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Asking… what if?

The term ‘speculative fiction’ is often used in vague ways – crossing a variety of genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, young adult fiction etc. But to me, the most exciting way of looking at the meaning of this phrase is contained in the word ‘speculative’. To speculate. To ask… what if? What if… a house could talk? What if… all life, as we know it, is someone else’s dream?

As writers, we are always looking for things which interest us. It’s possible to find many things to speculate about in the ‘real world’ around us – in science, and nature, in overhearing strangers speaking. But we can also find great source material within what we think, as well as what we see. It’s our own ideas and thoughts, after all, which are present within everything we write.

Most of us have an ‘inner critic’ when it comes to our writing. That voice we hear, or the things we tell ourselves, which often stop us writing. The Impostor Syndrome, if you like – our internal fear that we aren’t good enough, or interesting enough, to be decent writers.

These thoughts are horrible. But instead of letting our inner critic have control of us, we can take control of them, by being playful. By speculating – asking, what if… that thought was taken to an extreme? If we do this creatively we can challenge ourselves to push our boundaries as writers. If we push our characters to extremes, using thoughts that we dislike in ourselves, it can lead our writing into unexpected places, especially if we then also allow ourselves to speculate about the worlds these types of characters might occupy.

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