Creating a Book from Scratch with N0 Experience! Part 3
by David Kanellis
About this Article Series:
I’m David, and I’m not an artist. I’m not a writer or a creative professional of any sort. However, in the next year I will be releasing 6 issues of a Comic Book, a Children’s Book, releasing a new Web Comic, and as many collaborative projects as I can. I’m going to do all of this while working full time and spending time with family and friends as well - and I’m going to share with you how you can do the same!
This article series is going to help you understand how to execute your project, and I’m going to entertain you by showing you mine! We get to see the steps I am taking in order to produce something excellent while maintaining my lifestyle!
The last 2 episodes reviewed the basics of what you need to consider in order to get started on your own project as well as the importance of staying organized. Focusing on the fundamentals will help you manage your project to success and help you achieve your goals. Check out the previous 2 articles if you haven’t already!
Episode 3: Story Time
Whatever you’ve decided your story to be, whatever medium you’ve chosen to work on, no matter how talented you are - you need a kick-ass story! We aren’t talking about developing a market-minded description that tells a brief synopsis to hook a reader, we’re talking about the flow and feel of your story and characters and ensures that they are both captivating and engaging to the reader in some way. Think of your target audience, and remember that with every action, every word, every piece of character development, you are teaching them something about your story.
So what makes a good story, and how do you make sure that your readers will want to turn the page? Well, this isn’t English Lit, but the most important elements that I’ve found are as follows (nice and simple the way we like it!):
Better known as “beginning, middle, and end”, the 3 Act structure has been a proven method to storytelling for many years. Each major and minor story arc, from a chapter to an entire novel, needs to follow this structure so the reader can go through the emotions of becoming interested in the setup, being affected by the confrontation, and finally becoming satisfied by the resolution (there is positive and negative satisfaction - for example a horror story might not have a happy ending, but it still needs to have a resolution to the story to “ close the book”).
Here is the main story arc for Traveler Vol. 1 written simply in a Three act structure:
Act 1 - Setup - A god is devoured by a being from our universe, and the gods who are being targeted recruit a regular Joe to be their champion and stop the bad guy.
Act 2 - Confrontation - Regular Joe gets powers from the gods and goes on a search for the major baddie.
Act 3 - Resolution - Regular Joe finds a way to traverse worlds and track down the major baddie, and we’ll leave off with Joe hot on is trail.
The purpose of the main story arc in this story is to open up new worlds for further development and stories in the future. Traveler is a long adventure planned to cover many worlds and many characters.
Again, there will be many more story arcs than the main one, but for the purposes of this tutorial we’ll stick to 1 to use as an example.
Sticking to this basic concept throughout each story arc will allow you to follow a path that will keep the reader engaged. Now, of course, those story arcs need to contain details that interest the reader, but by following the basic guidelines of screenwriting you can plot your events and details and be sure that they will make sense when you have a final product.
If you’re interested in reading a great book about this topic, check out Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat”. This book has become the go-to for what the dos and don’ts for screenwriting are.
- Create and Develop Compelling Characters
One major dealbreaker for any story is whether or not the reader cares about the characters. Let’s say that again, the reader must care about what happens to the characters! It doesn’t matter if they want the bad guy to take one between the eyes, or if they want the good guy to get the girl, or maybe they just want old spike to find his bone - the reader will only char about your plot points if you have given the character the life and motivations necessary to be a vehicle that will deliver your story.
Here is a handy checklist I use whenever creating a protagonist or antagonist to make sure that the character has a story that is compelling:
Dave’s Keys to a great character:
1. Something to gain, something to lose - basically, they need to solve a problem (something to gain), and they have something to lose in the process, so they must navigate their problem solving through the plot in order to execute.
In Traveler, Oz has to save the universe in order to save his family. His gain is technically preventing his loss pre-emptively, but of course we’ll give him more motivation as we proceed through the story. The antagonist is trying to gain power by consuming the Orivi (the gods), and we don’t quite know what he has to lose yet. In fact, it’s almost as if he’s already lost everything… (bum bum bummmm)
2. Capacity to change - A great character will evolve throughout your story. That character should learn from the experiences that they go through during the story. Typically you want to deliver your message through the character’s evolution.
Traveler’s main character will start out on a journey that he thinks is saving his family, but ultimately discovers that there may be things even more important...taboo if you ask me!
3. Character is unique - Too often overlooked, we need to remember to give our character some life that will make the reader interested in what they’re doing. This can be a flaw (simple as an eyepatch, as complex as a mental condition), a power or special ability (we’re all familiar with the superhero genres), or even just their outfit or mannerisms. Be as creative as you can afford with all of your characters!
Traveler’s main character is an everyman, so it’s important that I found a way to make him unique. Loving your family is pretty average, and he’s even built about what you’d expect a grown man in a comic book to look. So his major unique traits are going to come with his actions, his words, and his decisions.
4. Conflict is-a-brewin! - Someone or something must be trying to stop your main characters, or they must be trying to stop someone else. Your characters have to be on a path towards engagement, or else there will be very little buildup (remember act 1?) to the confrontation.
Traveler’s main characters are on a collision path to each other from the get-go, so not too much to explain here.
While the above points are a great starting point to creating your characters, just remember that there is not a perfect formula, and much of the interest that you create will be written as you go. Don’t be afraid to get creative and branch off of you main story to develop one of your characters. We’ll cover side characters and the role they play another time.
So we’ve covered so much preparation. Hopefully you have notes, sketches, and ideas brewing in that crazy cranium of yours. So how do we start putting pen to paper? We make a storyboard! Join me next week as I go through the process of connecting all of the dots that we’ve started making and turn them into something that makes sense!
About David Kanellis:
David is a ~30 year old business professional and aspiring artist who has had a love for gaming, fantasy, and sci-fi. Living in a small town in Upstate, NY, he loves to travel around this region and beyond to different events and cons. He is currently writing, illustrating, and publishing his own comic book, and wants to share the process of that creation with you!
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I'd love to hear feedback from you about my work! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns!
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