This game works best for middle schoolers if you are using movies, TV shows, and books. They will have read/watched a lot more by this age, so they have more to pull from.
If you have younger students (4th–6th graders, for example), I’d recommend doing real-life What-If…? questions (such as “What if we walked on the ceiling?”).
The standard game can be played with 1 player, but you can easily expand this to include a small group or even an entire classroom.
See “Variations” for ideas for playing this game as a class.
- Brainstorming (learn more about this in section 2 of this post)
- Story Structure
- Character and Setting
- Other skills can easily be introduced as needed
You will need
- Optional: The printed What-If…? Writing Game PDF (get it for free below)
- Several blank pieces of paper
This game requires no set up. In fact, you can play it anywhere—even without pen and paper. This writing game could actually easily be converted into roadtrip game, a conversational game, or a party game.
The object of the game is to create interesting new stories by changing parts of movies, TV shows, video games, books, or even real life people, places or things.
Asking and answering a question
Pick a What-If…? question from the list (if using the free What-If…? Writing Game PDF) or think of your own What-If…? question. Write the question down or say it out loud.
Write or describe aloud your answer to the question.
For example, let’s say I pick this question: What if Cinderella’s Fair Godmother was really a space alien? I would then write my answer. Right now, for example, I’m thinking that the Fairy Godmother didn’t really want to help Cinderella get to the ball for good reasons. Maybe she was trying to get Cinderella out of the house because there was a buried treasure in the Cinderella’s basement. When Cinderella goes to the ball, the Fairy (alien?) Godmother uses her laser shovel to dig up the treasure and fly away.
Okay, now comes the good part. After this brief description, your student’s brain should be excited to write more. Right now in my head, for example, I’ve mapped out the a sequel to Cinderella: after the Prince marries Cinderella, they find an old letter from her father telling them about the buried treasure, but guess what? When they go to dig it up, it’s gone! They then must go on a quest to find the Alien Godmother and get the treasure back.
What to ask questions about
You can ask What-If…? questions about anything.
The basic What-If…? questions change something about your subject. For example, in the question “What if we walked on the ceiling?” we are changing something about the way we walk.
If I ask, “What if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was a space alien?” I am changing the nature of one of the characters in a story.
To get good What-If…? questions, think about what you could change.
Here are some ideas to get you started (I have a giant list with tons of examples in the free PDF below):
- Character personalities (What if Cinderella was selfish?)
- Character desires (What if Cinderella wanted riches instead of love?)
- Character actions (What if Cinderella ran away to another country?)
- Settings (What if Cinderella happened in space?)
- Time periods (What if Cinderella happened in modern times?)
Using real life
You don’t have to use TV shows, movies, or books. You can ask What-If…? questions about anything.
Again, think about something you could change about real life—maybe scientific laws (such as gravity), the way something works (like cars having wheels), or the way our government is set up.
I have a list of more ideas for asking real-life What-If…? questions in the free PDF below.