If you vote over at TPC, you can see a rather somber-looking panel from tomorrow’s page! We’re back to our OG werewolf :).

I realized that we’re rather quickly coming up on this chapter being 40 damn pages, and it’s nowhere near done yet. Hm. My first chapter was like, 15 pages. Welp, 60 page chapter, here I come! Gotta…just shove all this story in there.

So, our werewolves are quickly realizing that…this plan is kind of shit, but we don’t really have other options. Will it work out? Will Mal actually join their pack and then everyone will stay alive and things will be fine (for a short while)? Um…who knows? (I know.) Anyway, these guys probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.

I’ve spent most of this chapter waiting to make a stupid visual gag with Tim, and now I’m satisfied. I never really had to deal with the fact that Tim is a hairy dude all over, but I’ve just been keeping his furry patches the same color as his skin for…visual unity, I guess. But it doesn’t work in color! It just looks like his skin is weird. So I colored his patches lol.

I haven’t got much else to talk about with this page, so I figured I might as well expand a bit on the concept of Character First writing. (I don’t know if that’s an official title, but I’m making it one, because that’s what I call it in my head.) If you’re looking for a good resource for this concept, I would recommend The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Note, there’s a version of this book that was released that’s been edited to hell, which was published by BN Publishing in 2008. Don’t get that version. Please note, I just woke up, so I have no idea how coherent I’ll be on this subject. If you have questions, please ask.

Anyway, the idea of writing Character First is that whatever happens in your story is motivated by who your character is as a person. If you know your character, you know what they’re going to do in any given situation, so whatever situation you throw them into, they need to act accordingly. Sometimes, this might mean they don’t act the way you’d like them to, but you need to stay true to your characters. So, say you come up with this big, elaborate plot and you’ve got all these damn characters and you want them to act out this plot. You write your whole novel, and now you’re left wondering, why does no one want to read this? Because your plot isn’t that important compared to your characters. Your plot should be informed by your characters more so than your characters are informed by your plot.

Obviously, what happens in a story will change your characters over time, but if you start out with a dude who’s kind of a weeny, but gets brave suddenly when he has to fight a dragon, and then gets super suave when he meets a lady, and then acts gruff and unemotional when someone he cares about dies…you’ve just got a collection of people who you’ve shoved into one character. If the dude starts out as a weeny, he needs to run away from the dragon, or attempt to. Maybe he defeats it by sheer luck, but he’s not a brave guy. You know this going in. So maybe the dragon goes undefeated, or maybe your main character needs to be saved. Maybe being saved makes him realize he needs to toughen up a bit, because hell, in this story, he’s just gonna keep running into dragons, and he’s not always going to be so lucky. He’s not a brave, outgoing dude, so when he meets a lady he likes, his insecurity is going to inform how he deals with her. He might not even talk to her at first. Maybe the point of your story then becomes less about dragons and a kingdom in turmoil, and more about this guy who is just trying to stay alive and get his shit together.

The point I’m trying to make is that stuff happening, one thing after another, is not that interesting in and of itself. (Granted, that’s what a story is, technically…just a series of events being told in some order.) That stuff happening to someone, or a group of someones, is what keeps your reader engaged. If I wanted to write a traditional werewolf story, by this point, we’d have had multiple werewolf throwdowns, and there’d be fur and teeth flying all over the place. It might be interesting? The great thing about werewolf stories is that you’ve got a built-in “man versus self”/”man versus beast” plot to work with. But the werewolf thing is just a vehicle for me to tell a story of a young woman who is feeling trapped in her own body as she learns to navigate her true self. I could take the werewolf thing out, and tell the same story in a different way.

When you’re sitting down to write, and you’re wondering…why is this not engaging? Why is no one interested in this? It might be time to look at who your characters are, and where they’re going. If you know who they are, then you should have no question how they’re going to react in most scenarios. I could have set HTBAW in space, and I’d still be telling the story of the same people. I know how Elias would react (he’d be the dude jumping to do all the damn space walks with like, way too much enthusiasm), or how Malaya would react (reluctantly taking on additional responsibility around the ship until she realizes that she’s more capable than she thought), etc. When you know your characters, then every scene you write will be informed by who they are, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Okay, I’m off to eat a bagel and face the real world. Let me know if you have questions or whatever! I’ll be awake eventually.