by Yvonne Lehman
We writers are often told to use the “What if?” factor in our writing.
Our response can get us started in our stories, or be an effective tool when we feel stumped.
However, no matter how creative a “What if?” incident, if it doesn’t constitute a scene which has purpose and furthers the story, it becomes “So what?”
The question I’ve been asked most in my writing career is not, “How many wonderful scenes do you have in this book?” but, “Why did you write it?” Another is, “Where did you get your idea?” which is another way of asking, “Why this story?”
This question has been impressed upon me since 2012 when my novel, Hearts that Survive-A Novel of the Titanic was published for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. Since then, I’ve signed my book several times a year at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN. 95% of the people who buy, or stop to talk with me, ask, “Why did you write this book?”
Being acquainted with other Titanic authors, and belonging to Titanic groups and loops, I’ve asked them what question does an onlooker ask. It’s the same. The prospective reader asks, “Why?”
That led me to consider, “Why not?” have a group of authors answer the Why? question?
My response is now the book, Why? Titanic Moments, released in March 2017. This book has 33 stories about, or from, people who seek to keep alive the memory and meaning of the Titanic. The authors have been touched by the sinking of that ship of dreams. Perhaps readers will gain a better understanding of this event and realize the memory of it must live on…and discover the answers to “Why?’ there are novels, paintings, personal accounts of Titanic passengers, museums, historic societies, displays, Titanic groups. The authors answer Why?” to questions that will lead interested people to Ireland, Great Britain, and throughout the U.S. and to non-fiction books and novels.
Whether it’s a 500+ page book, or a devotion or a vignette, the “Why?” factor should be applied. Many writers have asked, “Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?”
Ask that in a positive way. Discover why your characters behave the way they do, why you are writing the story, why a reader should remember something about it long after the pages are closed.
Why ask “Why?” Because the editor, the agent, and the reader want to know. Only the author has the answer and that should be the reason for the writing in the first place.
Let’s take the “What if?” – eliminate the “So what?” – and let the stories live with our responses to “Why?”
Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include Have Dress Will Marry (Heart of a Cowboy collection, Mountainbrook Ink), Better Latte Than Never (Winged Publications), Stupid Moments and Additional Christmas Moments in the non-fiction Divine Moments series (Grace Publishing). Her popular 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC, which she signs periodically at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge TN.