Posted On January 4, 2012 by Print This Post

What If and Why? by Tawny Weber

Tawny Weber writes for my dream imprint – Harlequin Blaze!  Her stories are sexy, funny, sexy, fresh, and  . . .  umm . . .  sexy. She is also super generous with her time and an amazing scrapbooker.

What If and Why?

What if and why are two of my favorite things to ask. I’m notorious for asking them in writing and in life. (I think I ask often enough I drive my husband a little nuts, to be honest). I’ve what if’d everything from the idea that we are really all just microscopic beings on the thumbnail of a giant (hey, I was twelve) to the slightly-obsessive emergency kit I packed for the drive through a snowstorm for a family emergency (hey, I’m a California girl… how was I supposed to know those flutters weren’t a storm? and we MIGHT have needed those empty tuna cans and tealight candles for heat… really, we might have). And I ask why more than an eight year old. Just ask my eight year old, she’ll tell you!

A psychologist might refer to it as catastrophic thinking (taking what if to its highest degree of drama) but for a writer, it’s mighty handy. After all, the question of “what’s the worst thing that could happen” is what provides me with plot and conflict. Better yet, what if is what keeps the reader turning the pages. When I read a book, I’m always wondering, always asking –what’s next? Why? When I’m writing, I love to think what if, and use that to keep tossing conflict and issues at my poor characters for them to figure out. Why is always in the back of my head. Why do they do this, why don’t they do that?

This what if process can apply to any type of story, from paranormal to historical to suspense. My stories are pure fun… of the sexy kind. But that what if angle is always there. For instance – in my Undercover Operatives series, what if started with What If a girl took a stranger home to break up her father’s relationship with a skanky gold digger. From there, Maya’s story (SEX, LIES AND MIDNIGHT) was born. I kept asking why, pushing the what if’s and why’s, playing with the idea, until I’d what if’d Maya into the daughter of a notorious con artist, with two bad boy brothers and a whole lot of issues to overcome.

The what if’s kept going. What if the daughter of a famous psychic had no ‘powers’, what would growing up in that shadow, with those expectations do to her confidence? What if she’d left home to get away from that, but had to come back. What would be the worst thing for her as she’s trying to stay away from gossip? A bad boy with a rep for trouble, right? Enter Caleb, Maya’s oldest brother to sweep Pandora off her feet.

The what if game turned to why when I got to Gabriel’s story. Why would a bad boy con artist with tons of success go home? Why would he bring a woman and what would make him fall in love? SEX, LIES AND VALENTINES is a series of why’s for me. Probably because most of the what if’s had been set in the previous two books *g*

There were a couple of consistent what if’s and whys in this series. What if a father used all his questionable skills to bring his estranged children home – how would they react to his game? Why would they return? Why would they defend their father? What if they had to choose between the lives they’d made for themselves and love with a person whose life was completely opposite theirs?

What if and why –they are my favorite writing questions. How about you… do you ever ask what if? Do you make up stories to go with the question? When you’re reading, do you ever ask yourself why on earth the character is doing THAT???

I know I do…

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Tawny asked some great questions in her blog – what are your answers?  Do you have any of your own?

Tomorrow, branding expert, Jennifer Fusco, gives us the 7 steps to a stellar book marketing strategy.

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Bio:
Tawny Weber has been writing sassy, sexy stories for Harlequin Blaze since her first book hit the shelves in 2007. When not obsessing over deadlines, she’s shopping for cute shoes, scrapbooking or hanging out on Facebook and Twitter. Come by and visit her on the web at www.tawnyweber.com In December of 2011 Tawny launched her Undercover Ops series with SEX, LIES AND MISTLETOE. The second book in the series, SEX, LIES & MIDNIGHT is on shelves in January 2012, quickly followed in February by SEX, LIES & VALENTINES. You can read the first chapter of SEX, LIES & MIDNIGHT on her website, too – all you have to do is join the Reader LoveFest! Be sure to follow Tawny on her Holiday Survival Tour as she celebrates these three books with tons of fun and a chance for readers to win a $100 giftcard!

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Discussion

26 Responses to “What If and Why? by Tawny Weber”

  1. Tawny – Thanks for being with us today!

    I do the “what if” game as well but I call it the “how the heck did that happen?” game. I usually start a book with a scene in my mind and it is usually towards the end f the book and so I backtrack to see how they got there. It sounds very similar to your brainstorming technique.

    Posted by Robin Covington | January 4, 2012, 5:17 am
    • Hi Robin :-D Thanks so much for being the hostess with the mostest and having me here today.

      I love ‘how the heck did that happen?” LOL What a great question. It ties in nicely with ‘what if’, actually, because I’m sure if I was asked that question, I’d sit there for a few seconds thinking, then say, “Well, what if…”

      Like you, I often start with a scene, although it’s more likely to be toward the beginning of the book, if not the inciting incident itself. Probably because I am a rabid linear writer, and always need to know what happened in A before I can understand how they’re reacting in Z.

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 12:50 pm
      • Glad to find someone else who is so linear. I found in my second book that I had to get the plot kinks worked out in the first third before I could move on. So frustrating! :)

        Posted by Tracey Devlyn | January 4, 2012, 6:54 pm
        • Tracey, I’m so partial-obsessed :-D I can’t move on in a story until the partial is solidly nailed down. It has to work, I have to have a handle on all of the story elements, and I have to know it’s right. I’ll spend as much time writing the partial as I do the entire rest of the story.

          But to me, the core of the story and all of the story questions are laid out in those first chapters, so I can’t answer them until they’ve been asked correctly :-D

          I’d love to be able to jump around in writing. I often get ideas for later scenes, but there’s no point in writing them out of order, because I always end up trashing them if I do. Instead, I just write the general idea on a postit and add it to my plotting board. I think we just have to accept that it’s our process, embrace it and power on LOL

          Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 11:12 pm
  2. Hi Tawny!

    So nice to have you here. Loved this blog. I probably do more of “what is s/he thinking?” This is something I do in real life all the time. When my hubby tells a story, he only ever gives his side. I’m constantly asking, “what did he say?” LOL

    Off topic–loved your article in this month’s RWR. Lots of pearls of wisdom in those few pages about the editor-author relationship.

    Thanks!
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | January 4, 2012, 6:55 am
    • Hi Tracey :-D

      I’m giggling, because ‘what is she thinking’ is often the first thing that pops in to my head when I see certain hairstyles, outfits or bad relationship choices *ggg*

      I’m totally on the same page, though. My poor husband has learned to get as much info on a situation BEFORE telling me about it, because I always ask for more. Either, ‘then what happened?’ or ‘but what did xxx do?’

      And hey, thanks tons for the article kudos :-D I just got my RWR last night and was happy to see it there. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 1:00 pm
  3. Hi Tawny. Great post. I do a variation of what if/why. I always ask what will scare the daylights out of the character. For me, shoving a character against their fears helps me figure out how far they can be pushed.

    And, I’ll second Tracey’s comment on the RWR article!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | January 4, 2012, 7:20 am
    • Yikes. Scary, huh? :-D I’m a certified wimp (obviously, given my snowstorm /flurry freakout LOL) but I’ll bet scary gives you some fabulous conflicts to delve deep into your characters’ emotions and psyche.

      I love how you put that, too. How far they can be pushed. Going as far as we can, as writers, and really digging in to push our characters is what creates strong stories. Or as my critique partner puts it, how much can she torture them :-D

      And yay, thanks for liking the article. I’m so glad :-)

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 1:04 pm
  4. Hi Tawny,

    I’m a what if person. When I watch movies and read books, I start to rearrange the characters. I’ve redone Gone With the Wind many times.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 4, 2012, 8:21 am
  5. Morning Tawny!

    I do a lot of what if’s….and I also do the “what’s the other side of the story?” But I have to say most of my story ideas just pop out of the blue, then the what if’s really develop it from there!

    Great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 4, 2012, 8:47 am
    • Hi Carrie :-)

      I’m sorry I missed your post earlier! Aren’t those ‘what ifs’ great. I love the idea of asking what’s on the other side, too -what a great question!

      That’s a wonderful gift to get ideas like that. I do get scenes, premises, angles, but rarely an entire story. But that premise always brings a huge basket of what if’s with it. It’s just a great question to ask, and keep asking, until you’re subconscious, or muse, is so tired of hearing it, it offers up a perfect solution LOL.

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 7:11 pm
  6. Tawny – This cracked me up! I wonder if writing and worrying go hand-in-hand? I’m always imagining worse case scenarios (and since I am a fan of mysteries, the scenarios I can come up with are really freaking dark!).

    It’s handy to be able to work these questions into a book. Until I started writing fiction, I never realized that writers have to be psychologists of a kind. Now whenever I meet people, read news articles, overhear a conversation, etc. my mind is going off in those “what if?” and “why?” directions.

    Fun but, yeah, I think it drives my husband nuts on occasion!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | January 4, 2012, 9:10 am
    • Becke, I think we might all be a leeeetle crazy. But in a really good way :-D

      But yeah… that worry thing can be inconvenient. I don’t write mystery, or even dark, but the scenarios I can come up with at the gas station, when that guy in the battered car with a doll’s head hanging from the rear view mirror pulls up next to me? Oh man…

      I do think writers need to understand certain elements of psychology. Emotional responses, motivating background issues, neurosis, inner child/childhood issues, etc, they are all vital in creating strong, deeply motivated characters. And then the whole ‘what if’ and ‘why’ gets much more interesting :-D

      And hey, if the husbands go a little nuts over our questions, maybe we should sit down and ask them why!

      ROFL

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 1:32 pm
  7. Tawny – yes, I ask myself all those questions, both when I’m reading and writing.

    Another one I like is: Why not?

    It reminds me to think of the conflict.

    Thanks for the post.

    Barbara

    Posted by Barbara White Daille | January 4, 2012, 9:55 am
  8. Good morning, Tawny!

    I’m sitting at my desk today wearing my lovely new Ugg slippers (from the kids’ department, of course!). They always make me think of you.

    I do tend to ask “Why” a great deal, but this is a fabulous reminder to take it deep enough so that it causes conflict in the story.

    Since you release several books a year, can you share how long it takes to go through your “Why” and “What if” process? I find that mine keeps going and it sometimes causes me grief because I keep probing at the story when I just need to finish it!

    Thanks a ton,
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | January 4, 2012, 11:21 am
    • YAY!!! Santa came through!! I’m so glad you’ve got your slippers, Kelsey :-D I got a new pair, too. All spiffy cute and warm.

      I think Why is so necessary to deepen the story, and often think that the first why isn’t enough. I’m like a six-year-old, not taking the first response at face value. But why? Yeah, I get that, but really why? No, really really why?

      I have to run for a little bit to take my daughter to a class, but as soon as I’m back I’d love to get into your question about the Why and What If process.

      Promise, I’ll be right back *g*

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 1:37 pm
      • Yikes, I took awhile to get myself back here, didn’t I? I’m so sorry. Getting back into the school groove after a couple weeks vacation isn’t easy!

        Okay, soooooo…. You asked about my What If and Why process and how long it takes. I do it in stages, so it’s sort of hard for me to tell :-D Basically, I come up with a premise – an idea for a story that will work for Blaze. Usually I have a vague sort of handle on the characters – one more than the other (it’s never the same one), too. At that point, it’s mostly a What If. What if this were the situation, what kind of characters would be involved? I don’t worry much about the Why yet. Mostly I’m just checking to see if it’s a viable plot for the line.

        If my editor green light’s the idea, I write a synopsis so we can go to contract. Usually her green light comes with suggestions and changes, so I have to incorporate those, which is where the Why’s really start, because a synopsis has to show motivation.

        Then I turn it in, and forget about it *g* Usually I’m working on a different book at that point. But when I get back to the approved synopsis, I read it fresh. That’s when I’ll have the most ideas. Okay, so the heroine wants to break up her father’s lousy relationship and is going to bring home a boy toy as bait (Sex, Lies and Midnight original proposal). Why? What’s going on with her dad? Why wouldn’t she just talk to him? What happened in the past that caused the rift? etc…

        Then I write the partial. A few times. And with each time, even though I thought I knew all the Why’s, I’ll find I have more. Eventually, I’m satisfied with it and send it to my editor, who sends it back with her own whys *g* By the time I answer those, I’m usually solid on the story and have all the answers I need to write the rest.

        Then i get revisions, and my editor will have questions, or suggestions, which necessitates another round of What if and Why.

        And actually I end up revisiting the What if and Why again when I’m promoting the book, because it’s usually a core to trying to describe it.

        Um, I guess the answer is that it takes me a long, long time?

        LOL, but really, it’s bits and pieces. And I generally have about 3 months to write the book, including the oft-rewritten partial. So while the questions are always there, I have to keep moving and writing while finding the answers.

        Did that help?

        Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 11:39 pm
        • Tawny -

          Sorry – I got caught up in things this week and forgot to check back for your answer. (Something about sticking your boob in a vise distracts you…)

          I find it interesting you spend so much time on the proposal. Do you ever find that something pops up later that creates problems in what you first envisioned? Or do you choose not to follow those tangents once you’ve got your first three chapters solid?

          How did you handle this stage before you had an editor?

          Thanks a ton!
          Kelsey

          Posted by Kelsey Browning | January 6, 2012, 12:08 pm
  9. Late arrival! Hi Tawny!

    I ask myself why all the time. Why is the story seed that germinates in my loamy brain.

    All whys must be answered before I start writing because I’m neurotic, and I must know just in case someone reads my story and asks, “Why?.”

    I always ask why when I’m reading. And if that why isn’t addressed by the end of the book, it really bothers me.

    Great point about the emotional responses of a character…and why that opens up another can of whys!

    Happy New Year!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 4, 2012, 7:05 pm
    • Oh man, Jennifer, I love all of the imagery you put in that comment *g* Worms and seeds and so much growth just sprouting all over the place.

      I’m not positive, but I do think that being neurotic is a key writer element, right along with an obsession with office supplies.

      I do know that answering as many ‘why’s’ as possible before writing makes the story move a lot faster in most cases, and means less time stuck. Those stuck times are disheartening!

      Happy New Year :-D I hope it’s filled with lots of fun writing, and very little stuck times *g*

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 11:21 pm
  10. Tawny – If I’m the hostess with the mostest, then you are the bestest guestest.

    Thanks so much for being here with us at RU!

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | January 4, 2012, 7:29 pm
    • Awww, you’re such a sweetie, Robin :-) Thank you!

      And hey, since you mentioned scrapbooking (and are the amazing one!) have you seen the latest BasicGrey Out of Print line? OMG I’m drooling! Totally bookish (they say newspaper, but my mind turned it into books *g*) GORGEOUS. Gotta get me some.

      Because, of course, scrapbooking is a wonderful way to keep the creativity going when I’m mulling the daily What Ifs and Whys :-D

      Thank you so much for having me here today. I loved the questions and everyone is always so warm and welcoming when I visit. You all rock!

      Posted by Tawny Weber | January 4, 2012, 11:43 pm

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