What if...I'd not been told by Mrs Ellis, my chemistry teacher, that as I had a June birthday (which meant I was one of the youngest in the year) I was likely to fail my O levels and have to retake - so don't bother thinking about A levels? I'd never have got stuck in and proved the old bat wrong with 7 passes.
What if...I'd gone off to university when I first took my A levels, rather than resitting to improve my grades? I'd never have met my wonderful friends : the Wolves crowd.
What if...Mr Squidge and I HAD broken up after my parent's silver wedding party? (That one doesn't bear thinking about.)
What if...my son had been correctly diagnosed with appendicitis when we first went into hospital? He wouldn't have ended up with severe peritonitis almost three weeks later.
What if...I hadn't supported Mr Squidge in putting up Big Bob, our wind turbine? He'd have always been left wondering whether he could make a success of it and we'd have bitterness between us.
I'm sure you've done the same. I've found over the years, it doesn't do to dwell on the what ifs too much; it's quite depressing and draining. I prefer to look back on the situation afterwards, because it's only ever in hindsight that we see the bigger picture and the blessings and benefits that we gained from a particular event.
As writers, we can turn 'What if' to our advantage. It's the root of our creativity a lot of the time. You start asking yourself questions like 'what if...your destiny could be written on your skin?' What if...someone could steal colour from the world? What if...someone wanted to set up a scam in a pub?
It's particularly important to ask the question when you take something that already exists, with the aim of putting a spin on it. And that's EXACTLY what happened when myself and the other authors wrote our stories for A Seeming Glass.
In my case, I asked what if Sleeping Beauty would have been better left asleep? What if, once woken, she had a voracious appetite and ate her prince out of house and home? Or she turned out to be a flesh-eating zombie, cast into a state of suspended animation for humanity's protection?
I also asked what if Salome had asked for a different prize after she danced for King Herod? What if she'd gone against her mother's wishes and asked for a kingdom of her own? A husband? Or a lifetime's supply of chocolate?
Of course, none of the above are what actually ended up happening in my stories Thread and You Should Have Let Me Sleep...
But we all did it; all ten of us asked 'what if...' and carried on asking the question until the stories that we thought were familiar to us morphed and twisted and reflected their core into an entirely different shape. A bit like one of those fairground mirrors that distort your image. You know what you should look like, and you can see enough of the original to know that it's you, but what you see is totally different to what you're expecting... It's an exciting process, one that can take you in all sorts of directions and pull things out of your head that afterwards, you wonder where did all THAT come from? Did I really think those (in my case) dark thoughts?
So the next time you're stuck for an idea for your writing, ask 'What if...' And if you're stuck for reading material, ask 'What if...I read A Seeming Glass?'
I promise - you will not be disappointed.
(2nd September ONLY: Your chance to win a copy of the anthology either on The Random Writers facebook page or via Twitter, @Random_Lands. Between 6.30pm and 8.30pm UK time, you can join a typical surreal convo on facebook with us OR 'Ask the Author'...Hope to see you there!)