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Waiting for answers to questions we don't ask

We all do it: we stop ourselves from asking questions, fearing we might create an awkward situation. This is especially true if we haven't seen the person for some time -- or if they are new acquaintances.


'How are your parents?' Always a field of landmines.


'Did you get that job?' 'Do you have kids?' 'Were you able to quit?' 'How did the course turn out?'


The answers can be innocuous or they might be sensitive or downright unpleasant. So, tempting as they are to ask, we often just don't. Instead, we wait and hope that the subject comes up naturally, conversationally. They're not terribly important, after all, and why risk a tricky situation?


Writers love to anticipate and answer questions. That's how stories are propelled. But sometimes, what's left unsaid and unknown is better left for later or never at all. Let things arise naturally, conversationally.


For example, if a character, like a police detective, is in charge of a case, then that's who everyone else answers to. That changes if things go wrong and a superior officer has to get involved. But if things are going well, why add an unlikely and unnecessary complication? It's great to have the character of a superior officer in your head, but if it doesn't add to the story, why risk developing a tricky situation with no real payoff?


In The Death of the Limping Man, Inspector Urquhart manages quite well without supervision. I'm saving his superior for when he's needed, for when that question gets asked.



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