Starting a Story with a “What If” Question

18Starting a Story with a “What If” Question

One of the most effective ways that writers can come up with a great story idea is to ask a “what if” question. For successful writers, this comes naturally. Their imagination simply runs wild with ideas, which can be rather troublesome for many writers, not allowing them to see a horror movie by themselves for example. But for other writers, this is something that takes practice and has to be learned; in either case, starting a story with a “what if” question is probably the best way to get those creative juices flowing and start getting a story down on paper. Let’s look at some ways to use this strategy.

Ask “What If” The Opposite Happened

If you come across a news story or something else that interested you, then ask yourself what if the opposite happened. For example, suppose that you read a boring article about how Congress just passed a new law and then think about what would happen if that new law had not passed and let your imagination run wild with the story.

Ask “What If” That Happened to X

Something that happens to a certain type of person might not be that exciting, but what if it happened to a different type of person? For example, think about this story that you read or the movie that you watched about a cop that loses everything because he is framed for a crime and then vows to get revenge against the people that framed him. Now, think about what would happen if that story was true for a kid. This may inspire a great middle grade book.

Ask “What If” It Happened Elsewhere?

Changing the setting can also be a great exercise in coming up with great ideas. For example, it can be something close to home such as hearing about some horrible thing that happened in another country and thinking about what would happen if it was true in your own country where laws prohibit that sort of thing. It can also be completely out of the box such as thinking about what would happen if it were to occur on a spaceship or in a fantasy world.

Ask “What If” It Didn’t Happen at All

Instead of asking “what if” something happened, think of something that has happened and consider the possibilities of it not happening at all. For example, what if instead of electing a president, for some reason a president was never elected? Think about the consequences of such an action.

Ask “What If” X Happened Instead

Introducing a new element into an existing “what if” question can be a useful exercise when coming up with ideas. Going with the last example, suppose that a president was never elected, but instead the people chose to put a computer in power to replace the human being used to hold that office. These are just a few examples of how you can use “what if” to come up with good story ideas.

Keep at it, and before you know it, you’ll find a book plastered at the top of the list over at KDP!

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