Why Ask Why

An interesting exercise I'm working with is engaging your characters in the endless why. Not surprisingly, this is an exercise that can be helpful (and exceedingly frustrating) in every day life. One of the side effects I experienced as I wrote and am now revising my first novel is the number of questions it poses on how I think about different things.

I came across a video today that brought this home in a new way. Check it out.

If you can get past the slick guy walking at his treadmill desk, he describes how he first engaged with books and how he now engages with them. How many of us at some point have owned or read books so other people will believe something about us? Yeah, me too. He talks about what the next phase is like when you learn to apply others' wisdom to your own in an active way. Watch it for yourself.

Now to apply it...

The whole point of a hero's journey is to show how a hero (or antihero) goes through a transformation. It all starts with a yearning for something different. I've been going through a revisions course by author Jen Manuel that recommends asking endless why's to get to the deepest yearning of characters. I like to test things on myself first, so you can only imagine the Pandora's Box I opened when asking my own endless whys. And that's the place to start on gaining wisdom from the things you read, according to our endlessly walking friend in the video.

When it comes to advice, tools, etc on the writing process, much has been written and I hear writers are always interested in a new tool if it helps them dig deeper into their stories. The trick is to try what you think may work, discover what does or doesn't resonate with you, then you develop your own style. That's how I'm going about it anyway.

And here I thought writing novels would allow me to escape myself. Instead, I am continually discovering a far more vast world within.

One of the things I've discovered is that I tend to only get the gist of a book and connect to a few key concepts. Don't get me wrong, those nuggets have moved me in ways nothing else could. But I am human and I want more. I want to engage with the written word on a deeper level. So I'm reevaluating the way I read. It's the next step on this journey and I believe it will help me communicate my stories better.