Asking ‘What if?’ as a Writing Prompt…

I’ve been getting back into creative writing and I remembered this great exercise to kick-start story ideas. When you think about it, every story has a ‘what if’ question at its core- a catalyst for the action. In Science Fiction the ‘what if’s are especially obvious and they often revolve around a moral or technological conundrum pushed to its logical conclusion. But everyday life is full of ‘what if’s too.  Once in a writing class I was asked to brain storm as many ‘what if’ situations as I could in 5 mins without over-thinking it. The results were fun and got pretty interesting fast, here’s a sample of what I came up with:


  • What if Guy Fawkes had succeeded?
  • What if the moon landing really was a hoax?
  • What if the man you love is someone else’s husband?
  • What if your great, great gran really was a witch?
  • What if you’re a father of six whose just been made redundant?
  • What if you hated your mom, but you turned out just like her?
  • What if your kitchen got infested with mice, and one of them talked to you?
  • What if your bum got big one day, and just kept getting bigger?
  • What if you found your whole life story on the internet-including the parts you haven’t lived yet?
  • What if you kept confusing your dreams with your everyday life?
  • What if your dad died, and it turns out he was Batman?
  • and, What if you’re a poor-little-rich-girl who knows F.A. about crime fighting?

So the next time you’re stuck or suffering from ‘writer’s block’ you could give this exercise a try. Set your self a time limit, or give yourself until the end of the page, and start every sentence with ‘What if…’ You can make them as fanciful or as fact-based as you like but you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with if you let your mind wander and don’t censor yourself as you write.

Good Luck and Happy Idea-Hunting!


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