17 November 2010

Writing Wednesday: The Five W's

A quick post today, mostly because I've been almost completely consumed by NaNo madness (with what was left over being consumed by my Inner It), but also because I've only just remembered that it was my turn to write this week's Wednesday post , and I now have only 30 minutes or so to get something done). *shifty*

So... the title 'The Five W's' - what exactly is that? It's actually very simple, and it's a tool that I've used many times to come up with the basic framework for a story.

Who? - Who is your main character? You really need to know your main character inside out before you can tell your story. Is it a male or a female? Do they have special abilities? Are they part of a large family, or all alone in the world? Do they have a history that the reader needs to be aware of? Or, if not the reader, is there a back story that YOU need to know? All these questions (and more) need to have answers, or your main character will be a stranger to you, and you can't write about someone you don't know, right?

What? - You need a plot, obviously, but what is that plot? Every author differs in how much they plan before they actually start writing their story, but you need to have a core theme whether you plan ahead or not. The first 'book' that I finished (story wise, not edited or polished as of yet *shifty*) was easy. I loosely based the story on Cinderella, only my main character was a twenty-something typical modern-day Cardiff-born girl. I knew exactly where I was going, and where I needed to end up. My current WIP is different as the tale is completely original. I know where to end, but getting there is harder as I don't have any form of reference. I have my beginning, and I know my end, I just need to muddle through the middle part. However, if you don't have any idea at all what you are aiming for, then you will get lost. Trust me, I know from (plenty of) experience. So you definitely need to have the basic plot formed before you start writing. You don't have to have a detailed chapter by chapter plan, but I find it helpful to list five or six things that I have to get to in my story, and then work my way through them.

When? - This doesn't always need to be addressed - if you are writing a story based in the here and now, for example - but if you are writing something historical, futuristic, fantasy or sci-fi based, then you need to get some preparation in beforehand. The good news is that it's not as hard as you might think. If you are writing a historical story, then there are tons of way to gather research - no problems there. Even easier is when you are writing futuristic, fantasy or sci-fi, because you can basically make up whatever facts you need - it's your creation, after all. (Can you tell why I like the idea of writing fantasy? Me no likey research, uh-uh).

Where? - Are you writing a story based in our world? If so, where? Find out as many details as you can about the area you are basing your story on. If you are basing it on a real place, then include some details that will be familiar to those readers who may live there. If the place is fictional, then you need to perhaps 'borrow' some features from a similar place just to make the story feel more authentic.

Of course, if you are setting the scene on a different planet, of in a different time, then you can resort to my favourite thing in the world, and make it up. But be consistent, and keep notes, or you may end up naming a village three different things (or that might just be me *shifty*).

Why? - Lastly, the biggest 'w' of all (at least, it is for me, at any rate). Why does this story need to be told? Why is it different from all the other books of the same genre that are currently available? And for your main character, why are they on this journey? What is moving them forward? Your main character has to have a reason for their actions throughout the story, and your readers will need to know them too. There has to be something that drives them. An aimless character is a boring character (in my admittedly humble opinion), so you need to figure out why they do what they do.

All this is pretty simple stuff, and you probably know it already, but although it's simple, it's not only something that is essential to your storytelling, but is also something that we sometimes forget to do. Answer the five w's before you do anything else, and you'll be off to a good start with your story.

Image courtesy of publicdomainimagesdotnet.

(Ooh, only twenty minutes late posting.... not bad at all!)


Hart Johnson said...

Seems simple enough when you put it like that... I wonder why writers have to use all these BIG words... characters, plot, setting.... hmph. They've been trying to pull one over on us with a secret language! HA!

Great post, Tara!

Unknown said...

I use this with my students. It really helps to get them to brainstorm. Excellent post!

Amber T. Smith said...

Tami - Of COURSE it's simple.... when have you ever seen me come up with anything complicated? *snort*

Chary - really? I came up with something that is used in a school?? *faints* Looordy.

CA Heaven said...

When it comes to my so-called novel (in progress (?))I think the most difficult question is the last one; why? The world is full of excellent books, so no one will need mine. I guess the only sensible answer to that question is that I think it's fun to write it >:)

Cold As Heaven