Vote over at TWC and you can see the scribbly mess that eventually became this week’s pages! Yay!

Seeing as Malaya is finally human again, I thought she’d be pretty glad that Elias rushed in to help when he didn’t have to. Even though I usually portray Elias as having his shit together, he really doesn’t! He’s spent most of his young adult life being his mom’s assistant, which usually meant following orders, collecting information, and helping with the minutiae of leading a werewolf pack. So, he’s finally made a big, big decision, which went directly against his mother’s wishes, and he knows there will be consequences. Just like Malaya needs to grow into being a werewolf, he needs to grow into being an autonomous adult.

One of the keys to compelling storytelling is giving your characters somewhere to go. Not every story has to include character growth, I guess…in fact, the degradation of character is just as interesting in some ways. Walter White’s descent into pure villainy in Breaking Bad was fascinating because he started out from a kind of noble position of wanting to unburden his family financially. Regardless, people change and remold themselves according to their life circumstances, as do well-rounded characters. When I first started this story, I knew that my main characters had to have a path to grow over the course of the story, which turned into Malaya’s anxiety about the danger of her werewolf side, as well as Elias’s worries about operating as a free agent and taking on a more adult role away from his family. The core of Vincent’s personality is as the younger brother protecting his older sister who he sees as really emotionally vulnerable, so he’s going to have to figure himself out too. And, you know, if you put any effort into pacing, hopefully all those issues don’t arise simultaneously, so you can address one wave of character growth after another, after another, and ultimately use that to propel the story forward.

Before I started writing this comic, I had written a few short stories here and there for school, and I always managed to impress myself that I created anything coherent that people liked reading. I had a lot of anxiety about actually writing a story of this scale, of even putting anything down in a word document for fear that I’d eventually hit a wall and not know where to go next, ruining everything. So, like any anxious nerd, I read up on storytelling structure. It’s not that hard! Just about any book out there will give you a place to start (I like Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing, personally…not the revised version), and the simpler you keep things, the more room you have to really develop the core of your story. (If I threw vampires and yetis and unicorns and ghosts into this story, no one would read it…too much information, not enough time to delve into anything well enough to care.) The best way to keep a story going, so you always know what’s going to happen next, is to focus on what your characters want and who you want them to grow into by the end of the story. That way, every step of the story is meeting a new goal along the path of who you’re trying to make them into. Then, I try and think of the whole story like an essay, I guess. If my thesis statement is “Malaya has anxiety about being a werewolf,” then my goal is to demonstrate along the way that my thesis is true. Then the next thesis is “Malaya is making strides towards being a more confident werewolf and building a supportive social network,” which I then have to show to be true. So on and so forth. Eventually you end up with a story. And if people miss anything, or don’t understand where a character is emotionally, and that isn’t a conscious decision on my part, then I have to concede that I haven’t argued my thesis clearly enough. Then I end up with a chapter that’s going to be 84 freaking pages, because let it be known, I was that college weirdo who asked if I could write longer essays than the assigned page count for the sake of further clarity. I always got an A+, too ;).

Anyway, maybe that out-of-the-blue morning rant will help get you underway with your own stories. I’m struggling to keep much of a focus these last few days. I guess one positive aspect of this new administration is that I’m reconnecting with my cousins who have turned out to be militantly liberal. Well, a handful of us. That says a lot considering half my family is from Mississippi. Granted, as a result of those online conversations, I was up til 1am last night, and then this morning, the dog decided to wrestle with me starting at 6am. It’s very hard to convince a 50lb dog to go back to sleep when she’d rather you play with her :|.