The What If Game (Finding Inspiration)
Ever have those days where you sit at your computer and the cursor just blinks at you? Those moments (typically referred to as the dreaded writer's block) is when I play the What If Game. Honestly, all of my books (sans memoir) have stemmed from this game. So what is this? How do I draw inspiration from a game? Simple. I use real life, and then say, "What if...?"
|"What if you walked through a grocery store in boy-shorts and stilettos?"|
In example, My Sister's Memories, has a heavy sister dynamic. I have a hard time remembering things. I have a sister. Therefore, what if there were two sisters, and one of them couldn't remember something? Boom, the premise for the novel. From there stemmed the remaining questions: Why can't she remember? How does this affect their lives?
Another fun way to play the What If Game is if you're mad at someone. Like, truly uncontrollably angry with someone. In real life, you can't really go key their car, put nails under their tires, cut their brake lines....but what if...this happened to a character with the same name? (Follow up questions are then, Who is cutting the brake lines? Why? Were they friends before? Why or why not?) Another fun example of this is last year I got into a minor car accident. Well, sort of. A deer decided to t-bone my car with my dog in the back seat on the busiest road on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Glass exploded, the right side of my car was dented and messed up. BUT what if it had been a moose? Or a person running full speed into the side? Or some super villain who then stole the car? What then?
|"My car after the deer. No window, no mirror..."|
I draw a substantial portion of my inspiration from real life, which is why I can sort-of agree with the whole, "Write what you know" sentiment. I know the emotions attached to betrayal, heartbreak, sorrow, happiness. I know what it's like to have friends die, to be emotionally unstable, to have a dog. I people watch a lot (at coffee shops, work, friend's houses). What I don't personally know, I do research (like the time I ran while smoking a cigarette for After Elizabeth, GROSS. Don't try it!). Then I take what I know and understand and ask, "What if?" which is where the word Fiction happens. Didn't win that fight at work? What if you did? Then what would have happened?
This is why I love writing fiction. We live in the real world. In the worlds we create, our characters can be the hero, the villains, the tortured, the soaring. It's up to you to ask the questions, and then to let the reader see the answers.