Wednesday, April 2, 2014


By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers

Photo courtesy: Nikopoley

It's a loaded question, yes?

As a small Andrew, I was what one might call a Why Kid—you know the type, right? Every answer to every question was followed with a Why?  This would go on heedlessly (and perhaps annoyingly) for quite some time, until the person being questioned—usually an adult, often a teacher, and sometimes another kid—would get frustrated and yell, Shut the hell up!

Then I would be annoyed.

If we were tracking trends (also something I do rather obsessively), we might surmise this is why I ended up making a career out of answering the eternal question: Why?

And really, isn’t that what being a writer is all about?

When people ask how I come up with my ideas, how I create my characters, or how I plot my stories. Guess what I say?


Why, of course I do. In this case, however, it’s not actually a question (a relief, I’m sure), but more, it’s a truth, because every story I write begins this way.

In my first book, While the Savage Sleeps, it was: Why are two people, who have absolutely nothing in common and live in two different cities having seemingly similar creepy experiences that seemingly have nothing to do with each other?  Well, there were perhaps quite a few bodies dropping like flies everywhere and in rather hideous manners, but that was mainly the mood music.

In the Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted, it was: Why did Patrick find evidence of a murder among his hideously abusive, and incidentally, dead, mother’s belongings?

And in Darkness & Shadows, I asked: Why did the love of Patrick’s life die twice? Well, maybe that one’s more of a how, but you get the idea.

The point to all this? There are a few (What, did you expect the Why Child to only have one?)  

First, I think authors write books for the same reason that people like to read them. We’re insatiably curious (read: insatiably nosey). It’s not just enough to know that an eighty-six year-old grandmother was planting bodies in her tulip garden. We want to know why the hell she was doing it.

Second, whether we realize it or not, we’re all students of the human mind. We like to know how people’s brains work, or, for those of us who write our slightly off-color stories (read: bent), what makes them not work so much.

And last, never tell a writer to shut the hell up.  Don’t do it.

We get very annoyed.

Then we kill you off in our books.


  1. You nailed it. I look at everything—the car parked beside the road, someone wearing winter clothes in July, a signed turned upside-down—and wonder why. Then I come up with a hypothesis.

    Once when my kids were young, we were in the car, and I saw an older woman driving a Charger (a 70s muscle car) and thought, out loud, that's odd. Then I speculated that it was her son's car and that he was in jail, but she was driving it, at least every once in a while, to keep the engine tuned up. My son, sitting next to me, looked astonished and asked, "How do you come up with all that just by seeing a woman in a car?"

    The better question is: Why do I come up with all that? Because I have to. Things have to make sense to me too. At least in my own version of reality. :)

  2. I hear you, LJ. Curiosity is a gift. It just takes time to figure out how to properly channel it. We're fortunate in that respect.

  3. I make up stories about people I see around me, and the stories invariably start with or lead to asking the question, "Why?"

    The other day I was in a hotel restaurant and a group of women were sitting at a table, each with a sky-blue canvass bag. Obviously a convention or group of some sort. Turns out they were a women's church group. I looked at one who was sitting slightly separate from the others even though she was clearly part of the group and wondered why she didn't seem as engaged in the conversation. I decided it was because she was having an affair. Then I asked myself why. That's when I began to spin a tiny story about this poor woman.

    Right now I'm sitting at a departure gate at a quiet (compared to DIA) airport and checking out the other air travelers, just beginning to ask the same question that will amuse me while I wait to board. Why does he keep looking around. Why is her leg jumping like a goosed cat? What are they hiding?

    1. Peg, airports are one of my favorite places to watch people and ask why. They've always held my fascination, maybe because they seem to hold every walk of life. Maybe because they attract people for so many different reasons.

  4. So true, Drew, so true. We're curious beings who are forever looking for answers--and if we are unable to find them, we create our own.

    1. So true, Linda. Creating our own answers is the fun part, don't you think?

  5. Very true, Andrew. I've been a curious person my entire life and yes annoyingly so as a child. I guess I infused that into one of my character for my latest book as she has the nickname, "Wonder" Woman. :-)

  6. Whys and What Ifs are our fuel. I was intrigued by a lounge piano player who sat at a grand piano in the middle of an airport concourse next to their bar. Why? I haven't written that story yet, but I know something like that will come up in a future book. But I never stop with the "Big" Why that gets the story moving. Every action performed by a character, every choice they make has to have the "why?" answered.

  7. "And last, never tell a writer to shut the hell up. Don’t do it.

    We get very annoyed.

    Then we kill you off in our books"

    So true! I think Act 3 of a book is the answer to the question that's always posed in Act 1.

    By the way, this is my work mug

    The list of colleagues who may end up as potential victims in future books currently numbers 5 ;)


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