What is the most important characteristic a writer should have? The ability to question everything.

Every tale I’ve written began with a series of what ifs.

What if a child was thrown into a world where magic was real? What if a young girl is given the most powerful weapon in her world? What if a man discovered he was really a demon? The list is as endless as the imagination.

But what if is rarely enough to carry a story. From each what if, dozens of answers can evolve and the writer become hopelessly confused by trying to unite them into something resembling a tale.

For me, the next question is, why?

Why this character and not someone else? Why are they in this situation? Why would a reader be interested in them?

However, why is more than these. As far back as any of us remember, we are taught there are certain truths in this world and that reality is a hard-and-fast concept we must each face. This, of course, presupposes everyone’ s truths and everyone’s realities are the same? By the time we realize we are writers, we (should) know that truth and reality only stand as long as no one asks why.

Why do we believe we have certain inalienable rights when we can see it is not true in many places around the world? Aren’t these just privileges society grants or abridges at its whim?

Why do we accept the world is a sphere when, wherever we see it from, it appears as a convex disk? Is it possible only the portion we see exists and anything else we believe is in a dimension we only imagine?


The whys are not as important as the answers. Our responses are what generate the ideas we need to create worlds.

However, the ability to develop unique and interesting answers needs to be exercised.  From my perspective, every writer needs to set aside a few hours each week to let impressions flow and coalesce into ideas.

I am fortunate. I spend an average of 15 hours a week driving. This is my time to turn off the radio, ignore the phone and let the mind wander. During these moments, I recall events I’ve seen and play what if and why. Over the years the ability has grown until it is second nature. I see what is around me and simultaneously see many things they could be.

Yesterday I stopped in a place named Bachi Burger to look at the menu. The hostess asked whether she could help me so I asked if the burgers were made from real Bachi. She looked confused (as many people do when I respond to their serious questions) and told me she didn’t know what a Bachi was. I told her they were a cute little creatures from the land of Neverwas that tasted better than beef. They were in no danger yet, but what would happen if her restaurant chain expanded? She had no response so I decided it was probably best to leave. As I turned to go, she thanked me for telling her about Bachies.

My kids tell me I do a great deal to bring confusion into the world.

The point of all this though, is that learning to see with what if followed by why generates an endless stream of plots. I attribute the blessing of never knowing a day of writer’s block to the fact these questions have become automatic.

I know there are other questions of equal importance for writers to have constantly on their brain. I’ll address those in future posts.

ParaDon Books Publishing

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