What IF?

WHAT IF : The End of the World was Coming, But Only YOU Knew?

What would you do? Tell someone? But who? Who would listen?
Where did you get your information? Are you a Government worker with an insider’s knowledge? Did you overhear two scientists talking? Did little green men come and whisper to you in the darkness of a moonless night?
Can you save yourself? Others? How can you make anyone believe what you know
Can you imagine the frustration? What would you do in this situation? Tell us in the comments at the bottom of the page. 🙂

TIME OUT: Writers and Readers – Don’t forget Exercise!

Sitting at your computer or desk writing, typing, editing or in your armchair reading is fun, but are you getting enough exercise? Imagination works best when your brain is awake and alive!
I have a stationary bike so I can get exercise and read at the same time! (Wow, is that the lazy man’s exercise, or what?) and I also take my dog, Dixie, for walks twice a day.

What do you do for exercise? Do you think you’re getting enough? If not, what can you do to “up the ante”?

What about Sleep? How does it affect your Writing?

Do you ever think about sleep? Every night we go to a special room where we lay down on our bed, turn off the lights, close our eyes and sleep.

Why? What is the point of this? To recharge our batteries? To allow our bodies to completely rest after the stress of the day?
Perhaps to allow our minds to wander through the universe and learn?

What is sleep, really? We become basically unconscious for a series of hours! Some people love it, some people want to do it longer, some people hate it and find it a waste of time. At least a third of your life is spent sleeping so obviously it holds some value.

We have no choice in the matter, actually. We’re hard-wired to sleep. We have to sleep. People who can’t sleep will live shorter lives, so it is vital to our well-being.

In French, one term for sleep is “la petit morte” – that means “the little death”! (it also is used in modern terms as relating to the sleep or “faint” after sex) That kinda creeps me out.

When I was a small child, my mother taught me that dreadful prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray thee Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.
Eeeerrrrk. Hold up – If I should DIE before I wake? I could DIE while sleeping? No kidding, this prayer sent me on a long course of fearing sleep when I was a child! Talk about a horror writer – whoever came up with that for a small child had a twisted, wicked mind! <shudders>

To this day, I still have a hard time getting to sleep. I hate losing all that time from my life just to sleep, but I do love my dreams. I used to think it was time spent doing nothing, simply wasted. But I’ve reconsidered that view. For me, sleep is a time to dream, a time that my imagination gets to take the lead. This is why I keep a notebook by the bed as I sometimes awaken with a great writing idea!

What are your thoughts on sleep? Love it, hate it or something in between? How can you use it to feed your hungry imagination?
Please leave your comments at the bottom of the page.

Learning to Read

As a child I so loved stories. I was so fortunate that my mother loved to read and to read to me. I grew up with a great desire to make my own stories.

What if I hadn’t had that richness in my life? There’s one imagining I can’t bear to think of!

I remember learning to read. Ohhh I so wanted to be able to hold and read those wonderful books myself. It was so exhilarating, as a child, to look at the number of pages in a book and know that I could read them all. 50 pages? 100 pages? 300 pages?! These were medals of honor.

The first “real books” that I read myself as a child were the Honey Bunch series of books written by Helen Louise Thorndyke. It wasn’t until much much later that I discovered that Helen Louise Thorndyke was a pseudonym for a  company called the Stratemeyer Syndicate created by a man named Edward Stratemeyer. This syndicate was responsible, not only for the Honey Bunch Series but also The Rover Boys, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and the Bobbsey  Twins series!

Mr Stratemeyer wrote many of these books himself under numerous pseudonyms. Later he hired ghost writers – he would give them the outlines for each story and they would write it under his chosen pseudonyms! Honey Bunch was actually written by two women: Josephine Lane (1st 16 books) and Mildred Wirt Benson (5 of the later books). Ms Benson went on to write most of the Nancy Drew books.

This first series of books put me on a long rich path that has served me well to this very day (62 years at this writing). I went on to discover the joys of Pippi Longstockings (Astrid Lindgren), Doctor Dolittle (Hugh Lofting), The Wizard of OZ (L. Frank Baum), and the classics Little Women, and also Eight Cousins (Louisa May Alcott), Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and so many others by Charles John Huffman Dickens. And mustn’t forget J. R. R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings that turned my vision on to Fantasy and the vastness of imagination that opened to me.

Do you remember learning to read and any of the books you loved as a child?

Please leave comments at the bottom of the page 🙂

Confliction

Ok, you’re writing a story. How can you make it come alive? What grabs the reader in and doesn’t let them go?
One tool you can use here is confliction. By that, I don’t just mean people arguing or great wars. I mean conflict within your story or within your character.
Maybe your character wants to do one thing but feels he shouldn’t. Or doesn’t want to do something yet feels compelled to do it.
Or perhaps the tone of the story itself seems to be one way, yet there’s an ominous undertone of something else.
When applying “What IF” to this angle, think opposites. Good vs Evil, Appropriate vs Inappropriate, Happy vs Sad, etc.
Can you think of a story opening with this element of conflict?

Become a “People Watcher”

Go to the mall or to a park or a museum or a beach – any public place – and sit on a bench somewhere and just watch the people around you.
Look at the man in the dark coat. He’s walking through the mall but he’s not looking at the store windows, not looking at other people, he’s just looking at the floor in front of him, walking quickly, obviously with a singular destination in mind. What type of character would he be in your book?
How about the girl with the long hair? Her hair is blond but has a thick black streak on one side. Her makeup is bright and she has several earrings in each ear. She’s wearing form-fitting jeans with a long bright purple tunic over them. And a lot of clicking bangles on her wrists. What would she bring to your story? Would she be a main character or someone passing through?
OH and what about the tall elegant woman who is staring through the plate glass window at Macy’s? Her dark hair is pulled up into a fashionable twist. Her suit makes her look like an executive. Her arms are crossed tightly and she’s looking up as if she isn’t really seeing what’s framed in the window, but something else, something only she can see. Would she bring romance? Drama? Intrigue?
You can get a lot of ideas just by watching people and letting your mind take in their mannerisms. Allow yourself to think What IF?

What about Destiny?

Does destiny play a part in your imagination? Do you feel there are things that will happen no matter what you try to do to alter them? Or can we change our destiny?

Imagine this – you were destined to marry a certain person, but that person was killed. How did that happen? Were your destinies not entertwined? Or was there a way for someone else to intervene? Could this lead into a story about evil? time travel? magic? What do you think?

Leave your thoughts about this or about any “What IF” in the comments below.

And what about death – the darker side of destiny. Is there a point in the future at which one dies? A point and a death that is unchangeable? Now this is true – and it got me thinking about this… I read an article in the newspaper a few years ago when I was living in Virginia. It was about a young woman who was driving down the highway behind a truck that was carrying lumbar. The 2×4′s weren’t secured properly and one came flying out, went through her windshield and killed her instantly. Certainly a tragic story.

Was this incident carved in history? Was she driving along like usual, heading for the grocery story or maybe to pick up her child from an activity and looking at this pile of wood in front of her and seeing her own destruction without knowing it? Is there an end point to your timeline that is just sitting there waiting for you to get to it? Is there a way to know? To change or avoid?

I’ve never forgotten this article. I didn’t know this person or her family, but the circumstance was so chilling that I’ve never been able to forget it.

What do you think?

Leave your thoughts about this or about any “What IF” in the comments below.

Use Your Imagination!
posted on Sep 23, 2012 @ 9:35

The more you use your imagination, the stronger it gets. And all you need to do is start saying “What if?”!

What if you’d been born in a different time? What kind of person would you be? The answer could be a lot different depending on which time you choose to ponder. Past? You might be poorer, have fewer “things”, work a lot harder, but have higher values. Future? You might be much more technologically saavy, be more sophisticated, and have more money OR you might live in a world that’s been devastated, have to fight for food and shelter, and fear for your life.

Go outside on a damp morning and look at the little toadstools that have sprouted. Imagine a troupe of fairies sitting on them with their gossamer wings waving about and fairy dust flying!

Take a walk in a wooded park and imagine the kind of dangers that could be present. Let your imagination soar! You could be drawn into many different worlds.

Sit beside a sparkling lake and dream of a couple watching the sunset, finding their lasting love and starting a romance that will last through the ages. Will they marry and have a happy home? Will something tear them apart leaving each to long for the other throughout the rest of their lives? Will their lives play out like a comedy as they dash from one calamity to another like I Love Lucy?

Let go of reality for a short time and discover the charm, fear, or delight that your mind can mold with a simple “what if?”!

27 Comments

27 thoughts on “What IF?

  1. End of the world? I would try to get my family and friends to believe it and prepare. Doubt anyone else would take me seriously!
    Love reading? Yes! Even as a child (in a somewhat safer time) I would walk many blocks to the library to check out books. My favorites were foreign fairy tales, especially stories about Baba Yaga, the witch.
    Now as an adult, it is pure joy to be a writer. I’d rather do this for a living than any other job I can think of.

  2. I tended to read anything and everything on my school’s banned books list, with the blessings of both of my parents. They always knew what I was reading, and I always went to them with whatever questions I had. These questions were always answered truthfully, in an age-appropriate way.

    But I digress. Under the post “Learning To Read,” none of those books interested me. As a girl growing up in the 1970s, I did not like the ways in which female characters were portrayed. I could not identify with a single one. But when I read something more contemporary, like Paul Zindel’s “The Pigman,” I found John and Lorraine to be as socially misfit as I was. I became a fan and read every one of Mr. Zindel’s books. I felt like he understood me.

    Just because a novel or work of literature is deemed “classic” does not mean it’s suitable for today’s children and teenagers. They have enough problems. They need to know there can be and there will be a way out, like Paul Zindel’s writing and understanding of the minds of teenagers gave me. Girls and boys alike do not need to be pigeon-holed into characters or roles that they may find too limiting, and may not necessarily be suited for personality wise. For me, even Jo in “Little Women” was too limiting.

    • Hi Debby! 🙂
      I’m glad to hear your response to my post “learning to read”. If I had grown up in the 70’s rather than the 50’s, I’m sure my book list would have been different. 🙂
      I feel it’s truly wonderful to find and read a book in which you can identify with a character. I never felt pigeon-holed by any book, though. If I ID’d with the main character, I felt part of the story, if I didn’t, I was happy to experience a story that was outside of myself.
      Take Jane Austen for an example. I didn’t id with her. But through her I could imagine the way someone else (and different times) responded to situations – certainly not the way I would, lol.
      Also Scarlett O’Hara. She was at the opposite end of the spectrum in behavior from Jane Austen – I didn’t so much id with her, as live vicariously through her in a way I would never live in real life. For me, that’s one of the allures of reading, getting to experience life from a different perspective. It’s also why I enjoy reading and writing Fantasy. Characters who may have lives that are far removed from real life are very interesting to me.
      Over the years, reading has made me feel that I have lived many different lives. To name a few, I’ve been a poor girl who felt unloved (Anne of Green Gables), A black man who is wrongly imprisoned (the Racketeer), a Woman with a hardened heart (also Anne of Green Gables), a young boy living in poverty (Oliver Twist), A man who has turned his back on society (A Christmas Carol), A little boy whose Teddy Bear comes to life (Winnie the Pooh), A boy who can speak to dragons (Dragonriders of Pern), A woman ridiculed for following her dream to be a Knight (A Game of Throne), A man whose dreams are shattered by a company that uses him and tries to take over his entire life (The Firm), A child possessed by demons and the priest who tries to help her (The Exorcist) Oh the amazing list goes on and on. 🙂
      I’ve always viewed reading as a way of learning about other people and places and getting to vicariously enrich my life more than a way to find stories that were about “me” in different form.

  3. People watching is a must for any writer. Where else do you have such a vast array of material for FREE? I’ve had a few great characters start from a snippet of conversation on the bus, or the way someone strolled by in a park.

  4. What ifs and people watching… The start to any great story.. A great way to let your creativity grow. I used to laugh at my mom who would sit and people watch for hours, but now I find I do the same with even more enthusiasm.

  5. I have tried to link your blog to my pinterest account, and it hasn’t worked. Have you heard of anyone else having any problems with that? Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

  6. I don’t believe our destiny is etched in stone, I believe if a person believes that God will bend over backward to keep them out of harms way. In fact, something similar to your account about the person dying after a log fell out of a truck they were following happened to my daughters.

    They were traveling down the interstate, when my daughter noticed something wrong with her car. She could have continued driving and waited until an exit to check it out, but instead she felt led to head over to the side of the road.

    Not long after that when they continued down the road, they saw a major accident and felt it could have been them as the car that was side-swiped was traveling near them before they left the road.
    ~~~~~~
    I have used people that i know as characters for my stories, I’ve also used places where I’ve worked although recently reviewers have told me they didn’t think those scenes helped move the plot forward. I know some authors pull their characters out of thin air, while others utilize do as you do in observing the people around us for ideas.

    Good post and blog.

  7. Every question you asked could take a lifetime to answer…all thought provoking with some profound answers if we were all sitting around in a circle discussing them. Gives me a few ideas for future posts myself. Thanks for the thought my dear friend!

  8. Great post Susan! Nothing better than using your imagination! My mind is always on my fantasy fiction novel and what’s going to happen in the future and what would I do if this happened to me! Love it!

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