I’ve always assumed everyone sees the world as I do. They see what I see, hear what I hear and then ask themselves questions. I was amazed to discover recently not everyone does.
Now a week or so ago whilst sitting in the sun outside a local family friendly pub with friends, I watched as kids played, dogs panted in the shade and people generally enjoyed each other’s company. As I watched the scene the words of Rudyard Kipling popped into my head:
“I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
The Five W’s (also known as the five W’s and one H) is a formula for creating the ‘full’ story. Used as a checklist it ensures you ask all the right questions:
- What took place?
- Why did it happen?
- When did it occur?
- Where did it happen?
- Who was involved?
- How was it resolved?
Now as I watched an old man share his crisps with an even older canine friend I began to ask myself these questions.
Who was involved?
Our old man and his canine friend.
Where did it happen and what took place?
A house fire.
Why did it happen?
When did it occur?
Just days before in the early hours of the morning.
How was it resolved?
The dog woke the old man from his sleep and led him through the smoke to safety.
I also added a second how, how did they meet?
The old man had found a puppy at the side of the road years before and it had obviously been 'clipped' by a car. Taking pity on it he took it home, cared for it and they've been inseparable since.
I was then rudely pulled back to reality by a sharp elbow in the ribs. “You see the world differently don’t you,” said a friend smiling, “your brain is wired differently. You ask yourself questions and then make up the answers.”
“Doesn’t everyone?” I asked.
“Really?” I asked, admittedly a little surprised everyone doesn’t ask themselves questions and create new worlds for themselves.
“We see stuff then shrug it off. I can see you mind ticking, storing things for one of your stories,” was the reply.
“How do you not ask questions?” I asked, “don’t they just pop into your head?”
“Then how does your mind work?” I asked.
“Not like yours,” came the reply followed but a broad smile, “but then I’m not a writer, am I?”
I hate to admit it, but my friend’s right. If I didn’t ask questions I wouldn’t have little mice dealing with issues of friendship (A Book For Bramble) and the pains of growing up (The Best Jumper) running around in my subconscious. I wouldn’t have trolls dealing with up-set stomachs (Dog Did It – due March 2011) or sleep issues (a title I’m working on at the moment). If I didn’t ask questions and come up with my own solutions I wouldn’t be a writer.
Now if you’ve reached this far and want to write but are now thinking ‘questions don’t pop into my head. I’ll never be a writer.’ Thankfully this is one of the few elements of writing you can learn. Simply write down Mr Kipling’s words on several sticky-notes and place them in prominent positions, so you see them every day. Write them on the first page of a small note book and take it with you where ever you go. You’ll soon train your brain to ask those questions. Once you have you’ll surprise yourself with the new worlds and characters you create, the problems you set and the ingenious ways you resolve them.
And finally my musings on that sunny day featuring the old man and his dog will be used, they'll slot nicely into a story that's rattling around in my head. Hopefully they'll give a little more depth to the relationship between two of the three main characters an old man and his faithful canine friend.
So go on ask yourself some questions, you never know where they'll lead you.