It’s Journalism 101 but it’s really the basics to every story, Who, What, When, Where, Why.
Lead paragraphs in news stories need to include the five Ws. Subsequent paragraphs can be devoted to one or more of the Ws with reference material inserted as appropriate. Compelling side stories are moved to another area or page.
For the novelist/storyteller, each W can be chapters unto themselves or spread out of the course of the story.
Who: Write a character analysis to keep your character at the forefront of your story.
What: The plot unfolds throughout the book.
Where: Make a conscious decision about where. The story may be completely different depending upon the location: jungle or artic.
When: Time is in the details, the clothes, the cars, etc: Where & When work together to give the character place, time and points of reference.
Why: The emotional stuff, the reason why this is a story worth the telling.
And then there's the question writers always ask themselves: why am I writing this story?