Asking the Questions

I remember an old writing lesson from High School where you asked yourself five simple questions:

Who, what, where, how, and why?

Those fab five were the key to unlocking a story, my creative writing teacher said. If you can’t ask those questions about your manuscript and know the answer, it’s missing something.

Let’s break it down. Say, you want to make a story about aliens small enough to get inside a human brain to control it. Sooo…

Another picture from the town of Stavanger, Norway taken by yours truly.

Another picture from the town of Stavanger, Norway taken by yours truly.

WHO? Who is the main character, or characters in this manuscript? For this one depending on the PoV I decide to go with, could be the alien or the human its controlling. So, for the sake of moving on, let’s go with Glub-Glub from the planet Smelzac. He’s no more than a few centimeters tall with translucent skin.

WHAT? Well, what is his purpose? To live the life of a human, perhaps, or is he part of a bigger scheme by the Planet Smelzac? Are they here to take over the world like some big parasitic race that needs a host?

WHERE? As in, where does it take place? The genre could play a role in this along with the location. Historical? Sci-Fi? Am I going to start it with Glub-Glub’s interstellar ship leaving Smelzac or will it start with him already in his chosen human, living a typical day on Earth?

HOW? How does he taken over his human? Traverse the galaxy without running into trouble? Meld with the human without causing any adverse affects? Or being detected?

WHY? What’s the motivation? What’s Glub-Glub’s reason for wanting to take over a human over, say, a cow?

If you notice, all these questions can intermingle in some way yet they’re all important individually. What if I just made a story about Glub-Glub living the day of a human? It could be interesting, if told from his perspective, and quite humorous. Perhaps a short story sized nugget of his misadventures. However, it really doesn’t have that nice beginning, middle, and end does it? No rollercoaster ride, IMO. Where’s the conflict? Glub-Glub forgets how many sugars his human likes in his coffee and he goes on a glucose high? Yeah, it could work but is it enough to get published or in people’s head? that’s the real question.

Maybe I could write a compelling story short-story side so my previous point might not hold too much water. Either way, I’m going to have the five questions in my head and Glub-Glub’s coming along for the ride.