Saturday, September 18, 2010

What if?

As a child, I would often ask questions that began with "What if . . . ?" Now, I'm sure some of these questions were fairly valid, like, "What if I tried to sleep with a baseball cap on?" or "What if I put orange juice in my cereal instead of milk?" (side note on this: I actually tried that with a bowl of Capt'n Crunch once. The experience was something I rather not repeat)
But then I would ask my mom questions like, "What if the grass was purple instead of green?" or "What if I could jump so high that I could jump over the house?"
How would you respond if your child asked such questions? I'm sure I'd come up with some sort of smart-alecky answer like, "Well, let me throw you over the house and tell me how that works out for you." Granted, that wouldn't be the best way I could answer that.
But the "what if" questions were just my little mind trying to figure out the world around me. My curiosity would sometimes get me into trouble, like discovering what would happen when you mix vinegar with baking soda--but not before you put food coloring in the vinegar to make it purple. The result was . . . messy.
However, I once in a while would put my "what if" mind to other, less destructive uses. In the 80's, we had an Atari game system. There was one game, I forget the name of it, where you would play with a partner. The goal was to run through castle type of maze to gather treasure and avoid getting touched by the monsters. If you got touched by a monster, your "health" would go down. But not to worry, if your partner "touched" you, your health would go back up.
The tricky part was finding a partner that could stay close to you pretty much at all times. It wasn't easy. So, using my "what if" mind, I took about a couple of the controllers and "fixed" them so one controller was hooked to two wires that went into the gaming system. The result? Whenever I moved the controller, both of the little characters would move together in perfect sync. Needless to say, I broke every record in that game.
But my "what if" mind didn't stop as a child. It is still there, asking all sorts of questions. How do you feed such an insatiable beast? You become a writer! So much of The Hidden Sun, and the follow up book I'm just finishing really started with me asking the question, "What if . . . ?"

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