In my favorite book on how to write a novel, "The Art of the Novel," Milan Kundera ("Unbearable Lightness of Being") says exactly the same thing! A novel explores a question. In fact, Kundera says, the history of the novel is not the sum of what was written but the "sequence of discoveries" along the way:
"In its own way, through its own logic, the novel discovered the various dimensions of existence one by one: with Cervantes and his contemporaries, it inquires into the nature of adventure; with Richardson, it begins to examine 'what happens inside,' to unmask the secret life of the feelings; with Balzac, it discovers man's rootedness in history; with Flaubert, it explores the terra previously incognita of the everyday; with Tolstoy, it focuses on the intrusion of the irrational into human behavior and decisions. It probes time: the elusive past with Proust, the elusive present with Joyce. With Thomas Mann, it examines the role of the myths from the remote past that control our present actions. Et cetera, et cetera."How exciting! Not only do we write with a question in mind, our questions form the history of the artform itself! And it made me wonder. What are the questions people are asking these days in the books and plays and videogames they are writing? And where does mine fit in?
It made me think about the question behind my book. There are many questions, actually, because over these 15 years I've used my book to learn many things. But the question that is central to the main character is this: "What is the 'Thing' I am constantly searching for but never find?" And the form of my book? What if there were a form, the writing of which could create consciousness in the person writing it? That is the form that I would pick!
So what is your question?