Monday, 21 July 2014

The 2 Words Every Writer Should Use

I was stuck. I thought I had the whole book planned out but then I just couldn't write it.

What happened?

I wasn't feeling the story anymore. Perhaps I had watched the movie (this for me is when the story--every scene--plays out in my head like a movie) too many times. Had I become bored with the story?

For a long time I believed this to be so because I couldn't find another reason. But then it hit me, what I had done was ruin my own story. I had given myself a story too depressing to write. In the manuscript I had created a beautiful love story between two characters and then the mystery writer in me emerged and killed off one of them. I took away my happy ending. The spark was gone until I pulled out the writer's secret weapon, the two words that open up a portal of creativity:

What if...

I thought, what if I created another love story? What if the survivor fell in love with someone else? What if the murder victim had actually survived the attack? I ideas, the words, the drive to write came back.

And don't wait until you're blocked to use these words. Constantly ask yourself what if... Don't be afraid to go to extremes. Go wild. Having to contemplate a scenario will only improve your creative skill.

What about you? How often to you use the "What if..." card? Has it sparked your creativity?

Photo source: Lori Greig /Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

28 comments:

  1. You killed off one of them - that' kind of funny if you think about it.
    I really used the what if on my latest manuscript. It needed it.

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  2. Clarissa - No doubt about it! What if... are extremely helpful words. They really are. And if you're open to all the possibilities, there's no limit to what the answer could be.

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    1. Sometimes the answers are not what we expect and all the more powerful.

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  3. Sometimes I think I read too many mystery stories because I catch myself saying 'what if' about things in real life. A news cast will come on and afterwards I'm wondering 'what if' this happened or 'what if' they did this. 'What if' are two amazing words.

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    1. Yes. And when used in writing, the possibilities are endless.

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  4. I've asked that question often when writing. Sometimes it does lead me out of the forest.

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  5. I do it in real life all the time. It is a good idea for the writing that I don't think I've consciously done enough, maybe because I write with a timeline so sort of know where it's going. I guess I do it when plotting, some... I like the idea of pausing to do more of it while writing, though.

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  6. Invaluable advice. Probably two words I don't use enough. Thanks for reminding me!

    Ellie Garratt

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  7. "then the mystery writer in me emerged and killed off one of them" made me laugh. That is a problem. I agree that we need to what if constantly to keep the story fresh.

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  8. Interesting post, Clarissa. Since I haven't published anything yet, I mean by way of a book, my equivalent of "What if..." would be "If not now, when...!" and that has been a sort of inspiration that I'm trying to capitalise on. The one thing that doesn't wait for anybody is time.

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  9. That makes total sense. I think I need to use that right now. :P

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  10. Set it up like a game and "what if" could be a lot of fun to do to a story.

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  11. That's a great idea Clarissa and sounds a lot like Roger von Oech's Creative Whack Pack.

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  12. What If is the equivalent to a birthday present, I think. You never know what you're going to get when you open the box...or can of worms so to speak.

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  13. The " what if" can be å powerful tool. Haven't used it but Maybe I will

    Cold As Heaven

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  14. Yes, yes, yes! Every time I find myself stuck, I go back to the "what if..." and begin to question each turn that got me to the stuck spot: what if he became sad instead of angry? what if I let the secret out of the bag now instead of later? What if these people just missed each other? Etc. It really helps!

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  15. I have to agree with you, Clarissa.' What if' has gotten me down more than one challenging creek when I got stuck.

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  16. This is a really great idea!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  17. I like that strategy Clarissa. It is like you are giving yourself permission to brainstorm and be creative in the middle of a story. We'd like things to be all planned out in the beginning, but sometimes it takes effort like your suggestion to improve a story--something that we are proud of when done.

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  18. My favorite two-word combo ever!

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  19. I'm trying to brainstorm a new story right now and I'm what-if-ing all over the place.

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  20. I don't use this enough.
    Really need to use the "what-if" scenario more...
    Writer In Transit

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  21. I use the "what if" card at least once in every project. It's a great way to get the juices flowing again.

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  22. Ooh, I love that one! One of the techniques I've used in plotting is the seven scenario. Anytime I'm completely stumped I brainstorm 7 completely unique directions the story could go, and one of them usually works out. The concept totally centers around the "What if" game.

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  23. I'm sorry you killed your story Clarissa. I think we should do the 'what if' before we start our story, then keep 'what iffing' all the way through.

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  24. Hi Clarissa - that must have been a pain at the time .. but now having used your "what if" ploy - bet you've got lots more interesting ideas ... I call it my pinball machine .. or brain ...

    After all if Sherlock can be brought back to life - you can do it with your characters ... cheers Hilary

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