The Six W's

I hope all of you have recovered from your holiday and had a great one at that. Myself, I've recovered from a "let down" of a turkey day. My husband wanted a fried turkey this year so since I was ordering that, I also ordered the fixin's to go along with it. Never again! It was nice not having to cook much, but the food was a total let down. So next year, I'll be sweating in the kitchen again!

I came across a great article the other day and wondered how many of you children's picture book authors use or know about the rule of a strong opening in your story by applying the six W's.

What are the six W's to a strong opening?

1. Who is your main character? In picture books, introducing your main character first is vital. If you introduce a secondary character first, you'll confuse the reader. They won't know with whom to identify. We must start out with a scene that introduces the main character through dialogue, action, or another's reaction to him.

2. What does your character want? In order to grab a young person's attention right away, it's important to lay down the main characters problem, goal, or conflict within the first few sentences.  Young children need to know what the story is going to be about right away or they'll lose focus. That stuffed animal in the corner is going to take over their interest before you turn the first page if they become bored right away.

3. When is your story taking place? If you're writing a contemporary story, this isn't always necessary. But if your writing a story that takes place in another era, it's important to introduce that early on. For instance if your story is about something that took place back in George Washington's day it's important to give hints early on. An example would be something like this:
"Mama, how was the fair today?" Ann asked. "Did you get to meet President George Washington?"

That one sentence would give the first clue that your story is taking place a long time ago.

4. Where is your story taking place? Just like the reader needs to know when the story is taking place, they also need to know where. In picture books, you don't need to tell an elaborate scene description but they should know where it's taking place.

5. What is the tone of your story? Is your story going to be serious? Sad? Funny? Your careful selection of words and rhythms lets the reader know. Give clues early on for a funny story by using playful, humorous, upbeat, or even made-up words.

6. Wow! This is where you hook the reader. And it should happen early on, preferably the first paragraph. The Wow factor is probably one of the most important parts of the 6 W's. If you can't get the reader's interest snatched early on, then they may not even be interested in the rest of the story.

How many of you make sure to include the 6 W's in your story?


  1. The turkey dinner made me laugh. Never fails, when we think we have easy moment, it gets messed up one way or another.

    As to the W's, I never actually thought about it. However, I think I do pretty well with getting all 6 in my writing. Maybe not at first but by the time it is ready to go out, I'm pretty sure they are in there. I have put the question out there with my current WIPs and so good. Thank goodness.

  2. Same here, Courtney. I didn't realize the 6 W's until I read the article but feel like I basically use them all anyway. Maybe not the 'when' so much but the others, yes.

  3. I think these are probably things we naturally think to do when we start a new book, whether it's a picture book or a novel. They are a lot like what goes into a lead for a newspaper article.