Story Development

Today I want to talk about developing a story. During the process to create my next webcomic the biggest hurdle for me has been story development. For many months I've been stuck on the story, going through many ideas. I had a basic setting in mind and most of the primary characters were already created, I just needed a story.

My last couple of comics were weakest in the story department (among, probably, many other things). I was rushed to get them started and just went with the first thing that came to mind. This has proven to be a major oversight. It got to the point that I was developing the story page by page each week. This created a complete lack of consistency and plot development. Half the time "I" didn't even know where the story was going.

This time, however, I wanted to really plan things out and do it properly. But what started as, what was supposed to be, a simple and fun little story turned into a self-made trap. I became overly critical and for many months got stuck on the small details, keeping me from moving forward. New games didn't help me either. It's good to want to do something well and the "right way," but when it causes you to become overly-critical of the details you can lose the bigger picture and you won't be doing yourself any favors. You may become frustrated and give up.

GA_Sketches3Personally, I love to create characters. A lot of my ideas come from my sketches alone. I may have one thing in mind, but something else appears in a doodle that sparks a new idea. However, this can only get me so far. Eventually I need to sit down and actually plan out the whole thing.

So with a new year and the realization I wasn't making progress, I started to work on it again, but this time I tried a different approach. I took a step back and tried to look at the overall picture. I had a beginning in mind, something that I usually have an easy time with, but I needed an ending. So instead of trying to think really big for some grand ending, I tried to think smaller.

Taking the beginning that I had previously created, instead of starting over, I tried to think how the characters could have reached that point. What caused this event to begin? I erased some previous reasons and twisted things around. Whenever I ran into a dead-end I tried adding a new character to help move things forward. Characters or situations that try to stop a character from his/her goals is the core basis for a story plot. You need a character or event to start the "domino effect," so to speak.  Figuring out why that happened and how to change it or stop it can help you develop an ending. Before I knew it, by thinking of what triggered my beginning, I had a plot that could lead me to an ending.

This is a good way to come up with ideas for just about anything. Something as simple as adding a new element to the mix or looking at all your elements from other angles can surprise you with new ideas. Even just sketching on paper can help. I've been able to add small details to my story due to random sketches. Say, I draw a watch on a character -- then I might think about how the character got that watch and is there a story behind it.

Once there is a beginning and ending in mind you can move to filling in the details and add events that happen in the middle. To break things down into managable chunks, I started thinking of story ideas in terms of "episodes". Another thing you can do is put ideas on index cards. To make things simple I planned for a 13 "episode" "season." With that in mind I just started to jot down random ideas for "episodes." I didn't limit myself at first, I just wrote down any idea that came to me. I continued this process for a couple days until I had a nice list. If it's easier for you to think in chapters, episode, or use index cards then do so. Any method that helps you organize your thoughts is a step forward. The worst thing you can do is stifle your progress by trying to do things a certain way.

From my list not all ideas stood out, so I started to pick my favorite ones and then arrange them in an order that seemed to make sense. Like I said before, this method works as well with index cards. You can write an idea for an "episode" or chapter on a card and then when you have several you can move them around and see how they might connect. New ideas might spark from the arrangement alone. An idea for one might be combined with another to make an even more interesting idea. I'm going to keep my old ideas as well. You should never throw out an idea. Keep it for later or for another story. You never know when it can come in handy.

From here you can think about an overall story flow keeping in mind things like "Introduction," "Transition," "Turn," and "Conclusion." This is the Chinese method of making stories and poetry, Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu. You could also think of it as "Introduction," "Development," "Climax," and "Conclusion." For my story, that will span several "episodes," I needed to think of a flow for each "episode" and one for the overall story that leads to the ending. So when arranging my individual story ideas (episodes) I placed the ideas that seemed more introduction-based towards the beginning and ones that could be a climax that could lead into the ending towards the end of the list.

These are just the very basic steps I've taken to help me develop my story. There are many ways to go about it and there are other things to consider such as character personalities and desires, the world/setting and its rules, subplots, and many more. Don't let yourself get too bogged down in the details or methods. That can be a quick path to idea-block. And always be on the look out for ideas from any location like books, sketches, TV, news, and music etc.

As I begin to narrow down my story I'm slowly gaining focus on the characters in it. Like I said before, just from sketching random ideas can crop up.

Have you ever created a story? What methods helped you develop it? What did you feel worked and didn't work?




Desk Diary 1-21-2012

There are a couple small updates this time. Last week my dear set of computer speakers finally died on me. I've had them for well over a decade, but it was time to finally replace them.

I tried to hold on to my old Altec Lansing computer speakers for as long as I could. After several years of producing great sound and lasting through many computer upgrades, one of the bottom speakers in a satellite popped out. Eventually the bottom speaker of the second satellite also popped out. While they still worked they had some problems. Still, I continued to use them even after trying to replace them with another set of speakers that just sounded hollow and cheap.

However, last week the second speaker in the right satellite popped out. It was dead. This left me one half-working satellite speaker. It was finally time to replace them.

So I did what I always do... I searched online for a new set.

I decided on the highly regarded Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 set. As you can see in the first photo, the satellites are rather large. I had to move some things around on my desk just to fit them. But the important thing is the sound. While I'm no audiophile, I have to say the positive reviews are correct, for only $150 you really do get a high quality set of computer speakers that sound pretty amazing for their size.

They are 200 watts, which is insane for computer speakers. I haven't moved the volume dial above the 1/3 mark. So it gets plenty loud for me. The bass is also very solid with no distortion and it's nice that the subwoofer has its own volume control on the main satellite. They seem well built. The satellites are made of a thick plastic with metal feet and the subwoofer feels pretty solid with a large back-plate with real wire-based speaker connections. After making a couple adjustments on my soundcard, I'm fairly happy with them. I think they were a worthy upgrade.

Have you ever had something break on you that you didn't want to replace with something newer? Were you happy with the replacement?


The other item I want to mention is that this week the launch date for Tera was announced. After a series of closed beta tests and an open beta, the game will launch in NA on May 1st. As I stated in my last post, I'm really looking forward to this one.

I also recently found out that not only am I getting the new limited DDH-06 head that I also mentioned in my last post (pictured below), but also the limited Natsuki wig (also pictured below). Again, thanks to my close friend. So my third Dollfie Dream may look very much like this picture.


It looks like the next handful of months are shaping up to be pretty interesting. I also have another list of things I plan to post over the next month or so. So keep checking back.




Desk Diary 1-6-2012

Can you believe it's now 2012? This is a year marked with many expectations and there are several things I am looking forward to and have planned. There are a few incoming items from pre-orders I made last year. A couple MMOs are coming out that I'm looking forward to. And I hope to FINALLY get my new webcomic started! Oh, and the world is supposed to end or something...

While I wouldn't say that all my goals were met last year, I did accomplish many things. Most notable was my move to drawing digitally with my Wacom Cintiq, a tool that has improved my illustration work. I bought my second resin BJD that I named Alexis. Then I had the uncanny luck of winning both of the Shining Hearts Dollfie Dreams, which lead to spending a lot of money on doll related items. A couple new figma were added to my slowly growing collection. Later in the year I had to, unexpectedly, replace my old computer monitor with a new 25" LCD.

A couple friends sent gifts for the holidays, one of which you can see hanging on the wall in the above photo. It is the Danny Choo Mirai dakimakura (pillow case)! It was a nice surprise. So I have to thank my friend (again) for sending that to me.

I ended the year off by getting sucked into two new games, Skyrim and Star Wars: The Old Republic. This, of course, caused a large gap in updates to the blog and delayed starting on my webcomic.

Now we have a new year and a chance to try again with new and old goals!

To start the new year off I slowed down my gaming a little so that I could finally take some photos of my two Dollfie Dreams. Before taking photos of them, though, I had some remaining details that I wanted to add first—such as braiding a ribbon for Rika's hair and making little charms for Yuri's gun. Most importantly, though, I put together a setup that will hopefully allow me to take better photos. With several satin-like sheets, some PVC pipe, and many tripods, I've put together a little "photo studio".


I have several items coming in the first half of this year. There are two figmas that I pre-ordered last year still on the way. One is Black Rock Shooter from the the PSP game (which is coming to the US). The other is Black Rock Shooter Blade, which comes with an artbook by the BRS creator, Huke. These should be coming within the first couple months of 2012, but I expect some delays.


I also JUST recently learned that one of my friends has secretly entered and won the lottery for a limited Dollfie Dream head for me! It is the finished makup version of the new DDH-06 head. I wasn't planning to get another Dollfie Dream, but it seems I have an enabler helping me along. So I am now starting to think of items to buy for this new girl coming around April. I can't thank my friend enough.


Careful time management will also be needed this year. Last year was a slow year for games, which is probably why I was able to dedicate my attention to more personal goals and achievements, but this year has many possible gaming distractions. I currently already have Star Wars: The Old Republic on my plate and several single-player games (Skyrim, Arkham City), but later this year there are a couple MMOs coming out that I've been looking forward to.

One small possible gem for me is Tera. While this is likely not everyone's cup of tea, Tera appears to be the spiritual successor to Lineage 2, at least in style and open world environment, which is a game that sucked away many hours of my life. This is slated to come out "this spring".


Then there is The Secret World. I'm still up in the air about this one. I've played Funcom's other two MMOs with mixed feelings, so I'm still not sure what to think about this one, but it looks like it could have potential. This should come out around April.


And of course there is the possibility that Guild Wars 2 could be released this year, the only other game hyped up as much as SW:TOR. I did spend a lot of time in the first Guild Wars, and the things they are bringing with this new title do sound really interesting. And, of course, there is no subscription fee, which is a nice plus.


So as you can see there is already a LOT on my plate for this year. What are your goals for this year? Did you learn anything from last year? Will you do anything different this year? It's important to constantly try to improve your situation or to reach your goals. Keep a todo list and make it a point to check it and modify it. The iPad has become a great assistant for keeping track of my goals and ideas, a notepad could be just as good. Do what you can to keep moving closer to those goals, even if they are small steps. Just don't give up.

My primary personal goal is to get my new webcomic started this year. It has been too long since I've had a comic going and I feel that I need to get a new one started for myself. Keep checking back for updates on my progress.




Rika & Yuri

I finally put together all the pieces I ordered and took some photos of my two Dollfie Dreams to give them a proper introduction. So here is Rika (DD Neris) and Yuri (DD Airy). I think they came out rather nice.


They may be pretty and cute, but they are trained to "deal" with anything that comes their way. I drew an illustration of them as well!


I hope you like them. It's been a long time coming from the first time I learned that I won them in the lottery, to waiting months to get them, and finally to now all together with the things I ordered for them. I think the photos came out rather well. I hope to take more photos soon!