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Question Quest

We all know that a narrative consists of a plot, characters, settings and objects, but a story can be plotted by thinking about any of these. So for example, if we choose an old book as one of the objects in a story and brainstorm questions about it, we find that ideas for a plot come to mind as our imaginations throw up possible answers. In this case I'm thinking of a ghost story.

Old book with lock

So for example –

  • Where did the book come from?
  • How is it unusual?
  • Why would a book have a lock on it?
  • Where is the key?
  • Why are one or more of our characters interested in it?
  • How is it linked to the ghost (or ghosts) in the story?
  • How can we use it to make our story a frightening one?

Possible answers:

Where did the book come from?
  • Our main character bought it from a second-hand bookshop.
  • It was left to a character in a great uncle's will.
  • Some people found it in the woods.
  • It appeared mysteriously on the doorstep one day.
How is it unusual?
  • It is old and battered and filled with strange writing and drawings.
  • After coming across it one or more characters start to have frightening dreams.

Strange things now start to happen. The book begins to speak to one or more of the characters.

Why would a book have a lock on it?
  • Because what's written in it is dangerous in the wrong hands.
  • It is someone's private diary.
  • The information inside is valuable.
Where is the key?
  • On a chain around a character's neck (the villain?).
  • Hidden close to where the book was found.
  • It is lost forever, so you need a spell to open the book.
Why are one or more of our characters interested in the book?
  • Because it allows their wishes to come true. (But why could this be a bad thing?)
  • Because it is the diary of a ghost hunter and contains unsolved cases. (And what happened to the ghost hunter?)
  • Because it contains maps of haunted places.
  • Because our characters think it can lead to buried treasure.
How is it linked to the ghost or ghosts in our story?

Some ideas above provide answers to the question.

  • The book itself is haunted.
  • The book contains information for raising ghosts or getting rid of them.
  • It is a scrapbook of news clippings about a murder. The ghosts of the victims want vengeance!
How can we use it to make our story a scary one?
  • The book moves mysteriously from place to place.
  • When characters handle the book, disturbing visions appear.
  • People feel frightened when the book is nearby.
  • A face or other unnerving things start to appear on the book's cover.
  • When frightening prophecies are read aloud from the book, they soon come to pass.

Tip: Often the 'random factor' can generate even more fresh ideas. Write your answers on scraps of paper, put them in an envelope and pick one out with eyes closed for possible further inspiration.

— Steve Bowkett

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Posted by: Kevin Machin Date: March 13, 2018 12:39 pm
Categories: Resources Tags: exercises
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