Take Five: #17: The five Ws of story

Take Five
Five-minute reads about writing
to help you with NaNoWriMo
Nov. 1 - Nov. 30, 2011
Courtesy: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)

#17: The five Ws of story

The structure of a story can seem complicated if you're looking at all the details, but the basic building blocks are actually simple at the core.

You can build nearly any story by keeping in mind a set of five simple questions, all beginning with the letter W: Who, what, where, when and why.

The last part of the equation is a final question - how.

If you can answer these six questions about any aspect of the story you're trying to tell, you can make progress when you hit a blind spot or a roadblock.

Beyond that, it'd be advisable to have a solid set of answers for each of your characters before you even start. Characters have motivations, and you can define these motivations - and therefore your characters - more clearly for yourself by being able to answer the five Ws for any one of them.

So, the exercise for today is to select any two of your characters, and answer these six questions about him or her. It's not a quiz, you don't have to write down the answers and there's no grading involved - it's just a private exercise for yourself, to be sure you have a working knowledge of who they are, before you send them anywhere!

The actual questions you select are up to you, they only have to be a set of six questions - five beginning with who, what, where, when and why, and the final question of how.

Then, just mentally mark or jot down one thing you know for sure about your character, for each question. You might be surprised to find that additional motivations will suddenly reveal themselves - but that's all to the good, and will just give your character more depth.

- Sasha Soren, author of Random Magic

About this series
The Take Five series is curated by Sasha Soren, author of Random Magic. You can find out more about the book here, if you like:

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