Understanding cause-effect relationships helps us to keep the events of our plot line logically connected. Page 29 of Room to Write therefore asks us to freely write a list of IF, THEN statements to get us in the practice of thinking through how certain actions relate to certain outcomes. We can start simple and go wherever it takes us.
IF the sun would peek out from its grey captors of vapor for more than thirty seconds, THEN I would feel joyful.
IF I eat a dark chocolate digestive biscuit, THEN I probably won’t stop until I’ve had at least three.
IF I read on the bus, THEN I might get car-sick.
IF I read on the bus soon after eating, THEN I will most definitely get car-sick.
IF I pick at my belly button, THEN I will feel nauseous.
IF I feel nauseous from picking at my belly button, THEN I will feel incredulous that I would have wanted to pick at my belly button in the first place.
IF I am not an omniscient being, THEN I will likely have no way of knowing where you or anyone else might be at any given moment.
IF I have no way of knowing where you might be at any given moment, THEN it’s possible I may unintentionally call your mobile phone at an inopportune time.
IF you leave your mobile phone on when it should be silenced (i.e., at said “inopportune time”), THEN it is your fault when it rings.
Ergo, IF you express irritation that I phoned you at an inopportune time, THEN I will be irritated with you for misplacing your blame and feel less inclined to work with you.
IF I ride a bicycle long-distance, THEN my knees will inevitably feel pain.
IF I ride a bicycle long-distance, THEN the bicycle should be built for long-distance biking.
Ergo, IF you rent me a heavy-weight clunker of a cruiser with skipping gears to ride long-distance, THEN I will mutter obscenities into the wind about you through the duration of that ride and not find any of your jokes slightly amusing.
However, IF you buy me a pint at a lovely country pub as a break during the long-distance bicycle ride, THEN I will forget my pain and my anger and possibly love you again.
IF you tell me the “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?” joke, THEN I’ll likely have a giggling fit just like I did when I was eight years old when my older brother first told it to me.
IF I recall that joke, THEN I am setting myself up for wanting to play with its derangement more…
…So, IF the monkey fell out of the tree, THEN it might be dead.
IF I suspect the monkey is dead, THEN I might step closer to know for sure.
IF I step closer to the monkey to determine if it is dead, THEN I will wonder whether that is a very good idea in the event the monkey is still alive.
IF I suspect the monkey could still be alive, THEN I will worry about it pouncing at me and hurting me, maybe even infecting me with a disease…the disease that probably made it fall from the tree in the first place.
IF the monkey is suffering from a disease, THEN perhaps I should get medical help.
IF I consult medical help for the ailing monkey, THEN I might not make it back in time, or forget how to find it again altogether.
IF I forget how to find it again, THEN that was a colossal waste of time, and I have to live with the guilt of letting a monkey die.
And IF the monkey was already dead, THEN I’ll never know for sure because I would’ve left to get help before I checked.
IF I do seek help, though, THEN I can get help for myself, for visualizing this morbid scenario and finding the joke that inspired it to be so damn funny to begin with.
Meanwhile, IF I keep procrastinating from writing like this, THEN my novel will never be finished.
Can’t fight that logic, now can I…
This was definitely one of the more random, directionless prompts that I’ve followed so far, as you could take IF, THEN statements anywhere from the mundane to the complex to the silly to the serious. To get started, it was easiest for me to start basic with the one-liners until I found myself wanting to follow a train of thought more and more, tracking a longer sequence of cause-and-effect. As I entered into that chain-o-consequences, I most readily addressed a couple recent instances that really happened to me, as the IF, THEN format is a good outlet for bitter sarcasm…and then, well…then I just felt like going the weird route and trying to employ logic in a relatively illogical scenario until I felt bored and ready to call it quits so I can now move on to other tasks.
All in all, a decent exercise in giving a moment’s pause to consider the ripple effect of certain actions/attitudes, which I think will help make me more conscious of the logical outcomes that should result when I have a character do a certain thing or behave in a certain way. As Bonni Goldberg says:
“Part of writing is keeping tabs on the nuts and bolts […] It may not at first feel as exciting as raw creation, but it will equalize you and prepare you for the next creative surge.”