Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Essential questions, part deux

What I’m Reading: The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann AND The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.

What I’m working on: Adding to and editing a scene that felt rather like talking heads on the second pass. Now it is effective and supports not only the main conflict but a secondary plot, as well. Yeah!!!

New words Tuesday: 313
New words today: 387

I’ve gotten a few interesting responses to my essential questions post from Monday. They’ve actually been similar responses to what teachers give me when we begin talking about essential questions.

Everyone has a tendancy to avoid going deep enough. Just as within a particular unit of study in a classroom, in fiction there are questions that can be answered within the context of a single work – questions which by the end have definitive answers, answers that are right or wrong. But there are also those questions that are less answerable. These are the questions that really make you think – the questions that linger with you after a story because they are still open to exploration in other contexts, in other stories.

Do all works of fiction exhibit essential questions? No, at least not in the sense I’m discussing.

I do, however, think there is at least one central question to be answered for each view point character in any story. There are as many possibilities as stories. Do any of these sound familiar? “Can I let go of my past and learn to love?” “Can someone else love me despite my flaws?” “Do I have the strength to overcome big obstacle #1 in my life?”

These questions are really important for these story characters. These questions boil down to moving from in one’s unfulfilled current identity into living fully in one’s essence. (Thank you Michael Hauge for stating that all so clearly.)

However, I’m going beyond that here. I’m looking one step deeper. I want to know if writers (maybe not all, but some) have essential questions they explore again and again until they’ve turned the question around a million different ways and examined it under a variety of circumstances and situations.

I really think this essential question idea parallels themes in writing. Have you ever read a particular author so much that you begin to notice similarities in his/her stories? Have you witnessed recurring conflicts or motivations? Have you ever thought to dig deeper and see just what theme (essential question) was being explored over and over again?

Of course, maybe this is just me being crazy. However, I will admit to liking stories that explore fundamental human questions – questions that usually lead to more questions rather than more answers.

“Essential questions probe the deepest issues confronting us . . . complex and baffling matters which elude simple answers: Life - Death - Marriage - Identity - Purpose - Betrayal - Honor - Integrity - Courage - Temptation - Faith - Leadership - Addiction - Invention - Inspiration.” (From Trivial Pursuit to Essential Questions)

Yep, I love that stuff.

Can you think of books that explore the following essential questions?

Can one rise above one’s circumstances? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Does love require sacrifice?

How are people transformed through their relationships?

What does it mean to live fully?

What does true happiness look like?

What determines if something is good or evil?

Yeah, I can think of some, too.

So the question still is, what are your essential questions in the stories you write?

And, we’ll add another: What are some of the essential questions in your favorite books?



C. Alyson Love said...

Now my brain definitely hurts!! LOL. I'm just kidding. I'll have to think about this one for a couple days though. Great topic.

Katie Reus said...

Ditto, my brain hurts trying to digest all that! I'll give it a shot though:

So the question still is, what are your essential questions in the stories you write?
You actually mentioned one, “Can I let go of my past and learn to love?” and I also tend to focus on “What risks am I willing to take to enrich my life and break out of my shell?” The current paranormal I’m working probes self-love and self-acceptance issues within the heroine.

Anastasia Rabiyah said...

The essential questions I see recurring in almost every one of my works are:

What is the meaning/true nature of the higher power/Goddess/God in my world? (This happens in my fantasy works and especially to the characters in the clergy.)

Can I love a flawed mate? I often write this element into my erotic romances. It's a heavy theme for me, so much so that I explore relationships akin to Beauty and the Beast. I think I tend to do this because society is often preoccupied with beauty on the outside when so many people have inner beauty that outshines super models. They're perfectly lovable even though they may not be perfect at all.

Thanks for the topic. (o: I'm off to hunt for my muse again...

Anastasia Rabiyah