THE ONE HOUR A DAY NOVELIST with Tom Schreck: Creating the What Ifs

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, aspiring novelists around the world! I present to you part four of Tom Schreck’s ongoing series on writing and being a working author. In addition to being the author of five books, he is has written for a wide variety of publications including The Business Review,, American Health and Fitness, Professional Counselor and Catfancy:

My very, very bright friend Mike wants to write a book. He’s retired and does some freelance newspaper stuff but he has a problem.

He can’t come up with an idea.

He’s always telling me it is so amazing how I can come up with story ideas and how creative I am because I can think up these wild plots.

I nod and smile but I think he’s nuts.

Stories are simple and start with “What Ifs.”

Let me explain. Take a situation that you have some interest in and start asking yourself the question “What if ABC happened in that situation?” Then “What if XYZ happened to THAT situation?” keep it going.

My next book “Getting Dunn” started like this:

Situation I’m interested in: Soldiers returning to the States after the war have high rates of PTSD and suicide.

What If Number One: What if a soldier came back to the states dealing with PTSD and suicide?

What If Number Two: What if the soldier was a woman and her soldier fiancé committed suicide and she had to deal with that? What if that’s how her military father died?

What If Number Three: What if she had psychological problems because of these issues and struggled to deal with them?

Then during your What Ifs challenge yourself to set up twists and conflicts.

Hmmm…this is where it gets fun.

What If Number Four: What if the only work she can find to make money is as an exotic dancer and we can witness the conflict of a strong woman using her sexuality to exploit men?

What If Number Five: What if she works on a volunteer suicide hotline to exorcise her demons?

What IF Number Six: What if she gets calls saying that the military suicides she’s been hearing about aren’t suicides but a cover up for soldiers who knew too much about a military drug trade….

What Ifs are endless and some won’t work, some will be over the top and ridiculous but the brainstorming process is how you start conceptualizing the framework for a story.

This isn’t changing a transmission. This is playtime. Be boundless, non-critical and childlike. Talk it over with friends if it helps but only playful friends who can have fun with it, not ones that will find 100 reasons why it won’t work.

So what are you interested in?

What is your first “What If?”

What would be a cool “What If” after that?

Repeat about 50 times.

There’s your story idea.

Tom Schreck writes the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries and his newest release THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT has just been releaesd. Visit and “like” his fan page on Facebook at for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.