Don't Ask What


"What?" is the big question of the SCP Foundation. What is this? What does it do? What will we do about it?

We have a lot of "What?"s on the wiki, and for good reason. We most frequently write from the perspective of the SCP Foundation, which primarily exists to ask "What?" So we end up with a lot of objects on the wiki that are just "What?"s. SCP-914: What happens if you put X into it? SCP-682: What could possibly kill it? SCP-001: What is it?

The Foundation focuses on what an object is, and as such, most newer writers tend to focus on the what, since that seems to be the general idea of an SCP article's intent. And in a way, they're right! The SCP Foundation asks "what?"

But we're not the SCP Foundation. We're storytellers, pretending to be the SCP Foundation. The point of writing an SCP article is to write a story, even though that is not the intent of the SCP Foundation.

The first step to move from writing merely an SCP document to an SCP story is to stop trying to ask "What?" We have plenty of "What?" on the wiki, things, or things that do things, et cetera. They're not necessarily bad, it's just that there's a lot of them. It would be extremely difficult to write an interesting "What?" on the modern wiki, because we just have a lot of "What?" already.

The purpose of this essay is to expand beyond the question of "What?" and to start encouraging you to write SCP articles that ask or answer other questions, such as "Who?", "Where?", "When?", "Why?", and "How?"


"How?" is the inevitable next step from "What?"; in a way, it's simply another degree of "What?": What does it do that makes it do what it does?

"How?" is a bit of an unusual premise in an SCP article, because normally, we're not supposed to know how an anomaly does what it does. It's an anomaly. The point is that we don't know how, it's kind of a given.

But that doesn't mean we can't explore different kinds of "How?", beyond every SCP's unanswerable "How?" The best example here would be the Explained SCPs. Rather than provide an actual anomaly for us to puzzle over, instead we're left with the question, "How could something real seem so unreal?" It's actually not something explored very often, because it's not an actual anomaly, and it balances a fine line: it has to be anomalous enough to trick the Foundation and the rest of your audience, but it still has to be something that you can explain by the end of it.

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