A lifetime ago I learned about Rudyard Kipling's 5W1H framework:

I have six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
I call them What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who

(from The Kipling Method.)

I don't hear about them anymore. Is this still in use in writing non-fiction? How is it used?

BTW: I use the servants for my sequence diagrams which I use to visualize non-fiction stories.

Let us assume that I want to write a story about me and my mapmaking obsession. Then I would start like: My mapmaking story

(if the diagram is not readable you can download the diagram and open it with a picture viewer)

On the top and bottom row are the story's actors and participants (humans, object, places, moments in time etcetera, or the who, the what and the where). The arrows visualize the activities (the how) between the participants. You read the sequence diagram top-down following the arrows in sequence (the when). You can put notes in the diagram to explain the why or for other things which need attention or to give more detail on the who, what, were, when or how.

  • I would think those questions would be even more important in non-fiction, given that it's a kind of reporting. Jul 17 '15 at 19:10
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    I don't understand. Do you have a specific question, or are you looking for a discussion? Please clarify. Jul 17 '15 at 21:16
  • I'm wondering if (& how) non-fiction writers still use the questions described in the poem.
    – user14449
    Jul 17 '15 at 21:43
  • Placing this on hold until it's clarified; I, too can't understand what question is being asked. Jul 17 '15 at 22:35
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    Thanks for editing, it helps a lot. The question is clearer, and now it's obviously about writing. I've removed poll-like language, changed your summary to a direct quote to help clarify further, and reopened. Jul 19 '15 at 12:59

I've heard this as a classic guide for reporters. A news story should answer all these questions.

I've never heard of someone drawing diagrams of it or building some big system out of it, but I don't doubt that someone would.

Personally, I don't consciously think in these terms. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to analyze your writing from this perspective. If you proof-read a section of a story you've written looking for answers to these questions, and realize that you never said who was doing something, like maybe you had in mind that Fred did this but on re-reading your story you realize that you never said, this is certainly a problem that should be fixed. In some cases an omission may not matter. Whether event X happens before or after event Y may be crucially important to the plot ... or not. Etc.

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