Double-Ues pronouns Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How: fundamental bases for grammar school writing instruction and learning, and writing instruction and learning throughout a lifetime and the history of composition and human communications. These six pronouns pose questions any composition must answer, artfully answer in the case of creative writing, but answer regardless of form, genre, and medium.
Rout teaching and usage of the Double-Ues questions gives writers an indifferently jaded view of their importance. Enlightened Double-Ues teaching and usage gives writers powerful magic for expressing the questions without directly posing the actual questions. A scene or any dramatic unit or composition of whatever proportion is not complete until the Double-Ues questions are answered.
Dateline late Thursday night, February 14, 2013: After a disastrous fire in the Gulf of Mexico, tugboats towed Carnival Cruise Lines' Triumph into a Mobile, Alabama port. Passengers and crew endured five nightmare days at sea. When, what, where, how, why, and who. This is the final outcome of a dramatic complication, a problem wanting satisfaction. The story is effectively over for the news-watching public. For Triumph passengers and families, crew staff and families, and Carnival executives and families, and all's acquaintances, the story is far from over. The inciting event is the same: a fire at sea crippled the vessel, the first cause.
Artfully posing dramatic questions and artfully answering them is an art of dramatic arts. Openings ought best give the essential details of the answers to a central dramatic question: This story and its dramatic complication is about who, what, when, where, why, and how?
For a best practice, openings should only introduce details essential to the moment. Overkill burdens readers with unessential details. A basic introductory requirement introduces readers to a character with a want or problem wanting satisfaction in a setting's milieu. Hi, Reader, This is Marianne the Jakes laboring in a crude mountain hut accompanied by a faithless attendant, [who Mary can interact with and vocalize her troubles to]. Mary's concerned her manor laird wants her yet-to-be-born first born daughter for Providence knows what.
Problems with artless Double-Ues question answers:
Who: Population Explosion, too many characters introduced too soon for readers to keep track of. This is often a consequence of a writer not clearly knowing who a story is about.
What: Kitchen Sink, too many situation and plot circumstances for readers to keep track of. This is often a consequence of a writer not clearly knowing what a story's situation is about dramatically; in other words, the plot.
When: Vague anytime syndrome, inadequate provision of time markers so readers are grounded as to the moment. This is often from a writer not clearly and artfully being able to express when the action takes place.
Where: White Room syndrome, vague location and place of the action. Same as When in terms of grounding readers to the moment's location and from not clearly and artfully expressing where the action of the moment takes place.
Why: Ad hoc fallacy, causes and effects illogically or not at all sequenced, or by attaching circumstances that are superfluous or redundant to the action. This is often a consequence of a writer not appreciating the sequence that causes lead on to effects, effects become causes, and causes and effects accumulate, or not clearly knowing why the action begins or continues unabated until a final outcome, or all the former; in other words, from a writer not knowing what the first, middle, and last causes and effects are.
How: A dramatic complication's stakes and outcomes not mattering to readers, from a writer not clearly knowing how opposing dramatic conflict proportionately matters in terms of readers' caring and curiosity, often too small a separation of stakes and potential outcomes, or lack thereof, for audience appeal. Life or death, acceptance or rejection, riches or rags, salvation or condemnation, personal growth or decline, and so on, instead of a kiss or a puncture wound, a compliment or a slight, a penny found or lost, a meaningless sacrifice or sinless selfishness, a baby step maturation or regression.
These concepts apply equally as well to scenes as to short stories, novel chapters, novels, extended sagas, creative nonfiction essays, journalism reporting, queries, pitches, and book proposals.
Interesting example of a major story problem I encountered in the "When" category.
I was reading a story that basically jolted the reader every chapter. It would tell a part of the story, then jerk you back about halfway along the plot and retell the story plus a little bit more from another person's viewpoint. Then jerk you back halfway through what you'd just read and tell it again from another viewpoint.
By the time I'd read 50 pages in I'd already read the same events 3 or 4 times and felt like I had to do chores before I could get any new tidbits on what was actually happening. What I've read could've been put in ten pages told once and been 100x better. In fact, I don't think I've ever been angrier reading a book. I put it down and never intended to pick it up again.
The sad thing was it was a collaboration project between David Eddings and an unknown author. I don't know how it got the stamp of approval of such a gifted writer, but that just made me even angrier. A new writer might not've known better than to use such a clunky mechanic.
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Matej11, I've read modular narratives that were more artfully constructed than the one you describe. A modular narrative follows a nonlinear timeline through brief blocks, typically without overt transition signals, but subtle transitions that nonetheless keep readers grounded as to who, what, when, where, why, and how. Providing increasingly dramatic context and texture in order to move a narrative further along is an essential for organizing modular narratives.
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