Questions, Questions

Recently, I've completed enough creative and work projects (which is to say, I've sent out all those manuscripts that were rejected) that I've cycled back to a story that's stymied me before. Unfortunately, it's the title story of the collection I received funding for, so bailing on it is out of the question.

And truthfully, I would cycle back to this story anyway, because I really want to finish it. I like the characters, even the ones I don't like, and I mostly know what needs to happen. I know vaguely the status of things at the end. But I get stuck when I try to go from here to there. I won't even try to explain why because basically I know I just have to do it. Fingers to the keyboard and all that.

But while procrastinating, I ran across a list of questions compiled by Julie Bush from many different sources. She calls it her Break In Case of Emergency file.

What a great idea. The questions are, as she says, "basic drama stuff" questions--which also makes them extremely useful. Questions such as
* Who wants what?
* What happens if they don't get it?
* What's the silent movie version?
* What's the worst that would happen if this scene were omitted?

Like that. Isn't that last question annoying? Once I've written a scene, it's really hard to let go of it. If it exists on the virtual equivalent of paper, it breathes on its own. It has a kind of legitimacy: Look! Words!! This scene has to stay!!! Of course it can't GO! (But imagining "worst that would happen" scenarios is kind of fun.)

So, the questions are themselves useful.

And so is the idea of having a file where you store questions like that. The questions should be thought-provoking, though apparently they can be very basic, and they should take you in new directions, and they should maybe also annoy you. The file should be something you turn to when you are absolutely stuck and need to put down the hammer for awhile and pick up an awl, or a shotgun, or a boomerang, just to see how it feels in your hand, and because you suspect what you're facing isn't actually a nail that needs to be hammered.

Or if you have a burning desire to write an analogy that goes all over the place. For example. "You" meaning "one."

Just asking some of those questions about the characters in my story has shown me that the person I thought was the antagonist isn't. The scene that inspired the story in the first place may not actually end up in the story. Or it might, but the scene's purpose might be different.

And I'm going to start a file of my own with some of the questions from this list, the ones I find particularly useful (or annoying), and add to that file.

But first, I'm going to go see what happens if I set that scene to happen later in the story because what happens isn't something the main character knows about...

"What if?": the most important question of all.