The Lemon Test: The Sneaky Way Bestselling Authors Evaluate Story Strengths

Bestselling authors apply a simple test to thier narratives to ensure maximum impact. This test is immensely valuable because it highlights both strengths and weaknesses, allowing authors to pinpoint exact story elements for advanced revision.

In a way, the test is a life hack for writers.

It’s called the Lemon Test.

You might have already read about The Napkin Test – if not, read it here

Whereas The Napkin Test helps generate a compelling premise, the Lemon Test helps generate a compelling story.

The two tests act as evaluatory bookends with one preceding the story and the other postceding it.

What is the Lemon Test? 

As you might have guessed, the name is based on a popular qoute: 

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Due to rampant overuse, the wisdom of this advice has descended into cliche, however, the morsel of truth it contains is very relevant. 

Bestselling authors repurpose this qoute into writing gold. 

How? 

By making lemonade, not applesauce. 

Instead of ignoring or replacing the “lemons” (aka, making applesauce), bestselling authors squeeze a riveting narrative out of them. 

A few definitions are in order for deeper distinction: 

Lemons = story problems, weaknesses, character flaws, story complications, etc.

Applesauce = something unrelated to the lemons

Lemonade = Something intrinsically connected to the lemons


The Lemon Test is evaluating the interconnectedness of the story. 

Bestsellers know that the more connected the story, the more riveting and resonate the story. 

Remember, the lemonade must come from the lemons. Otherwise, you’re making applesauce. 

You can use The Lemon Test to expose and fix story design issues. 

Lemon Test Questions 

You can employ the Lemon Test by asking the following questions of your narrative: 

  1. Does the protagonist solve the story problem by using elements of the problem itself? 
  2. Does the protagonist’s flaws agitate and magnify the story problem? Theme? Other complications? 
  3. Does the protagonist turn the antagonist’s plan against him or her? 
  4. Is the story solution intimately connected to the story problem? 

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Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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Posted in books, Hypnosis, reading, screenwriting, speaking, Success, writer, Writing

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