Have you ever wondered how your life would be different IF you’d made a different choice here or there? If you’d bought that house instead of this one? Gone on a date with this guy instead of that one?
What if you’d decided to go to a different college instead of the one you went to – where you met your husband? What if you’d never applied for that job – the one you’ve had for ten years now and where you met your best friend? What if you you hadn’t ignored that phone call, the one bringing an urgent message that you now regret missing?
What if can paralyze us in life, or spur us on to make different choices going forward. What if can be filled with regret, or it can be the catalyst to take stock of our life. What if is a question we rarely get an answer to (when looking back) and can plague our dreams. But it can also help us evaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going.
The great “what if” is often at the root of a new story. You encounter a woman, a stranger, and wonder “what if she’s actually a classically trained pianist who had her hand injured when she tried to save a child so now she works in a women’s boutique instead?” What would her story look like? Or you see a man with a child at the park and overhear the child say, “I wish mommy was here.” So you wonder about their story. What if “mommy” was his single sister and now he’s left to raise a child on his own? What would that story look like?
These are simple examples of how a romance story might be born. That question – what if – can turn an ordinary situation into one filled with danger (romantic suspense) or new opportunities (contemporary romance), or show us a slice of life in the wild west (historical romance). “What if” can spin the lives of our hero or heroine onto a new trajectory. It’s a question that should be asked several times throughout a story to add twists and turns.
What if we don’t ask what if? We end up with a story that’s predictable, even boring. And the reader tosses the book aside, left to wonder her own what ifs. What if the character had done this instead of that? What if the hero hadn’t been able to return when he said he would? What if the heroine sold her store and left town when the hero didn’t return? What if the story hadn’t gone the predictable route but instead forged a new and unexpected path? (The answer to that is the reader would finish the book, recommend it to her friends, and be anxious for the next book to come out!)
So ask what if and look for unexpected answers. Consider alternate endings (in fiction and in life).
Don’t settle for what is (if you don’t like it) – ask what if. The answer just might surprise you. And it might change your life!
Is there a what if in your life that spurred you to make a change? A what if that resulted in something wonderful and unexpected?