The What-If Method of Idea Generation

The what if method of generating story ideas is what it says. You take a fact, ask it what if this happened instead what if that happened? What if America lost the war of independent? What if John Wilkes Booth hadn’t assassinated Lincoln? What if people actually went to Mars? You can see the potential here. in this method, you pick some randoms things. For eample, look to history. Look at the American War of Independence, assassinations, anything you can imagine. Then ask what if.

What if the Nazis won? Then you take that idea and play with it. You will likely get a good story out of it. What if humans traveled to Mars and found signs of a civilization long gone? What if we went to Mars and found a thriving civilization?

That’s all there is to the method. You can take several ideas that interest you and see how you can tweak them. If you take a pivotal moment in history and change the outcome, how would it be different? There’s your story.

What if the had been successful in repelling attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941? How would that have affected the outcome of World War II? Would the Nazis have reached the moon? There’s a story idea. It’s easy to do this method. It takes imagination. It’s a good way to exercise your imagination.

What if we established a colony on the moon? Or Mars, for that matter? What would life be like there?

The what if method can lead you to writing something interesting or not. Sometimes the idea seems good, but you can’t get it beyond that point. When that happens, ask the what if question again. You can combine what if questions as well. What if the Nazis won World War II, but decimated by an alien invasion? How would that affect life on earth?

If nothing else, you’ll get a little bit of practice in writing. I’m willing to bet you’ll find something to write about, even if it’s a short story, you will gain something from it. So the next time you are stuck for an idea on what to write, try asking something, what if?

The what if method is a good way to exercise your mind. It’s a good tool for your writer’s tool box. If you use a historical moment, see what happened next. Say the Nazis won the war. What happened after that? How would the world be different? What if the assassination attempt on Hitler had succeeded? What would have been the result? That’s how you generate the story ideas. If it’s not the initial what if question, keep asking the idea questions. You might find a story emerging. Then write the story.

Take your imagination for a ride around your mind and ask questions. What if is only the starting point. Ask the question and see where it takes you. You might get something wonderful from it.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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