Imaginative writing starts with two words – ‘What If?’

What if the moon was really made of cheese? What if sheep ruled the world? What if a prince could change places with a pauper? What if…?


Our imagination is a wonderful thing – a God-given attribute of the human race.  It enables us to see so much more than what our eyes tell us. Indeed, there’s a whole world of thought goes on in our cerebral space that may have nothing to do with what we are presently doing or seeing.

I was often called a daydreamer as a child, and I suspect most other writers will have had the same accusation against them at some time. ‘Daydreaming’ is simply living in your imagination, and not really paying so much attention to the world around you. In your creative space, you might not even be on the same planet as the rest of us. No wonder you get called ‘absent-minded’!

The imagination is powerful. New thoughts can change the world; because they can lead to inventions such as the motorcar and the aeroplane.

The imaginative process can conjure bad stuff as well as good, of course; and in reality, writing needs both if it is going to have any appeal to readers.

Imaginative writing is what fiction is mostly about, but of course non-fiction requires imagination too.

What if?

Using the ‘What if?’ question will help you harness your imaginative writing powers. Here’s some ways it may do that:

  • Asking ‘what if?’ requires you to first look at things with in-depth scrutiny. What makes that thing tick?
  • Asking ‘What if’ makes you look more intently at behaviour: Why does that person act that way? What if that person was put in a totally different environment – how would he or she behave there?
  • Asking ‘what if?’ encourages you to see life with different perspective. What if the thing you’re investigating was able to transform into something else?
  • Asking ‘what if?’ involves living in that imagined person’s shoes for a while, considering what your life would be like; or seeing your transformed thingamajig in its new state and observing how it is operating there.  As you do this, a story can evolve.

Use the ‘what if’ question as an imagination starter; something to prime the pump, if you like. Create short writing exercises for yourself. It doesn’t matter if they’ll never be used in bigger stories. Your imagination thrives on practice.


This is a repeat blog.