What If…

Writing starter by Liz Kessler

One day, when I was about eight years old, I was in my back garden making a daisy chain. I picked each daisy as low down its stalk as I could, carefully sliced a hole in the stalk and poked the next daisy’s head through the hole. But then I picked a daisy and suddenly stopped. I had a strong feeling that this daisy was different. The thought suddenly came into my head: at midnight, this daisy is going to become a fairy!

I took the daisy into the house, up to my bedroom and put it in a tin box. Then I waited for midnight.

But as the day became evening, things started to look a bit different. Soon it was night time, and very dark, and the thought of a fairy coming to life on my windowsill didn’t feel exciting any longer. It just felt scary! What if the fairy was a bad fairy? What if it hated me for picking it out of the ground? What if its magic was simply too powerful and awful and took over my life? What if it turned out that it was a huge frightening goblin and not a fairy at all?

My imagination ran wild, and I scared myself so much that I ended up grabbing the daisy out of the tin, scrunching it up and throwing it out of the window! In the morning, I was devastated. I knew that I had thrown away my one and only chance to have a fairy of my own.

However, many years later, I told a writer friend about this experience, and she said, But Liz, you’re a writer. The story can have any ending you like! And so, Philippa Fisher’s Fairy Godsister came about. Philippa’s story starts in a very similar way to mine, but it ends very differently!

I think that the question, What if things had happened differently? is always a powerful one. In fact, you can shorten it to, What if… and the rest of the question can lead you to all sorts of interesting places. Let’s try it. Think of three things you’ve done in the last week. They can be as ordinary as you like. Things you do every day, or if there’s anything you’ve done in the last week that’s unusual in any way, then include that too. Write them down. I’ll do it, too

I went to Longleat Safari Park

I visited a friend in Hampshire

I took the dog for a walk along the river

OK, so these are the real things I did. But then you play the What if...? game, and this is where it turns from every day normal life into potential stories. Just keep saying What if…? and try to think of different things that could have happened, instead of what really happened. Let your imagination run wild. We’ll try it with one of mine.

  • I took the dog for a walk along the river. What if the dog ran off?
  • What if she saw a boat and jumped onto it?
  • What if I jumped on the boat, too?
  • What if I went all round the boat looking for my dog, and discovered there was no one actually steering it?
  • What if I realised…it was a ghost boat?

Now it’s getting exciting! After this, all sorts of things could happen. We’ve truly begun our story. And believe me, starting the story is usually the hardest bit to crack, so we’re on our way. All this, from a starting point of something I do every day! Now you try it. Three things you’ve done in the last week, then pick one, and just keep asking, What if…? What if…? What it…? and see where it leads you!

Enjoy it!