Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Writers Most Important Question: "What If ...?"

Ah, yes. What if ...? The classic question that starts all fiction writers off on their novels. Asking 'What if ...?' provides endless possibilities for story lines. Of course, which direction you as a writer go in depends on the series of what if questions you pose.

"What if a young girl found out her parents had lied to her her whole life?"
"What if that girl finds out her whole family are illegal aliens?"
"What if she's deported?"
"What if she decides to try and get back home?"

All these 'what if' questions were what went through my mind when I thought about ILLEGALLY BLONDE. An endless array of 'what if's' that eventually led to the plot and character development of my story.

Now here's a twist on the 'what if' question.

'What if' you apply that question to your own life?

I was watching the Olympics on the weekend when Alexandre Bilodeau won the first Canadian gold on home soil ever. There was an interview with him and they spoke about how he prepared for the biggest event of his career as an athlete. He has an older brother with cerebral palsy who inspires him on a daily basis by working on defying people's expectations of him and what he can do. Alex Bilodeau thinks of his brother on those days when he just doesn't feel like going out on a cold, miserable day to practice skiing and he asks himself one question: What if I was told I could never ski?

Would he wish -like his brother probably does - that he had the opportunity to practice racing down a mountain in cold, miserable weather? You obviously can guess what Alex's answer was to the 'What if' question he poses to himself. Alex's answer is to appreciate the fact that he is able to ski - and be thankful for the opportunity to do so even in miserable, uncomfortable situations.

So the next time I find myself complaining about writing - like struggling through a WIP that seems to be stuck in neutral most days and my desire to avoid that struggle I'll ask myself "What if I was told I could never write another word?" What kind of person would I end up being? Would I be happy?

The answer - and the follow up questions - to that intial 'What if' question establish the plot line of my writing life and my own character development as an author. I am lucky enough to be able to write and I need to appreciate what I have through the hard times and the good.

Thank you, Mr. Bilodeau and all the amazing athletes who inspire us, by asking the most important question of all: 'What if...?"


  1. Bilodeau's inspired us all, it seems--I referenced him in my latest blog post as well! (How could I not--what a great role model he is!) Fab post, as usual!

  2. Thanks, Bev! And aren't those Olympians just the best for making you want to work hard for your hopes and dreams? Watching more Olympics tonight...

  3. That was an amazing story. Very moving!

  4. Thanks, Laura! I actually got a bit teary-eyed when I first saw the interview. The two brothers obviously loved each other so much it was hard not to get emotional over it.