Updated TOC for Writing Character-Driven Fiction

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Reminder
* Note
* Updated TOC for Writing Character-Driven Fiction
* That’s It!
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“Welcome to my world. When it comes to climbing the sheer rock face of a mountain or sky diving or giving birth to another human being, would-be writers are fine, but faced with putting words on the page, they’re a trembling mass of fear. That’s how strongly imbued the myths are in society.” Me in response to a comment on yesterday’s post (also included in Writing Character-Driven Fiction)

“At last I understood: I am not the be-all, end-all Almighty Writer on High. My own senses are not adequate to describe what someone else—whether my neighbor or my characters—are living in their lives. I developed humility. That’s why I let my characters tell their own stories.” From Writing Character-Driven Fiction on learning to write into the dark


All you Bradbury Challenge writers, get your story info into me before the Journal goes live on Monday.


I finishd cycling through the book yesterday. It is replete with examples. It is also now well over 47,000 words.

To end this series of posts, I’m sharing the updated table of contents for Writing Character-Driven Fiction.

The items marked with >>>>> are either information that didn’t appear in the posts or that has changed significantly since it was posted.

The items marked with asterisks are subsections within the chapter or appendix.

I combined Cliffhangers and Hooks into one chapter, and I deleted the appendix on publishing options, among several other changes.

There are three free books on publishing at the Journal website. All you have to do is download them.

Today or tomorrow I return to fiction! Woohoo!

Updated TOC for Writing Character-Driven Fiction

>>>>> Introduction

What You Should Know About This Book
How Do I Know All of This?

Part I: The Writing of Fiction

1 — What Do You Mean, Character-Driven?

A Note on Writer Intrusion
What About Plot-Driven Fiction?

>>>>> 2 — Determining Your Role in the Story

The Almighty Writer on High
* Let’s Talk Sense
The Recorder (or Friend with a Keyboard)
BEING the Almighty Writer on High
The Writer Is the Worst Judge of His Own Work

3 — Story Starters and Story Ideas

Story Starters and Where to Get Them
Story Ideas and Where to Get Them
Some Ways to Create Triggers
Notes on Story Ideas

4 — Writing the Opening

Take Your Time
Tips for Writing the Character in the Opening
Tips for Writing the Problem in the Opening
Tips for Writing the Setting in the Opening
When Do You Write an Opening?
A Case in Point
Another Case in Point
So Here’s the Whole Point

>>>>> 5 — Writing the Cliffhanger and the Hook

What is a cliffhanger?
Down in the Weeds
Chapter End/Beginning Cliffhanger/Hook Combinations
Internal Cliffhanger/Hook Combinations
What Is a Hook?
The Components of a Hook
A Few Ways to Write Hooks
A Few Examples of Hooks from My Own Writing

6 — Writing Setting

So What Is the Setting?
An Example of Setting
The Two Types of Setting Description
* The Area of Description
** Immediate
** Expanded
** Distant
* The Degrees (or Levels) of Description
** General
** Specific
** Focused
Notes on the Example
Disclaimers Regarding Points of View
Point of View
Can You Switch the POV?
Some Ground(ing) Rules
Notes on Too Much or Too Little
The Importance of Focusing Down
Setting Matters
Characters Have Physical Attributes and They Wear Clothing
Places Wear Clothing Too
Why I No Longer Offer Critiques: A Cautionary Tale
Using the Five Senses
Again, Focus Down
Another Cautionary Tale
>>>>> Authenticity Matters

7 — Writing the Scene

The Major Scene
The Minor Scene
The Transitional Scene
An Example in Focusing Down
Writing the Setting in a Major Scene
A Crash Course
The Length of Major Scenes
Writing High-Action, High-Tension Scenes

8 — Writing the Ending

The Climax
The Resolution
Tricks for Endings
Watch Your Pacing
Watch for the Ending
What Makes a Good Ending?
Finally, a Caution: Beware the Miraculous Ending

>>>> 9 — Writing into the Dark

You Know Story
The Writing

>>>>> 10 — It’s All Up to You

The Conscious, Critical Mind vs. the Creative Subconscious (My friends just cringed, but yeah, I’m going there.)
The Myth Pushers
Okay. Now.
The Creative Subconscious
My Fiction Writing Disclaimers

Part II: The Appendices

>>>>> Appendix A: A Grammar Refresher

The Noun and the Pronoun
The Subject
The Object
* The Direct Object
* The Indirect Object
* The Object of the Preposition
The Verb
* State-of-Being Verbs and Passive Voide
* Linking Verbs
* Action Verbs
Show, Don’t Tell Explained
* Sentence Structure the Friendly Way: A Preliminary Note
Word Groups in the English Language
* The Clause
* The Independent Clause
* The Dependent Clause
* The Phrase
Putting It All Together: Constructing the Sentence
* The Simple Sentence
* A Few Words About Sentence Fragments
* The Compound Sentence
* The Complex Sentence
* The Compound-Complex Sentence
Glossary of Terms

>>>>> Appendix B — General Tips for Writing Fiction

Writing Is Important
Setting Goals
Visual Reminders
On Involving Yourself with Critique Groups
Submitting Stories to Magazines
A Note on Using Generative AI to Write Fiction

>>>>> Appendix C — Notes on Dialogue and Punctuation

Notes on Dialogue
Notes on Punctuation
Long-Pause Punctuation
* The Period and the Question Mark
* The Exclamation Point
* The Colon
Medium-Pause Punctuation
* The Semicolon
* The Em Dash
Short-Pause Punctuation
* The Five Rules of Comma Use

>>>>> Appendix D — An Example of POV and Timeline Indicators

Appendix E — Two Fiction Exercises

List Exercise
* Some Notes
The Five Senses Exercise

Appendix F — Rules of Writing from Masters

* Heinlein’s Business Rules of Writing
* Ray Bradbury’s 7 Rules for Writers
* Ernest Hemingway’s Rules for Writers
* Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for Writing Fiction
* Harvey Stanbrough
I am not a master, but it’s my book (grin).

>>>>> Appendix G — My Personal Experience with Branding

Branding for One-Off Stories and Novels
Branding for Series

That’s it!

I was going to include an appendix on marketing, but I don’t know enough. Besides, there are plenty of venues available for that too.

As always, I can only pay forward what I know to be true. The rest is up to you.

Important—If you believe I omitted something I should have included about fiction writing, please let me know in a comment or via email. If I use your suggestion, I will mention you in the Credits and send you a free PDF (or other ebook) copy of the book pre-publication.

Next up, normalcy. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts.

Talk with you again then.

Of Interest

Character Type & Trope Thesaurus: Newcomer

True Readers This is exactly how I feel about being a writer. Also see the second quote of the day.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1060
Additions to the nonfiction book

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. To date…… XXXXX

Fiction for February……………………. 40199
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 157803
Fiction since October 1………………… 460858
Nonfiction for February………………… 60180
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 92140
2024 consumable words………………… 249943

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 86
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 239
Short story collections………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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2 thoughts on “Updated TOC for Writing Character-Driven Fiction”

  1. Thanks for this series of articles, Harvey. I have tucked them away in a Word document.

    I, too, have been writing for quite a number of years. I’m always open to refreshers such as yours. I have found Dean to have taken another course now, although his earlier articles are ones I enjoyed and saved, and helped me enormously. I believe it was Dean who led me to Lester Dent, and it only got better from there.

    Thanks again.

    • You’re welcome. After awhile, you’ll step out of Dean’s shadow. That’s an odd feeling, but that’s one reason I write the Journal.

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