Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What if...?

"What if?"

I think those are two of the most powerful words in the universe.

Many of your comments from my last post included them. Some of you talked about how you see something in the newspaper, or on tv, or in real life and you wonder, "What if?". I do the same thing.

It made me think about scientists and writers, and how we are alike. Yes, really.

Both groups deal in the "What if?" factor. We write stories about it and around it. Scientists use it to propel their research and their innovations.

We make revisions and edits because of it. What if I eliminated those pesky dialogue tags, what if my character had to deal with..., what if I tried this scene first... Scientists also make revisions, not to their stories, but to their experiments and their approaches. Both groups work towards improving the now with, "What if?".

"What if?" brings us hope. It gives us a way out. It encourages us to take a risk, make a change, try something new.

How often do you "What if?"

34 comments:

  1. Oh, man. Right now? Today? Like a million times. I'm working on my NaNo novel and whenever I end a scene, I pretty much revert to 'what if' and 'how could this lead to that?' Actually, a lot of 'how can this lead to that?'

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  2. I "What if..." every day, several times a day. In my writing I like to do the "What if I toss *this* into the mix" thing. I end up with some great plots and scenes that way.

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  3. Jean - The more I thought about it, the mosre I realized I pretty much "what if" my way through life :)

    At the end of each chapter is a great spot!

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  4. Penny - Isn't it fun? :)

    It's kind of like being the master magician!

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  5. At least two of my recent stories started with what ifs. Another was handed to me by a friend with a what if already attached. Some of my flash fiction explores moments that don't require what ifs, but I think in longer works, there's no avoiding them (and why would we want to?).

    We're always asking our narrative questions, though. Otherwise (*generalization alert!*) it's probably not going anywhere.

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  6. Oh, I think the best stories always start with "What if?" Our current WIP is a what if you were 16 and decided to run away to Europe?

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  7. Simon - very true! What ifs are so much fun. And good generalization :)

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  8. Lisa & Laura - sounds like a fun what if. Hmmm, maybe I could try it out for you. I'm not 16, but I've got a good imagination! :)

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  9. Sometimes I bounce ideas off my husband. "What if he secretly belongs to a song and dance troop?" or "What if she's deathly afraid of bees?" I get a lot of great ideas that way :)

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  10. Natalie - Our poor hubbies :) I wonder how many spouses just and and smile when we throw out our crazy ideas...

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  11. I have such a love/hate relationship with what if! I LOVE it for brainstorming and editing... capital L love it. (What if he falls off the edge? What if she misses the bus? What if she believes in fairies? What if I break this paragraph into three?)

    It's also fun for day dreaming... (What if I write a best seller? What if Oprah wants to interview ME someday? etc)


    But I hate it when it comes to the self-doubting phase that most writers go through from time to time... (What if I think I'm good but this sucks? What if I can't make the tension cut through in this scene? What if no agent ever wants to rep me...)

    PS I brainstorm with my husband too! (Well I more brainstorm AT him than anything else, but still...)

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  12. I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only one who follows my spouse around the house spouting what ifs at him. :)

    I live by what if. It gives me hope for every tomorrow, and it's how I keep my plots afloat.

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  13. What if, indeed. Story of my life in fact. What if, I just tweaked this or that. What if, I moved this from here and placed it there...?

    Wouldn't life be so much easier if we could just step back in time and say, 'What if'.

    Good post Jemi :)

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  14. Sara - yikes! I wasn't even thinking of those other What ifs! You're right, the writing world is full of doubts and worries - right along with the joys and thrills :)

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  15. VR - maybe all of our spouses should start some mutual support blogs :) Poor folks!

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  16. Qf - so true! There are so many what ifs - in writing and in life. We can just hope we make the best choices.

    Thanks :)

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  17. 'What if' is a great way to dream up new plotlines!

    Nice post, Jemi!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  18. I, of course, do the 'what if' game with my writing, but, honestly, lately, I've had more fun with what ifs in my cooking. I love to cook and have changed what I eat recently (in a huge way) and now I find myself thinking, "What if I added red bell peppers to that?" or "How would this asparagus taste if I cooked it with a little lemon and balsamic vinegar?" What if provides so many chances for adventure, if used wisely. Unwisely, it leads to silly things like, "What if I decided to sing an aria really, really loudly during the middle of an all-hands meeting at work?"

    Use your "what ifs" wisely! :) Wonderful post!

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  19. I usually start with 'why?' as in why did this happen; remember I write mysteries. However, what ifs come into it as well. What if this character has a certain phobia? What if this character gets a crush on someone? All fun. I keep most of them, but some are just for my own amusement!

    Elspeth

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  20. I think I "what if" all the time, without really thinking much about it. Sometimes it comes out as, "but what about this? Maybe X, Y and then Z happens ..." I suspect my story ideas would be pretty flat without any what-ifs!

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  21. Not only do we play the "what if" game in the construction and editing of any written work, but I think the "what if" question is truly at the heart of any piece of fiction. What if a boy found out on his eleventh birthday that he was actually a wizard? What if an impotent WWI veteran fell in love with an engaged woman? What if a vampire fell in love with a human? I don't think you could tell a story without questioning possibility, but you've so brilliantly condensed the fiction writer's goal into two simple words: "What if?" Love it!

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  22. Elizabeth - Thank you - what if is so much fun, isn't it?

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  23. Julie - I love to what if when I'm cooking too, when I have the time. My son is becoming the same kind of cook - the other night he made us fettucini with olive oil, herb, bologna, onion, tomato... "sauce". Surprisingly it was pretty good :)

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  24. Carolyn - thanks! It's so much fun :)

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  25. Elspeth - you're right - the whys are so important in mysteries. I'm incorporating a lot in this YA steampunk mystery I'm doing for NaNo - so much fun :)

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  26. Belle - probably true for most of us. Everyone seems to what if a lot!

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  27. Carol - thank you so much! I have so much fun with what if :) Glad to see you do too.

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  28. Elizabeth - Ooooo! I like that what if! :)

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  29. What if is my favourite question. Once i have my protagonist sorted out I play what if with them constantly making sure I understand how they react and respond in all sorts of situations. What if is the reason for writing. You want to find out, what would happen if..

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  30. Cassandra - It is a great way to get to know your characters isn't it? I like "watching" them react to my what if scenarios before I write out the scene.

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  31. What if?
    It is a powerful reflective tool. I tried it out with my character in my WIP+ 'What if she knew?' The book I wrote, and I suspect a lot of other stories, would be very different if the characters had been better informed.

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  32. Elaine - That's a good twist on the what if. You're right - having the characters know things would certainly change so many novels. Mine are in the dark about the murderer right now, and it's fun!!

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