Any past Tips & Prompts can be found on my website: Writing Tips & Prompts.
Writing Prompt #4: Turn Back Time
Almost everyone has regrets, and those regrets usually stem from decisions we've made -- decisions that hindsight indicates were wrong (though hindsight isn't always right either). Confused yet? Wondering what this has to do with a writing prompt? No, sorry, I'm not delving into your psyche. This isn't a therapy session. Though, like the science fiction story, you could always make it into one. After all, writing can be quite therapeutic.
Therapy aside, delve into your memories and pick a time when you made a decision that you feel was the wrong one. Now, think about what would have happened if you chose differently. First, write down the immediate difference. Then go from there. What would your present look like if you would have done something differently in your past? Follow the dominoes as they fall, each change leading to a new one.
Or if you don't want to explore a regret in your life, pick a time you made the right decision and your life was better for it. Then consider what would have happened if you'd chosen a bad path instead. What other occurrences and decisions would that have led to?
This is a great way to explore cause and effect, which is so important in fiction. Every action has a reaction, and every choice will change the path of your character. Since you know yourself well, it's easier to map out the possible differences due to a changed decision, which you can then apply to your fiction.
In essence, writing out how much your life would have morphed due to different choices is fiction itself. With a few tweaks, you could even change it into a story in whatever genre you'd like.
You want me to give it a whirl? Let's see...
In my 20s, I had a bit of an obsession with Mage Knight (if you don't know what this is, Google it). I wanted to collect all the rare figures in every set. To do this, I bought Mage Knight booster packs by the case. And I told myself I'd actually play the game as well. Of course, I never actually played, and I still have a bunch of Mage Knight figures packed away in a closet.
What if I never sunk all that money into those Mage Knight figures?
I would have saved hundreds of dollars. True, I could have just spent it on another silly obsession. But what if I'd spent it more wisely? Put it toward my student loans, perhaps. I'd have much less debt right now. Invested it for the long term -- money saved for retirement (though, let's face it, I'm a writer, I'll only retire when my brain truly comes unhinged).
Or... and here comes the true fantasy. I could have spent it all on lottery tickets and hit it big! Today, I'd live in my dream re-modeled Victorian and be able to hire someone to clean my house and watch my kids while I write until my heart's content. Ah, if only.
Then a fairy would come along and steal it all.
Go on, give it a try. You don't need to be too serious. Turn back time and explore how different life might be. And write!