never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to

i’m not sure where i first heard it, probably a tv show or movie.  (googling was fruitless) but i find myself coming back to the quote:

‘never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.’

this quote should be a mantra for all storytellers.  it’s another way for us to say ‘never write a check your butt can’t cash.’

we create worlds.  imaginary?  yes, but no less bound to the scrutiny of the critically thinking reader.  we control everything about the world,  we set them up with clues and red herrings and we withhold information until it packs the biggest punch. we control what we show and in doing so we create questions in the mind of the reader.

so you can see where i’m going with this.  you know your story.  but moreover, you are the only one who knows all the answers about your story, it’s your job to make sure that for every question you set up for the reader you have a logical answers.  fiction is outside the realm of reality but it cannot escape logic.  the ‘because i said so’ response loses its potency with puberty.

this may seem like a redundant piece of advice, i’m sure that in your outlining and brainstorming phases you are asking yourself a ton of questions.  keep constantly asking yourself these questions and the answers are bound to show through in the writing.  instead of having to tell readers the answer, you will show the answers organically.

with each question you ask you create a deeper, richer world for your characters and for your readers.  plus, when your readers inevitably ask questions you’ll know which to answer and which you’re gonna answer in the sequel!


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