Friday Speak Out!: What If . . . ?

Friday, December 02, 2016
by Lisa Ricard Claro

A few years ago I posted here at the Muffin about blogging as an antidote for writer’s block ( The problem with that suggestion, of course, is that not everyone enjoys blogging. But no worries. I’ve got a method for unblocking the jam on Creativity Boulevard that works every time. Yes, you heard me. Every time.

It’s called the “What if?” game, and it works like this:

Step 1: Grab a pen, paper, cookies, hot cocoa—because what isn’t made better with chocolate?—and the nearest kid. Age seven is perfect. Wait. What? No kid at your disposal? Well, do you have a husband? Because that’s almost the same thing. No husband either? Grab your best gal pal, trade the cocoa for wine, and you’re in business. You can go it alone, no problem, but it’s more fun with a companion.

Step 2: Munch the cookies, sip your beverage, and chat. Explain to your buddy that no idea is too big or too small, no subject taboo. Absolutely everything—and I do mean everything—is (age) appropriate for this exercise. Giggling encouraged.

Step 3: Stream of consciousness, no heavy thinking, just blast out as many what-ifs as you can:

What if while sipping cocoa I’m sucked into the mug and trapped inside a marshmallow?
What if I discover the poops in my cat’s litter box have turned to gold?
What if my farts were so bad they made smoke and set off the fire alarm at school/work?
What if the UPS man was really Hugh Jackman?

Okay, so that last one is for me and me alone, but you get the idea.

Step 4: Using the what-ifs you’ve created, write anything. You aren’t writing for publication. You are writing for the sheer joy of stretching your mind and putting words on paper, no matter how silly. No one ever has to read your output. The format is up to you. Choose whatever will be the easiest and most fun. Don’t think, don’t stress, and don’t wait. Just write.

What if while sipping cocoa I’m sucked into the mug and trapped inside a marshmallow? No story idea coming along? Write something simple then, like a warning label: CAUTION: Contents may be hot and hungry.
What if my farts were so bad they made smoke and set off the fire alarm at school? Not into kid lit? Pen a letter to your mother: Dear Mumsie, You’ll never guess what happened to Junior at school today!

Apply “what if?” to popular fiction. Can you pick out these books?

What if vampires sparkled in the sun?
What if a psychotic wife planned her own disappearance, making her husband look guilty of murder?
What if a teenage girl with a bow and arrow changed the course of her dystopian society?

What if you play the “What if?” game? What if you come up with a brilliant, high concept idea?
What if you write about it and it becomes a bestseller? What if . . . ?

* * *
Lisa Ricard Claro is a professional editor ( and award-winning author with published articles and stories spanning multiple media. She resides in Georgia but dreams of beach living (usually while stuck in Atlanta traffic). Lisa has a heart for rescued pets, and you’ll find one in all of her novels. She loves all genres—a mystery is in the works and she also writes for kids—but Romance is a favorite because she believes in love and happily-ever-after. To learn about the books in her romantic Fireflies series,or to connect with Lisa, visit Amazon, Goodreads, or her author website,
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Lisa--What a brilliant idea to get unstuck and start the words flowing. This idea also works if you're in the middle of a project. If you're stuck, try some specific "what ifs"... you just might discover a great plot twist to throw at your characters.

Thanks for the post... and thanks for a double helping of Lisa Ricard Claro this week.

Pat Wahler said...

Great suggestions, Lisa! Most of the time, if I just start putting words on paper, ideas begin to flow.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I pretty much play "What if..." all day. Like "What if I sleep just a wee bit longer?" And "What if I eat one more brownie?" Or my personal favorite, "What if I skip work and spend all day at lunch with a friend?" :-)

'Course that game often leads to that OTHER game I call, "What's the worst that could happen?"


Donna Volkenannt said...

This is a fun post. What ifs can stimulate the imagination. I was reading along until I got to the What if about Hugh Jackman. I stopped for awhile and got an immediate image. Thanks for putting a smile on my face.

Linda O'Connell said...

Lisa, your ideas are sure to get the words flowing. I think I will go now ansd play the what if game. Thanks for the inspiration.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I hope you play the "What if" game, especially if you have a child to play with. Little ones come up with some amazing ideas!

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