10 Questions While I’m Writing

Photo by Mr. Seafall.

This might only make sense to fellow writers, but the characters in After the Storm have begun leading me into plot twists I was hoping to avoid. Many years ago I had a similar issue with a character in another story. I was so invested in finding a way around who she kept turning out to be that I ended up aborting the project. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to where she was taking me and less to my preconceived ideas about the kind of protagonist I wanted for that tale.

I won’t make that mistake again. As I follow Daphne and her friends and family into new territory here are some of the things I will be asking them as I write.

No, the subject matter of these questions should not necessarily be interpreted as foreshadowing. I can guarantee with 99.99% certainty that there are no pterodactyls in Daphne’s world, but how she reacts to them may be similar to how she’d behave in other settings.

It would be fascinating to see how my readers answer them, though!

  1. A flock of hungry pterodactyls are attacking your neighbour’s sheep. If the sheep are destroyed your neighbour and their family will face a high risk of running out of food over the winter. You do not have any weapons with you, and if you leave to warn your neighbours their animals will almost certainly be destroyed. To what extent are you ethically obligated to protect the herd? 
  2. How would your daily routine change if you knew the exact date, time and cause of your death? Would your answer to this question change if you believe you could influence your expiry date?
  3. To what extent are people capable of changing? At what point is it too late to atone for a terrible choice you made many years ago?
  4. Is it worse to beat someone nearly to death once or to spread malicious lies about them for a decade?
  5. Would society crumble if everyone stopped believing that free will exists?
  6. Could karma work in a world that only had limited free will?
  7. Are all secrets harmful? Is there ever a good time to hide something important from someone you love?
  8. What would it take for you to have an honest change of heart about your most fervently held beliefs? (e.g. registering as a member of a political party that endorses something you currently find deeply unethical.)
  9. Martin Luther King once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Do you agree or disagree with him? If you agree with him, is there anything we can do to slow down or speed up its arrival?
  10. If you could resurrect one person from the dead and interview him or her, who would you pick and what would you ask them?


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0 Responses to 10 Questions While I’m Writing

  1. Ok, I’m going to give a stab at these questions and by the way, my characters seem always to take of my stories and I actually like that. Here goes:

    1. I don’t know about ethically obligated, but I would certainly feel that I needed to do whatever I could to protect the herd. I have no idea if pterodactyls would be spooked by noises or if the sheep would have enough sense to run, but I would try to do something.

    2. I probably would try to ensure that I told everyone I cared about how much I love them. If there were a way to influence my expiry date, I suppose I would take whatever reasonable actions I could, but not if it meant harming someone else.
    3. I do believe people can change and I don’t think it is ever too late. The problem for most of us is that the familiar, no matter how unpleasant or difficult, is usually preferred over anything new, so most of us need to hit rock bottom or have some earth-shaking experience to manage a real change. And people can only change themselves. Others, can’t change them.
    4. You sure are asking hard questions! I’d have to say that the long term damage from the lies is worse. The beating is a one time event, which can probably be explained, and which hopefully the person can recover from. Malicious lies are evil beyond belief, in my opinion, as there is no way to counteract them.
    5. I’m trying to think back to what I learned years ago about Calvinism and pre-destination, where I believe, you had no free will, but you also didn’t know what your future would be so you had to act as if it were going to be good. There are days when I’m sure all of us feel powerless to effect any change and free will doesn’t seem to be real at least in the big picture, but I still think we have to try to do what we can even if we don’t appear to have made any difference. I think this would be sort of like not having the free will but I don’t know how the “bad guys” would react.
    6. I think so because free will or no, how you treat others is likely to come back to you for good or bad, just because that’s how things work.
    7. I’m not sure. I have been hurt way too often by people who kept secrets from me supposedly “for my own good.” I think that some things need to be shared gently and with compassion, and revealing the secret can cause immediate pain, but I think in the long run, it causes less than when the person learns the secret inadvertently since secrets rarely seem to stay hidden. And the age of the persons involved would also play a role. Some secrets should be kept from the very young, but then shared later when they have developed the ability to understand.
    8. I think we each have a core personality and therefore core beliefs, and I don’t think these can be changed without severe damage. But we also go through life with other beliefs which say we’ve grown up with, that aren’t innate to our identity, that we could change when we learn something new or find compelling and accurate information. I don’t think I could ever join any kind of group which endorses something which I find deeply unethical and I don’t thing the end justifies the means.
    9. Gads, I hope he is right and I’d like to think that each good deed, each stand against injustice, each righting of a wrong brings us that much closer so the more of them we can do, the faster we will reach justice.
    10. I really can’t think of anyone. Sorry!

    • I think it’s awesome that you answered all of the questions! I suppose I should do the same thing now. 🙂

      Why do you think characters like to take over stories so often? I’ve had it happen quite often, but I still have times when I’m quite surprised by the imaginary people I’ve created.

      • Thanks, and I’d love to read your answers if you want to post them. Meanwhile, I’m not sure why characters take over the story. I figured maybe it was because I felt the characters were real and my subconscience took it from there. I have to admit that I think it is really cool when it happens!

  2. 1. I’m stealing Daphne’s excellent, creative answer.

    2. If it was something preventable I’d do everything I could to avoid it. Otherwise I’d try to enjoy the time I did have left.

    3. I think change becomes more difficult as you grow older and that for some people it might be impossible if they’ve spent many years living a certain way. I do think there is hope for most of us, though, especially if you’re emotionally invested in changing whatever isn’t working and have a good support system.

    4. Spreading lies. As awful as it is to physically harm someone a decade of betrayal would leave much deeper wounds.

    5. No, but I do think we would see more extreme behaviours. There might be more acts of violence, but there would also be more acts of kindness.

    6. I’m stealing Daphne’s answer for this one as well. 😀

    7. The problem is that secrets never stay secrets. With a small child you definitely need to answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner, but ultimately knowing the truth will always be less painful than figuring out a lie.

    8. Nothing. My opinion about stuff like religion might have changed, but my core values have remained the same. I can’t imagine anything that, for example, would make me believe it’s ok to take advantage of vulnerable people.

    9. I think he’s right, but I suspect that how quickly justice arrives depends entirely on what we do to encourage it.

    10. Mary Carver (the mother of the famous inventor, George Washington Carver). She was kidnapped by slave catchers when her son was an infant, and the family was never reunited. I’d want to know what happened to her. I assume she died fairly soon after she was captured as I can’t imagine a loving mother *choosing* to never see her family again.

  3. I almost never answer lists like this — and if you read my answers, perhaps you will see why. But here ya go:

    10. If I was told I could only choose one, I wouldn’t. For exactly the same reason I won’t tell people who my favorite friend is or what was the best day during my vacation.

    9. I don’t think history has moral direction. disagree.

    8. Not much — just evidence. I’d hope.

    7. No

    6. There is no karma – no cosmic calculator

    5. They couldn’t stop. But if an impossible thing could happen, then anything could happen.

    4. You’d have to ask that person.

    3. (a) very little, quite a bit. (b) it depends on those whose burden it is to forgive.

    2. It depends on that time. Absolutely

    1. No obligation. There is no such thing as “ethical obligation”. There is kindness, however — and I am never obliged to be kind.