Over the years, I’ve studied writing in various different forms: screenwriting, playwriting, copywriting, poetry. I love nothing better than studying and exploring a new aspect of the craft.
Because writing is a tool as well as a talent.
I’ve discovered that all types of writer are first and foremost a thinker.
A writer is someone who starts with an idea and then takes it a step further. Grows it on paper. Twists it. Expresses it through a character. A verse. A blog. An advertisement.
A writer is someone who asks what if? Someone who wants to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Wants to make connections. Wants to see a new door open up before them and walk through it.
Every story, however prize-winning, popular or complex started with a very simple; What If?
Think about how well-known writers might have come up with their ideas, for example:
What if dinosaurs could be brought back to life? (Jurassic Park)
What if four children discovered a magical wardrobe leading to a secret world? (The Chronicles of Narnia)
What if two young people, whose families were deadly enemies, fell in love? (Romeo and Juliet)
Michael Crichton, the writer of Jurassic Park, may have started with the idea: What if dinosaurs could be brought back to life? But he didn’t just stop there. He went onto the next step: What if humans kept them in a park and charged people to see them? Then the next step: What if the dinosaurs broke free and pursued the humans?
Writing isn’t about having one idea, it’s about asking many different questions within your idea. Probe it. See how far you can take it, and what other ideas it will yield.
So if you want to be a better writer, concentrate on thinking before you write a word.
Ask a lot of questions. Do interesting things. Take an interest in people.
Keep asking what if?
And don’t be afraid to go too far; that’s usually where the really great ideas are.