Friday, October 17, 2014

Two Magic Words (on creativity)

A friend recently asked how I come up with so many different ideas for novels. To tell the truth, I'm an ADD kid who became an ADD adult. My mind constantly challenges me to explore new ideas and variations on old ideas. I have never given much thought on finding things to write about...until my friend asked.

Since then, I have been thinking about her question. I finally figured out the basic question underlying most creativity, and it's really simple.

"What if?"

Those are magic words. They allow you to challenge reality, to throw out the expected and explore the absurd. Consider these examples:

What if this old wooden garden spot was built on an ancient Indian burial ground? And, what if it was hit by lightning during a violent storm?

Would it just burn down? Maybe, maybe not. What if it brought an unwilling Indian spirit to Indian who was murdered by three US cavalrymen? How would this angry spirit settle the score? What if the ghost was able to enter the living body of a young man who sat with his fiancé in the love arch for pictures?

Wow! There may be a story in that old arch. Let's try another.

What if a gardener tries to trim this red tree...but it fights back?

When her trimming shears cut into a small limb, a root suddenly springs from the ground, wraps around the woman's ankle and slowly pulls her into the soft soil. Screams are unheard, and fingers leave deep ruts in surrounding no avail. What if, after her body vanishes, a new red tree sapling springs up from her grave? Who is next?

Or, what if the dog in this remote park has been abandoned by its owner?

How does it survive the rigors of the coming winter? Does it eventually find a new home? What if she finds a hunter who fell off a cliff, breaking his leg, and cannot get help? Does the dog bring rescuers? Will the dog protect him from a large predator? Maybe they cuddle together to survive a snow storm until rescuers find them. This story could be a tragedy, an action-adventure...even a love story, but it all starts with those magic words of creativity.

Every genre of fiction begins with someone asking "What if."

Any answer is good, no matter how outlandish it may sound. In fact, the more strange and absurd, the better. Readers are willing to suspend reality to enjoy a good fiction. A writer's skill will determine if the original story idea becomes a compelling story, but it all starts with those special words, "What if."


  1. "What if" are indeed two powerful words, when applied, offer endless possibilities for stories to share.

    1. You said "endless possibilities"...that sums it up. Any writer who finds himself or herself struggling for story ideas need only apply the "what if" concept to discover those endless possibilities. Thank you, Terry, for your thoughts and taking a minute to reply...Dean


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