Connecting the Dots: Part 4

5 W's and an H

Last time out we considered the five senses as unique elements or “pearls” on strings that spread out from our nucleus word, “Heaven.” As we dove into the sense end of the pool we immersed our imaginations in images — what does heaven look like, sound like, taste like, feel like, smell like?

Now we are ready to round out our clustering exercise with six more pearls that will enhance and help add unity to the clustering process. As you consider each of these pearls, you will discover what Gabrielle Rico calls a “trial web shift” in her excellent book, Writing the Natural Way. A pattern will begin to emerge from your cluster as you consider these new elements because they are the building blocks of narrative.

So, take up your pencil and add these five new pearls: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and the inimitable How. It should look something like this:


Who — When you ask “who” of the nucleus word, “heaven,” you can come up with a LOT of answers. Think of how you want to frame the question more specifically: “If heaven were a “who” then who would it be?”; “Who will I meet in heaven?”; “Who definitely won’t be in heaven?”; Who(m) do I most look forward to seeing again in heaven?” See? There are lots of ways to cast the “who” question. Same goes for each of the other pearls!

What —  “What is heaven like?”; “What will be there?”: “What will we do in heaven for all eternity?”

When —  “When will I go to heaven?”; “When as a time construct — do we experience time in heaven, and if so, how will it pass?”; “Is eternity just a really long time/when?”; “Was there ever a time when heaven wasn’t?”

Where — “Where is heaven?”; “Where is heaven not?”; “Is heaven a real place, like earth or is it somehow more real than my senses can comprehend this side of eternity?”

Why — “Why is heaven there in the first place?”; “Why should God let me into heaven?”; “Why would I be kept out of heaven?”

How — “How did heaven come to be?”; “How do we get to heaven?”; “How do we travel around in heaven?”; “How will we look, sound, smell” — uh-oh, we’re slipping back into the senses!

Once you have had a chance to explore even a few of the questions that will spring from these new pearls, you will find a story taking shape.

Here’s (most of) a finished cluster by one of my current Creative Writing students, Jonathan Campoverde (used with permission):


And here’s the brief piece that flowed from his cluster: the lead question which lead to his nucleus word was, “What am I?” FYI, DYH stands for “Directing Your Hand” and is a part of every writing exercise. See if you can trace themes from his cluster through his writing exercise. Remember, you don’t have to try to shove every element/pearl into your finished piece. You’re looking for patterns.


Jon is one of our outstanding students here at DTS, and I can’t even claim him as an official Media Arts student. He’s in New Testament! I’m just saying — art abounds here at DTS!

That’s it for clustering. I hope you find it helpful and maybe a little stretching!

Keep writing!


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