Every good story starts with a 'what if'. What if a young boy discovers he's a wizard? What if a girl discovers a world hidden inside her wardrobe? What if there was a cemetery where pets came back to life if they were buried there? What if dinosaurs were real again?
In this exercise, imagine your story and your main character(s). Who is(are) the character(s)? Why do we care about them? What happens to them, and why is it a problem? (If it's not a problem, it's just life, not a story.Â )
Spend at least 15 minutes imagining all the possibilities in your story. Make a list of every possible 'what if' you can think of. Nothing is off limits here - let your brain go.
For The Master of Time
What if the characters could travel through time?
What if the protagonist (let's call him Joe) stumbles into the operations of a drug cartel? A human trafficking ring? A nefarious financial scheme? A political plot?
What if a friend of the protagonist (let's call her DD) turns out to be part of a criminal enterprise? What if she seems to be a criminal but turns out not to be? What if she is a government agent? What if she is working undercover as part of the criminal enterprise?
What if the protagonist falls in love with a woman (let's call her Parvana) who was a criminal? A victim of the criminal enterprise? Also an undercover agent working secretly with the protagonist's friend?
What if the protagonist is also a government agent? What if he isn't aware that DD or Parvana are also government agents?
What if the protagonist is dealing with a personal tragedy? What if he is motivated by trying to work through it? What if that tragedy involved a woman who died and with whom he had been in love? What if we don't know what that tragedy is until the end?
What if it's the other way around and the protagonist isn't who he seems to be? What if he is secretly watching DD and/or Parvana?
What if DD and Parvana are enemy agents (to each other?). What if DD is the evil agent and Parvana is the "good guy"?
What if the ordeal that Joe goes through helps him heal from his personal tragedy?
What if what Joe does for as living as a free-lance media journalist is tied into the plot? What if someone at a radio station or a newspaper turns out to be Joe's spy handler?
What if Joe is a double agent? What if the crooks think he's part of their operation?
What if Joe has to sacrifice someone to carry out his mission? What if it appears the sacrificial victim will die but Joe figures out a way to save him or her?
What if Joe is conflicted by competing loyalties and that is the problem he has to solve?
What if Joe's work as a media columnist plays into the plot?
What if instead of uncovering a criminal enterprise, Joe solves a crime? What if that crime is murder? What if the murder victim is the girl in the clock shop?
What if the police drop the murder investigation because they've been told to by the feds, who are on the track of a wider crime?
What if Joe blames himself for his wife's death, that he feels he could have prevented it if he had been somewhere on time? What if that reason for his guilt is revealed only gradually in the story and is fully revealed only at the end, when Joe breaks free of it, when he learns to say, "Buh-bye" to it?