#Preptober: Six Questions to Ask While Writing
Well, I didn’t mean to disappear like that – it’s October or Preptober for NaNoWriMo writers. I’m actually working on something that I’d like to show off before it starts but I recently unearthed something as part of my notes to help myself stay focused and keep my story as simple (so I could possibly add layers to it).
When I was in elementary school, one of the assignments we were given was to go through newspapers and pick something in the current events section. After that, we would answer six questions to figure out what happened. The idea was to simplify the article and to find out what happened.
Since then, this is something I always ask myself in order to help me understand my characters, their motivations along with the story itself. Since it’s Preptober still, I thought maybe this might help others to better form the same thing.
If this helps you in any way, please let me know! I might post some other tips in the future before NaNoWriMo starts so eat up all my time.
- WHO: These people are the subject you’re focused on. What is their purpose? Are they a victim, survivor, perpetrator? What is their personality like? However, sometimes the subject is the narrator. Who is the narrator? Would they be someone you would trust? Why or why not? Is there a particular reason why they’re doing what they do in the first place? Like a sentence, once you figure out the subject, everything else will follow.
- Possible Questions to Ask: Who is this person? What are they like? Should we trust them? Are they a victim, survivor, or perpetrator?
- WHAT: This is what you’re trying to figure out: what is the subject doing? What had the subject done to get in this situation? What happened? What was the situation that led up to the current event? The person in question, be it narrator or otherwise, should be able to describe what is going on in the article or event. Other questions could include: What is the point of this? What is the moral?
- Possible Questions to Ask: What is happening? What was the situation that led up to the current event? What is the point in all this? What happened in the past that caused this character to behave like this?
- WHEN: One of the bigger problems with figuring out an article or a show is that: they don’t make it clear when this takes place. Be it day or night, in the past, present or future, location and time adds so much more context to what you’re consuming. A problem I have with most media is that it’s often not clear when this is supposed to take place. Attitudes change and it also depends when this person wrote it. Are they emotional? Are they upset? Are they indifferent? This sort of context matters. When a person posts something when they’re emotional, they’re not going to be entirely clear on what they’re talking about. It makes this a little easier to read when you realize at what period in this person’s life did they post it.
- Possible Questions to Ask: When does this take place? What’s society like at this point and time? Why is this time period important to the story? To the character? What caused this change in society and when did it happen?
- WHERE: Another big problem a lot of people do not consider is where is this article or media takes place. Context is everything when it comes to perusing these sorts of media. What sort of audience are they trying to reach with this location? If it’s not clear where this is located or where it’s posted, then it’s most likely not sure either. The local culture, or sub-culture (whether it’s the Internet or an actual location), is very important for the context of the story or article.
- Possible Questions to Ask: Where does this take place? Why is this location important to the story? What could happen if this happened on the opposite end of the world? What is about this part of the world is important to the story?
- WHY: One of the most important questions on here. Why did this person choose to write about this? What is the point of the story and why is it the story? This is the reason why the article exists. Figure it out. Once you figure that out, you’ll understand a huge chunk of the media and it’ll make more sense in the long run.
- Possible Questions to Ask: Why does this story need to exist? What do you need to tell the reader that this story has to exist for? Why does the character do anything important in the story? Why is this scene important? Why is this person important? Why is this item important?
- HOW: Honestly, this is a pretty important question that most people tend to ignore. How in the world did this come to happen? How did it end up like this? This doesn’t apply to just backstory – but this question could also apply to wonder how they could accomplish the thing. How did she become a queen when she grew up in the streets? How did he fall so far down from his promising career? Something must’ve happened for these people to get from point A to point B.
- Possible Questions to Ask: How did this happen? What is possible in this story’s world? What isn’t? How is any of this possible? What are the limitations of your protagonists and antagonists? How did this start and how did it end? How did Point A get to Point B? How does the story end? How does the story begin?
Above all: Keep your story simple!
These questions work for me because they are generic enough to reach a bigger scope of additional questions but they’re specific enough to where it makes it a bit easier to answer. I had been asking these questions for so long that it became second-nature to me.
As with any habit, you must keep up with it until it becomes routine for you. Practice makes perfect, and thankfully these questions can apply to literally any media you consume. These questions can certainly make a seemingly complicated story into something pretty simplistic.
If you’re able to answer all six of these questions (along with the variant questions added to it), this could help focus your story a lot better and you can get the basic ideas down. There could be more questions that may arise as you figure out the answers to it – don’t stress about the additional questions too much. When you first start, just focus on the main – who, what, when, where, why, and how.
If you like these tips, please consider donating a coffee to me! Please let me know in the comments if these had helped you in any way!