Post Mortem: Take to Heart


A writer is always growing. And is always human. In creating Take to Heart, I've ran into problems that I could have easily solved if I was more proactive. Mistakes could have been easily avoided if I were to just planned accordingly and have guidelines that steered me away from having to deal with the inconvenience.

But nothing is more fun than learning from your mistakes. And failing is the best way to tell your brain to be aware and to hone in the behavior that encourages you to be more proactive. That said, I learned a lot while writing my first script. Unless you're blessed with the talent from a thousand gods, your first work will always be sloppy. It will never be the pretty sight we imagine when we start pursuing any skill or hobby.

Fortunately, for those willing to learn, that's half the pleasure in pursuing such things. Keeping track of your progress and seeing how much you've grown adds more incentive to be better. You don't always know what you don't know, and realizing that encourages you further in seeking the knowledge you need to be satisfied with what you create.

Writing Take to Heart has been incredibly enlightening. I realized my strengths, and more importantly; my weaknesses as a writer. Although I expected to run into problems that amateurs run to all the time and planned accordingly, that doesn't guarantee that I won't make any mistakes at all.

The worst that I could ever do is burn myself out from enjoying the writing process. Which to an extent, I almost did. But luckily, the story is personally resonating to me that I couldn't grasp the fact that I would let go of something dear to my heart and to who I am.

That said, here are all the lessons I've learned while working on my first comic script; Take to Heart. 

Work on the outline first before going straight for the final results.

When I first started working on the script, I thought that it'd be a very short story. I didn't plan ahead of time for the ambition creep that would rain upon me.

The thought process behind the writing was a rollercoaster. I thought it was going to be short, I thought I wanted it to be a novel. Eventually, I decided relatively early on before I wanted to commit that it would be a short story. It will have everything that a short story needs. That way I wouldn't have to write filler, sub-plots, and the like and focus more on the main characters, core plot, story theme, and the message I want to tell. A concise and cohesive package. Much like a movie.


Instead of relying on having the outline in my head. I should have written it down as soon as possible for it to serve as a guideline and for me to be more flexible in changing it.

I thought I wouldn't need to make an outline for how relatively short the writing process was going to be. I did not expect to work on it for more than half a year. So, in my head; I was going to keep track of all the pieces I need to form this story. Little did I know, it would only lead to turmoil, where some scenes lost their meaning and purpose because I had forgotten their place in the story.

I eventually got around to outlining and it helped immensely in pinpointing the problems in the story; Which scenes did not fit the theme, which ones are moving the story forward, etc. That said, it would've helped me a lot with this process knowing the length of the story, which brings us to the next lesson.


Consider the length of the story first.

The length of the story factors in how scenes are written. If you only have three scenes to work with, you'd have to be concise and cohesive; while more scenes allow you to be more flexible and in telling them, and even allow story techniques that otherwise wouldn't be applicable. Such as foreshadowing, red herrings, character development scenes, and so on.


Make sure to always consider the theme of the story before starting to write a scene, otherwise, it would lead to scenes with muddled purposes.

The theme also plays a huge role in the writing process. Without a theme, your story doesn't have a point nor a personality to work with. Only until the second half did I really hone in on the theme and it really added a lot of confusion working on a story without a clear theme. Your characters are the theme and if you don't know the theme, you don't know the characters.

A lot of scenes ended up being heavily reworked or straight up removed because of this mistake. I had to restructure a lot of the pacing and character development for cohesion. The writing process really could've been less of a hassle if I just had a clear theme from the very beginning. Instead, I started with a very vague theme, merely serving as a guideline and not a core part of the story.

Establish a clear and consistent personality for each character.

Characters are a major part of the story. And if they were inconsistent and constantly go against their preconceptions, then they are a problem in the story. A problem that I ran into that continued a lot longer than it should have is that the main character doesn't have a lot of defining traits. While their arc is meaningful, impactful, concise, and makes sense, their character doesn't really showcase it. Little characteristic moments help with this and defines more of what makes them who they are. Most of the initial feedback I've gotten always leads to wanting more from the main character. This lead to me changing the pacing of the story to pertain more to establishing the main character's personality, charm, and their overall part in the story. Other problems regarding this topic include characters changing their entire personality from one scene to another. This is because I hadn't fully honed into the final version of their personality. This resulted in them being this amalgamation of different personalities in different scenes and it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. 

Don't finalize a character design until the story is done. Reiterate and stay flexible as much as possible.

While I had a good idea of each of their personality, I didn't end up showcasing a lot of it in their character design. My thought process was mainly "if they look distinct enough from each other, their personalities will further carry their uniqueness". While true, it doesn't help that I completely missed the potential for some solid and clear character designs, which would have definitely enhanced the clarity and consistency of the comic.


Make sure the comic fully resonates and inspires you at the start instead of forcing it to be as such after finishing the outline.

This one's more on me. There are several times that I would just completely stop working on the script because I ran out of reasons to. I was mainly pulled in by my guilt and that might be the worst circumstances for a writer to be in. Eventually, I realize that to make this worth working on, it has to resonate with me. It's telling a message that I would tell, in story form. While most likely not the best solution, it did end up pushing me to make it the best as it can be. It didn't start as a story that I resonate with; initially, it was more so an extension of an idea. An idea that I really didn't care about that much.

The long period of time that I wasn't fully motivated in working on it was brutal and might probably the leading cause of wanting to give up on a hobby. And it almost made me give up. Fortunately, during the writing process; I requested feedback from more than 30+ individuals. They all said that the story had a lot of potential and is on its way to being perfect. While I don't believe the latter part, I still do think it was worth working on, and eventually, I decided to make it worth working on for myself. Clearly, the story is good enough to be worked on but I specifically don't have the urge to work on it. I just needed to artificially create that urge by making that the heart of the story. Telling the message I want to tell.


The protagonist should always be the person the reader is cheering on. And they should be with their journey throughout, and never against them.

Even though this lesson doesn't necessarily apply to my story because of the type of arc it's tackling; it's always important to think about how the reader would react to the actions of the protagonist and why they should care. At the start, the antagonist was the only interesting part of the story so I would only work on them. But as time goes on, half the feedback I consistently get from volunteer readers is that they don't care or they dislike the protagonist. While it's not necessary for the readers to like the protagonist; it is crucial for them to care about what they're doing. I had to completely rewrite the protagonist's arc to pertain to this. Albeit I did the exact opposite of making the character likable, I did end up achieving the goal of making their actions important to the story which really drives home the fact that they steer the plot and they have an agency with the reader.


Don't put too much emphasis on story elements that are only there to support the story.

Some parts of the story got a little too much spotlight, despite being an unimportant part of the story and merely there to highlight other more important scenes.


Every character has agency.

Every character should have a goal in mind; Needs and wants. They should always be striving to achieve what they want, instead of merely there to exist for another character. While I think I did a good job of this in the end; initially, only two characters had their own autonomy while the rest serve as baggage for the characters to play with.


Write a clear beginning and an end.

This might be my biggest mistake out of all of these. A story is about the ending. Every scene exists because of the ending. I don't know how I kept writing without an ending in mind and it really hurt the experience and made it all unnecessarily confusing. I had to work with a vague theme and a "work-in-progress" ending for more than half the time I've been working on the story. This all leads to meaningless scenes, a writing process that doesn't have a point, and characters with an inconsistent sense of agency. It was awful. Absolutely terrible. I didn't even nail the beginning too. As mentioned before, all scenes exist for the ending. You begin with the ending and work from there. But I ended up beginning with the beginning itself. And I had to rework it numerous times and only ever was satisfied with it when I had created a proper ending.


Make sure the premise is as compelling as something you'd read.

While the general idea of the story is unique and somewhat interesting, it's not really something you'd want to think about for more than a minute. If I were to write a story, it should be centered around a compelling premise. Although it is hard to come up with a premise for stories that are more centered around characters; it isn't impossible. The plot is the hook, and the characters and theme are what keeps them reading. It's not ideal to make the characters be the hook, the plot should be the hook as it would tell the reader to expect something and that they would get it.


Add traits or quirks to characters that are somewhat vital to the story but also could lead to humorous moments.

This one is also specific to me. Although humor wasn't an intrinsic goal for this type of story, it would certainly add flavor. The best kind of drama is when it hits you in unexpected ways and what better way to do that is when tones change drastically. If the reader is sitting there taken by the heartwarming and humorous vibes, they ultimately get the full force of the dramatic strike when it inevitably comes.

I didn't set up the characters and the situation in a way that'd lead to humorous moments, and it leads to not having the flexibility to put humor where it mattered. It's there, but it doesn't fully use the potential of comedy to make the story feel fuller.


If specific scenes limit you in adding important scenes, it's better to completely remove them, than to put the effort into reworking.

The phrase "Kill your darlings" is vital for any writer. If the scene doesn't do anything for the story; cut it. In this case, for a period longer than it needed to be, I was willing to let scenes limit my ability to be flexible. And that's just terrible. I couldn't write or adjust certain scenes because of scenes that thought were important but ultimately needed to be cut out.

All scenes should have a point.

Even though this is one rule that I strictly follow-- knowing this is a rule that most amateur writers fail to follow; I still indirectly make this mistake. Not having a clear ending and a theme at the start essentially means that all scenes are pointless. In the first half of writing the story, I felt like all the scenes just weren't doing enough. While I made sure that all scenes have a goal in mind; I can't be fully certain that it does without a theme to follow or an ending to guide me.

Establish arcs for the characters.

Initially, while the plot has an arc itself, the characters don't. This would lead me to multiple moments where I had no idea which state the character is in supposed to be, story-wise. At the latter half of the writing process, I eventually made clear arcs for the characters to follow. Hell, I even made three to make it interesting. Now that characters all have dynamic and cohesive stories on their own without needing to be constrained to the arc of the plot and that their actions have meaning and ultimately lead to their own ending; good or bad.

Closing notes:

While I'm certainly proud of my work, I am definitely aware that I could have avoided all the mistakes I made. But that's okay! I'm just starting out and it is heavily expected for me to make blunders, no matter how proactive I try to be. It's an inevitable consequence of pursuing a skill. No one starts out talented, we create our talent by perseverance and willingness to fail. Which is half the fun of the battle itself. The other half is enjoying the process. I started writing because I love telling stories, evoking emotions, sharing a message through stories, and expressing myself through an immersive experience.

Anyone can be a writer, but not everyone is willing to accept their mistakes and learn from it. And that is where the real skill is. Thank you for reading and I hope you too pursue the skills and hobbies you've been meaning to try. Life is all about trying something new. We don't call it the "pursuit of happiness" because it has an ending. We call it that because it has a journey.


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