I read recently somewhere that you need to start with the "what if" question. This made sense, yet the majority of my manuscripts are mostly character driven. After having read this I started randomly questioning all sorts of things, stupid things, and even bordering on ridiculous.
I kept in mind one particular character. I've been thinking about her for well over a year. I have known her name, that she has a specific strange ability, that she's not who she thinks she is, and that people are looking for her. I even know one of those people looking for her, a boy her age. I even know what she and the boy look like. And that folks, is all I've had since she popped into my mind.
I don't even have a name for this boy yet. I don't know why she's in hiding, and doesn't realize it. I don't know what the people seeking her want with her. I don't know what her world is like, but I know it's not our world.
Then, about a week or so into coming up with crazy what if's I had a revelation. My husband and I were were watching one of our ghost shows. I can't remember the exact show or episode, but the ghost in question had been involved with the Civil War. Towards the end of the show I turned to my husband and asked, "What if the South had won?" He looked at me like I'd lost my marbles and then some.
So I explained. What would the world look like today if the South had won and there were two nations instead of one? What if the South and the North were two different countries? He shook his head and told me I was nuts. But, I couldn't let it go. More and more questions about this subject kept popping up.
For days I kept thinking about what our world would look like. Then this character inserted herself in that world. Now I know a little more about her. I still don't have a name for the boy or know exactly why they're looking for her, but I now know I'm on the right track. I'm beginning to see little snippets of things that happen to her.
So now begins the research for this new manuscript. I'm hoping to have this one thought out enough that I can write it for my NaNo project this year. Hopefully!
Do you have those difficult to figure out characters and stories? Do you start with a "what if" question or not?