What is the central question at the core of your work?

baxterclare Baxter's Blog & News 2 Comments

Bethany Hamilton

This question was posted on Writer Unboxed a few weeks past. I opened the docs on my WIP this morning, feeling the need to answer that question. The book is at least a third, maybe half written, and I’m not sure I know the answer. Should I know? Should I have a burning question at the heart of my work? Or should I let unbridled instinct have it’s head? I rather like not knowing, but for the sake of plot and pacing I need to choose whether my character is gradually developing her spirituality or diving straight into a battle between good and evil. I’m ambivalent about committing. (Ambi, meaning both, and valence, meaning strong – I have strong feeling about both. How do I choose?)

I started the work as an immediate confrontation between good and evil, with the good character needing to develop her spirituality in order to even have a fighting chance against a strongly evolved evil. That could work because I have already set her up in another novel for this kind of confrontation. She is primed for growth and subsequent battle. The stage has been set. It is a plausible scenario.

At some point, I decided I didn’t want to go the good/bad route, that I wanted to take more time developing her spirituality before thrusting her into battle. At the time it seemed enough to foreshadow the upcoming struggle, to suggest that her previous work was merely prelude. This leads me to another question – will readers be patient with this concept? Do I have enough of a story to keep them interested?

When I decided the above, I must have had a reason, but damned if I can pinpoint what that was. I can’t remember if I decided to abandon the good/bad plot or if the story turned from it. If it was the story’s idea, I should absolutely follow where it leads. If it was my idea, why wasn’t it important enough to remember the reason for it? Which makes me think it was the story’s idea. The story never lies. It tells the pure tale. I, however, as author, am a compulsive liar, insistent on deleting, cutting, copying, adding, etcetera, that I might make the final product palatable to THE READER. With no tongue for truth, I writes in term of sales, rejection, and review. The author’s words are suspect at best. The story’s are true.

I think I’ve just answered that question. As for the central question, it’s the same as it is in all my work – will my characters grow or stay small? It’s a question I face a hundred times a day – will my next action push me beyond my comfort zone and make me grow, or will it keep me comfortable, safe, and small?

What will you do today that’s risky, that nudges you off the couch of your comfort zone?

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