Two tiny words that hold limitless potential. What if?

What if the world isn’t flat? What if the Earth revolves around the Sun? What if man could fly like a bird? What if we could go to the moon? What if there was a medicine to cure disease?

Those who asked the questions also sought the answers. And the answers brought inventions and discoveries and new questions … and changed our world.

I’m asking a few “What if’s” of my own. Perhaps not as world-changing as the examples already mentioned, but packed with potential as I brainstorm future stories.

My family visited friends in Tulsa and got a behind-the-scenes tour of the football facilities. My mind raced with questions. What if my protagonist worked here? What if his job was on the line? What if the person most likely to help him … hated football? What if she’d had something bad happen in her past that she needs to move past? What if a player …?

I drove to Estes Park in May for a writer’s conference. I’d been thinking about a couple of potential characters prior to my drive up the canyon, but the questions clammored to the front. What if their story took place here? What if there was a freak spring snowstorm that stranded them? What if there was an accident? What if he was at fault? What if an old girlfriend …?

As a writer, I’m always thinking about the what ifs. And not just for future story ideas. What if I moved that scene closer to the beginning (or ending) of the story? What if I cut one character and gave their role to the antagonist instead? What if I wrote this scene from a different point-of-view?

Explore the possibilities. Let your imagination run wild. Become like a child with endless questions … and then take the story deeper by asking “Why?”

What about you? Do you have an active imagination? Is that a good thing or not? Do you ever create stories about the strangers you meet? (Or is that just me and my nagging What ifs?)

The Powerful What If
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