Many years back, I began a vampire novel set in northern Wisconsin. Somewhere along the way I shelved it in favor of a werewolf story. At one point I asked myself the question. What if? The first question was, what if there was not just one werewolf, but rather a group of werewolves? How did such a group come to be? How long had they been werewolves? The second question was, who would fight them and how? I then sought answers to my questions. Who better to fight an army of werewolves than an army of people? More questions arose in my mind.
What if the werewolves didn't change into werewolves, but rather, were always werewolves, one hundred percent of the time? Where would they hide? How would they hunt? How would they be discovered? How could they be defeated? Still more questions arose.
What if they weren't werewolves, but some whole new species? What would they most resemble? What was their history and how had they co-existed with humankind? How would an army of people operate against such an adversary? I found several answers waiting for me in actual history.
Eventually I settled on a former soldier who would train a ragtag army and lead them into battle. I didn't want a saint who was squeaky clean though. I wanted someone gritty and flawed who could use the story as a catalyst toward their own redemption. I wanted characters that didn't just fall in line with one another, but rather, had to ally in order to achieve a common goal. And not everyone could survive such an enemy. Who would have to be sacrificed and when? What would the ultimate cost be for my surviving heroes?
So as my story progressed, I killed off a character just to see where it would lead. Not just a nobody, but a member of the team. Doors opened and before I knew it the story was writing itself. It had taken on a whole new life. I had blood on my literary hands and I wasn't finished. The creatures were not finished. No easy life here either. I wanted dissension among the ranks. A power struggle that could provide a crack in the armor of their power. "The Pride" has more than one meaning.
What if, is a powerful question. In this case it caused the total metamorphosis of a story. As a writer, never be afraid to ask it.