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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ask 5 Questions

As writers we have all been there. You have this great idea. The ideas, the characters, the plot they flow out of you like a raging river. You put it all down on paper or on the computer and then the tap shuts off like a plug in the dyke. You got nothing. What once seemed like a great idea turns out to be just that. A great idea, but not enough for a story or series. What then?
For most of us, that means frustration and possibly just putting it away. In a drawer or in a file on the computer. It may sit for years. It may sit forever and die there. What else can we do?
I have this issue all the time, and I think that there is a solution. And it is one that also applies to life.
What I have started doing is asking myself questions. I take my work and I read it like it isn't mine--like I am looking at some other persons work--and I ask the questions that I would ask them if they had sent it to me. Then I go about answering those questions. Hopefully that gets the ball rolling. When it slows up again, I ask more questions. And so on.
The key is to just be the reader. The viewer. The audience. Step outside yourself, but still be yourself.
Here is how it works in actual practice.
Most people think out loud. This is the next step. Writing it down,  so the thoughts don't get lost. They are there to keep chiseling away at.

The process is simple. You have a thought.You ask 5 questions. You answer them.

Shouldn't life be fun? My life isn't fun.

Why isn't my life more fun?
What are things I like to do?
Why don't I do them?
How can I justify living my life for others and not for myself?
Why would I do such a thing?

The key is to answer the questions quickly, then dig deeper by asking a second question for each answer until you dig deep enough within yourself to become what you need to be.
Quick answers are what you want. they lead to honest, less filtered responses and beget more questions. You have to stick to this formula to figure out why you are stuck and not getting past the first question. 

If you keep asking, and answering honestly, and asking the questions you really have that are unanswered, then you will be able to figure out what to do. 

I feel selfish to have fun for myself.  But I know that I am not selfish. Why is that?

Why do I feel selfish?

Do others convince me that my pleasure is me being selfish?

What if I did what pleases me most and didn't care?

Where is the happy medium?

Who is more important, me, or the world?

Facing up to your problems. Everyone has vices like that. The vice goes away, possibly, the problems don't unless you make a real effort to sort them out.Writing the questions down forces you to look at them and not look away, and then if you really want to make progress you will answer them and then move forward.

Now we can apply this back to the writer.

Why am I stuck at this point in the script/story/idea?

What was my original concept?

Have I deviated from it?

Was the idea poor to start with?

Why did I think it was interesting in the first place?  

Should I go in this new direction or go back where I started and start over again? 

For me, this works best when I become the reader that I intend to aim my work at. Ask 5 questions that your reader would ask if you were your reader. You can even post a piece of the work and ask your friends or potential readers what questions they immediately have for you. This might get you going again. If not,  keep asking more questions yourself. Don't let up until you get all the answers you are looking for.

You can also use this for life issues.

Here is the ultimate question to always start with though:
What is really important to ME in life?
That is the question we all ask ourselves when we ask questions. Everything derives from that beginning.

If you try this let me know your results. I would be interested in finding out if this works for others as it has worked for me. I can state with certainty that it has really helped me as a writer and creator.  

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