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.

Recommended Playlist:

Make each scene matter

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!

Recommended Playlist:

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.

Recommended Playlist:

Writing a book blurb for my comic

I decided to stop putzing around and finish my attempt at a “back of the book blurb”, not to be confused with a “synopsis”–which I am also still very much working on as well.

What is a Book Blurb? A book blurb (also called a “back-cover blurb” or a “book description”) is a short description of the book’s main character and conflict, usually between 100 and 200 words, that traditionally is included on the inside cover or on the back of a book.

I’m not writing a novel obviously, but the need for some sort of way to entice readers to care about my comic seemed necessary. And what better way than a short pithy paragraph or two that leaves the reader wanting more. I’m currently in the process of garnering feedback on how to make my blurb better on various sites, but I’ll post it here too, and if you’re up for it, I’d love yours as well. I’m at ~182 words.

I’ll post the resources below that I used to get to the point I’m at now. I hope they’re helpful to you as well. Any helpful resources get you to the blurb you love?

Here’s the formula I loosely followed:
1. Grab the readers’ attention
2. Introduce your protagonist
3. Introduce the basics of your conflict
4. The twist or the ‘not everything is as it seems’ moment
5. The ‘stakes’ of your story

The work-in-progress blurb is just below here:

Broken Swords Still Cut.
Seven hundred years ago, Abjuration Barrier Magic ended the East Territories War. The realm is at risk again, only this time, there’s no Abjurer.

The child of a Federation Soldier and a Su’nethian Aristocrat, Oriole is an outsider from birth, hoping someday to find her parents. When her guardian’s life is threatened, Oriole unknowingly casts an ancient magic barrier for protection. Whisked away to the Ivory Ministry in Vaal to harness her abilities, Oriole finds fellowship with the renowned Onyx Guard, as well as an unlikely ally in the dejected soldier, Ryn Alrae.

Now that Oriole has glimpsed a world that perhaps accepts her after all, she is ready to fight to be a part of it. As Oriole’s powers grow, so does the desire by Emperor Su’neth to get his hands on the rare and ancient magic many thought vanished. As the threat of war looms between two nations, Oriole will discover things about herself that will change the course of the conflict, and what she believed, forever.

And that’s it! Here’s the Recommended Resources as promised:

Thank you for the support. ♡

Making time for personal projects

Creating The Barrier Scroll comic is a huge undertaking for me, and something that I was, quite frankly, intimidated to commit my time to. I am by no means an ‘illustrator’ or a ‘writer’…but I want to be. So I try to take what time I have in each day, and dedicate it to something that gives me joy and passion. I’ve given passion projects and personal development a lot of thought and it really comes down to one thing: making time. This little cutlet of insight can be applicable to countless parts of our life. We as human beings can be extremely busy, overwhelmed even. However, it’s important to identify what really matters.

Stop with the glorification of ‘busy’. The fundamental core of being ‘too busy’ stems from the lack of priorities or the inability to prioritize. Directed at the wrong pursuits, it can pose as a limiting factor to our full creative potential. Half of all parents (47%) said they were ‘too busy’ to read a bedtime story to children. “Despite the fact that 97% agreed that reading before bedtime was beneficial to a child’s development, only a third of parents felt guilty that they didn’t spare the time.”

Carve out time in your daily routine. Block time for lunch. Cultivate regular time for physical activity in your day to service health benefits and thought clarity. Some studies suggest that physical activity can even help boost creativity. Consider opportunities for meditation, yoga, or any other moments for yourself to help improve mental health. Set aside manageable chunks of time to focus on the creative pursuits that are important to you. Tutorials, writing, painting, learning a new skill.

The only way to get good at something is to do it, a lot. The only way to do something a lot, is to make time for it. For example: 1 hour a day ~ 30 hours a month, 365 hours a year = 9+ full time working weeks of personal project time. That’s over 2 months of time you can use for personal projects with simply 1 hour a day, and many creatives say the weekends are when they dedicate the most time to passion projects and personal development.

When creativity strikes, listen. One skillset that I’ve learned to cultivate is writing down your ideas when you’re unable to execute on them. I’m currently knee deep in the episodic writing of Book 2 for The Barrier Scroll. I’m not convinced I would be this productive and excited about getting all my ideas down on paper if I hadn’t written a smattering of random creative lightning bolts down when creativity struck. Some people keep actual written journals (this is wonderful), I use the notes app on my phone–and translate them to an appropriately named file later in Google Docs. I jot down as much as I can to give me context for when next I peek at it. You do your future self a disservice when you write down notes that don’t make much sense later, so be concise as possible and add as much context as it takes for it to make sense to a stranger who has never seen that note before.

You’re not busy, you just suck at time management. Prioritize your passion projects and personal development, and every moment is an opportunity for creative inspiration. Now get out there and be productive and intentional with your time and creativity.

Thank you for the support. ♡

Writing tips: Outlining your narrative

The story of The Barrier Scroll is something that has been with me for a long time, but I’ve never truly fleshed out the details. When you start to think about story structure and character motivations, it can be daunting, intimidating even to outline your narrative.

There are countless resources to plot your story but the one that resonated with me the most was a rendition of Blake Snyder‘s storytelling structure, Save the Cat!, called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody. This story structure, used on countless popular movies and novels, outlines essential plot points, or beats. When you struggle with structure like I do, this is immensely helpful. To visualize this, here’s Savannah Gilbo’s graphic to get us oriented:

It can be helpful to think about a comic thematically.

I wont go in depth as to what exactly Save the Cat! story structure is, but I do want to stress the importance of structure overall. Structure helps you space out the major events of your story in a way that keeps your reader engaged, without overwhelming them. How do the character’s goals, motivations, and internal conflicts propel the story forward? And why should the audience care?

John Truby, screenwriter, director, and author of The Anatomy of Story says: “Without good structure a story will not work, no matter how good the writing.” I don’t recommend sitting down to write a story from beginning to end and expect it to all make sense when you come out the other end. For most people, to get the best result, you need to apply the craft of story telling and think about what you are doing before you dive in and start writing. Truby says, “Every hour you put into prep work on your story, you save ten when it comes to writing, and rewriting, it…writer’s block is almost always caused by not knowing where the story is going.”

Write down all your ideas, no matter what, and no matter where you are.

Stories, at their deepest level, explore the human spirit and communicate that truth. Find a structure that works for you, so that your narrative has meaning, and connects with readers.

Recommended Resources:

Thank you for the support. ♡