Writing the Character-Driven Story: Introduction

For these special posts, I’m providing only an excerpt via email. Please click Read More or Read On near the bottom of the email to read the entire post at the website.

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About the Blog Version

Writing the Character-Driven Story is going to be both an ebook and (probably) an online audio lecture. My publisher, StoneThread Publishing, probably will release it as a print book too.

But first I’m posting it as a series of chapters on the Pro Writers blog on my website. At any time until it’s published, you will be able to visit the tab that says Writing the Character-Driven Story and read the chapters free of charge.

You may also copy and paste the chapters into a document for your personal use if you want to.

However, please remember that all content on this blog is ©Harvey Stanbrough in the current year. I ask that you do not share what you copy from here with anyone except perhaps your significant other. And of course, if you quote from any of this material, please be sure to attribute authorship to me and to HarveyStanbrough.com.

As you read the chapters on the blog, I encourage you to leave comments in the comment section. I also encourage readers to read not only the chapters, but the comments as well. Often the comments will provide, or evoke from me, additional information that was not in the chapter originally.

One note— If you choose to comment below, you are granting me permission to use the essence or the whole of your comment in the ensuing b0ok(s) and/or audio course without monetary remuneration. I will not identify you by name.

If you want to leave a comment but you do NOT want me to use your comment, please put a sentence to that effect in the comment itself. I’ll be happy to omit it from the published version.

Introduction to the Actual Book

The very first thing you should know about this book, Writing the Character-Driven Story, is that the title is intentional. You’ll notice it isn’t called Writing the Character-Driven SHORT Story.

That’s because it’s equally effective for writing short stories, longer stories, or novels.

It’s great for flash fiction, which I always have defined as double-digit fiction, meaning it can be no longer than 99 words, not including the title.

It’s also great for short-short stories (the short-short), which is what many today are calling flash fiction or quick fiction or sudden fiction or whatever. Doesn’t matter. You can call a duck and eagle, but it will still be a duck. For me, the short-short is from 100 words up to 1,999 words.

And if you use the techniques in this book, you can effectively and more than efficiently write anything longer: the short story (2,000 to 6,999); the long short story or novelette (7,000 to 9,999); the novella (10,000 to 24,999); or the novel (short novel, 25,000 to 39,999; novel, 40,000 to 80,000; long novel, over 80,000).

Before you ask, these lengths are not “official” in any way. They are my own defined lengths. I use them only to determine approximately how much to charge for electronic and print editions of my own work.

But back to the techniques in this book. Will I guarantee they will work for you?

No. Not unless you’re asking me, for you and for your writing career, to be what a Personal Trainer is for a professional athlete. I mean, I can’t even guarantee that you’ll sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard, so I certainly can’t guarantee anything beyond that.

What I can tell you is that if you DO sit down at the keyboard and if you DO use the techniques in this book, you will have a great deal more fun than you’ve ever had with your clothes on. So that’s pretty good, right?


Different writers and different writing instructors sometimes use different terms for the same thing. For example, what others call a “narrative beat” I call a “tag line.” If you don’t know what those things are, chances are you would benefit from my book, Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction and/or my book, Punctuation for Writers, 2nd edition.

If you would rather listen to me blather on about such things, you can sign up for some of my Audio Lectures over at HarveyStanbrough.com/lecture-series. The courses are not expensive, and once you purchase one (or more) you may listen to them at your leisure, as many times as you like, as often as you like. You can also get those through subscription. Oh, and the Writing Realistic Dialogue course (Course 1) includes Punctuation for Writers. Okay, end of advertisement.

But here and now, just to be sure we’re on the same page, are my definitions for the following terms.

Story Starter — This is a catalyst to get you to an idea. It can be an idea born whole (a character with a problem in a setting) or it can be only a character or a problem or the setting. It also can be a lyric from a song or a line of dialogue or a sound or a smell or another physical stimulus.

Idea — This is a catalyst to get you to the keyboard. Nothing more, nothing less. An idea typically consist of a character with a problem in a setting.

Hook — This is the first striking sentence or paragraph. This is the first bit that forces the reader to read the next sentence, and the next, and the next.

Opening — This is the introductory scene, in which the reader is introduced to a character with a problem in a setting. That’s it. And the problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story.

Beginning — This is the first roughly one-quarter of the story. The beginning leads up to the first try-fail sequence. (Note that the beginning and the opening are not the same thing, although in a story of the right length they could be.)

Middle — This is the second two quarters (the middle half) of the story. This is the series of try-fail sequences.

End — This is the final one-quarter of the story. This is the final big try-fail or try-succeed scene and the big climax.

Validation (Resolution/Dénouement) — This is a few sentences or paragraphs or pages that serve to wrap up any loose ends. This is the part of the story that tells the reader it’s all right to close the book.

Setting — This is the locale in which the scene takes place.

Scene — This is what happens within a setting.

That’s the intro. If you believe there’s something missing, please comment in the comments section below. I’ll either add it or explain why I didn’t.

Next time, Chapter 1: What Do You Mean, Character-Driven?

‘Til then, happy writing!


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2 thoughts on “Writing the Character-Driven Story: Introduction”

  1. You’ve done well to prescribe an annadote for someone frozen in a place of, “I don’t know nothin about birthin no stories, Miss Scarlet!” There is a direction home. I’m on it and with you for the guidance. I’ll pay up 25% of my first story published.

    • You don’t have to “pay up” anything. I’ll continue providing what I can as long as I can. Good luck with your writing.

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