Writing Prompt: Alternative Biography

Written by Emily Harstone | August 1, 2013

When my father was young, long before I was born, he was accepted into Stanford for math. He planned to attend Stanford, but instead stopped at Washington State University and decided to stay after touring the art department. He met my mother in a watercolor class. They have now been married for over 35 years.

If I was writing an alternative version of my father’s life he might never have attended WSU. In this version of his life, he would have never encountered my mother, as they would have been in very different geographical locations. All sorts of other options would open up.

With this writing prompt you are given full permission to alter reality. But you start out by only changing one event, and then by exploring the repercussions of this event.

Give yourself about 15 minutes to start, but if the exercise really pulls you in I encourage you to try it more than once. Each time, alter different events or explore other possible repercussions. You can alter events in your own life or in the life of your family members.

This exercise is all about exploring the fork in the road. The possibilities that lie on the road less traveled by. It is also a good creative assignment, with a firm foundation in reality but plenty of room for discovery.