The 5 W’s, the H, and the 5 Senses in Novel Writing

by Raji Singh


Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.I cannot refuse. (cover enhancement: Joseph Rintoul)

     High school and college journalism teaches,”Get those who, what, where, when, why, and hows in pretty near the beginning of your story.” It is sound, basic crafting.

A big mistake beginning novel writers make is not including them soon enough.  The reason:  He or she believes they are creating mystery by this act of omission.  Reality:  The reader may get lost in story not fully grounded, confused by incomplete characterizations, and lost in plot mazes.  The mystery, if that is what you are striving for, emanates from you, the writer, working hard to set a firm foundation the audience can use to build upon, with the specific materials you provide.

You will make the groundwork for your novel rock solid by utilizing the 5 W’s and the H as you (1) tell the reader what you are writing about as fully as you can – without giving away too much plot or the ending – , (2) be creative with your situations, characters, and story -avoid predicatability, (3) make what you write believable, even if it seems completely unbelievable.

The 5 senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, hear – should be in the writers thoughts at all times while he or she composes.  “That isn’t necessary,” a lot of writers will say.  “You can just remind yourself to include them.”  Yes, this can be done.  However, by utilizing them as you compose, they can serve many functions not considered in the conceptualization phase– for example; create moods that deepen your story, change pacing to create velocity, or, just the opposite, hold to the moment.  You can utilize senses to color a person, situation, or event so mystery is deepened.  So many things.

The act of keeping the senses in your thought processes as you write might seem inconsequential, when you can, say, just make a note at the beginning of each chapter reminding  yourself  to get them in.  But just try it for a while in your novel writing process.  It will be fun.  It will open up your imagination to new realms of your story you didn’t consider when conceiving your idea.  It will make characters, situations and ultimately, your story, fuller.

Happy writing, and happy taking the time to watch and to smell the sweet roses, feel their smooth petals, hear the bee buzzing, and butterfly fluttering near to drink the rose’s sweet succulence.

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013 Raji Singh

About Raji Singh

I am a writer, a foundling anchored by tale-telling and imagination. Read my history in Tales of the Fiction House, available at and Barnes & Noble (This is a portrait of my great-great grandfather. He's a handsome devil and I am his spitting image.)
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