“Somebody once said, if you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery.
If you want to be happy for a lifetime, love what you do. That’s the way
it is for me — I love to spin yarns.”
Mary Higgins Clark
If the South Had Won the Civil War: I can still remember coming across the title of this book and being absolutely fascinated by it. The concept really captured my imagination. I was reminded of this when I read about a new novel called, The Impeachment of President Lincoln by Stephen Carter, a professor at Yale Law School.
Here’s the premise: What if John Wilkes Booth’s assassination attempt had failed and Abraham Lincoln survived, but was threatened with impeachment because of some of his more questionable actions during the Civil War? The idea of writing a “what if” book about Lincoln has been kicking around Stephen Carter’s head since he was an undergrad and, building on his legal background, he’s spun it into a courtroom thriller.
What if…these two tiny words pack a huge punch. They can be a great jumping-off place for a rollicking yarn — one that takes both author and reader for a fabulous ride. I remember reading that Mary Higgins Clark, “the Queen of Suspense” suggests that aspiring writers use “What if” and “What then” questions to spark their imagination.
When she was writing Just Take My Heart, for example, Mary began by researching a little-known medical phenomenon: “the emergence of a donor’s traits and memories in the recipient of a heart transplant.” Then she asked herself, “What if” a heart recipient happened to be a high-profile prosecutor whose new heart carried memories that influenced her involvement in a murder case? What a blockbuster idea!
“What if…” What if… you took this phrase and ran with it? Write on!