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6 Questions to Ask When Planning Your Novel

Buried in the Slushpile

Every person who has a kid in school or has been a kid in school or has met a kid in school knows the 5Ws and an H. Let’s all say them together: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Who knew that this concept that we learn in kindergarten could later be used as a guide for planning a novel? It’s true though. You can make a very simple story plan with just those six questions:

Q: Who?
A: Characters. If you don’t have any characters, you don’t have anyone to talk about.

Q: Why?
A: Theme. Your theme tells you why your characters act the way they do.

Q: What?
A: Conflict. Without conflict, you have nothing. Your conflict is what your characters are doing.

Q: When?
A: Arcs. Your story and character arcs will tell you when stuff will happen in your story. (Beginning, Middle, or End?)

Q: Where?
A: Plot Structure. You’ve figured out all of these fascinating things about your story. You have people who are doing things for excellent thematic reasons. Now, where are they doing it? Plotting your novel will help you figure it out. And finally…

Q: How?
A: Scenes. Your scenes are where all the other questions come together. Figuring out your key scenes in advance can help you realize what’s missing before you write that first draft.

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