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Outline a romance that readers will root for

Want to create a romance readers actually care about? Give them characters they want to root for. Your character’s lie/fatal flaw/misbelief/internal struggle, whatever you want to call it is what’s going to to propel your story forwards. Because look, a story–romance or not, is going to be boring if our characters are perfect. When we take a flawed character we relate to that because we can empathize with imperfect characters, making imperfect decisions, on an imperfect journey to find what they need, while going after what they want. It’s super quaint, I know, and I love it. So we take our flawed character, trying to find their place in the world, and we introduce them to another flawed character also trying to find their place in the world, and we thrust them together, push and pull, and eventually, and probably even reluctantly, they experience character growth and vulnerability, hopefully due in part by one another, and experience something on the tail end of that called, love. I’ve oversimplified yes, but that’s the gist of it. So how do we achieve this?

Create characters people are going to root for

The characters who are going to fall in love should have their own struggles, goals, wants, needs, misbeliefs to make them feel real. Give your character a flaw (that needs to be fixed), a want that is not only tangible but that your character is pursuing, and a need which is the thing (the life lesson) they’ll need to learn that will truly make them happy (because the want isn’t going to cut it). Your romance will revolve heavily around each individual character’s journey, struggle, and goal. Even without the aforementioned romance plot, you still have a story, which is key. Therefore the additional romance layer is going to make our character transformations even more worthwhile once they start to take shape.

Internal conflict that’s unique to each character

Conflict really does make the creative writing world go round, but if we’re not making our characters suffer what are we even doing this for? In all seriousness though, it’s true that the internal struggles/inner conflicts/misbeliefs will be the driving force for our characters and in turn create new conflict when it encounters romance with the other character. I know, that’s a lot, but it’s what’s going to make your relationship so much more worth it.

Outline a structure that incorporates the romance beats into your story

Set Up Act 1
Act 1 is all about the catalyst of what brings our two lovebirds together and their fighting, learning, and waning resistance to that attraction.

Push and Pull Act 2
Act 2 is the push and pull of this relationship, doubt, and eventually the rock bottom.

Accepting Love Act 3
Act 3 is our character transformations after hitting rock bottom and the eventual grand gesture that will allow our two lovebirds to be together/or not, that’s up to you!

If you know me, it’s no surprise I’m a big fan of the Save the Cat! Story Structure, so of course by association I’m also a big fan of Gwen Hayes’ book Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels. You do not need to understand Save the Cat! to incorporate the romance beats into your creative project but you should have a good handle on the 3 Act Story Structure. I highly recommend knowing the basics of the Save the Cat! structure (subdivides the beginning, middle, and end of a story into 15 “beats” or plot points) because it’s fantastic, easy to use, and I incorporate it into my own writing. To make it easier for you, I’ve shared the Romance Beat Sheet I used on my Patreon, you can view all 3 acts in great detail down to every beat.

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OCs Sketch: Oriole & Ryn

Here’s a quick sketch I did of two of my original characters. Oriole & Ryn.

I’m dealing with some health issues right now so I’ve been pretty worn down and exhausted. I’m a little behind my self-imposed release schedule, but I do have this little bit of a sketch I can share. I’m also in the final stages of setting up my Patreon, we’ll see how that goes. Between all your creative writing, drawing, and whatever passion projects you’re working on— don’t neglect your health!

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Make each scene matter with a fail-proof system

Even more love for Lisa Cron‘s book Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, but today we’re going to be talking about scenes. How to make scenes matter and how to make them have meaning by being part of a cause-and-effect trajectory that will build your story. No more individual scenes that don’t help guide your protagonist to their end goal.

How do we do this? Scene cards. And they’re going to prompt you and remind you to answer important questions that link your plot to your story, every single time. I’ll post my own examples on my Patreon soon, but here’s a blueprint similar to the example Lisa provides in her book. I hope it’s helpful.

Scene #1: Name of scene
Alpha Point: The key role the scene will play in your webtoon/novel/project’s external cause-and-effect trajectory. It must answer: Why is this scene necessary? What’s its main job?

THE PLOTWhat happens
• What happens in the first half of the scene
The consequence
• External consequence of what happens in the scene–the consequence of what happens in the scene itself—not the consequence it will have in the next scene.
THE THIRD RAILWhy it matters to their misbelief
• Why what’s happening matters to your protagonist, given their agenda
The realization
• The internal change, the realization that the event triggers for the protagonist (or the scene’s POV character and also the protagonist when they find out later).

• Your protagonist’s worldview must change even a little bit in every scene.

And so?
• The action that happens as a result of what occurred in the scene

Reminders: The plot is the sequence of events that helps you tell the story. The ‘third rail‘ is the terminology Lisa uses to describe the protagonist’s internal struggle. Isn’t it lovely how they’re always tied together here? Cause and effect, it’s flawless, and it’s been so helpful to me in polishing off my episodes. Let me know if you have any questions, good luck!

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Use science to write compelling story

I am not being paid to promote this book, I genuinely believe in its ability to help you rethink your writing.

As I read (and re-read) through the outlines, scenes, and various narrative that I’d been working on, I started to see something I didn’t like. My protagonist was being dragged along by the plot–and I had been very cognizant of this I thought! My story needed to be character-driven, not plot driven, and try as I may I was not doing this successfully. I sat down, and after a bit of dread, apprehension, and uneasiness–I decided I needed to make my character’s want/need and misbelief a little more ironclad.

To the rescue comes Lisa Cron‘s book Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. Let me tell you, I hated this book, and not because why you might think. This book was frustrating because it forced me to look at everything with a fine tooth comb, the what if, the who, the cause and effect, plot and even subplots. I thought I had done this already! All of this information can and will tie into your story’s electric third rail (which will supply your story with the electricity needed to propel it forward, like a train!), which is directly related to “how the protagonist is making sense of what’s happening, how she struggles with, evaluates, and weighs what matters most to her, and then makes hard decisions, moving the action forward.”

Lisa’s book asks tough but important questions, here’s a few that stuck with me:

  • Why does this story stick with me?
  • Why do I care about writing it?
  • What is the point of my story?
  • What do I want my readers to go away thinking about?
  • Who is your protagonist before the story even starts?
  • What does your protagonist want before the story even starts?
  • Can you envision the moment in your protagonist’s life when their misbelief took root?

The book is a goldmine for questions like these. I highly recommend following along with the book using the PDF resource: Story Genius Novel Writing Method Worksheet. Whether you’re stuck, just starting out, or want to make that narrative indestructible, consider using this book as a resource, I highly recommend it.

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Life 50%

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I recently had a very sobering epiphany: I’m halfway done with my life.

That’s right. I’m halfway through (If I’m lucky). How did I come to this grim realization? I was downloading widgets for Notion. One of the widgets I downloaded was a life progress widget, and I nonchalantly added it to my page, but when I saw it–when I actually stared at it, I was somber.

Life 50%. I started to think about all the things I had done, and all the time I had wasted; and then it truly hit me. I don’t have a lot of time left to do all the things I want to. Life really is too short, people say this all the time, and you read it on things like calendars, mugs, and pinterest quotes but it never really pervades your mind because you always think you have time. But for the first time in my life, I’ve realized that I don’t.

I regret sitting on passion projects like The Barrier Scroll for years because I always thought I would have enough time to get better at drawing or get more creative with my writing. I’m here to tell you right now, just do it. Don’t wait until you’re ‘good enough’ or ‘better than now’ just start. Sometimes the hardest thing about doing something is just starting it. ‘Had I started 10 years ago with this comic’–I think about that a lot, and I regret. But I’ve started now, and I think that’s better than not starting at all. I hope I can finish this story, in a lot of ways it’s my magnum opus.

Start that novel you’ve been putting off, learn that language, illustrate that story that’s always been close to your heart, tell that person you’ve been thinking about that you love them. If you take anything from this post, it’s simple: Don’t wait.

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I hope February is kind to you. ♡