Even the best plots can be strengthened by this one simple question: ‘what if?’
What do I mean by this? Simply put, asking ‘what if?’ of a part of your plot is opening your mind to other story directions or possibilities. What if this character didn’t die? What if they did? What if this or that never happened?
Even if you think your plot is the greatest it could ever be, you might be surprised what this ‘what if’ question can do it make it even better.
The way I know my plot is ready is when that ‘what if?’ question is satisfied, or, when I have sound arguments against those ‘what if?’s. Probably doesn’t make much sense, does it? Let me explain it a little more.
Say I have a main character who’s blind, and this makes much of the story come about. What if they weren’t blind? Well, let’s say then that if they weren’t blind, the entire adventure wouldn’t have happened and the book would be incredibly boring. I can stop that nagging ‘what if?’ by presenting a strong argument against it. The ‘what if’ would not better my story, so I’ll cast it aside.
But, say I had this main character’s friend along with them, and yeah, they both get a bit beaten up on their journey, but in the end, it’s some nameless person who dies to save them. But what if the main character’s friend died to save them? Now it’s a much more powerful sacrifice, right? (In this case, let’s say it is. There’s times it won’t be; that’s why you have to investigate these scenarios thoroughly.)
Sometimes, it’s even just the simple little things about how the character might react. When writing the beginning of the story, before you have much of a handle on the character’s personality where you can accurately predict their actions, you might find their attitudes fluctuating unrealistically from scene to scene. this is where I also use the ‘what if’.
Say the main character’s friend tells them something, and you have the main character act pretty nonchalant about it, even though it’s a big deal. That could be the way it would go, depending on the character, but what if they got really upset instead and refused to speak to their best friend for a while? Now we have some more intense conflict, and it makes things more interesting. 🙂
The way I see it, there are so many paths and sub paths and sub-sub paths you could go down when writing a story. You might have decided on one certain path, but I would definitely recommend considering other paths as well. Try it out and tell me what you think; you may be surprised at the results. 🙂
This post was inspired by my current “what if?” plotting and this lovely quote which I adore. 🙂