Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Great "What If?"

Oh, my glory, I totally forgot to post this Tuesday! See what an airhead the holidays make of me? I'm having so much fun shopping and decorating and writing that I completely forgot to blog! Here it is now...have fun with this!

The Great "What if...?"

This really is the question at the heart of all storytelling. What if Hamlet's uncle killed Hamlet's father and what if Hamlet's heart was good, but his mind wasn't strong enough to carry out revenge? Alternately, what if Hamlet had killed his uncle immediately after seeing his father’s ghost the first time? And what if he had a girlfriend but he was so in love with her he didn’t dump her?

You see where this is going?

Asking the great What if? question gets answers you don't always expect. There are several parts to this workshop, so follow through them all and see where you end up at the end. I'm pretty sure it's not where you think you'll be!

Writing Journal Assignment

Answer four of the following in your journal. Throw some spaghetti!

What if the sun shone only three hours each 24-hr period?
What if newborn babies could talk at one-hour old?
What if the airplane had been invented before the Civil War?
What if we had jetpacks and could fly?
What if there were no more gasoline?
What if there were only three colors in the world—red, blue and yellow—and they couldn’t be mixed?
What if people were never allowed to leave their hometowns?

What if? questions can also be big questions:

What if  the rivers of North America flowed from East to West rather than primarily North to South? What would the expansion of the continent by European settlers look like if that were the case?

What would the world look like if China had colonized America before Europe? Would the world have a different political structure?

What would have happened had the European nations not remained neutral during the American Civil War and had sent troops and support to one or both sides?

What if the Axis forces won D-day?

Currently we can fertilize eggs and create the spark of human life in a test tube. What will happen when we can bring it to term outside a woman’s womb? What will happen to human reproduction?


You see…whole worlds of possibilities open up with those two simple words and a punctuation mark: what if?

Use any of the examples above or create a what if? of your own to write a story or create an outline for a story for later development. Let your imagination roam and throw that spaghetti!

If you’re willing, add some What If? questions in the comments below. J

(Some of the ideas in this workshop were taken from Strategic Learning in the Classroom, Dr. Harvey F. Sliver and Richard W. Strong, SilverStrong & Associates, Inc. and from Writing Smarter! by Keith Manos, The Center for Applied Research in Education (1999) )

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