All stories contain questions. Who done it and why? Will the guy get the girl, or the girl get the guy? Will the killer be caught? Will good triumph over evil? These are the page-turning questions, the “What will happen next?” questions. Nearly every story contains some form of these questions, and these questions are always answered in one way or another by the end of the story. There are other types of questions a story might ask as well. Is love real? Why does every life contain suffering and end in death? Or, more bluntly: Why are we here? Not every story asks these types of questions. When a story asks only the first questions, we call the story “entertainment.” For the record, I love to be entertained. I require it in all my stories, in fact—both the ones I write and the ones I read.
But I am definitely a Second Question kind of guy. And just like the page-turning questions, the existential questions require answers as well. A story that asks a question but does not answer it is immensely unsatisfying. For years I wrote stories that asked existential questions to which the answer was usually, “Who knows?” I actually thought that was the correct answer. I hated it, but I thought it was correct. I didn’t want to be criticized for getting such an important question wrong.
By and by I grew weary of answering this question I loved with an answer I hated. It was then I had to ask myself if I believed I was equipped to answer it myself. I will let you in on a secret I soon learned: All answers are contained within our desire to ask a question. The question and the answer are one thing seen from two different sides—from the side of you that has forgotten, and the side of you that has remembered.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.