
  • How to the characters change over the course of the novel?


The underlying messages or meanings behind the story. 

  • Is there a theme or themes? How is it communicated?
  • Is it heavy-handed or didactic? Does the author avoid moralizing?
  • Is it a theme worth exploring and appropriate for the intended audience?
  • Are there layers of meaning and various themes to be explored?


  • How the author uses language and literary elements.
  • Is the writing straightforward or figurative? Accessible? Literary?
  • Does the writing style match, complement, or enhance the subject matter?
  • What narration style is used? First person, omniscient third, alternating perspectives, etc.?
  • Is the dialogue natural to the characters, their age and experiences?
  • How is mood and tone conveyed through language?

Other considerations

  • What types of readers will most appreciate this book?
  • Are there readalikes for this book?
  • Are there any “red flags”?