Wednesday, May 27, 2020

THE WRITING PROCESS: Six Questions Exercise

When Mammoths Walked the Earth is available as an e-book on Amazon
I recently cleaned out my files and found various materials that I had used when teaching my class in writing for children in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Here is a writing exercise called “Six Questions.”

When I started researching my book When Mammoths Walked the Earth (Clarion, 2002) I ended up with a jumble of facts about these huge prehistoric animals that lived in the Ice Age. My job in writing the book was to line up the facts so they made sense. So I asked myself a few questions: Who were the mammoths? What did they look like? Where and when did they live? Why were they unique? How do we know about them?
Asking questions is a technique I use that helps me focus on what my book is about and this helps me figure out how to organize the information. The six basic questions are who, what, where, when, why and how. Try answering the following questions about your subject. Your answers will help you shape your story. (Although my focus is on writing nonfiction, this exercise works for fiction too.)

Who is your book about? Who or what is the main subject or character of your story?
What does your subject look like? What is unique or special about your subject’s appearance?
Where does the main character live? Or, where does the story take place? In other words, what is the setting of your story.
When does the story happen? That is, what is the time frame?
How does the main subject behave? How is it adapted to its particular way of life? Or, what is the main action of the story?
Why should we be interested in your subject? What makes it compelling?

Note: When Mammoths Walked the Earth is out of print but available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

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