Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of lists and questions

During a lull at work today, one of the ladies I work under asked about my new job, having overheard snippets of a previous conversation. She also asked how old I was, and what my plans were. And if I'd ever thought of starting my own business.

In the ensuing conversation while still on the topic of my new job (housecleaning) and in conjunction with talk of starting up my own business, she asked if it bothered me if my boss or the owner of one of the homes I was cleaning were to give me a list.

Lists? Offensive? No way!

I like lists. Unless I hate them--which isn't often unless I have a list that is way too long. I make lists for myself, for school, chores, packing when going on vaccation, writing goals, the books I have read, and the like.

Like I told the lady I was talking to, I would much rather be given a list than have to keep asking, "Okay, I finished this job; what should I do next?"

She said, "But that's a good thing. Asking what you can do next shows your employer that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and working hard, instead of finishing one task and then standing around doing nothing."

So in life questions and lists are good.

They are in writing too.

But what is the balance between using lists--i.e., charts and outlines, etc.--and asking questions and just seeing where the story leads?

I really don't know. For me it seems to vary with each story I write, but I think I fall somewhere in the middle between die-hard outlining and die-hard "panstering".

What kinds of questions are the right kinds to ask?
Have you found it to be entirely subjective depending on the individual storyline, or are there a few classic questions that transcend genres?

I'm finding some of these answers for myself, but I'm curious to see what other people do in that area.

- Hannah

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