When you were learning to write your name, you were probably taught to write the letters in a certain order and direction. That"s because it is more efficient to write western languages from left to right. For similar reasons, the strokes for each Chinese character are to be drawn in a certain defined order.
At first you may need help from a teacher, book, or other learning aid to determine the stroke order for characters you encounter. The more characters you become familiar with, however, the easier it becomes to see which principle applies to a given character.
The best resource I have found on the web for illustrating stroke order and direction for individual characters is located here
. You can even download
this animation package presented by the University of Southern California for viewing on your own computer.
You"ll find another page showing stroke order animations for various characters on Dr. Tianwei Xie"s UC Davis site here
In short, learning these following seven principles of stroke order will ultimately save you from having to memorize rules character by character.