Sunday, September 30, 2007


At a recent meeting of our writer's group the conversation turned toward a question.
"Where do your ideas come from?" My initial reaction was, "Gee, I wish I knew. My muse doesn't visit nearly often enough," but later I began to contemplate the question and mix it in with all I've read and heard and learned about writing over the years. I know the answer for me at least. Mom and Dad.

My mother lives in a perpetual state of "what if?" That sometimes upsets me because in her later years she has lots of time on her hands and focuses on minutiae. "What if the neighbor's tree falls on my fence?" "What if it rains when I need to go to Wal-Mart?" "What if no one likes the potato salad I'm taking to the church dinner?"
Nothing much has changed for her. She's always been a what-ifer. When I was a teenager it was "What if you fail algebra?" "What if you don't find a husband to take care of you?" and on and on. Some of that has certainly rubbed off on me, but I try to use it to my advantage. It is a remarkable tool for planning ahead, and for getting ideas for stories.

What if I'm stranded on a desert island? What if there really are aliens? What if all my friends turn into werewolves? I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. "What if" can be a good place to start a story.

My Dad, on the other hand, was a "how come" man. Daddy was smart, but he lacked much formal education, so it surprised me one day when, after sitting quietly for a while with a bemused look on his face, he annouonced, "I've always wondered about the words 'how come'. Now I've figured it out. It means 'how did that come to be?'" And believe you me, Daddy was always asking me "how come?"
"How did it come to be that you failed algebra?" "How did it come to be that you were thirty minutes past your curfew last night?" See? Daddy asked the tough questions and I had to think fast and on my feet to come up with some kind of story. Now I use those questions to help me find something to write about.

How did it come to be that that man is homeless? How did it come to be than an innocent man is in prison? And when driving on a lonely highway and you see the glimmer of lights from a tiny farm house you wonder, how did it come to be that there is a house out there, and who are the people who live in it?

What if? How come? Those are two powerful story starters for me.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!


1 comment:

Princess Haiku said...

"If" and "how" are certainly important questions and would broaden anyones perspective.