A Writer’s Question

Every day, there’s a question that rolls around under my skin, and makes me nearly crazy with its implications, its insinuations, its persistence. It’s a simple question – not much to it, really. This inquest contains only two words. Nevertheless, it squirrels around every fiber of my being until I finally sit in front of my computer and allow it to be asked, and then ponder the answers that follow. This simple question?

What If … ?

What If …?

It’s a writer’s question. What If is what sets a writer’s hair on fire. It’s the beginning of every story, and it’s what keeps that story rolling until there are no more What Ifs to ask.

What If … ? – two words, followed by a magical pause that begs to be finished. What If … there was a mischievous flying boy who refused to grow up? (J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, of course) What If … a man is forced to spend the night at a dreary castle, and during the night, suffers a terrifying dream of a woman who pleads to be admitted in from the outside? (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights) What If … a nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind, and the boy’s nature begins to change until it matches the car’s thoughts? (Stephen King’s Christine)

Every work of fiction besets its writer with that simple, but profound question of What If. We walk every day with that question beleaguering us, following us around until we find the courage to ponder and wonder. It’s only when we refuse to sit down and think of answers … of possibilities … of stories … do we fail ourselves as writers.

We are people gifted with the imagination to answer the What Ifs that others dare not ask, but nevertheless, beg to have answered. Every story written begins with the premise of those two simple words. In its own way, every story ends with at least some sort of resolution and the satisfaction of so many answered What Ifs.

I noticed this morning that I have seven books I’m currently reading. Seven! Other than thinking I’m just another zany and insatiable reader, I realize that juggling all these stories concurrently gives me something I crave – the constant challenge of all those marvelous, wondrous, magical What Ifs.

I’ll end today with my wish for every writer: May we all be plagued by our own writer’s What Ifs until we imagine the answers … and thus, our stories!


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