Writing Tips: Ask Yourself 1 Simple Question
Writing fiction is all about asking yourself: What if?
“What if” is a great place to start if you’re stuck for ideas. Ask yourself questions that allow you to imagine life differently – your story or novel should be the answer to those questions. Now that I’ve told you this, you’ll start to notice the phrase “what if” on the backs of most novels, especially science fiction or speculative fiction.
Asking “what if” is a great exercise to practice when you’re people-watching, or riding public transit for long periods of time. For example: What if the passenger across from me suddenly jumped out the window? Or: What if I walked into work and everyone had disappeared? All of a sudden, you’ve got the start of a really interesting short story! (This is why it’s so important to keep a notepad handy at all times!)
For fun, I just walked over to my bookshelf and picked out a few classics to give you some examples of how the greats have asked “what if”? Try this yourself, and share what you find in a comment below!
What if the government policed everything, including our thoughts?
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
What if an entire novel was written through the perspective of an autistic child?
3. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
What if an ordinary man began to think fiction was fact?
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
What if a beautiful young man sold his soul for eternal youth?
5. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
What if everything we knew to be true were twisted upside down?
My inspiration for this post comes from a fabulous reference book called What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. I highly suggest you pick up a copy, or borrow it from your local library.