2 Writing Principles to Craft A Thrilling Story

Dive into the Novel Writing Series part 3 and learn the 3 things to do when prewriting your novel so you write your WIP successfully + freebie inside!

In writing, there are 2 questions that will help you craft a superb story: “What if?” and “What is expected?”

These 2 questions are there to help you extract nuggets from the story you would have never otherwise thought about. It can be fairly easy to find your perfect story idea. But turning the idea into a book is the great challenge you have to face head on to make it to the writing finish line.

Channeling the power of “what if?” and “what is expected?” will catapult you into the heart of your story. The questions will help you learn more about your characters, their personalities, motives, fears, and so on. The same goes for the world you’re building.

These 2 questions alone can help you cultivate a thriving land that lies at the heart of your story.

Let’s talk about “what if?” and “what is expected?” and how they will help you craft an unforgettable story.

1. What If

Most stories begin with a premise. The premise of a story is the heart of the story and what it will be based around.


The premise of The Hunger Games is survival of the games.

The premise of The Maze Runner is finding a way out of the maze.

The premise of Twilight is forbidden, love.

The premise of The Awakening is faith restored.

However, every premise begins with a what if question. “What if” questions unleash the creativity of the mind and help the writer dig deeper into the substance that can make up the story. Most stories end up being just the part of the iceberg that is above water which people can see. “What if” questions help create the part of the iceberg beneath the water that ends up being the foundation for the story.

The “what if” question helps form the premise to base the heart of your story on.


What if a boy was thrown into the maze and was the key to the others getting out? (The Maze Runner)

What if a vampire fell in love with a human and the love was reciprocal? (Twilight)

What if a girl single-handedly defied the government and started a rebellion against it by surviving? (The Hunger Games)

What if a girl lost her faith and had it restored by God himself? (The Awakening, my novel)

“What if” questions set the stage for what will inevitably be the ultimate plot of the story. “What if” questions help you see the story in ways you wouldn’t have previously had you not dug into “what if” X, Y, and Z happened here instead. “What if” questions will trigger powerful gems for your story you wouldn’t have thought of before.

2. What Is Expected

The “What Is Expected?” question is simply a variation of the “What If?” question. “What Is Expected?” questions are meant to be used after taking time to write out a series of “What If?” questions. “What Is Expected?” questions are meant for you as the writer to think of what your readers would expect in your story and to throw them off.  You as the writer have a job to make sure your story is entertaining and captivating while speaking to deep, subtle truths.

“What Is Expected?” questions help place you in the shoes of your readers and make you think the way they do. Taking some time to write out a solid amount of “What Is Expected?” questions, will help you dig deeper into your story, and bring out plot twists and unexpected truth bombs your readers would not have been expecting.

Examples from The Awakening

What is expected?

It’s expected Sarabi will end up with Uriah. However, Rex shows up and begins to turn her heart from him.

It’s expected Sarabi’s family will remain together as a wholesome Christian family. But, her dad and brother are killed, her sister falls terminally ill, and her brother becomes a universalist who believes in positive energy instead of the Almighty God.

It’s expected Sarabi will hold on to her faith. Instead, she chooses to curse God and begin following a path of her own.

It’s expected there will be no more familial tragedies because the father and Dustin have died. However, Hadassah will fall terminally ill.

When writing out “What Is Expected?” questions, make a list of what readers would expect from your story, then flip the expected upside down and insert something unexpected from left field, instead.

Let’s Bring It Home!

“What if?” and “What is expected?” are two simple questions to continually ask yourself for crafting a superb story. Every genius story you love began with these two questions. As you get your idea and sit down to begin planning your story, make sure to have these two questions in your arsenal.

Ask yourself “what if?” and “what is expected?” each time you begin crafting your story. Your notebook will be your best friend during this time. Don’t be afraid to write down every possibility, no matter how absurd or far-fetched. These questions will develop gold for your story.

Let's chat.

How will you use these principles to craft a better story?

Social Portraits _Shadow.jpg

Stephanie BwaBwa

Hey there! I'm a fantasy author, poet, and book writing strategist. I help writers find the story they need to tell from within themselves, then write it, one word at a time. I'm here to help you go from wonky idea, to completed manuscript. When I'm not writing, you can catch me binging Disney or nose deep in a fantasy novel, because, priorities.