JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Share: The Bus Test


Here is a great tool for writers: the bus test. It is a quirky way to measure the value and emotional depth of your characters.  I do not agree that a reader has to “become” a character. In fact I find that idea preposterous in most cases, since fictional characters are by their very nature unreachable. How can someone know what it is to be an alien, or a wizard, or even a killer? Even the author doesn’t really know. The best you can hope for is empathy, for your reader to understand the character’s struggles and feel for them, not to put themselves in the character’s shoes.

Besides that point, I like what this little article has to say and I think it is a good tool to add to your box.

The Bus Test: A Simple and Merciless Method for Improving Characters

By Mike Cluff

Do me a favor and read this first paragraph from a story:

Alley sat on a park bench. She sat there eating a taco. She hated tacos. Just like she hated Jim. But she couldn’t resist either one. They were both so beefy and greasy. Alley had to call Becky and tell her how much she was looking forward to going shopping. She needed a new pair of skinny jeans. Alley started texting instead. She stood up, and as she crossed the street a bus rounded the corner and flattened her. End.

I imagine you’re wondering a few things… READ MORE

7 Responses to Share: The Bus Test

  1. this was a good test. simple but so effective. if there was no loss felt guess the character too weak. thanks for sharing.

    • I have yet to try it. Maybe I am scared. I think the real use is to write it out and give it someone to read, to get the reader’s reaction.

      • I would use it to see if I really like the character and if the loss affected the story in any way. and yes of course get someone to read it too. different reactions are good.

  2. Interesting! I’m already running over characters in my head haha! Will be trying this technique out soon

  3. This is an interesting test! I just tried it and asked some friends for their thoughts. They wanted to know more about the scene. However, they didn’t particularly care for my characters because there wasn’t enough backstory. But…since the characters were the ones acting in the scene, it’s sort of a pass?

    • I would still think the characters need work. I don’t think good scenes, or world-building even, is enough to keep readers engaged anymore. Classic sci-fi used to get away with bland characters (Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, etc..) because readers had never seen the types of grand worlds being described. But I don’t think it would cut it anymore. I’m glad I could offer a tool to help your writing!

Join the Discussion!

Join the Rabble!

Keep up to date with J.M. Williams and receive exclusive content like flash stories, publishing advice and more!

Welcome to the Rabble! Thank you for your                               support. Here's the first exclusive: FREE STORY!

%d bloggers like this: