Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Words for Nerds #AtoZChallenge--W is for Who, What, Where, When, Why (and How)

From an "ugly" stepsister's
I suspect the most widely known rule when it comes to writing an article is that you must answer the six W questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why (and How). 

Answer these six questions, and you’ll have a complete article. Don’t answer these six questions, and your readers will be left asking questions you should have answered.

Fictional stories answer these six questions, too, but there’s one very important difference: the answers for an article are supposed to be based on fact, but the answers for a work of fiction can be anything the author chooses. 

Cinderella, for example, has an evil stepmother and evil stepsisters in the original fairy tale, but in your version? You can do anything you want.

This Cinderalla is running away
from the prince

The truth is every existing story has an infinite number of story possibilities. All you have to do is change the answers to the six questions.

Who? In the original, it’s Cinderella, her evil stepmother and evil stepsisters, her fairy godmother, and the prince. But what if you make one of the stepsisters the main character? Or the fairy godmother? Or what if Cinderella isn’t so good? What if she’s kind of mean and she chooses to sleep in the cinders to embarrass her step family?

What? In the original, she gets magic clothes, goes to the ball, falls in love with the prince, loses a glass slipper, and is found to be the prince’s true love when the glass slipper fits her. But what if she doesn’t have a fairy godmother, or magic clothes, or any of that stuff? What if she doesn’t even like the prince? What if she doesn’t want to go to the ball?

All she wants is to get rid of the
curse of obedience
Where? The original takes place in a fairytale land. But what if it didn’t? What if it took place in the 21st century? (Time is a part of the setting, not the “when.”) What if it took place on another planet? What if it took place in the Wild West?

When? The story begins with Cinderella being mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. But what if it started before all of that happened? Or what if it started after? And how much after? What if starts with Cinderella trying to adjust to a royal life and being unable to accept how the servants at the castle are treated? What if it deals with political intrigue behind the scenes as noblemen and women try to get rid of Cinderella? Or what if it skips ahead a couple of decades as the daughter of Cinderella and the prince has doubts about marrying a prince?

Why? Cinderella gets her happy ending because she’s good and obedient and doesn’t complain despite all the hardships she endures. But what if she isn’t so good and obedient? Or what if she is obedient, but not by choice?

How? The “how” of a story is about how the story is told: in other words, its style or genre. Cinderella is fairytale, but it doesn’t have to be. What if you turned it into a mystery? I mean, how did Cinderella’s parents die (or at least disappear) anyway? What if you turned it into a screwball comedy? Or into a science fiction novel with robots?

Six questions, infinite answers, and infinite story possibilities.  

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