Thursday, October 20, 2011

What if?

I had the chance to be a visiting author at a middle school recently. To prepare for the visit, I asked the teachers what things they would like me to cover. Basically, it was the writing process, the importance of edits and rewrites, and what else authors have to do.

I put together a PowerPoint presentation that addressed all sorts of different elements. One question I covered was "where do authors get their ideas from?"

Here is what I did to help the students understand one way I get my ideas. Actually, it’s the main way I get them. It is: "what if?"

I told them, for example, "What if the sky was purple?" or "What if the school was attacked by zombie bunnies? (Sounds like something David J. West could turn into quite the amazing book, eh?) From there, I had them write their own "what if" statement. I was quite impressed on the different ideas students came up with. I joked that if any of them wrote a best seller based on their "what if" statement, I wanted a mention in their book.

I explained there are many different ways of writing. I used the example of "pantser" (writing on the seat of your pants) vs. plotter (doing an outline). I, personally, am a combo of both. When asked how I write, this is the best way I could describe it: The first thing I do is create the characters in my head. I use personality traits of different people I know (even myself) and try to create a unique individual. From there, I create a basic outline of a story—the major plot points and such. Then, when I write, I put these characters into the setting and see what happens. Often they don't do what I expect, based on their character, . . .but somehow, it works.

When it came to demonstrate the importance of edits and rewrites, I showed them several pictures and had them write down the issue.

Here they are:

As you can see, some are fairly obvious, and some are a little more hard to explain. The picture of Pizza Hut, for example, got a few of the students hung up. They didn't see anything wrong with it. For me, I explained the concept of redundancy. As a reader, I get frustrated with an author who beats me over the head with the same thing throughout the book.

Lastly, I left time for questions and answers. Any ideas what the number one question I was asked?

It was: "How old are you?"

1 comment:

  1. How old are you? Funny. I get ideas with what-ifs too. Sounds like it was fun!