Story Prompts: What If?

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If you want your students to write some stories - whether it’s for a brief exercise or the basis of a project - here are some what-if questions to get them thinking.

As your students narrow in on one of these what-if questions, there are other things to consider as well. We have some detail questions at the bottom of this post for that. But first, students should see which of these what-if questions strike their interest.

Also note that the questions target ‘you’, but students can apply this to characters they’ve created instead. They can write in either first-person or third-person.


What if your best friend or sibling became famous?


What if a secret government agency was after you?


What if you woke up one day and couldn’t remember the last three years of your life?


What if you and your friends were sent into the past?


What if you had a pet dragon or a pet unicorn?


What if you were chosen for a mission to travel to another galaxy?


What if your sports team entered a world-wide tournament, and every other team was ranked higher than yours?


What if the love of your life was forbidden from seeing you?


What if you and your friends were travelling through a jungle and came across the ruins of a lost civilization?


What if you figured out how to communicate effectively with animals?


Once a student chooses a what-if question to base a story around, they should then consider further questions to add details. The longer the story should be, the more detail questions they need to consider, and the more complex their answers should be. Here are some good detail questions for them:

  • What is the initial response for all characters involved? Once they settle into the new status quo, what’s their long-term response to the situation? (Different characters should respond in different ways).

  • How does this change affect the characters emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, or financially?

  • In what ways is this change a good thing? In what ways is it bad?

  • How would the story play out differently if you used a different main character?

  • What are some things that could happen part-way through the story to make things worse? What can the main character(s) do by the end to make things better?



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