How do you visualize descriptive passages about setting or characters' appearances? How do you imagine descriptions of smell, sound, etc.? Can you describe exactly what you are made to imagine about a specific scene, event, etc.? How much have you supplied from your pre-existing repertoire? What specific elements in what you've imagined have been engendered by specific elements of the text?
What specific mood or atmosphere (or meaning) has been created by the specific focus of descriptive passages? If there are few descriptions, why might this be so? What has the writer meant to have happen to you by providing few details, or a lot, or by the specific nature of the details provided?
Why do these people (the ones in the text) do what they do? What motivates them? How do you find out what motivates them? What specific scenes, conversations, etc. in the text reveal them to you?
What assumptions about human nature are you drawing upon in order to understand the characters?
How might the characters be understood in terms of a repertoire of possible explanations for human behavior?
Which of these does the text itself seem to be suggesting, and how? Which are you bringing to the text from your own repertoire?
Are people as you know them really like this? Are the characters convincing? Do they seem realistic or true to you? Why or why not?
If they don't seem convincing, is the problem in the text (shallow writing, unpersuasive, inconsistent, etc.) or in the limitations of your view of what is possible?
If they seem convincing, do they confirm what you believe about human nature already, or do they teach you something new about it? In either case, what, exactly?
What makes this text a story? In what way is this a unified series of events, so that we are satisfied that something of interest has happened, that it started where the events most significantly began, and that it has indeed come to a finish at the end?
Or, is the plot not unified or persuasive? Are there parts that don't seem to fit in or come together--things left hanging? Alternatively, are there parts that seem to fit in too coincidentally--that seem fake or unpersuasive?
Is the story inherently unified--a series of events that do actually seem to fit together--or is it merely a series of not particularly unified events that the author has unified by some means in addition to or separate from the events themselves? Is it perhaps a manner of description or a particular focus that provides the text with its unity?
Is the plot suspenseful? How is the suspense created? Is there a climax, or a series of them? What specific points create the most suspense for you, or the least? How is it done? What questions are being asked or implied as the story moves along, and how and when are they answered? What is being withheld, and what previously withheld information is being provided, at any given point? What sort of tricks, strategies, etc. does the writer use to hold your attention? Is this manipulative, pleasurable, or both?
Plot/story: What order are the events told in? If it's not the same as the order of the events, why the variation? Why start at one point and then go back, or forwards, etc.? If there are subplots involving different characters, in which order are they told, and how do they fit in? Why might the storyteller have chosen to tell the story in this order? How does it affect your response? Does it have an effect on the meaning and/or significance of the events described?
Focus: How much time is spent on specific events? If some actions are quickly summarized and others described in some detail, why? Is a pattern or specific meaning created by what is focused on, what is skimmed over?
Formulaic or unique? Have you read other stories with a similar plot-line, or basic story? What pattern might be in use (mystery, adventure, romance, underdog story, etc.)? What is the pleasure and/or meaning of that particular pattern? If there's no discernable formula or previously recognized pattern, what specific pleasure is offered by this set of events told in this sequence? How much does your pleasure in the plot depend upon your having a previous repertoire of story patterns?
Is it a conventional "male orgasmic" plot? Or are there differing rhythms of intensity? Might they be identified as "female orgasmic" patterns?
What is the story about? Does it have a meaning? Are there a series of ideas being conveyed, or is there one most important or overall meaning? Where and how is the meaning conveyed? Through direct statements? If so, which ones, and how do you know these are thematic? Through the sequence of events? Through change or growth in characters--a realization of a truth? Through patterns of language? Through all of these coming together? If so, how, and where exactly does it all happen?
Are the meanings "hidden"? What did you have to know, or how did you have to think, in order to discover them?
Are the meanings generalizable? Can the things that happen to characters, etc. lead you to more general conclusions about people, or truths about living? Is the story inviting you to reach more general conclusions, beyond just understanding these particular characters in this particular situation? What makes you think that it might or might not be doing that?
Are there signals that the story is meant to be read as a fable or a parable? Are you asked to identify with one of the characters? Does the story have an identify/manipulate pattern? Does it invite you to identify with a character, and then understand that what that character learns is a message for you? If so, what happens to the character that might suggest a message for readers? What is the message, or moral?
Therapy vs. gossip: If you don't or can't identify with the character, how can you respond to it? Is it interesting as gossip? Does it teach you about people other than yourself? What, and how?
Does the story teach you something new, or confirm something you already knew?
Does the story seem message-oriented? Is the story being told in order to convey the message, or does the message seem to be there only to allow the pleasure of the story? If the latter, what is that pleasure? Is it a lesser story than one with a message?
If there is no message or moral, why does the story exist? What is its purpose? What do you get out of reading it?
Are there ideological meanings being conveyed that the author may not be conscious of? Are there assumptions about gender/race/class? About what it means to be a self or an individual? About individual will and choice?
Which of the meanings you've discovered are contained within the text, and which ones have you brought to the story from your own previous repertoire of strategies for making sense of people and events?
Who is the implied speaker? Does the storyteller implied by the text have a clearly defined character? What is it? Would you guess that the storyteller implied by the text is someone like the actual author, or someone different? Why? Why might the author have chosen to imply a storyteller with these particular characteristics or attitudes?
Is the storyteller a character in the story, or someone not involved in the events? If the storyteller is a character, is he/she a central character, or a minor one? What are the effects and implications of these choices having been made by the author?
Who is the "narratee" (the audience or reader implied by the text)? Does the text imply a narratee's or implied reader's specific characteristics? Or specific repertoire? Is a narratee specifically mentioned, or just implied?
Focalization: Who "speaks" (or tells the story)? Who "sees" (i.e., from whose point of view are the events observed or described)? Is "who speaks" the same as "who sees," or different? What are the effects of this particular combination of speaking and seeing?
Does the focalization or point of view change at different points in the story? Why, or with what effect?
Does the narrator (who speaks) or the focalized character (who sees) know or say the whole truth? Does the story in some way imply that the viewpoint is limited or distorted?
How do the events of the story relate chronologically to the time of the storytelling? Are they clearly located at a specific time in the past, or in some unspecified time before the storytelling? Are they over before the storyteller starts to tell the story? Are they happening as the story is told? What are the implications of these choices?
What are the relationships of the parts of the story to each other? How does one word relate to the words near it, or to other words in other parts of the text? How does one sentence relate to the others? How does one paragraph relate to the ones preceding and/or following it, or to other parts of the text? Why and how have events been separated into different chapters, and what are the connections between the chapters? How does the title relate to the rest?
Are there repetitions or variations of the same or similar words, phrases, images, sounds and rhythms, characters, events, ideas, etc.? What sorts of verbal or emotional or intellectual rhythms are created by these patterns? What sorts of verbal or emotional or intellectual meanings are created by these patterns?
Are there similar or different patterns of repetition and variation in characters, events, images, etc.? How does the shape or structure of the plot as it unfolds relate to patterns of language, imagery, etc.? Are the patterns mirrors of each other, or self-similar, or contrapuntal?
Does the story fit together as a whole? Do all the parts work together to achieve the total effect? If not, does it matter in terms of your response to the whole? How or why?