March 7, 2013

What If?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Do you get story ideas from news of history making events? Or do you wonder what is the back-story or pre story of a beloved classic? Our writers group recently had an exercise on 'what if'. The writing exercise goes as follows;

Pick a news worthy event, well known story and start plotting your story. You may know the outcome of the "real" story but your job is to 'what if' your story. This helps you create new, exciting and readable stories with unknown characters, plot twist and surprises. 

Broadway producers do this, think "Wicked". A well known story, "The Wizard of Oz" and a number of Frank Baum books followed. Wait, there was no pre-story until "Wicked" was recently written. It is the makings of a hit musical with a unique spin on a well known, well-loved classic and series.

TV shows do this. Dallas, the show of the 80's was resurrected this year with the 2012 spin of how the original character's children have evolved as young adults.

The news story I used to write my 'what if' is the real event that shocked the world. My opening is when a bolt of lightning strikes the dome of St. Peter's in Rome, hours after Pope Benedict XVI's bolt-from-the-blue resignation.

The lightning touched the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic churches, after the Pope's shocked admission he lacks strength to do the job. The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision to quit - the first pontiff to do so in 600 years. 

This real world event is the stuff that has made Dan Brown a best selling author. 

Is there a 'what if' idea in your writing future? Time to work on your best-seller.


  1. It's in fact very complicated in this busy life to listen news on Television, thus I simply use world wide web for that reason, and obtain the newest information.

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  2. Good post, Annette. I've never been good at playing what-if and it really hurts my plotting abilities. This is a great exercise I'll try.