What If?

I’m about half way through Donald Maas’ Writing the Breakout Novel, and really pulling some great information as I begin work on my next novel. In developing a breakout premise for a novel, Maas likes to ask the question, “what if?” for  brainstorming. As a writer, I’m constantly doing this in my mind but not putting it down on paper or on a Word file. But I know where Maas is going with the question. He wants the writer to challenge him or herself and think outside the box (cliché, I know).

What does it mean to ask “what if?” For starters, it’s challenging the status quo. Think of a topic and then start asking questions. Like, what if there were no more fossil fuels? Go from there and see if you can flush out a story. What if baseball no longer existed? What if cars were never invented? I’m sure this tactic is not new, but I did this exercise for the project I’m working and liked the results.

The next steps would be to take those results and try to formulate a plot. According to Maas, if the plot sticks, there’s potential for a premise. Half the challenge is let your guard down and explore. Give it a try.


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