Writer’s Block? Try Quis, Quid, Quando, Ubi, Cur…

A long, long time ago there lived a gentleman called Hermagoras of Temnos (323-390 BCE), who was a Greek rhetorician who taught, not surprisingly, rhetoric in Rome. He came up with a brilliant idea (well he had many but this one is truly brilliant and worthy of mention). He came up with the idea to divide writing topics into seven circumstances to give more structure to things. The seven consisted of who, what, when, where, why, in what way, by what means or quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis which I think has a rather lovely, exotic ring to it.

His idea took off and over another long period of time (with a few inclusions by other famous people) the Five Ws that we know came about.

So when life gives you lemons with a writer’s block, turn them into lemon pie in the form of the following well known formula used by journalists, educators and teachers, investigators, and just about anyone who writes:

  • Who (is it about)
  • What (happened)
  • When (did it take place)
  • Where (where did it take place)
  • Why (did it happen)

Add to the mix that wonderful Rudyard Kipling poem (a favourite of mine) he wrote to accompany the story of The Elephant’s Child in Just So Stories 1902, and writer’s block begone!

I keep six honest serving-men;

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who

 Have fun writing 🙂