Follow the Tangents: Going Beyond the What-If?

Fork in the road following tangents

Many of the best stories begin with a ‘what-if’ premise. What if I were the last person alive? What if cats are really aliens? What if there really is a monster sleeping under my bed?

Once you have the premise for your story, then what? My mind very often goes off on many and varied tangents when I daydream and when I write. Once I have that opening premise, I begin to write and I let the various tangents lead me down winding and crisscrossing paths until I have a complete, if somewhat messy, story. I let my stories develop organically, instead of rigidly sticking to an outline. I don’t always create an outline, and when I do, I rarely follow them outside of the major plot points.

As you write your first draft, if your mind takes you on a tangent, follow it and see where it leads. I think our minds are fascinating and if you just let your thoughts flow, they can take you to surprising places. After you complete your first draft, If you’re not happy with where your tangent goes, you can always change it during the editing process.

When I began my novel, Artifact of the Dawn, I had a general idea of where I wanted to take the story. The what-if that started me down the journey of writing it was “what if elves are really aliens?” As I began to write the story, it took some interesting turns when my protagonists insisted on falling for each other. Another tangent took me down a road to reveal that the humans in my world suffered from a unique genetic condition. Instead of ignoring these tangents, I chose to incorporate them into my original story. These subplots make the overall story a richer experience, along with giving my protagonists more depth.

So, as you’re writing, I recommend to just let your creativity flow and follow down the many roads the tangents lead, and just enjoy the journey along the way. Happy writing!

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