January 17, 2011
When we ask ourselves “what-if” questions, we can imagine whole new worlds, new ways of living, and unique characters who are dealing with unusual circumstances.
When I wrote Pure, I began by asking:
- What if parents could genetically choose a child — ensure she grew up unusually smart, healthy, or attractive?
- How would a teenager react to the news that her parents had genetically enhanced her?
- What if that genetic enhancement came with unexpected physical and social consequences?
This technique is particularly useful for imagining fantasy and science fiction stories.
What if men could have babies too? How would it change our society?
What if we could alter our skin colour just by thinking about it?
What if Native Americans had not signed treaties with the settlers, and the settlers had adopted Native ways instead?
The possibilities are endless.
Children’s fantasy writer Jane Yolen writes, “Surely one of the great things about fantasy literature is that we can be transported to worlds we do not know. We can wear skins that are not ours. We can look at the landscape through someone else’s eyes.”
January 4, 2011
In a previous blog post, I wrote about how to begin a story by writing from personal experience. Another way to begin writing is by observing people. Here’s how you can use this technique.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are a writer. You can gather material from every aspect of your life. Every moment is an opportunity to fill your creative well.
I have been in trying circumstances and said to myself, “Maybe I can write about this later.” It consoles me when things are tough, and inspires me to try out new experiences.
So I suggest you eavesdrop on people sitting at the next table in a restaurant, or at a bus stop, or at work or school. Observe how your body reacts when you feel angry, sad, happy, and so on. Make note of sensory experiences (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) so you can use them in your writing.
Write down your observations. Borrow shamelessly from life around you. Let life inspire your writing.
In a later post, I’ll explore how to write by asking “what-if” questions.