Friday Writing Question: What if…?

Ciao, SEers. Three posts ago, I said I only had three posts left for the year. That was a bit misleading. I only had three “regular” posts left for the year. I didn’t include our Friday posts, of which I had one left. This one.

The question post.

When I think about fiction questions, one comes to mind. The questionThe one every author says to ask as you work on the tension and plot development in your story.

What if…?

I have a confession to make. I seldom, if ever, ask myself that as I’m outlining/plotting/writing. I tend to think in terms of actions and reactions (which coincidentally coincides with scenes and sequels), so I never have to wonder what will happen. If I know my characters (and I always do), I know how they’ll respond, so what will happen next in the story never really stumps me.

But I’m curious about how everyone else writes. Do you advance your stories by asking “What if…?” or do you have another method to figure out what your characters should be doing? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

51 thoughts on “Friday Writing Question: What if…?

  1. Hi, Staci. I am playing catch-up from the holidays and am late weighing in on this question. I do play the “what if” game at times throughout a story. It makes for interesting scenarios. But, like Bette said above, I love to let the characters play the “What If” game. 🙂 I hope you had a fantastic Christmas! I wish you a prosperous New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I’m late in answering people, so it’s nice to know I’m in good company. 😀

      Letting characters play the game does sound like a fun way to go. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how people handle this aspect of writing.

      Wishing you a fabulous new year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like to put together a loose outline when I plot–this happens, then this happens, etc. I usually know the story, for the most part, before I start, but whenever I hit a roadblock, or sand pit, or that infamous corner surrounded by wet paint, I go back to the outline and start asking ‘what if’ to find a way out.

    Enjoy your Christmas, Staci!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tend to come up with an idea and an opening paragraph and think I know where it’s going. The characters usually take over at some point and surprise me. They always ruin a good outline. Merry Christmas Staci:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Unless it’s subconscious, which is very possible :), I don’t use the ‘what if’, nor do I plot. Instead, I start with a vague idea and build on it, sentence by painstaking sentence. Once I have a scene in my head, the words flow fast. But getting to that point can be a slow process, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the security of an outline. Mine is a chapter by chapter list of plot points with a few more notes scribbled to keep me on track. I use “what if” while I’m plotting. BUT somewhere about 3/4 through a manuscript, plot points aren’t enough for me, and I have to go in and add what my characters think I haven’t paid enough attention to. My rewrites are always about adding more internal dialogue, motivation, emotion, and character stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What if surfaces on occasion. I’m working on the next Lawman book, and in a raid, one of the police officers catches a bullet in the back. Her body armor saves her, and she get’s away with bruising, pain, and a cracked rib. But you just don’t walk away from that like nothing happened. A close call plays hell with your confidence and mind, and all of a sudden, I found that simple “what if” adding a lot to the story and character.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a big believer in “What If.” I only use it for bigger issues, like the overall story concept. Many of mine are based upon a series of vignettes that appear between the bookends. My current project has kind of a “What If,” for each character… What if Clovis had to face some of those bodies he sunk in the river? That kind of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m like Marcia and Harmony in that I use the “What if” question to start the story. After that it becomes “what happens next.”

    You know I’m not a good outliner, LOL, but I did try with my current WIP…pretty much failing miserably. What I have found with my current project and the last one (End of Day) is that “what happens next” can only carry me so far before I have to sit down and plot my way to the end. So I guess I start with “what if,” a vague outline, and then let the characters decide “what happens next” to a certain point. Eventually, at the 3/4 mark, I step back and plot chapter by chapter, scene by scene to the end.

    Great post, Staci. I really like how this made me think about my process!
    Merry Christmas, my friend! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I smiled at your miserable failure with an outline, Mae. (Not at the misery part, of course. I’m not heartless, after all. 😀 ) But like you, I’ve tried outlines and failed. As soon as the first character appears on the page, he (or she) takes one look, gives a derisive snort, and announces, “That’s not what happened at all!” Then he (or she) proceeds to tell me what to write, so I do. It seldom comes close to what I’d outlined, but I usually like it better, anyway. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    • Now, that’s interesting. I knew you didn’t care to outline, but I didn’t realize you had to plot your endings. I hope you do a post on that process someday. I find it fascinating, particularly the point where pantsing fails you.

      Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Staci, that’s an awesome idea for a post. I’m going to have to do that.

        Plotting the ending didn’t happen until my last book (End of Day). I don’t know if it was because I was juggling two time frames, but there came a point when I just couldn’t pants anymore. The same with my current WIP, Eventide. I hit that point two chapters back and am working chapter by chapter, scene by scene, following an outline. I actually love not having to stop and think “what happens next.” Maybe this is my way of starting small and working up to full plotting!

        Merry Christmas to you and yours!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I ONLY use a what-if plan. But it’s just at the start. What if a little boy is alone in the mountains? What if he’s been raised isolated from civilization and now has to find his way back down to the real world? What if his journey takes him through a lot of twists and turns before he finds the people he’s destined to meet?

    I can’t do an outline. It feels too restrictive for me, since once I actually start writing, the characters take over and I simply do what they tell me. I know that lost little mountain boy sure did. In fact, he took over the entire series, and is still the main player. Rabbit tells me exactly what’s happening around him, and my job is to write it down. So far, so good. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Pingback: Author Inspiration and Last Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  11. I’ve only ever used the ‘what if’ question to generate the original story idea. After that it is very light outlining and planning and then away I go. Wishing you happy holidays and all the best for 2019 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

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