Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I is for If

What if a rocket ship crashed on an uninhabited planet? What if the little boy stepped into the road a second earlier? What if the woman accepted his proposal instead of rejecting him? What if they had scored that final goal? What if there was a power cut just as the show was about to start?

I used to be afraid of throwing ifs about willy-nilly. My internal dialogue would go something like this:

'What if an asteroid struck?'
'That doesn't fit with the story.'
'What about if a celebrity came walking down the street?'
'That's just unrealistic and stupid.'
'What if he ordered a takeaway?'
'He can't do that, he's broke.'
'What if...'
'Oh just shut up!'

But my internal arguments have got a lot quieter since I realised that it doesn't matter if the 'what if' doesn't fit with the overall story outline or the way I see my character. Ifs are a great way of moving on a story, even if the ideas don't remain past a first draft. I might throw in a burglary at the old people's home that, as it turns out, doesn't fit at all with the 100th birthday party story, but makes the start of a whole new flash fiction.

Sometimes the most interesting passages come just off the cuff and unplanned, and if a strange 'what if' gets me writing rather than staring at the screen and complaining that I can't think what to write, then that has to be a good thing.


  1. Great article! What if? You gave me several new ideas as I progress through my writing. Thanks for sharing. :)
    A to Z April Blogging Challenge

  2. For me, what ifs are what makes good novels great. We need to take in consideration what would happen. Actually, I have often considered a what if and went with the outcome. Thanks for stopping by my blog.