General Discussion

QUACKCAST 110 - needs your contribution! Subject: Character obsticles!
ozoneocean at 9:01PM, Jan. 27, 2013
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We'll need contributions by Friday the first of February!
 
Obstacles, challenges for your characters. How do you create 'em? How do you and your characters overcome them???
 
This ties in with what we did in this Quackcast: http://www.drunkduck.com/quackcast/episode-109-tantzface-and-pit-aerine-quacktet-tag-team/
 
So just tell us about the things you go through with your characters and their plotlines! ^_^
- write it in this thread or PQ me please.
 
Genejoke at 11:27AM, Jan. 28, 2013
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I don't have a short or definitive answer but i'll try and give me insight.
bear in mind i have no formal writingtraining so this is just my method/madness.  or more accurately, the lack of.
Essentially I create something, usually a character, or event and build around it, then I introduce other elements, the character to event or vice versa and let magic happen.

Character is often defined by the way they overcome obstacles and how they are in turn defined/changed by the outcome.  In BASO I deliberately started with a few vaguely defined characters and used their situations to hammer out who they are.  With Stavlov I wanted a fairly archetypal action hero, a big muscled character with little depth who handled things with fist or gun.  Margo was the eager young girl who wanted to escape her hum drum life.  Harriet was the woman on the run for something she didn't do.
With stavlov his obstacles were initailly a battle situation, very straight foward and soon not that interesting, so a change was needed.  I'd already planned a collision course with another character Jonathon, who was smaller, less imposing and posed no physical threat to Stavlov. I eeded jonathon to be an obstacle for stavlov and yet in interesting character in his own right.  Something I think I may have achieved, on one hand Jonathon is an utter bastard, but he is just part of the system.  He's effectivly a middle manager and shit rolls downhill.  he has an ace up his sleeve that Stavlov has fallen foul of.  In this situation the story requirements were fairly easy to work in, as I'm essentially building one big powder keg and pretty soon it's going to blow up.  The challenge here is in writing the conclusion/resolution.

Margo on the other hand was more about building relationships and and going with her chosen career path.  Again it could have gotten boring quickly without some kind of plot, hence the story with her friend getting killed by another of her peers.  Quickly I found the obstacles I'd thrown up added more character development opportunities.  Would she let her grief halt her escape from her humdrum life? if not what are the consequences of that decision?  Much like discussed in the last QC I know or can reason the answers based on who she is and I follow that up with what happens next and I follow each idea to the next fork in the road, then the next and so on and so forth.  So She set off on a (not so) grand adventure full of grief with people she barely knows.  What is her mental state? Lonely?needy? angry? throwing in a love interest at completely the wrong time for her seemed the natural way to go.  That opened a lot of possibilities and I decided to go as straight forward as possible in some ways and throw a spanner in the works elsewhere.  I won't go to much further with this as it ties right in with the latest chapter of the story.  I love throwing curveballs but there are for nothing if you throw too many.

Harriet was the least defined character, pretty much defined as a prim and proper mother who was on the run to protect her children.  i knew i was going to put her through some horrible stuff but didn't know what, for better or worse the sexual abuse was both the most obvious and most likely given the scenario I put them in.  Again i threw a curveball or three into her storyline to take it away from the rape but also to stop having to deal with it fully, yet.  Some of the plot elements I considered I shied away from as they weren't things i wanted to write about, the thing is when I considered the antagnonists involved and their situation.  Bad things were bound to happen, the trick was deciding where to draw the line and how to best handle it.

With those examples I had the scenario figured out before hand, it was largely a case of adding the character and letting “nature” take its course.  

Anyway enough rambling, hopefully someone will respond and I'll find some other answers. 
Gunwallace at 1:14PM, Jan. 28, 2013
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I'd never really thought about ‘Obstacles’ as a separate entity, to me they were just part of the plot.  Without an obstacle to overcome there is no story, so my stories by default have obstacles to overcome.  But, stepping back a bit and thinking about things …
In a short comedy comic, like Character Development (plug, plug), the obstacles are whatever or whoever turns up each 6-page episode.  Often this is based on a joke I'm aiming for, or a vague idea or title.  For example, I was eating a cheese scone once and thought an episode entitled A Game of Scones might be fun, so I needed a reason for the heroes to be fighting a giant scone.  A cooking competition came to mind (because I watch too much Iron Chef) and so the obstacle became our heroes needing to win a cooking competition to the death when none of them can cook.  The giant scone was their accidental creation, and it ran amok meaning that they had to defeat it (the scone itself became an obstacle) in the next episode, so I got two episodes/obstacles for the price of one cheesy idea.
For a longer story (such as High Explosives, plug, plug, plug) the obstacles need to be many and varied.  There are internal obstacles the characters bring to the table themselves, such as shyness, fear, laziness, etc.  These are usually the important obstacles as overcoming them leads to character growth, which is usually the point of longer form stories. Then there will be some external ones, in the form of a rival, parental control, or a generic bad guy.  Physical obstacles may come into place as well, such as an accident or injury, distance between the protagonists, or even a giant rock that needs to be skirted around.
How the obstacles are overcome depends on the character, and what the plot and story structure demand.
I found recently that using the Banes Method (see the tutorial from Quackcast 68) the demands of the structure determine when obstacles are needed.  You get to a point in the plot structure, such as TEN: BAD GUYS CLOSE IN, and you realize you need some obstacle (which doesn't have to be actual bad guys, but could be internal self-doubt about ones sexuality for example (something I haven't finished writing yet, so future plug)).  Then you get to ELEVEN: ALL IS LOST and you realize you need something even worse to happen, such as the shunning that might come from being outed over ones confused sexuality.  The structure itself helps define the obstacles.  Things get bad, obstacle, then worse, bigger obstacle, but then are resolved after TWELVE: THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, which is the brooding about the obstacles part.  I've written two scripts using the Bane's Method now, and have plotted out a third, and the obstacles are widely different because the stories are different … a cop/hostage drama versus a teen coming of age comedy/drama. 
In the cop/hostage story the obstacles are almost all external, except for the key one that defines the main character and is entirely internal.  The minor obstacles are overcome with physical force and clever thinking, the major one with much soul searching and angst.  In the coming of age story the obstacles are a mix of internal and external, with the internal ones being the important obstacles.  They are overcome by character growth and love and acceptance from others.  Minor obstacles, such as needing a dress to go to a school dance, are quickly and easily resolved as they are not as important as the over-arching obstacles of sexual identity, but other seemingly minor obstacles, such as unhooking a bra strap, are lingered on as they help with the big picture.
The Banes Method.  Use it today.
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
Genejoke at 4:29PM, Jan. 28, 2013
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Gunwallace has largely said what I was trying to convey, only better. 
Another example, although I think it is of how I failed rather than succeeded was with Equivocate.  The plot was based upon a role playing adventure I ran, well the whole comic was, to be fair.  Anyway i lifted the plot and ran with it, modifying the characters a little.  the problem was that while i had a fair but perhaps a little generic plot, the characters were short changed.  There were no personal obstacles,  nothing to help the reader connect with the characters.  Also while the plot was alright, it followed the rough path created by the players in the adventure I ran.  While fun for them to play it lacked the dramatic tension needed to make a good comic.
gullas at 5:00PM, Jan. 28, 2013
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Coming from a bit different perspective than a comic creator (roleplaying games) I usually find 1, maybe 2 different ideas  that are the basis on the character. Depending on the setting and the actual time I'm willing to spend on the character, well the results might vary fron  sterotypical “I like to break stuff with my hammer” or something more like “a wizard from a far away land, never bathes, 3rd heir to his throna, has made some shady deals with shady powers of the underworld and only speaks in Haiku's” (that's actually is a recepie for disaster). The obsticle they face in game shape them into what they become. The best example is a game the I'm currently playing : I'm a dwarf priest, on a quest to find a suitable place for my clan to migrate to. Simple enough. Over the course of this adventure he banded with some people and is involved in a thing that invovles the oceans of the world. Now in my party there is this fair halfling bard, who's gay. Now since I like to roll up my characters (weight, heigt, race…) it turns out that my character is pretty young and has been living a bit sheltered life. And slowly he started to grow feelings torwards this bard. *sigh* makes me sad to think the bard's player moved away so we never got the chance to resolve our character's feelings torwards each other…. Anyways I'm on a rant here, moving on.

Comic wise… well with my main comic I treat it kinda in a “this and that” way. I mean having a cast of “nearly-shapeless” characters is a bit tricky on the writing side. Not to mention I tend to have single panel pages…. The sollution I've found is to put them in circumstances, or obstacles. more specifically everyday ones: clothing them, feeding, talking, raising a farm etc etc. And little by little you manage to establish personality traits for your characters (e-shaped fetus that talks, likes eggs and dresses as Elton John in order to beg forgiveness from his friend…. although that is a tale for another quackast). Utlimately it becomes easier to imagine your characters in different situations, putting them against advesaries and you give them time to grow, personality wise of course.
last edited on Jan. 28, 2013 5:07PM
bravo1102 at 1:41AM, Jan. 29, 2013
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So I read the title and thought are obsticles anything like testicles?  Because I know entirely too much about the latter due to recent health probelms. 

For me the plot complications come first and how the character deals with them defines who they are.  

Who am I kidding, I just throw a plot together and think about the funniest way for someone to react and that usually means lots of snide remarks, a dollup of fatalism and a sprinkling of cultural references.  It's also fun to play with relationships.  Stuff happens and how they respond to that stuff is who they are.

I keep it simple because of my limitations as a writer.  I usually like to distract the reader with boobs so the shallow awkward characterization and inane plot complications are ignored.
Tantz Aerine at 7:56AM, Jan. 29, 2013
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All the stories I've ever written, regardless their format, were character driven. Even my great fantasy epic where there's magic and great bloody battles and different nations and whatnot, the characters drive the stories, the main one as well as the side ones. It is a conscious choice on my part, because I've always felt that life unfolds through the experiences of assorted individuals, with one central always being key in the interpretation of said experiences- and that central one is none other than ourselves! So without powerful characters that direct the story, in my opinion that story is very likely going to lack in the high texture that emotions, thoughts and reactions bring in. 

I'll talk about WM in this thread since I'm not sure how much of BR's characters I want to discuss without Pit Face cutting in to add stuff ;) : 

In WM there is a trinity of central characters, as it will be clear when the story reaches its cusp (in Chapter 3) that drive the story: Basil, Fotis and Arthur (Arthur is the German fellow that's just made his official debut as central).

When I created them I had in mind to put everyday individuals that didn't grow up groomed to be heroes in a situation that called for heroism, altruism and bravery that objectively tests and stretches the limits of the human soul. War brings the best and worst out in people and deep down that's what WM is exploring, the socio-political and historical aspects of the comic aside.

So how did I go about creating characters that fit those requirements? I made sure their backgrounds were average. None of them were tortured as children. They didn't have abusive parents and they never engaged in psychogical or actual self flagellation over real or imaginary crimes in their past (as dramatic heroes tend to lately, heh heh). All three had normal background lives, all three qualify for your average ‘good person’ we meet daily. Then I gave each of them a single value that drives them above all others. For Basil it's justice. For Fotis, it's compassion to your fellow man. For Arthur, it's respect for young life.

To make them have these values as their key drives (and the powers that through them, drive the story) I had them grow up with people and events forging them as such in their personalities: Basil grew up pretty poor, and witnessed social injustice left and right, but he also witnessed individuals meting out justice in a way that healed a lot of aggravations in one stroke, which made him devoted to the idea that justice is the way to cure all the evil in the world (hence his profession, too- he's a prosecutor). Fotis grew up around his doctor dad and witnessed this healing from the angle of compassion in more or less the same effects, so that's why he extends mercy and compassion everywhere, often in ways that put him in risk. Arthur comes from a family of educators and philosophers, and he has been taught not to cull the young and deprive humanity of potential for betterment.

All three are now faced with the war and all the atrocities that come with it, as well as the demands for valor and loyalty to their countries and nations, and they are called to act in ways that will serve both their loyalty to their country and their main driving forces. Arthur's conundrum is more obvious I suppose since he is on the nazi side, but Basil's and Fotis' aren't easier, considering what they'll be called to decide on, especially when the traitors are unmasked and when they need to decide who to kill and who to let live and HOW. 

The same goes for the supporting characters too, of course, like Martha and Raban and Diomedes and so on, but if I started on those this post would be terrifyingly large and I'll abstain. :D 
 
last edited on Jan. 29, 2013 8:07AM
Abt_Nihil at 9:50AM, Jan. 29, 2013
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As has been pointed out before, I also do not consider obstacles separately from characters or story. In my comics, there's just one intertwined “Characters-story-obstacles” package :) That may be because my characters draw heavily upon real-life problems, as I perceive them, and are built around them. So, if you're not making up stories from thin air, I guess it's about perceiving interesting things in your life and incorporating them into your stories. And the good thing about stories is, you can try and figure out how to deal with these obstacles on a fictional level, even if you can never quite conquer them in real life.
 
Here's a bit of a theory I have, about different notions of obstacles and how they figure into character concepts:
 
- A type of character who has their own life and faces external obstacles, which are defined as such by their occupation. Kind of like a superhero or a firefighter: These are people who dedicate a portion of their lives to fighting threats which they more or less choose to fight (or which they are chosen to fight based on fate, abilities or what have you). The point here being that it's not primarily the individual obstacles which define the character, but moreso the life they have apart from the obstacles, and the fact that they generally face obstacles of a certain kind.
 
- On the other end of the spectrum, characters whose life consists in and is defined by overcoming certain obstacles. Life, personality and obstacles cannot be separated. Obstacles themselves are part of their most basic everyday life, integral to their growth (or stagnation) as characters. This can be, on the most relatable level: Family life - raising kids, maintaining relationships etc.; challenges in their professional life - getting a job or holding on to it, obstacles in their career path; But this can also mean stuff I tend to use in my own comics, which takes these things to more of a fantasy or sci-fi level. On Holon, my protagonists are dealing with life on a space station, and that is both their life as an obstacle in itself; on Bombshell, the protagonist has dedicated her life to an overarching mission, so, again, her life consists of and is defined by these obstacles.
 
As for overcoming obstacles: In the first case, it'll work like a battle. Firefighters put out fires. Superheroes defeat the bad guys. It's the “how” that makes stories interesting, but basically it'll be a fight: an extraordinary, “event”-type of achievement. In the second case, there is no real “overcoming” these obstacles, but incorporating them into the character's narratives; that is, since the obstacles define the characters, they can't overcome them in a literal sense, but they can either incorporate them into their concept of identity, or they can rid themselves of them - ignore them or walk away from them. And at the end of the day, that's why my comics lean more toward this second concept: This struggle for identity seems more interesting than a mere fight. Fights can be exciting, but they need to be embedded into some sort of meaningful context, and I think it's this meaningful context I'm primarily striving to build.
last edited on Jan. 29, 2013 10:04AM
ozoneocean at 8:06PM, Jan. 29, 2013
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Wowsers guys, that is excelent so far! ^_^
 
Snevilly at 4:02AM, Jan. 30, 2013
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To be perfectly honest, obstacles are usually something I think of more towards the end of the planning process. Everything I do tends to become extremely character driven so I know who the cast is and creep on them like the worst of stalkers. I also generally have a good idea of where I want my story to go. There doesn't have to be an ending, but usually I have the climax in mind. Based on the plot and tone of the story, I create obstacles generally knowing which way the character will jump if everything goes as its supposed to. (It doesn't always.) My writing is also very “scene” based and so I try to keep smaller conflicts of different varieties in every scene that somehow tie back in to the over all conflict of the arc or chapter.
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Like I mentioned before, sometimes, the conflict doesn't always get resolved the way you thought it would. I'm really very fluid in my writing, so while I have this over all plan (with a ton of bullet points) most of the conflict is actually fleshed out as I write the scene. I adjust for things like tone, continuity, and impact during the editing process, but the biggest chunk of time is trying to get my character from the introduction to the climactic showdown.
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Conflict can be incorporated in just about any way imaginable. The environment, social politics, quest guidelines and provisions are a few basic ones. I like lots of conflict in my stories because the world is filled with it, even if its not directly affecting the main focus. There's always stuff going on in the background.
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For example: Felis puts on a brave front about moving to a new city to marry a childhood friend. Its an arrangement that was made when they were quite young. Her feelings are conflicted over the situation because while she does have fond memories of him as a boy, she does not know anything about the man he grew into since he began his apprenticeship many years ago. She is rather innocent and puts just as much worry into how they will get along as she does over the fact that she has to move to this really dangerous area to be with him. The Warring is a literal war-zone of a wasteland where the humans put up a barrier to keep the demons from passing further beyond the mountains. Its an incredibly rough place to live and the female population is much lower here because there are better options than the Warring.
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There's all sorts of potential for conflict. Poisonous rain, lava fields, unforgiving terrain, and demonic armies oh my! Felis is a proper city girl from the capitol, raised to be a Great Lady, and here she is in this very unusual circumstance for someone of her station. And its because inside, underneath all that posh restraint and proper etiquette, she's really a remarkable, curious adventurer. Its my job to look at her goals an derail them over and over til she finds the right way to achieve them, or derail them until she grows and realizes what she really wants and then again to find out how she's gonna get that instead. (So my characters don't always overcome obsticals because failure, flaws, and imperfect landings are just as important as the things they ace the first time.) Complicating things further, her mother basically sent a really uptight nanny along. I use Ingrid specifically to foil Felis from all kinds of interactions and situations. I also have an extreme environment which directly effects the provisions available for her journey. The Social politics of the setting are ripe with conflict and the quest guidelines set the tone of her story. They way she handles all of those conflicts reveals her nature to herself and those around her, which only leads to more conflict. 
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EDIT: I forgot to mention that while I think some conflict is integral to specific characters, like things that define them, not all conflict is. That's why I was listing the different types of conflict. Conflict is integral to the plot based on how your character interacts with their environment. But the conflicts of the environment and plot aren't necessarily built into the characters. Its even more broad than them sometimes.
.   Also I think I lost the paragraph I wrote about resolving conflict…like I said before, its pretty fluid when I actually start writing the scene. I do try to tie everything together in some way. A lot of times I'll pull from some things that seemed unimportant in earlier chapters or arcs and bring them back later on. 
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Frankly it figuring out when I've got enough conflict and wrapping up the story that I have a problem with. Well, I hope I didn't ramble on too rediculously. 
One or two of them might just make you giggle: My Instagram, project Blog, and RPG Blog
last edited on Jan. 30, 2013 9:39PM
ozoneocean at 11:36AM, Feb. 1, 2013
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From James Riot:
 
Here we go: As far as the creation of characters goes, I'm pretty lucky
in that centuries of folklore and mythology have done most of the work
for me. That's a bit advantage to doing a comic based on existing myths
and legends. The actual work, for me, comes when it's time to give these
characters shape and figure out how they fit into The Path's universe
and how they further the “grand design”. That actually brings me to my
biggest obstacle when doing characters and storylines: myself. Sometimes
the route you've mapped out for a story and where the story WANTS to go
are two different directions. Then you come to the crossroads of, “Do I
let this progress organically, or do I force it down the road I had
planned?” I can't always be trusted with that decision. I'm biased and
have a PLAN. I know what I MEANT to write into the story…and whether
it's actually there in black and white, sometimes the brain fills in the
blanks for you and you assume it all makes sense. In my case, I'm lucky
enough to have set up a big of a focus group comprised of a few
long-time readers and fellow comic creators. I'll pose the question to
them and sometimes just having an outside voice is all it takes to get
things rolling on the right track.
 
From AUbry Miranda:
Character Obstacles: First Rule: Be
Creative. I know that sounds like a ridiculous reminder for artist, but I
see many young artist draw what they've seen before. To an extent
that's not bad. Much art is inspired from what's simply around us, but
it's another thing to completely flow with the consensus of ‘what a good
character should be’.
Maybe if you're having trouble just
creating a character, you can take what's popular or general and tweak
it to your liking, or even better: something that stands out. When I
wonder if I ‘m making something too cliche or general, I remind myself
that many people have created many different characters over the course
of human history. I make myself realize ’you're not the first to think
of this', but it's the delivery of the idea that will make it stand out.
An example of this would be in fashion: Millions of t-shirts have been
mass produced, but what are the ones that actually stand out to you?
So now that a few ideas are popping into your head now, you need to
do some fine-tuning with your creation. I'm a fan of consistency.
Off-the-wall & unpredictable is cool if that's what you're going
for, but I notice in the comic world there are very rigid grids that we
put our characters in. We usually have ‘the villian’, ‘the hero’, ‘the
antagonist’, etc…These kinds of characters tend to have a
predetermined spectrum of emotions. You kind always kind of tell how
they'll react. Making these characters interesting is getting them to do
something completely out of character once in while.
If you're
going for something that's a little more realistic, study people. Even
though you might tell people you're an artist, is that really all you
do? I'm sure you play games but you don't call yourself a gamer. It's
what you identify with the most. As an artist you're probably critical
about the graphics of the game. Realistic characters are easy & hard
because they're so flexible, but that can make them unreliable and
untrue to their nature at times. They're also very complex at times.
How your character deals with a dilemma is all up to you. You can call
complete artistic-expression on that. Whether true or untrue to their
nature, it should keep the story going(unless you want the story to
dwindle in a certain spot).
hope that's not too long
 

Have voice recordings from Skoolmunkee and Subcultured

 
ozoneocean at 7:22PM, Feb. 1, 2013
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Fromy Jimmy Purcell:
 
Stereotypes and archetypes are my
favorite tools when creating characters and keeping them consistent. I
always start out with what I need for the party. Like if I need a
hot-head with a short temper, a smart and stoic character, or maybe I
need a love interest to provide some more potential obstacles.
 
The
next obstacle I face, as the writer, is knowing their flaws and
figuring out why this ensemble is forced to work together. Once I've
figured out why they can't get out of interacting with each other, I can
start laying out my story.
 
My favorite kind of stories are
character driven. That's when the story develops based on the reactions
of the characters as they face the obstacles (plot-points) of the story.
That being said, I feel that the worst thing a writer can do is have a
permanent storyline and manipulate the personalities of your characters
to reach that desired ending. It breaks the connection between the
characters and the reader when the reader stops to say, “they would
never do that!”.
 
The fun part about rough drafts is that they can
be rewritten over and over again. It's in this stage that the writer can
play with different ideas on how reactions can take the storyline to
completely different places than were originally intended.
 
Learn to love your obstacles.
It's the obstacles that make creating something creative a labor of love.
And it's the obstacles that your characters face and their reactions to them that keep the readers reading.
 
Banes at 7:42PM, Feb. 1, 2013
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This is great stuff, everybody. Thanks so much.

I've been working on my most “plot-heavy” issue of my series so far, with a lot of external obstacles for the characters to overcome.

But conflict or obstacles are the very building blocks of a story, right down to individual scenes. If there's nothing in the way of what a character wants, there's no story.

Showing characters struggling to overcome their limitations comes fairly naturally to me…it's throwing up those EXTERNAL roadblocks that I have more trouble with. I've been having to work extra hard to make sure the external obstacles keep popping up to make the story worthwhile.

It only gets tougher as the story goes along, because challenges have to get harder and harder to make a story work. And even though I know the basics of what will happen in my most recent story, and how it all hangs together…still, it's not completely written until I do a new page and post it.

It's pressure!

It's an OBSTACLE, even!

But it's a WHOLE lotta fun!
last edited on Feb. 2, 2013 7:28AM

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