This is a question that you need to ask yourself before you begin writing your creative non-fiction piece for the English Literature and Creative Writing 4 class this year. What are the specific ‘what’ and ‘where’ that you need to have in place before you start writing? This is referred to as a ‘sequence’ and it forms the basis of your piece. You will need to develop a clear idea of what you are going for and then work backwards to establish the steps necessary to get there. Be sure to consider the other three elements of the Creative Writing lesson – theme, character, and setting – when developing your sequence.
The ‘what’ is the first element of your sequence and it refers to the question you are trying to answer in your piece. For example, if you are writing a story about your mother, the ‘what’ would be “what is Mother doing right now?” The ‘what’ should be a simple, concrete statement that can be answered by external events or observations. If you have a more complex ‘what’, you should break it down into several smaller parts to make it more manageable.
The ‘where’ is where you will be putting your piece. When establishing your sequence, you need to consider the places you have available to you. You are trying to create a world in your head that is rich enough to provide all the elements necessary for your story. There are simply places where you can put your story – be it a real location or an imaginary one. Once you have your ‘where’, break it down into smaller chunks so you can begin to see it more clearly. For example, you could write “I grew up in the suburbs” as your ‘where’ along with a description of the house and garden you were surrounded by. Another example might be “I went to a private school” with a description of what the school was like and who attended it.
‘When’ is a simple element used to establish the sequence of your story. You need to determine when the important events of your story are going to take place. You can write “After college” or “In the summer after my freshman year of college” as your ‘when’. Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly when a significant event in your life is going to take place. For example, is it the day you start working at a clothing store, or the day you meet your future husband? Once you have your ‘when’, you can begin to plot out where you will be placing these events in relation to one another. Be sure to write a short ‘intro’ at the beginning of your piece which describes the overall theme and sequence of your story. This ‘intro’ should not be longer than a few paragraphs.
‘Why’ is used to provide further explanation for the events or actions in your story. This is particularly important for stories that explore controversial topics or explore issues that are not immediately clear to the reader. When writing about issues that are sensitive, you should do your best to provide detailed explanations for your characters’ actions. The more you know about why your characters acted as they did, the more you can write with authority. If you have two different viewpoints within your circle of characters, the ‘why’ can help determine which one you need to use at any given time.
The ‘how’ is used to provide additional information about the characters or events in your story. It can be useful to the reader when applied to the right situation. For example, if you are writing about a specific election, you might use the ‘how’ to explain the various platforms the candidates used to capture the attention of the voters. Another example might be “I went to the doctor for a checkup and was given a schedule of possible treatments” followed by the ‘how’ explaining what the treatments were for.
Creating a sequence is a challenging process. You will want to follow a specific format so you do not end up with a chaotic jumble of ideas. Consider working with a professional writer to get the results you are looking for. Having a complete sequence in place will help you to see your story from the beginning to the end and ensure you do not have any major changes to your piece once it is finished.