Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Writer's Greatest Tool

Writers live life with a perpetual question swirling through their minds. It is a question that draws deep from the well of creativity and reaches out to grasp the winds of inspiration. It is a question that builds the bones, and then breathes life into stories.

It is the question of "What if?".

When it is time to start a new story, brainstorm a part of the plot, or even hear a news story that plants a seed of a story in your mind, you begin to ask the question....what if?

What if...

  • a young woman is held captive in a convent?
  • the young woman escapes, disguised as a boy?
  • the woman is beaten along the way by ruffians?
  • the woman is saved by a handsome knight?
  • the the handsome knight is on his way to her father's castle for a tournament?
  • he takes her on as his squire (thinking she is a lad), promising to give her safe passage?
  • she falls in love with the knight?
  • her gender is discovered when she is injured in a fight?
These are just a few of the questions I asked while brainstorming my first story. A story starts with a germ of an idea. When you ask "what if", you can find many different directions that your story can go. When you are brainstorming a story idea, try to think of as many different ideas as you can. Having my heroine's gender discovered at the very beginning of the story would have made it an altogether different story. The tension would be stronger, but then my hero would not have been able to get to know my heroine the same way as he did while she pretended to be a boy. 

The question of "what if" is a powerful tool for the writer. Get a pen and paper out and start your list of "what ifs". You might even try a mind map, branching off in different directions...wherever your "what ifs" take you. See what you can come up with.

Better yet, let's experiment and see what we can come with. I'll start and you come up with a "what if". Let's see what kind of story we come up with through our commenters today. 

What if a woman was in an airplane, about to skydive for her 30th birthday, when she discovered that Gerard Butler (or whatever cutie-pie you would like to envision) was sitting next to her?
***What is your "what if"? Or what is your favorite writing tool for brainstorming?


*****************************************************************************
This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is wife to "Pastor John" and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

34 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

You are so right, playing out these what if scenerios is powerful!

~ Wendy

ANULAL said...

Thank you for sharing. Nice post. Useful.

Jeanne T said...

Love this post today. I'm still new to brainstorming. I need take some time to come up for a specific what if for a future story I'm pondering. :) Hopefully I'll be able to stop by later today with an answer to your challenge. :)

LadyD said...

I think asking a question at the beginning of your story can be a powerful hook in wanting to know more. I love this post, thank you!

Casey said...

Depends on how boy crazy she is. If she is desperate for a man in her life, she just might grab him and run for the plane door!

I didn't know your story start with a woman held captive in a convent. Sherrinda! You've been holding out on us!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Ah, the all-powerful "what if!"
Adding on to your What if:
What if the woman discovers Gerard Butler is a nervous wreck because he hates to fly?

Next?

Jessica R. Patch said...

I love the What if game! Great post today. :)

patti.mallett_pp said...

I'm with Beth. Let's stay with Gerard Butler a bit longer. ; )

Great reminder! I'm going to dig out my "What If?" book and give it a thorough look! (Then start asking questions.)

Thanks!!

Jeanne T said...

What if said 30 year old woman is afraid of heights and is doing this jump on a dare? :)

sherrindaketch said...

Oh my, here it is, my lunch hour, and you are already having fun the whe "what if" question!

Wendy and Anulal, thank you! I'm glad you liked the post.

sherrindaketch said...

Jeanne T, I love your train of thought! Okay, so the woman is doing the jump on a dare. What if Gerard B is doing it on a dare too? What if they ditch the plane, take pics of themselves and photo shop them to show their friends? ;)

sherrindaketch said...

Lady D, I think you are right. The what if question is a power hook to be used continually!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey, me? Hold out? Are you kidding?

Bahahahaha!

You never asked. :)

And I loooove the idea of grabbing the guy and jumping! *snicker*

sherrindaketch said...

Okay Beth, so Gerard is afraid to fly. What if the woman does a song out of My Fair Lady to distract him from the plane ride?

sherrindaketch said...

Jessica! Thanks for the tweet about the post today! You are awesome!

sherrindaketch said...

Patti, so what is the title of your "what if" book? Do you read it often for inspiration?

Sarah Forgrave said...

Fun comments today!

Spinning off Beth's idea, What if Gerard's fear of flying is enhanced by the fact that the pilot of said airplane crashed his last flight and it made national news? And now the only flights he can get are for skydivers? And what if the heroine doesn't know about this story because she never watches the news (too depressing and all that), so in the midst of Gerard's nerves, he's trying to tell her why she should be scared too? But all she can focus on are his Hollywood good looks and the fact that she's about to pee her pants? :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh, I forgot to add to the end of mine...because she forgot to use the ladies' room before they got on the plane. :)

Mary Vee said...

Your post is so timely because there is a whole hoard of writers starting new projects. I am on the brink..puttin the polishing touches on my current wip and rolling up the sleeves for the next. thank you...thank you.

Mary Vee said...

Sarah.... you're awesome. What a creative mind.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Oh. My. Word.
Sarah, you are the queen of the "What If" game.
The only question that remains is:
Do they jump?
Does she control her bladder?
Do they fall ... in love, that is?

Pepper said...

LOL - oh I'm with Sarah on this one!!
You don't write humor do you, Sarah? ;-)

Great post, Sherrinda

sherrindaketch said...

Oooooo, Sarah! You are Goooood!

lolol...needs to go to the bathroom! I think just turning around and seeing Gerard Butler sitting by me would make me pee in my pants. Not very romantic, huh?

sherrindaketch said...

Oooooo, Sarah! You are Goooood!

lolol...needs to go to the bathroom! I think just turning around and seeing Gerard Butler sitting by me would make me pee in my pants. Not very romantic, huh?

sherrindaketch said...

Beth!!!! Of course they jump! And, of course, she sprains her ankle during the landing and he picks her up and helps her get to a hospital. And of course, the press is there and films the whole thing. And of course they have to escape the hospital together to avoid the press.

I could go on....

Love this game!

sherrindaketch said...

Mary!!! Don't you love new beginnings? Are you wrapping your first one up or are you brainstorming a new one?

Pepper!!!! I cannot believe you didn't even attempt to play! Oh, but I forget...Tuesdays are a huge day for you. Girl, put your feet up and read a book. Let your brain rest up!

Pepper said...

Sherrinda,
With all that happening, she sure is going to have to hold her water for a loooong time ;-)

Pepper said...

Sherrinda,
I did try to think of something, but after the whole pee thing, I couldn't!
Stole my creative juices right out of me ;-)
Pee and Gerard Butler....
Nope.
Can't do it!

sherrindaketch said...

Bahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!!

Pepper, you crack me up! What if she totally forgot about it in the glow of his flirting with her? Hhhhmmmm?

Pepper said...

I know Gerard is totally hunky - but seriously - when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Of course, just jumping from teh plane would have solved that problem for me :-)

Casey said...

Oh goodness, you gals can't be left alone without mentioning things you ought not to! Your grandmother would be blushing. *looks at you slanted*

SHERRINDA, I'm asking now!!! It's not right that Pepper gets all the fun. She ALWAYS gets all the fun, I tell ya!

Pepper said...

Really, Casey?
Pepper gets all the fun?
We're talking about skydiving and bladder control!

Throw in Gerard Butler and I think we might have the makings of a new (and very unique) romantic comedy.
Heroine?
Sandra Bullock?
Amy Adams?
Oh yeah, I can totally see Amy Adams doing the pee pee dance

sherrindaketch said...

Oh my goodness! I go to bed and you Casey and Pepper have the most fun conversations! lol

Pee pee dance, indeed!!!

You two crack me up!

wheatgerm said...

great post