Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The "What If?” Game
I’ve started writing new stories; I’ve returned to old ones. I’ve taken a break. I’ve picked up a new book, watched a few movies—Oscar winning ones, I set my expectations high. It doesn’t matter, I’m not moving anywhere. So what now? Obviously I keep writing. That’s what we do. If we aren’t writing…well, we aren’t writing and that is just frustrating.
Probably one of the best suggestions I’ve heard is what I call the “What If?” game. The premise is simple. At any point in the story, I ask: What if… and see where it takes me. Here, I’ll demonstrate.
Kara is the VP of a very profitable hotel chain. Her cousins would say that her life is work, but Kara takes great pride in the company her grandfather built from the ground up and doesn’t mind the long hours. She loves the company and is being groomed to take it over. The hotel is more than just her job. She grew up there so it is her home and the employees are her family.
WHAT IF she takes over the company tomorrow?
Kara would be ecstatic. Her dream has come true. Or has it?
WHAT IF she is reluctant to take over the company because it means her grandfather is too ill to do the work himself?
Kara has a strong personality so she will overcome this obstacle in order to achieve her goal. She will make sure the company thrives because her grandfather is ill.
“What if” statements are one of the easiest ways to draw conflict into your story. If Kara is happy and everything turns out the way she planned, it becomes a very predictable and very short story. The goal is to push our characters to the limit so let’s up the stakes in this scenario. This is one time it pays off to be negative and think worst case.
WHAT IF the company and job she loves are threatened?
Kara will fight for the company. If not for herself and her goal of one day taking it over, then she’d do it for her grandfather who is ailing and the employees who are like family to her.
WHAT IF the threat to the company is the HERO?
Once Kara knows who the threat is, she will face him head on. May the best man or woman win.
WHAT IF Kara doesn’t know who is trying to take over her company?
She’s going to do whatever it takes to talk to this person. I mean, who do they think they are?
WHAT IF Kara can’t confront the threat?
He is out of town and is not returning her phone calls. His staff are polite and absolutely no help. She’ll have to wait for his return, they tell her. Not being able to tackle this problem head on, having to wait??? It is going to drive her crazy…
WHAT IF Kara goes a little crazy?
If things don’t go her way, she will be forced to step out of her comfort zone. Watching Kara step out of her comfort zone could be interesting. Who knows what will happen.
Well, I think I just wrote myself out of my block. Hope it works as well for you!