How to Create 6 Articles From One Subject
The 5 W’s (Who, What, Why, Where, When) and How of Story Telling
An essential technique that journalists grasp early in their training is to tell a story by answering six key questions. These are known as the 5 W’s and How. If you are unfamiliar with these, take a look at the reminder list below. Once you have mastered this way of story-telling, you can make use of it to create multiple articles from one original topic.
- Who is the story about; who are the people at the center of the tale? Who are the principle characters?
- What is the issue at the heart of the story? What is the problem that needs to be addressed? What is the dilemma facing the characters?
- Why do the characters act in the way they do; what motivates them? Why is it necessary to report this event or action?
- Where is the story located; where geographically is the action?
- When do the events take place; is it today, sometime in history, or a futuristic vision of what may happen?
- How is the issue resolved? Is there a definite conclusion or is the reader given a range of possible outcomes? Is there a moral to the story? Is there a unexpected twist to the tale?
Start With a Familiar Topic
The aim of this exercise it to enable you to create six new articles without spending hours (or even days) on research. I am making the assumption you are not a hermit and you have regular interaction with the big wide world through friends, family, TV, radio and the internet. This means you have a broad general knowledge of life and maybe have some particular interest or hobby that you can discuss with enthusiasm.
First you need to choose a subject from which you will create six new articles or stories. You may find it helpful to choose a physical photograph or postcard that brings back positive memories. Alternatively, you can use your imagination to create a virtual picture. Decide on one particular scene as throughout this exercise you will be studying it in detail. The aim is to tease out particulars from the picture and trigger memories and interesting facts.
Holiday Postcards Capture Happy Memories
1. Who Are The People In The Photo?
You may have chosen a holiday snap as your memory-jogger. In which case, the people in the shot are likely to be friends or family. The first article to write is a straightforward tale of that holiday. What are you doing in the picture? Why did you / they do this? Where are you? When was this? Did you enjoy the experience?
If you have chosen a landscape view with no people in it, then write about you. What is the reason you took this photo? Why are there no people in it? Where and when was it taken? What was the best thing about that holiday?
2. What Is The Dilemma Or Issue Highlighted By The Photo?
This is where you need to think laterally. It may be the picture you have chosen is issue based, like a snapshot of a scavenging dog. Then you have a topic for your second article, i.e. starving street dogs in tourist areas.
More likely your happy smiling staged photo of family is not one that makes you immediately think of a dilemma. So, home in on one of the characters. Had your little brother demanded another ice cream, but was told it would spoil his appetite? Did your mom get bitten by mosquitos the evening before? The former could lead to an article about junk food and young people. The latter could highlight issues about covering up against biting insects in hot climates.
Now you have the subject of your second article; remember to include the answers to the 5 W’s and How as you complete your story.
3. Why Is This Topic Newsworthy Or Your Story Worth Telling?
Article number three focuses on motivation. What is the reason for the people in your picture being in shot? Is it a candid party photo or a more serious line-up? Why did this group of people decide to vacation/ eat/ celebrate together? Depending on the answers, your article could be about religious observance. Or it could be about intergenerational bonding. Or it may be about surviving a traumatic event. Readers love learning about other peoples’ life experiences. The more of yourself you put into an article like this, the more interactive feedback you can expect to receive.
4. Where Is The Story Located?
Pinpointing an event in physical terms helps the reader connect with your writing. You could write an article about the geography of the place in your picture. You may need to do some additional research so your description of local topography and climate accurately reflects reality.
Alternatively, you could create a picture of the physical setting by recalling the minutiae of the scene. Define the location by noting the type of furniture or the floral displays. Discuss the forms of dress or the types of transport as indicators of the customs of a particular country.
Your fourth article is therefore more descriptive and factual than the previous ones. You are educating your reader about a country or place about which they probably know little. They will relish small details, especially if you can add a personal slant to your tale.
This Man Has Traveled Through Time
5. When Do The Events Take Place?
Look at your picture again. You could be a time traveler and write an article about how things will change for this group of people over the next twenty years. Or you could describe an historical event that happened at this location. You may want to stay in the present day and talk about current politics or recall a local custom that you witnessed.
Each article can be totally unrelated to the others and be a stand-alone item. If you want to link them together around the same people and events, then do so. However, make sure you give enough basic detail in each story so that readers are not assumed to have read the articles in a particular order.
6. How Is The Issue Resolved?
For your last piece, put your creative thinking hat on. Does the photo remind you of an incident that has a funny (or a surprising) twist? Like the time your Spanish pronunciation was so bad the waiter thought you were ordering a blue spotted tomato? Or when you judged a bonny baby competition and the winner was sick all over you? Perhaps you want to write about something that made you angry? Maybe your holiday/ family event/ workmates inspired you to change career direction? This is the time to get your creative thoughts down on paper.
Inspired And Raring To Go
I used the picture above to give me ideas for six pieces in the way I have described. The topics that I thought of are as follows.
- The thrill of hillwalking and getting away from the madding crowds; a personal memoir.
- The James Taylor song “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now”; love lyrics and real life.
- The beauty of nature and weather patterns as revealed by sunrise and sunset skies.
- The best places to choose for a trekking holiday; recommendations and warnings.
- The Victorians and their passion for mountain walks as part of The Grand Tour.
- Tourism is spoiling beauty spots and affecting wildlife; the problem of plastic litter.
What it Takes to Be a Successful Writer
- An interesting and original idea (if you’re writing fiction).
- Or something special to say (if you’re working on a non-fiction subject).
- a LOT of patience.
- Be able to write clearly and use words effectively.
- Be able to organize your life to give yourself enough time to write
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice Even successful authors sometimes need help with editing and proofreading.