Do You Believe in What ifs?

Today’s shoutout goes to Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Amazon bestselling Ninja Cap’n, who’s busy with the A to Z Challenge these days. He’s here today to talk about What if’s, and his new book: Dragon of the Stars. Take it away, Alex!

Dragon of the Stars by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh

As writers, we’re always on the lookout for our next story idea. We become master observers of people and situations. We’ll jot down notes and start storylines that may or may not go anywhere.

Sometimes we have a spark, but it just doesn’t seem to take. Or maybe it doesn’t go in a direction that’s exciting. We’re bummed and tempted to shelve the idea.

Maybe what we need is to explore that idea from a new angle. Flip it around and turn it into something different. That might be just thing to ignite interest again.

What are some ways we can shift the pieces of the puzzle around?

  • Reverse the roles. Take the main characters are reverse their position in the storyline.
  • Change the time period.  Shift the story forward or backward.
  • Change the setting. Urban instead of rural, small city instead of big, desert instead of mountains, etc.
  • Try a different country.  Would it be more exciting set in a different culture?
  • How about a different or additional genre? A mystery in space? A historical paranormal?
  • Go for the worst case scenario. Part of the story isn’t very exciting? Ramp it up – what is the worst thing that could happen?
  • Brainstorm with other writers. Sometimes sharing the idea with those we trust will lead to a revelation.
  • Brainstorm on our own. Throw everything out there, including the kitchen sink. No rules, no restrictions–just go nuts!

Any of those changes can make all the difference in the world. My latest book, Dragon of the Stars, came from a song and a little ‘What If?’ Ayreon’s Dragon on the Sea was about Queen Elizabeth I sending Sir Francis Drake to fight the Spanish Armada. The dragon in the song refers to Drake, but I wondered–what if the dragon was the ship? What if it was a spaceship instead? What if the Queen sent a Nobleman to find that ship? From that point, the story unfolded quickly, with the ending coming from a rather twisted ‘What if?’.

So, if a story needs a little something, try ‘What if?’


Alex J. Cavanaugh works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. He is also the guitarist in a Christian band. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. His latest book, Dragon of the Stars, came out April 7, 2015. Purchase it on AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboChaptersAmazon UKGoodreadsiTunesAmazon PrintOverdrive.  Find Alex here, and on Twitter.

Who else has had a story unfold with a little help from ‘What if?’ What have you been doing this March and April? Have you been to the blog by Alex J. Cavanaugh? Have you bought Dragon of the Stars yet?

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I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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Add Yours
  1. Archana Kapoor

    If ‘what if’ wouldn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t have been able to write 🙂 loved the post Damyanti, do keep sharing more of these thought-provoking write-ups!

    • tmcasciano

      Dean, I’m a non fiction writer and
      Try to remind myself of this when I get frustrated or tired. What if I don’t share my story abd someone really needs to hear it?

      • Dean K Miller

        Exactly, TM. When it’s written, those that need to read/hear it when they should. Sometimes it takes a while, but the words will be received.

  2. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    What a great post, Alex and Damy! This is my first visit to your blog, Damy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Alex, what useful ideas, and a fascinating glimpse into your writing process ~ Thanks for sharing!

  3. Michelle Wallace

    Great ideas on how to shift the puzzle pieces around… and get the creative juices flowing once again! 😀

    Hi Damyanti.
    Hope you are well.

  4. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti .. great to see you with a brief blog post – take care and look after yourself and enjoy the writing.

    The What If .. applies to so many things – but Alex has expressed it well here with how he worked out his plot ..

    Cheers to you and we do miss you … – Hilary

  5. D. Wallace Peach

    Interesting advice. Those are great questions to ask even if the story’s elements are working fine. In fantasy/sci-fi world-building the “what if” questions can add unique and interesting elements.

  6. Susan Gourley

    Very interesting story behind the Dragon idea. My next series came to me by thinking of something historical and then putting it into a science fiction space adventure.

  7. Birgit

    What if’s are always in my thoughts because it is neat to think in that manner and if we chose the other way to go what would happen and would there be another me out there completely different? Congrats Alex on your book!!

  8. Liza

    Did some what-iffing with a new writer’s group last night and got a great idea to move my new story along. It’s fun to hear how your story evolved, Alex.

  9. Stephen Tremp

    I love doing worst case scenarios. Sometimes I become too attached to my characters and this helps give me creative ways to kill them off.

  10. M. J. Joachim

    This is definitely sound advice, Alex. Change is often a very good thing, and it has the potential to inspire us, as we explore the possibilities of all that can be.

  11. Jo Wake

    Dear Alex, take some rest. Cut back, You are doing far too much. Thanks Damy for having Alex here, we all love to read what he says.

  12. jeremyh05251977

    You are one of the coolest people I am happy to know in this crazy world, thank you for all you do… i also hope wish Alex much success… as he is the hardest working blogger in the world!

  13. Susan Scott

    Damyanti! So wonderful to ‘see’ you again – I’d been wondering! Thanks for this post and to Alex for saying about the what-if’s. Great idea!

  14. Bruce Goodman

    Nice push for the novel but… the cover is atrocious. I wouldn’t buy it in a thousand years. (Yes, I judge some books by their cover).

    • Damyanti

      Bruce, I’m reading the book, and I like Alex’s easy, accessible style. I don’t push anything that I personally don’t consider worth pushing. :). That’s only my opinion tho. I appreciate you being honest about yours.

      • Bruce Goodman

        Yes, thanks for that comment. I hadn’t realised that the author was personally involved in the review, so I shot the cover down with all guns blazing. It still doesn’t appeal to me, but if I had realised that the author was involved in the posting I would have been more discreet. My apologies.

  15. Arlee Bird

    I enjoy contemplating as well as posing what ifs. It an interesting thought exercise though I know some people don’t like it especially if debating an issue that could implicate various what if scenarios. To me it can be a good idea to consider all possibilities of an issue.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    A Faraway View