The Passover Question

I was thinking recently about writing advice I've ever received and I realised how much one particular one piece given to me by a good friend I went to school with, stuck with me.


We were talking about a play I had written in class one day, in particular an initial scene that simply wasn't working. It had no sense of tension, no urgency It just sat there. Blah.

My friend said, "When that happens to me I always ask the passover question."

Now, I was brought up Catholic in the suburbs south of Richmond, Virginia which, I'm sure you can imagine, is not exactly a hotbed of Judaism. Long story short, I didn't know what he was talking about.

He explained that at a Passover Seder the youngest person present asks a number of questions to the assembled group as a way of remembering the history and significance of the holiday.

The first Passover question is "How is this night different from all other nights?"

My friend said he asked himself this question about any scene he was working on. How is this moment different than any moment the characters have ever experienced? Maybe you're writing about a pair of old friends enjoying a dinner date they have kept every Sunday for the last 25 years. Ask yourself why this dinner, of all the dinners they've ever had over 25 years, is the one to write about. How is it different? How are they different? How is the world different?

This was his way of ensuring that he was always writing about the most important moments in characters' lives, lynchpin moments when everything just changed, is changing, or is about to change. The moments when everything is on the line.


What about you all? What are some of the best pieces of writing wisdom you've ever gotten?

8 comments:

Creepy Query Girl said...

huh! (Yes, that's what I actually said out loud after reading this post) lol. Neat idea!

Creepy Query Girl said...

huh! (Yes, that's what I actually said out loud after reading this post) lol. Neat idea!

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

This is just one of the reasons why Passover is my favorite holiday. ;-)

Jessica R. Patch said...

Excellent advice. The best advice I've been given was to write the first draft like you see it in your head,let it all spill out, and forget the rules until you go back to revise. That's been beneficial for me. :)

Taryn Tyler said...

I've heard the pass over question advice before so now every time I have seder I want to start writing a story. It's not a bad question to ask yourself periodically anyways since no two nights are the same.

Krispy said...

Thank you for this tidbit! It's the perfect question to ask, and I think it puts the thought behind a lot of writing advice into one succinct question.

Riv Re said...

That's actually brilliant. I'm Jewish myself, and I say that twice a year, but I've never thought to actually use it in my writing...

Great post!

Andria said...

Great idea! Now I just have to remember it. :)