Any fictional story relies on a series of “What If” questions. What If there was a Magic Ring that nations fought over for power? What If there was a princess with hair so long it could reach the ground from the top floor of a tower? What if a tornado could whisk up a house and drop it in another realm, where witches and wizards and tin people were a thing?
Outside fiction, What If scenarios can enable real-life World Building, where our imaginations lead the way into a better, more just world. What If everyone had access to food and shelter? What If War was a thing of the past.
When we allow our imaginations to step out of our present reality, we actualize the “Impossible.” We build rich worlds where limits are only self-imposed.
World Building is one of the core elements of storytelling and of our lives. Exercising that muscle can be light and silly, intellectually stimulating, or life-changing. There’s no right way to do it. What would you like to build today?
Think about a topic you love.
e.g. travel, film, politics, gardening
Write down some realities about that world.
e.g. If you chose “travel,” you might say:
“Humans use [these modes of transport]” or,
“[These] are some common barriers to travel.”
Get as broad or as specific as you want.
Choose one reality that you wrote down, and replace it with a new “What If” reality.
e.g. If you chose “Humans can travel via plane, train, boat, scooter, etc.,” you might say:
“What If: Boats were never invented,” or
“What If: Humans could travel via Broomstick.”
Think of all the consequences of that new reality — good, bad, or neutral.
Consider the physical and social laws that come with it.
How is life different as a result?
Write a story
(long or short)
that takes place in this world.
I'm a fiction book editor and writing coach, specializing in anti-perfectionist writing habits for indie authors.
In this house, we leave perfection at the door and write with curiosity, clarity, and joy.
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