Answer The W's

What can be more basic than the simple who, what, why, when and where formula? This common sense plan has proved over and over again that it is not only one of the fastest ways to begin a story, but also an easy creative writing exercise to use when you only have a small chunk of time available.

If you want this formula to work for you, then the best way to approach it is to answer those questions quickly. Forget about thinking, analyzing, and worrying until later. For now, let’s just start writing. Here’s an example to show you how easy it is to start.

  • WHO? Sally – an eco activist/policewoman
  • WHAT? Having affair with a married politician so she can blackmail and manipulate him.
  • WHEN? Now
  • WHERE? In contemporary Ireland
  • HOW? Recording his every move, generally spying on him in order to destroy him.

Discuss this exercise

Feel inspired? Share your story below.

Similar Exercises

Get your creative juices flowing with these similar creative writing exercises.


The Name Game

Here is your challenge: for the next week, collect fun names. I’ve collected them for years in a little notebook — from obituaries, news stories, random lists, and spam. Spam is great for funny names. Then …


Take Your Characters On A Test Drive

Sometimes a bad case of writer’s block boils down to a broken connection between you and your protagonist, and the solution can be a change of scenery. Not for you — for your character! Writing …


Shopping Trip

Looking for a writing exercise that gets you out of your chair? Decide what kind of store your main character likes to shop at. Go to that store and wander the aisles, looking for items …


Go The Other Way

Choose a random occupation, a random personality trait, and the trait's opposite. Now, outline a train of events that explains how a person of your chosen occupation changes from having the random trait to having …


Lost The Plot?

How do you start a story — or get a story back on track? If you’re feeling lost or blocked, try templating to get your plot on course. Here’s what to do: bullet point your initiating …



Create a timeline of the significant moments of your character’s life. Like many authors, you can use post-it notes or a big whiteboard to visualize your character’s life. You can easily move or add events …