“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.”
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 (www.hankquense.com). Under the heading “Site Map,” you can find info on ordering his pdf called “Build a Better Story.” Thanks Hank, and write on!