Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Two Most Powerful Words

By Cheryl C. Malandrinos 

For a character driven writer—and reader—like me, a story idea begins with a character. I think about this character. I figure out where he or she lives, how the character dresses, what his or her daily life is like, what motivates this person, and consider his or her physical description.

None of that, however, gives me a story. A storyline involves plot, climax, and resolution. It involves conflict: something that the character needs or wants and the obstacles that stand in the way of him getting it. 

This is where the two most powerful words come into play. What? You’ve never heard of these words? I think you have.

Those two words are, “What if?”

Take Amelia, she is an impulsive girl born into a wealthy family. Her curly hair is blonde and her eyes blue. At the age of 13, she lives in Pennsylvania where her father is an important businessman. Tea parties and private schooling fill her days. Since she lives in the mid-1800’s, she wears fine dresses made of silk and fashionable boots with buttons. She has a collection of porcelain dolls, but there is one that is very special to her.

She could be any well-bred girl living in the 1800’s—but she’s not. Amelia has a story all her own.

What if…

Amelia experiences a tragedy unlike she’s ever known?

What if…

Her parents die of the influenza and Amelia is sent to live with her spinster aunt at the Ridgemont estate in Massachusetts?

What if…

Amelia’s impulsive nature is at odds with her Aunt Martha’s desire to bring her up properly? 

What if…

A lonely Amelia befriends Ralph, the Negro stable hand working at the Ridgemont estate? And…

What if…

Aunt Martha disapproves?

What if…

Amelia’s father told her stories of what Aunt Martha was like as a girl and they are very different from the stern, bitter aunt who is now her guardian?

What if…

Amelia decides she must uncover the secret that caused the change in Aunt Martha? And…

What if…

She is willing to risk her aunt’s wrath to find out?

Two little words, yet they open up a world of possibilities. Use them wisely. Use them often. 






Bio: Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.   

Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.

You can visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com or the Little Shepherd blog at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/.  

In addition, you can listen to BlogTalk Radio’s Robin Falls Kids show: Stories for Children  with hosts VS Grenier, D.M. Cunningham and Tiffany Strelitz Haber who chatted with Cheryl Malandrions about her book, writing, the publishing industry, and her experiences with virtual tours on January 3rd. You can listen on demand at the RRRadio’s site http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2011/01/03/rfk-stories-for-children.

To learn more about Cheryl Malandrions visit http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/CherylMalandrinos.aspx

Cheryl Malandrinos's next stop is January 10th at One Zillion Books http://www.onezillionbooks.com.

9 comments:

Cheryl said...

Thanks for hosting me today. I hope your readers enjoy my post.

Cheryl

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Very important words "What if?"

Nice post, Cheryl. Now I'm ready to learn more about Amelia.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Bev. Something tells me you might know a little bit about Amelia already. ;)

Virginia S Grenier said...

Cheryl, I love this post. I think it is so important to ask, "What if" when doing character outlines and even when world building. Yeck, even when writing a story outline. It's the "What if" that gives you multiple ideas for how a story, character, scene, etc will be.

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

"What if" is probably the best way to jump start your muse. It never fails to get those ideas coming. Great post, Cheryl.

Cheryl said...

Thanks Virginia and Penny. I'm glad you liked this post. I hope we never stop asking, "What if?"

Susanne Drazic said...

Enjoyed reading the post. Two very important words to remember. What if?

Cheryl said...

Thanks Susanne. Glad you liked it.

Carla said...

I love this post--it gave me a completely different way of looking at writing. I usually start with a problem and discover the characters that are involved next. Some mind exercises with character-driven what-if's sound like a lot of fun!

~Carla (carla-jansen.blogspot.com)