Never Lose the “What If”

How do you go about coming up with the idea for a novel, or any creative story for that matter? The most important tool in a writer’s toolbox is the question “What if…?” and I am not the first to give this advice. The creation of a story happens when you ask “What if…?” What if a stranger appeared in this person’s mundane life to challenge him? What if a normal voyage suddenly went terribly wrong? What if people lived forever? What if these two types of personalities were put in a room together?

targetship1That’s how the idea for my novel came about. Growing up we would vacation on Cape Cod, and we would always see the Target Ship, which was an old World War II Liberty Ship that was scuttled in Cape Cod Bay in the ’50s and used for target practice by the Navy before it was left to rot. So every year we would go to the beach on the bay and see this old, rotting ship in the distance, and it became a source of fascination for me. At the beach we happened to go to were a few houses with unencumbered views of the water. One time I thought, “What if there was a man who had served on that ship during WWII, and who loved that ship and was obsessed with that ship so much that he moved to one of these houses to be near it?” And my novel was born.

What situations do you find yourself in? What things fascinate you? What can you ask “What if…?” to? You may find yourself suddenly with a story to tell.


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