FINDING YOUR BIG QUESTION FROM THE HEADLINES
Many of society's Big Questions are found in headline stories, particularly those about people instead of big events like wars and politics. It's the story people discuss at the water cooler and at parties because something in the story resonates emotionally and/or intellectually with people.
A Big Question isn't about a headline event, it's about the underlying struggle involved in the story. The trick is to figure out why a headline resonates with you, and you are halfway to discovering a Big Question.
Here's a topic that makes headlines every time it happens -- a woman acts as a surrogate mother for her grandchild. What is it about an older woman carrying a pregnancy for her child that makes people notice?
Here are a few possible Big Questions in this story.
Just because medical science allows a woman to carry her grandchild is she right to do so? That would be a morality versus science Big Question.
Possible premise -- The older woman has an extremely high risk of losing her life if she carries this baby, and she's willing to do it. Should the couple accept that risk? This will be their story, not hers since she's already made her decision that she will carry the baby whatever the cost.
If, however, you wanted the woman to be the heroine you could do that. In a romance, she may be risking her relationship with the hero as well as her life by being a surrogate.
Or another Big Question is: Is it possible to let go of a child after you give birth to it? That would be maternal love versus the moral obligation to fulfill her promise.
Possible premise -- Her daughter dies just before the baby is born, and the husband decides to return to his own country with the child. The grandmother will be losing the child forever. Does she keep her promise, or does she hold onto the child?
A writer who does this kind of question is Jodi Picoult. She is one of those authors editors gush about for her prose and plot, and her books are soaring up the bestseller lists. She writes hardcover so you should be able to find her books at the local library.
IS A HEADLINE ENOUGH?
Is a headline enough to carry a story? Part of deciding that is experience. But what is most important is seeing if the story holds a Big Question you react to emotionally and intellectually. Can you see both sides? Can you envision a story that will show both sides, warts and all? If you can and the situation is complex enough for the length of story needed, then you have a Big Question that's right for you.
If you can't figure out an idea from the headlines, I suggest you start by looking through various women's magazines as well as keeping up with the newspapers. I imagine some of the women's sites online would be a good source of ideas, as well.
When one story grabs you by the nose and won't let go, you'll know you've found your subject matter. At that point, you need to figure out what Big Question is behind that interest and work from there.
Part 1: http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2022/06/the-big-question.html