The 5 Ws in acting

February 8, 2022

The essence of acting lies in the power to react. According to Reid Scott, “Acting is reacting. You can’t react if you’re not paying attention if you’re not listening.”

How should an actor react to give life to a character? How can an actor determine a way to deliver dialogues effortlessly and flawlessly? What is the best way for an actor to feel more connected to a character? The answer is simple: The 5 Ws of acting. 

For an actor, it becomes imperative to know about the 5 Ws as it helps in achieving the two main goals: 

  • First goal: To know the character intimately so the audience relates to it. 
  • Second goal: To gain perspective of the scene so an actor is aligned with the character’s point of view. This will help an actor become more equipped to tell the story.  

To master the art of acting, the 5 Ws become crucial. The 5 Ws are – Who, What, Why, Where, and When. 


The ‘who’ deals with the question, “Who are you?” 

If you’re given a character, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the character you are portraying? 
  • Who are you in the story? 

With the help of “who” you can establish your character’s personal history, goals, struggles, aspirations, fears, and so on. 

As an actor, you have to be unique. Establish your character in such a way that it not only makes you distinctive but also memorable. While it is important to play your own character, it is equally critical to define the character who is in your opposition.

Try to answer the following questions: 

  • What is your relationship with this other character? 
  • How do you feel about this character? (love/hate)
  • Do you value this character? 
  • Does this character make you feel good/bad? 
  • Who are you when you are with this character? (vulnerable/ powerful)

To understand your character better, you need to be very specific and pay attention even to the tiniest bit of detail. This is what is going to set you apart from other actors. 


The ’what’ indicates the conflict. Every story has a conflict. Without proper clarity on the ‘what you will not have a base to build your scene on. 

The What asks the following questions: 

  • What are you reacting to?
  • What is happening in the story? 
  • What do you want in this scene? 
  • What is your main objective? 

To be extraordinary, think of a goal that will prove to be life-changing. A goal that is not easy to achieve and requires you to overcome huge obstacles. This is what is going to keep the audience hooked. Brainstorm and ask yourself: What is my goal? What obstacles am I going to overcome? 


The ‘why’ helps an actor determine the motive of the story. It gives rise to the following questions: 

  • Why are you reacting like this? 
  • Why are you feeling good/bad/sad/happy? 

It helps in figuring out the deeper meaning behind a scene. For example, An actor said they are feeling heartbroken. The Why helps in determining the reason behind their feeling heartbroken. Why is the actor feeling this way? It is something that is not given in the script but it is an emotion that needs to be felt. 


The ‘where’ suggests location. It is often said that specific environments help tell the story in a much efficient manner.

Thinking of the Where, one can simply think of the question mentioned below: 

  • Where is the action taking place? 

As an actor, you have to tell a story that others relate to, and to tell that story, you need to be in a proper setting, a location so your story looks authentic and aesthetic. You need to be very specific about the environment you are in. For example, if you are at a football game, you need to pay attention to the atmosphere and think about how does it help you deliver your dialogues.

  • Are you at a football game in a park or at a huge stadium? 
  • Are you surrounded by noisy people and therefore have to speak loudly? 
  • Are you trying to focus on the game but can’t as you are being interrupted by your significant other? 

Answering these questions will help you create a suitable environment to tell your story to the audience. 


The ‘when’ refers to the period. Timing is one of the most important aspects when it comes to supporting the character’s storyline.

For example: 

When does your action take place? 

If you are at a football game, is it a hot afternoon or a cold winter evening? Is it your birthday? Is it a date with your significant other? The timing will affect your scene. You need to be particular in choosing a time that serves your purpose and allows to you tell your story systematically. 

Let us say, It is 8 pm on a Saturday and you will have to drive your significant other back to her house in an hour but you want to stay and enjoy the game till 11 pm as tomorrow is Sunday. All of this is going to help you get a better understanding of the story and you’ll be able to give your best. 

A story is the most important when it comes to acting. If your story is not engaging, the audience will lose interest. With the help of the 5 Ws, an actor can make a story interesting and relatable and will be able to master the art of storytelling. 

Learn acting online with Manoj Bajpayee
The 5 Ws will surely help you enhance your acting skills but nothing compares to learning acting directly from one of the most renowned actors in Bollywood, Manoj Bajpayee. We are offering online acting lessons that will help you improve your acting skills. Additionally, this online acting course will prove to be a real confidence booster for aspiring actors. Visit our website for more information on Manoj Bajpayee’s unluclass.

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