Thursday, September 5, 2013


On a recent school visit, I was asked a question that I couldn't answer.  This is rather surprising as I am rarely at a loss for words (as my profession and most of my friends will tell you).  But I was stumped at that moment for a response.

It took several days of pondering after I'd left the school to come up with an honest answer.

So what was the question?  - "What is your favorite word?"

Now, as an author, I've been asked frequently about my favorite book, my favorite character, my favorite food, my favorite color and even my favorite school to visit, but never my favorite word.  As a writer - by definition a lover of words - how could I possibly choose just one?  Was that even plausible?  The query haunted me.  I kept thinking of a word and then eliminating it for another word. 

Finally, after a lot of thought, I realized what my favorite word is - WHY.

Why, you may ask, is that my all time preferred word?

Well, first off, the word brings back some lovely memories.  I remember my girls being aged two and following me around like ducklings, the word "why?" tripping off their tongue every time something puzzled them about their emerging world.  I loved that time.  I loved explaining and teaching them.  So in terms of positive association, the word has that going for it.

But more importantly, I realized that as an author, the word "why" basically encapsulates my job.  We must ask ourselves this word at every turn.  Why is our character behaving like this?  Why does this sentence not work?  Why is this chapter moving too slowly?  Why did these events in history occur?  Why are people motivated in a certain fashion?  Why is my story set in this place?

It is a huge part of my job to ask myself "why" all the time as I write and research.  Without asking "why", I would flounder and stagnate as a writer.

And the word "why" provides many amazing answers.  By asking why, an author gets to know her character better.  I get to understand why certain events in the past led to a war or a revolution or crisis of faith.  I edit and cut to a more perfect piece of writing.

So there is my answer to that 2nd grade student.  WHY is my favorite word.

And if you don't agree --- ask yourself why! 

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