Character References

“A story is a narrative description of a character struggling to
solve a problem. Nothing more than that. And nothing less.”
Ben Bova, The Craft of Writing Science Fiction

“Your job is to take the reader on a journey that enables
the character to solve the problem.”
Hank Quense

Character bios — I never really thought much about these as I was writing my YA novel, but I just attended a seminar called “Story Design,” which discussed the value of creating backgrounds for the fictional families spinning out of our brains. The session was led by Hank Quense, who’s a sci fi guy with both traditional and independently published books to his credit. He’s also published more than 40 stories and nonfiction articles.

Hank is a big fan of structuring your story before you begin writing it — from plot to the personality traits of your main characters. I find this very challenging, but I really like the idea of fleshing out key players as a way of getting to know them before you dive into writing your story. Hank offered a helpful set of character definers divided into two categories: Physical Attributes (appearance, identifying traits, dress, etc.) and Mental/Inner Attributes.

In assessing a character’s inner emotional landscape, Hank listed a number of areas you can fruitfully explore: philosophy, important positive/negative characteristics, influential memories, false beliefs the character holds, and driving motivation in your story.

For more on story design, check out Hank’s Web site ( Under the heading “Site Map,” you can find info on ordering his pdf called “Build a Better Story.” Thanks Hank, and write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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2 Responses to Character References

  1. hank quense says:

    Hi Karin
    Thanks for the blog post about my lecture. I’m quite glad to see you both enjoyed it and got some benefit from it. By coincidence, I posted an article I wrote about characterization on my blog this week. You and your visitors can read it at:

  2. Hi Hank,

    Thanks so much for checking in and for letting us know about your article
    on characterization. Creating believable characters is so critical for a
    successful story. I’m looking forward to reading more on your blog.

    Write on,

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