The Most Important Question in Character Development

When you stop to think about it, possibly under the influence of a drink, chemical, or hazy cloud of dust, you have to admit that stories are inexorably linked to questions. Folktales and mythology from ages long ago were crafted to answer questions of the natural world. The science fiction of the modern day answers the questions of our existence, the universe, and our future within it. Whether the answers that these stories present to us are correct is beside the point – the question is always there.

Journalism teaches that there’s five (sometimes six) questions to be asked for every story: who, what, when, where, and why. They say that if you have these five elements, you can fill all the requirements of the audience’s need to know and craft a good news story. Sometimes they may add “how”, but that is often only for situations where the “how” is fascinatingly complicated. Together, these questions also leave a lasting impact on fiction. After all, every story answers them even if you don’t intend to.

“In ancient Greece (when, where), Hercules (who), the demigod son of Zeus (what, who), is given twelve labors to complete (what) with his mighty strength (how) as a means of finding redemption for having murdered his family under the influence of Hera (why).”

Portrayed (what) in 2014 (when) by Dwayne Johnson (who) for a big fat check (why)

These details are everywhere in story telling and the more of them you have, the better your story becomes. But, in fiction, one of them happens to be more important than the rest of them combined. This one question in the batch of six happens to give all of the others importance in a way that nothing else can. Without the most important question, none of the other details have any meaning. And that question is… Continue reading The Most Important Question in Character Development