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The Importance of Asking How and Why

Updated on August 8, 2012
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net | Source

In the prior article, we discussed the importance of WHERE and WHEN and its importance in story. For our final segment, it is now time to ask the last two questions of HOW and WHY.

The question HOW determines the art that something is to be done. For this vital step, it is not enough to "wing" it; instead when attempting to answer this question one needs to do research.

For example, let's say your story is about a German-American (WHO), who is fighting during World War II (WHEN). He has to make it to Paris after landing on the beaches of Normandy (WHERE) to deliver news (WHAT) to his almost forgotten love, who is in hiding in the city.

For this tale, as with any story, you must determine the adventure your character is to take in order for his mission to be accomplished or not accomplished. Only through determining what your character must achieve are you able to create the conflict to make his achievements of the same more difficult. Therefore, ask, what conflict must my character overcome and how does he overcome it?

When dealing with HOW, this is a great example of when your research gene must kick in. Readers love for their facts to be correct - especially about guns and cars. I once read a book that said it took 45 minutes to get to the coast from Richmond, Va. It irked me that this was not true. Such small things can distract and make it that a reader may want to throw your book in the corner.

In taking the example from above, let's say that your hero sneaks away from his regiment --> HOW? Which mode of transportation does he take? He kills an enemy soldiers with his bare hands and switches uniforms to not appear as a foreign soldier.

This leads us to the next question of WHY. Here you must ask yourself why does your reader need to know the information you've gathered during your research and why does your character do or not do what you want him to do. Not everything that you plot out on your characterization chart or all the research you do on a topic will end up in your story. Therefore, when picking and choosing, ask WHY is this information important for my story? How does it advance my plot? If you can't give an answer, then leave this information out.

WHY is not only a question to ask when creating motive for characterization but also in determining the actions for your characters. For example, a deeply religious person is less likely to steal, and if he does then you need to determine why he'd go against his personality to do such an action.The actions of your characters must ring true with their ideologies and beliefs and should an action not, there must be a clear indicator as to why. Why would an honest man lie? Why would a soldier risk being caught and executed as a traitor?

The question of WHY not only deepens your characterization, but ensures that your character's actions, as well as the plot, congeal, creating a story of depth and intrigue. When a story lacks depth, this is often based on it not logically answering the questions which the reader has subconsciously asked.

When it comes to writing the novel, there are many tips and tricks, however, the best advice is to ask the five Ws and one H (WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW); by asking those and taking the time to answer them, you risk nothing besides creating a story that has the elements to draw in readers and lovers of your work.

Tina Glasneck is the author of Thou Shall Not. She enjoys creating three-dimensional characters and coming up with new ways to kill people...in her stories. Visit her website: www.tinaglasneck.com and follow her on Twitter: @TinaGlasneck


Thou Shall Not: (Spark Before Dying) (Volume 1)
Thou Shall Not: (Spark Before Dying) (Volume 1)

Bodies are piling up in Richmond, Virginia, mutilated, and tagged. A serial killer metes out justice to those that have escaped it, and Alexandria "Xandy" Caras is on the list. Two years have passed since the workplace massacre; six months since the day her charge of murder was dismissed.

When innocent “fan” letters become aggressive acts, Xandy finds herself seeking help from Police Captain Victor Hawthorne. He doesn’t believe in coincidences. Can he keep her safe when all signs point to her as being the killer’s ultimate target?

Only Xandy’s death can make it all stop, silencing the deranged killer who wants more than revenge, but true repentance.

 

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