The ‘What If’ game for writers

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by Patricia L. Stebelton

As kids, we act out our favorite action and make-believe characters. We give these ‘imaginary identities’ amazing adventures. When we grow up we usually leave them behind and live responsible lives as accountants, engineers, teachers . . . or we become writers!

SUPPOSE you’re listening to the late TV news: After days of solid rainfall, Missouri has reported devastating flooding. All who watch this broadcast feel sad that people are in danger of losing their property and lives.

But a writer might also say, ‘WHAT IF’. . . Imagine your character in a similar situation. Below is a ‘What if’ for such a scenario—An adventure, romance or suspense mystery possibility . . .?

Flood Waters

*Penny Gilotto shivered as she inched her wet, cold body further toward the highest point of the roofline. She chided herself that she’d waited too late to evacuate before the heavy floods came. “Maybe if I’d listened to the TV or hadn’t laid down and gone to sleep!” The truth was she hadn’t believed the situation was as grave as it was. What did I know? I was raised in the city! A small whimper erupted before she could call it back.

Only this morning, her rental house had been pleasantly situated alongside the river. Now, her watch told her it was 8:00 p.m., and her home was floating in the swollen river which flooded the entire valley. It was nearly dark; a thin gray band separated water from sky. From Penny’s roofline perch , her eyes hungrily roamed the muddy, fast-moving waters that raged a few feet below; she searched for help. Where were the rescue boats? Terror filled her heart!

Household items, tree limbs and indiscernible objects all floated by . . . yet she was the only life form in view—except for the pathetic, black, white and orange cat that clung to the far side of her roof. The big-eyed cat made no attempt to move toward her, and Penny was too frightened to move as well. After the last high surge of water had rocked the house top, Penny was surprised to discover the cat was still holding on tenaciously—a brave animal.

Am I brave? Facing the question straight on, Penny experienced her own inadequacy. I can do nothing, Lord, but rely upon Your mercy. She drew her drenched sweatshirt tight to her chest and prayed with her whole being. Looking at the feline, Penny felt a strange kinship with this animal who fought to stay alive, and softly called out, giving him a name, “Hang on, Rocky, don’t let go!” Her eyes lifted to the moody, swirling clouds above. Keep this little cat safe, Jesus.

Hey, you on the roof! Get ready to jump when I pull up close.We’ve only got one chance. Don’t mess it up!”

The sharp voice came from the river. Penny squinted into the bleak dusk. There in a small motorboat was a tall man wearing a black hooded jacket. She waved, indicating that she’d heard him and motioned him in. There was so much debris in the churning waters, she knew it would be difficult to maneuver his boat close enough for her to jump safely. There was also the danger the boat might tip over. Penny’s line of focus moved toward the end of the roof and the wet cat with sympathetic longing. The man hadn’t sounded very patient.

. . . . .

Will Penny save the cat? Will she land safely in the boat? Is the man a good man or bad man? Where will he take her—then what? WHAT IF’? . . . The story could go anywhere from here!  


Patricia L. Stebelton: author of six Romantic Suspense Mysteries through Oaktara Publishing/
Short stories in compiled books “Whispering in God’s Ear”, “Angeles, Miracles & Heavenly Encounters 1”, and “Falling in Love With You” as well as stories in Guidepost Book stories and a devotional in “Love is A Verb”, Gary Chapman & James Stuart Bell.   Patricia and her husband live in a picturesque town in the heart of Michigan. Patricia enjoys family activities, her writing and commissioned art projects.

photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc