6 Journalistic Tools to Improve Your Writing

by | May 3, 2021 | Writing

As I work my way through my university degree, I love to share the things I’m learning by applying them specifically to writing. My ‘Communication and Journalism’ course inspired me to write this week’s post.

Journalists use six tools to write their stories – who, what, when, where, why, and how. These are the essential pieces of information audiences need to know, which also extend to your readers.

Your approach to these six questions will change depending on whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or an article as a freelance writer.

Fiction

In fiction, these six questions relate to your plot and also key scenes:

Who? – Who are the character/s involved?

What? – What action or event is taking place?

When? – When does this event occur in your story timeline and also in the character’s journey?

Where? – Where is your character when this takes place?

Why? – Why does this event happen? What purpose does it serve in your story or character journey?

How? – How does this impact your character/s and the story?

Addressing these will clarify how and where it fits into the plot and links to your character’s backstory, which may contain additional insights for you to write the scene and/or give your reader.

Leaving one or two of these unanswered until the end of your book will also keep reader reading because they want to know the answer and satisfy their need for closure. This might also play into your plot twist.

Nonfiction

Applying these six questions to each chapter and overall book outline will ensure your reader has the solution they want. They also provide an opportunity to share a story to illustrate each point.

What? – What is the life-changing experience or event that caused you to write this book, and what changed as a result? What results, outcome, or solution can your reader expect from reading your book? What will happen if they continue to do nothing?

Who? – Who did this happen to? Who are you to be writing it?

When? – When did the life-changing experience or event happen?

Where? – Where did the life-changing experience or event happen? This could be a physical location or a period in your life.

Why? – Why are you writing this book? Why should your reader listen to you and read your book? Why now?

How? – How did you overcome your challenge, problem, or obstacle? The answer to this is the solution your reader wants and why they’ve brought this specific book.

Freelance Writing

If you write for a newspaper, blog, or magazine, online or offline, these are the questions your article needs to address. They’re also questions you can use to craft your pitch to get your story published because they tell the editor exactly what they need to know.

Who? – Who is the target market of the outlet you’re writing for? Check their advertising section to find this information. Is it a good fit for your writing style and the topics you enjoy writing about? The publication will also want to know briefly about who you are. Who is the person you need to send your article to? Try to find their name and an email address so that you can personalise it.

What? – What is the proposed story or idea you have? What’s your angle or hook?

When? – When can you deliver the article by? Be realistic with your timeframe.

Where? – Which section of the publication does your article fit? Some quick research will tell you this.

Why? – Why would their audience be interested in your story/idea?

How? – How is this story/idea relevant to their audience?

Lindy Alexander provides some great information on this for freelance writers.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Cheers to your writing success!

Leonie