The Five Ws of Writing


I’m sure many of you have already heard of the five Ws of writing (sometimes called the five Ws and one H): who, what, why, where, when, and how. These little words can be applied to a variety of tasks and professions from law enforcement to journalism. They come in quite handy in fiction writing as well.

How many of you have already answered these questions about own writing?

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are you writing about?
  • Where are you writing?
  • When do you write?
  • Why do you write?
  • How do you write?

But beyond your own motivations for writing, these six questions (or a variation of them) can be applied to many aspects of writing including plot, characterization, synopsis writing, story climax, or anything related to fiction writing including the story itself. For example, you might use these questions when developing your characters:

  • What does he/she want?
  • Why does he/she want it?
  • Who is preventing him/her from having it?
  • Where must he/she go to get it?
  • When must he/she act?
  • How much will he/she lose if he/she fails?

And applying it to plot might look something like this:

  • What is the story about?
  • Who is it about?
  • Where does it take place?
  • When does it take place?
  • Why can’t your character have what they want?
  • How do they overcome to solve the problem?

Regardless of how you use these questions, the important thing is that you use them to fine-tune your manuscript and focus the purpose of your writing. These simple tools can also be used to help overcome writer’s block or for simple brainstorming ideas to take your plot in directions you’d never considered. Please note that the questions above won’t fit every story or plot line, so modify the questions so you can find the answers you need to develop a fuller story.

Now it’s your turn to share. How have you used the five Ws of writing to improve your works of fiction?

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