The 5 W’s of Journalism for Fiction Writing

Posted By Mandi Lindner on Nov 16, 2012 | 0 comments


The Past

I’m a planner by nature.

In graduate school when I wrote papers I would take notes from sources, write an outline for my piece, organize my notes and sources into that outline and then, and only then, write my paper.

Usually the process took a couple of weeks.

I thought about the outline before actually developing it. I spent even more time thinking about the paper before actually writing it.

This usually left me with anywhere from 6-12 hours of writing time before the paper was due.

Rarely did I edit.

The Present

I don’t consider myself a procrastinator so much as an incubator (I can’t take credit for this clever comparison). It may seem like I’m not doing anything, but when I put fingertips to keyboard all of my work comes pouring out in a matter of hours.

Because of my process – note taking, thinking, outlining, quoting, etc – I work better with non-fiction pieces. This is something I’m struggling with during NaNoWriMo, as that project is a fiction novel.

I’m used to gathering quotes, researching sources, and building my story around what I find. With fiction I can take notes on setting, character, and plot points to help build the story, but the big missing piece is the dialogue.

It’s going to take me awhile to be as comfortable writing fiction as I am non-fiction.

The Future

With my current novel I’ve developed a process that, while it may take me longer, will actually help me in streamlining the process. I hope.

I keep notes on the emotion I want a scene to convey and the broader picture I want to paint with a setting, plot point, or character, but I’ve been practicing “interviewing” my characters and “observing” the scenes to help utilize my journalism skills.

reporter holding microphone

By imagining I am interviewing a character I am able to gather the quotes and emotions I need to build my story. By observing the action and setting I can report it as it happened.

It’s all mind tricks, sure, but it helps me transition from the true life, reporting type work I’ve done in the past to the straight-from-my-twisted-mind fiction I want to complete for NaNoWriMo.

The 5 W’s of Journalism for Fiction Writing

WHO is involved in the action (i.e. which characters)?

WHERE did the scene take place (i.e. country, state, city, neighborhood, building, room)?

WHAT happened (i.e. sequence of events, important plot points)?

WHEN did this scene take place, both to sketch the setting and within the story?

WHY is this scene important in the broader context of the piece?

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