Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two Important Questions

I'm pleased to welcome back fellow medical thriller author and good friend Dr. Richard Mabry.

Richard's latest and greatest novel, Heart Failure, has just released and I hope you'll take some time to read his work if you're a fan of this genre. Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Welcome back, Richard!

I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer, for me and for most authors of fiction, is pretty much always the same—ideas are all around us, if you ask the right questions.

Early in my writing experience, Alton Gansky taught me that the most important question for an author to ask is, “What if?” I’ve taken that advice to heart, and it’s led me to the plots of all my books. For the latest, Heart Failure, I read a story about a man living under another name in an unfamiliar city because he’d been placed in the Witness Security Program.

I wondered, “What if the man fell in love and was about to be married? Would he tell his fiancĂ© about his past? What if something happened that forced him to reveal his secret?”

And thereby hangs a tale, as the saying goes.

Jeff Gerke is responsible for the other question I’ve learned to ask myself when considering a plot: “So what?” I spent a very frustrating half-hour in the lounge at the Mount Hermon Conference trying to explain a story idea to Jeff, and each time I paused for breath he’d ask, “So what?” I finally figured out what he meant. If the protagonist fails, what would be the consequences? What would failure mean? If the stakes aren’t high enough, the reader will lose interest. That’s why this is such an important question.

For Heart Failure, the “so what” was initially that the protagonist might lose the woman he’d come to love. However, as the plot develops, it becomes obvious that both their lives are in danger, and the driving force changes to staying alive.

For all the writers reading this blog, I’d urge you to ask two questions when developing a plot—“what if” and “so what?” When you get the right answers to those questions, you’re on your way.


Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and author of “medical suspense with heart.” His novels have been a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel, finalists for the Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice Award, and winner of the Selah Award.  You can follow Richard on his blog, on Twitter, and his Facebook fan page.



  1. Great post. Thank you for insight into your writing process. Looking forward to reading your book.

  2. Jordyn, Thanks for having me here. I'd like to hear from readers how those questions influence them when they're reading a book. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

  3. Another nice interview. I would very much enjoy reading Heart Failure! pudy68[at]gmail[dot]com

  4. I can't wait to read this book!! Love Richard's books; have read them all but this one!

  5. I've never really thought about those two questions, What if? or So what? But I see now that you mention it,they do make a difference when reading a good mystery. I"m looking forward to reading your new book. Keep em coming. Thanks. Momndad243 at Yahoo dot com

  6. Great post! I found it very interesting. Heart Failure is on my wishlist. It sounds like an amazing story. :)

    Frequentreader19 at gmail dot com

  7. Thanks to you all for your comments. I hope that, when you pick up one of my books or any other novel, you'll ask yourself, "What if..." It makes a difference.

  8. Great questions! I'm not a writer but I'm glad that you creative people take the time to ask them and write the answer!