What if I had written all weekend long? What if I chose a different career path? What if I hadn’t had children? What if I had married someone else? What if I didn’t live in Alabama?
“What if?” is the essential question in writing a story. Most stories start out with an author thinking “what if.” I spent most of my weekend on the couch, because my five year old was sick. While having my hot potato of a baby lay on me all day, I watched the whole season of The Man In The High Castle. I realize this makes me an extreme couch potato. But the story was so good I couldn’t tear myself away. I went to the bathroom a few times, and ate, and my daughter cuddled up against me and I provided her comfort, which is what one needs when they’re sick. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend, minus the “sick.”
This show on Amazon is so well done, based on the book by Philip Dick, which I have yet to read (it’s on my list). And it asks the question “what if the Nazis and Japan won WWII?” What a question to explore. The characters are so believable, and the suspense kept me watching. Highly recommended!
I tout myself as a character writer. The Devil Within mostly was written because I felt a strong connection to Will’s character. But the “what if
questions were still there. I asked myself, “What if I were growing up with an oppressively religious father? What would I do? What are the emotions I would feel? What if fundamental religion hurts more than helps? What if the person I’m supposed to depend on most hurts me the most? What if my ally is not a saint?” These are just a few questions I asked myself as I wrote The Devil Within. I’m not sure I found the answers, but writing through it helped me explore thoughts on religion, family, and guilt that I’ve had for a long time.
The new story I’m writing I’m asking myself : “What if everything is not as it seems? What if your whole life is one big lie?”
I often wonder why I feel the need to write, but I think it’s because I’m always thinking about the “what if” questions. Life isn’t black and white. It’s filled with choices, different paths, and to me writing is a way to discover what might have happened if…
“What if” question are you trying to answer today?
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