Where Book Ideas Come From

A few weeks ago, I asked some author friends of mine a question I’d been wondering for a while:

“Where do you get ideas for your stories?”

As I expected, stories are built from a variety of sources. However, one response particularly resonated with me.

“I ask the question ‘what if…?’”

I’ve been thinking about that response quite a bit. First, it made me think of STEM fields like astrophysics or architecture. Someone, somewhere, always asks “what if” and tries—and fails—before creating something new.

Even though writing doesn’t (usually) create purple flames or make a car run, the question “what if” is no less vital. In fact, it’s only when an author has done their job that stories work because the “what ifs” within the narrative make sense.

So, authors are scientists in a way: asking “what if” and revealing the results within the confines of a universe they’ve created.

“What ifs” can take you to a parallel universe or back in time.

“What ifs” can lead to conflicts with mythical creatures, ghosts, and especially with yourself, where characters come out stronger on the other side.

Whether rooted in fantasy, reality, or somewhere in between, these stories all investigate the question of “what if” and paint new possibilities for humanity.

So, my question, then, is this: if “what if” leads to great discoveries or revelations in both the humanities and STEM fields, what could happen if we turned that musing around to pertain to our relationships with the world and the other humans around us?

  • What if... I hold the door for that person instead of letting it close?

  • What if... I recycle this bottle instead of throwing it away?

  • What if... I try a meatless meal once in a while?

Think of the impact this small question can make.

I think back on the series of “what if” questions that brought me to where I am today, and I am grateful for every one of them. Though I was not aware of my trajectory at the time, I’m proud of most of the choices I’ve made and I am happy to be where I am now.

The “what if’s” of the future will look different from those that came before, but I’m confident that with a mind that is open to possibility, the future will look bright.

Thank you to the authors who helped inspire this post!

Did one of your “what ifs” turn into a story that you’d like to share with me? Click here and let me know!

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