Saturday, April 17, 2010

What If …

Saturday, April 17

It’s Saturday and another week has passed. Thoughts about my stories continue to bounce around my head: New ideas, old ideas, changes to other ideas, etc. My favorite technique is to play “What if?” when I get stuck or want to jazz up my work.

For instance, how boring is this statement: I went by the store on the way home and got a five-pound package of chicken leg quarters. The goal: to barbecue them all today and then have my part of my meals prepared for next week.

Looking at those two sentences, I found what I did was dull. Definitely would not capture anyone’s attention. Also, I doubt if anyone would seriously read the second sentence. That is where the phrase “What if…” comes into play.

What if while I was shopping, I found myself in a situation where robbers came into the store and rounded up everyone? What if I was the one person they missed? What if?

I know I have covered this before in an earlier post but I feel this phrase needs to be brought up again. And, I might bring it up again and again. By using some “what ifs,” excitement can be added to the story that then could grab the attention of the reader.

For instance, what if I knew the three thugs who were robbing the store? What if they were there to fulfill a contract and I knew that? What if I found their target and hid him/her? To add a bit more urgency to the story, what if they discovered my presence, and the other customers told them that I had been walking and talking to their target?

Now, there is conflict. “What if?” can add more twists and turns and make the story interesting. Let’s add another twist:

I remember the way to the rear delivery dock. What if they had someone in the back of the building? Now, the target and I are trapped.

The good thing about the “What if?” game is that I can develop my stories by providing answers but then use the answers to build more “What if?” questions.

Have you used this technique to build or add conflict to your story? I like it because I can get my characters in trouble and then see I can come with ways of getting out of trouble.

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