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I spent a lot of time thinking about this yesterday and I felt that I should write about it someplace.  Have you ever noticed how just about every good creative idea begins with the question, “What if…?”  For example, take a look at this list:

  • What if you could turn a light on with a switch rather than having to light a match first? (light bulbs)
  • What if electricity was something that could be harnessed for the use of mankind? (generators and electric wires)
  • What if a carriage didn’t need horses to move forward? (cars)
  • What if a pencil could always stay sharp? (mechanical pencil)
  • What if you could talk with someone without having to go visit them? (telephones)

You see what I mean?  It’s the same with stories.  Check it out:

  • What if a man was raised by apes in the African jungle? (Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  • What if there was a world of real magic that was kept secret from ordinary people? (The Harry Potter Series, J. K. Rowling)
  • What if there was someone you could go to if you had a mystery nobody else could solve? (Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • What if the princess didn’t want to be rescued from the dragon by the handsome prince? (Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede)
  • What if a tyrant from space decided to destroy the earth? (Flash Gordon, Harry Harrison)

So, I guess, if you’re a writer of stories, the next question is can you ask a question that you can answer with a story that people want to read?  Here are a few that I have come up with.  No stories have been published about these, yet, though some have been started.

  • What if a scientist came up with a virus that could cure cancer and the military made him use it to change a man into a monster?
  • What if someone discovered that there was a dragon living in their closet?
  • What if there was a story where the dwarf was the main character?
  • What if there was a disaster of epic proportions and the representatives of four separate races had to come together to resolve it?
  • What if two people who belonged together were born miles apart from each other and in different families but were linked by some peculiar power?

I have a lot of false starts on stories that have started with questions just like these.  They’re not finished, yet, because I keep getting distracted.  Real life does come first, after all.  Anyway, the whole idea is to come up with a “what if” question and then write a story that answers it in an interesting way.  The fun thing about this is that no two writers will ever answer the same “what if” question in the same way.  There might be similarities, but the stories themselves will be fundamentally different because each writer is different.

With that in mind, here’s a challenge for you.  Come up with a “what if” question of your own, then write a short story (1200 words or less) that answers that question in an interesting and creative way.

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