By Joe Moore
WARNING: This post is not about self-publishing or gatekeeping or Amazon or e-books or all the other stuff we’ve been thrashing about over the last week or so.
It’s about magic.
Recently I was invited to speak during career week to third and fifth graders at a local elementary school on what it’s like to be a writer. Frankly, I expected only a handful of kids to show any interest while most would probably react with boredom. After all, how could I compete with the fireman and his Dalmatian that were the previous guests? I was pleasantly surprised to find classroom after classroom packed with genuinely interested kids who paid attention, asked great questions, and promised to go home and start writing their stories. I found out a few days later that some actually did.
I began my presentation by telling them that at the end I would reveal the two magic words every great writer uses to create great stories. This was my hook that kept them listening, and it worked.
The two magic words are: What if?
I’ve used them to create the premise of 6 novels, my two current works-in-progress and many short stories. Here’s a sample:
What if someone used the DNA found in the Holy Grail to clone Christ? THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY
What if a 5000-year-old relic revealed the secret to surviving Armageddon? THE LAST SECRET
What if a quantum computer could bring down all the resources of the world and throw nations into chaos? THE HADES PROJECT
What if a group of state-sponsored terrorists could deliver a lethal virus with something as innocent as a cough or sneeze? THE 731 LEGACY
What if someone was stealing the burial remains of the most infamous mass murderers in history in order to genetically regenerate them into an army of killers? THE PHOENIX APOSTLES
What if the search for an Old Testament artifact uncovered a plot to destroy a major U.S. city with a nuclear device built by the Nazis at the end of WWII? THE BLADE
As far as I’m concerned, those two words are magical. Repeating them is like an incantation that launches a spell and sets the imagination afire. They form a seed that can start growing from the moment the question is asked: What if? The two most powerful words in the craft of writing.
I keep a list of “what if” questions and ideas that I’ve accumulated over the years. They come from everywhere; the newspaper, TV, movies, books, articles. And I’ll be a lot of you guys have a similar list.
So why am I even talking about this? After all, writers already know the magic words. What I want to suggest is that you use them like I did to ignite the imagination of future writers of all ages. If revealing those two words sends a kid home with the fire to write a story, and they do, then there’s truly something magical going on. Pass on the magic words to others as often as you can. You just might be responsible for the next future New York Times bestseller. And wouldn’t that be magic!