II. Brainstorming 101:5W1H–Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

Dire consequences follow those who procrastinate, especially in the area of their sleep. Okay, so perhaps I did sleep in a little today. And I confess that I went to the theatres to watch Gemini Man than dutifully slating off my share of studies today. But I think we all agree that to some extent, writers and senior students need to take time off their craziness…Because, life happens to all. Oh, and now that I recall, I did do some productive things, such as listening to the Homeschooler’s Conference. That was inspirational.

Anyhow, today I am here for a shorter lesson on the famous 5W1H that lays the groundwork for all aspiring journalists and novelists. Naturally, if we don’t have a clue what our story is going to be, it can be rather tricky. This is sometimes also referred to as the Kipling method, devised by Rudyard Kipling in 1902. So here’s the basic explanation:

WHO: Who is in the story? A good number of the main cast to think about would be seven people including the protagonist and the antagonist. Anything over that, they’re not as important as you think.

WHAT: What is the story about? In this case, think more on the line of your story’s theme. It should be simple enough to describe in one word, but complex enough so that you can ask at least seven challenging questions. 

WHEN: What is the rough time frame of the story? Some people forget about this in the other aspects of worldbuilding, but this is just as important as any other factor. It also plays into your genre (i.e. fantasy with longer time frames, sci-fi with possibly alternate time dimensions), so be sure to give it a good measure of thought. I personally recommend creating a timeline for the story.

WHERE: Where does this story take place? Although this is straightforward, it’s vital you keep the map of your story in your head to avoid plot holes. Like, sometimes a character inexplicably walks through a doko demo-door into the other side of the world in the frame of a mere chapter. It’s happened to me, and it becomes messy.

WHY: Why would you write that story? Ha, didn’t see that one coming, did you? Usually, this is the place people would normally ask why your character would do this or that. But remember, I have my manifesto as Ecclesiastes 12:12-13. I want you to think hard about why the world would need another story like that epic you’re working on. Otherwise, you would, later on, run into problems like writer’s blocks and writer’s identity crisis, or worse, not finishing your book at all. It’s always better to write a mediocre or bad book than abandoning it halfway. 

HOW: And lastly, how does it all unfold? Is this a positive arc with exposition? (If you’re unfamiliar with the type of arcs, I recommend researching until I get a chance on explaining them. An excellent place to do this is Helping Writers Become Authors. If you’re serious about writing, it’s a must. This blog changed my writing life.)

I might have gotten the orders of the 5Ws somewhat mixed up, but don’t bother. As long as we have this basic question circulating in our heads, that’s all that matters.


I shall demonstrate the application of 5W1H to show you that it’s not as scary as it looks like. For example in my own NaNoWriMo project  (I hope I work up the courage), it would look like this:

WHO= Mackenzie Gilbert/Zed Norman, Tesla, Vague Lysander, Zandrah McGill, Uncle Mezzo (Mezzo Steiner), Sui Himuro, Elvencet Mayflower (Don’t expect me to explain who these people are. I like to think I am super secretive about details until I finish the story.) 

WHAT=This story is about KINDNESS. I hope.

WHEN=This story takes place under a century including backstories. The timelines are yet to come out of my brain.

WHERE=D’Arvit, I haven’t set the exact location for everything, but mainly in Vancouver east side. And in case you’re wondering, that’s the rough area with lots of interesting individuals. 

WHY=I personally struggled with the Biblical way of living in kindness to your neighbour, so I like to think of it as my own journey to the answer I have yet to find.

HOW=Ha, ha, so this is where I get to go maniac. I like the idea of a flat-negative-positive arc with a tragic twist. Don’t ask me just how it’s going to work out (or if such a thing exists). I have to believe it will. Or I’ll just write a redemptive negative arc, which is not entirely negative, is it?

What do you think, comrades? Do you like strategic analysis like 5W1H? Tell me if it works for you, or if you have any other methods of organizing your story!

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