We’re in Week 3 of the Beginner Basic Training series, a week by week glance at six general questions that rookie and veteran writers can use to break down the basic facts used to develop their stories. Better known in education circles as the Five Ws and H questions, these basic writing elements can be used as springboards for making sure your characters, plots, settings, conflicts, and more have a foundation within your manuscripts. Last week, we focused on the second of the six questions, the WHAT of Writing Kidlit.
Today, we are going to look at the third question, the very simple WHEN of Writing Kidlit.
When we ask WHEN questions, we are looking for answers that center around timing. WHEN answers the questions that relate to the actual time, date, era, or season a story, an event, or an action occurs.
The best way to use the WHEN question is to identify all the time factors by making a list of them. Then, determine where in the story you need to point out the time or timeliness of the action, event or character. Here are some sample questions:
- When does the action or event take place?
- When do you introduce the sidekick?
- When do we battle the villain?
- When do we meet the family pet?
- When did the play occur?
- When did you see him or her?
- When did she travel to school?
- When did he win the game?
- When will you announce the surprise?
- When can you meet again?
- When should we visit the park?
- When are we going on vacation?
- When is your appointment?
Each time you ask a WHEN question, you should look for ways to include additional details. Writing a story is not exactly like answering your child face to face. For instance, when my daughter asks me, “When is dinner?” in person, I might say, “In a little while”, but in your story, you need to add additional information that will move the story along. So, in the story, the anser might instead be, “In an hour” or “When your Dad gets home from work”.
Thankfully, WHEN is an easy-to-answer question, but the most important factor is to make sure your answers create an interlocking timeline for your reader that fills in the gaps, elaborates important details, adds tension, and creates movement for your scenes.