The Storyteller’s Handbook

The Storyteller's Handbook by Benjamin T. CollierThe Storyteller’s Handbook is now officially released! This is my fifth published book in total, and my first foray into the self-help genre. The art of storytelling has been a growing subject on my heart over recent years and eventually I felt it was time to compile together everything I’d learned so far from my studies and observations and publish it as its own book.

Trimmed samples from some of the subjects covered in the book have already been published on my blog as individual posts, starting with The Core Concept and ending with How To Write Love Stories, with several other subjects in between. The book goes deeper into subjects like how to communicate your Message, the nuances of Tension, and different types of Heroes and Villains, including new material on writing lesser known Contagonists and Dark Mirror Villains.

I also added sections on writing Sequels and Prequels, and the adaptation of techniques like reader Association and something I call the Surrogate Burden to generate greater reader empathy.

Given that storytelling techniques are something I am constantly learning the more I watch and read (and even play through) various works of art, I imagine more material will come to my mind to share on this blog, and possibly later editions of The Storyteller’s Handbook if later editions are made.

In the mean-time, I’m also continuing work on my own stories, with added accountability now to try and take some of my own advice. Fortunately I’ve got my own copy. 🙂

Book Synopsis below.

This book is a comprehensive guide to the world of storytelling. Fantasy and Science-Fiction Author Benjamin T. Collier takes you on a detailed journey through many classic stories audiences know and love, and breaks down the fundamental strengths and flaws of these stories to show you what you need to know to empower your writing.

Are you a new writer with a cool story concept but you’re looking for a place to start? This book is for you. Are you a veteran writer who’s looking to improve your craft? This book is for you. Whether you write novels, plays, or screenplays, The Storyteller’s Handbook shows you strategies to strengthen your writing, realize your concepts, and bring your audience the kind of experience that will keep them wanting more.

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Soulcalibur 5 Custom Characters (part 4)

A collection of custom characters I designed using the Creation mode in Soulcalibur 5. It’s been a while since I did one of these, and it sounds like Soulcalibur 6 is coming out soon, but I had a few more customs to make on number 5 before moving on. I also had some updates to make to some previous creations after getting some DLC.

As a fiction writer the Soulcalibur franchise has proven to be a useful tool for visualizing my characters and seeing what looks good and what doesn’t. Most of these pictures are just interpretations of other people’s characters, though a couple of characters are from my own book ‘Crimson Dawn‘. Enjoy!

Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.
Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail


Saitama from One Punch Man. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Saitama from One Punch Man. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Saitama from One Punch Man


Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Tuxedo Mask


Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Red from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Red from Crimson Dawn


The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.
The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

The Black Hand (a.k.a. Ocubis) from Crimson Dawn


Conan the Barbarian. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Conan the Barbarian. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Conan the Barbarian


Flamingo. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.



Ulquiorra from Bleach. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Ulquiorra from Bleach. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Ulquiorra from Bleach. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Ulquiorra from Bleach. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Ulquiorra from Bleach


Black Widow from Marvel. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Black Widow from Marvel. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Black Widow from Marvel. Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Black Widow


Klimpaloon The Old-Timey Bathing Suit That Lives In The Himalayas (from Phineas and Ferb). Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Klimpaloon The Old-Timey Bathing Suit That Lives In The Himalayas (from Phineas and Ferb). Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5. Klimpaloon The Old-Timey Bathing Suit That Lives In The Himalayas (from Phineas and Ferb). Made using Creation mode in Soul Calibur 5.

Klimpaloon The Old-Timey Bathing Suit That Lives In The Himalayas

(on Black Widow)


(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Soulcalibur 4 Custom Characters)

(Soulcalibur 6 Custom Characters)

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New Book – ‘The Fellowship Of The King’

The Fellowship Of The King: The Christian Geek's Guide To Kingdom Purpose. Authors Lynne Collier and Benjamin T. Collier. Cover Artist Kirstie Shanks. Christian Self-Development.


Do you ever wonder what kind of character you would be if you’d lived in a place like Middle Earth or Narnia? What race you would be? What kind of job you’d have? Your weaponry?


My mother, Lynne Collier asked these questions a few years ago. There were a lot of questionaires online like “What Star Wars character are you?” “Which Disney Princess are you?” and my own “Dragon Ball Z Species Questionaire”. It got her wondering, what would this look like in an Epic Fantasy context geared toward Christian readers?


Using her years of experience as a Life Coach (helping people put things together to find their purpose in life) and using me as a Fantasy-Theme Consultant (to help her see how things from reality could translate into a fantasy setting) she put together this book that has come to be called “The Fellowhip Of The King”.


Using the formula presented in the book, I come out as a Dark Elf Monk with a Staff and Dagger and Magic Compass and Scrolls. Lynne herself comes out as a Priestess High Elf-Wood Elf hybrid with a Polearm, knife and hammer.


People learn some interesting things about themselves reading this book!


Kirstie Shanks, a good friend of ours, did all of the artwork for this project. And now the book is available on Amazon and Kindle.


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Ultimate Cold Survival Kit

The Ultimate List of what you'll need to get through tough colds.

Cold season is on the way and everyone is in survival mode to get through this tough season. We all have our unique needs and coping methods when dealing with sickness. I’ve tried a few different things and after years of experience I’ve put together the ultimate list to prepare myself to get through most illnesses.



Something soft against my throat that doesn’t contain dairy or heavy spices. This can be tricky, but I’ve found a few things.

Tons of Hotdogs


Chicken Noodle Soup

Ramen Noodles

Pasta & Sauce

Which I eat will vary depending on how much of an appetite I have. Worst case scenario is fluids only (if it’s more like a flu), but food-wise I can work my way up from soup to noodles to hotdogs as my appetite builds. Spaghetti is good, as well as any kind of pasta that’s soft against your throat, combined with some sauce that’s not too spicy and makes it go down smoother. As you transition from the sore throat stage to the runny nose stage, you’ll find that everything mysteriously tastes saltier. This can make noodles and chips and things more enjoyable.



Of course you’re supposed to drink tons of Water, but I only drink pure water as a worst case scenario since it does very little to sooth my throat. When my throat is really bad I find carbonated drinks work a lot better as the sensation distracts from the pain.


Lots of Ginger Ale

Gatorade (Blue)

I used to find that beer in a glass with ice and sipped through a straw was the most soothing drink. But I’m also cautious about how much alcohol I consume in a day. I recently found ginger ale is even more effective, and I don’t have to be as restrained with those. In a glass with ice and sipped through a straw still seems to be the best way to sooth the throat. I know it sounds weird using ice, and I don’t know the science behind it, I just find it’s better. The Gatorade is mostly for cases where I’m too sick to eat food, since it contains nutrients my body would usually get from food. I’ve been told Orange Gatorade is best for those scenarios as it contains more nutrients. Although if I’m doing that badly that I can’t keep food down, then my preferred Gatorade would be Blue since the flavour doesn’t remind me of any food and therefore my brain can only interpret it as a drink. If I’m that bad off that I’m throwing up food, then I don’t want to drink something that feels like liquid food.




Nyquil (Green)


A Butt-Load of Fisherman’s Friend (Regular)

I try to keep some Echinacea on-hand all the time. Once the cold has actually taken hold I don’t find it helps much, but if I recognize the symptoms early enough and take some right away I have noticed it sometimes keeps the illness at bay. It may also help to take it at the end of a cold just to make sure it doesn’t re-surge.

Nyquil is a great sleeping aid. I find it takes about 15 minutes to kick in, so I try to finish off whatever I needed to do that day before then. I know there’s cherry flavoured, but I get green Nyquil when I can because, just in case I have unexpected coughing fits or vomiting during the night, I really don’t want to see red coming out of my mouth unnecessarily. Benylin helps suppress the coughing fits if I absolutely need to go out somewhere. Unfortunately I think Benylin only comes in cherry.

Fisherman’s Friend has become a regular traveling companion of mine. There are quite a variety, and unfortunately it is difficult to explain exactly which one I mean by “Regular”. I used to get the flavoured kind, but they’re made differently and I find they dissolve when I have to drink something carbonated at the same time. The “Original” is the white bag – that stuff is super-strong and only recommended when you really need it. It may be good to pick some up just in case. The “Regular” is like the “Original” but not as strong, so sometimes the “Original” is also called “Extra-Strength” which is weird because it’s the original so it can’t be stronger than itself. It would normally be easier to just call Regular “The Yellow One”, but you can’t because there’s another yellow bag that’s lemon-flavoured. So unfortunately you just have to read the package very carefully.



Quick and Easy Access to a Bathroom

A Designated Barf Bowl (for when bathroom access is not quick enough)

Lots of Tissues (or in my case I find Toilet Paper is easier for cleaning a runny nose)

Heater turned slightly up for sauna effect

It is of course preferred that the Barf Bowl be something that has been demoted from one that will ever be used for food again, just for psychological purposes. If you can manage it, turn the heater up just a bit more than your normal comfort level. Sweating it out is a good way to get rid of a cold (if you’re not sharing the room with someone). Of course if you’re sweating a lot then pair it up with extra showers.



Boredom is an intimidating foe when you’re sick. The last time I had a major cold I was too sick to go out, sleeping at odd hours so I hardly ever talked to anyone, and because of technical issues I also had extremely little internet access. I found myself at a complete loss of even just how to exist. A possible side-effect of being a sarcastic anti-social type – it turns out when I’m not complaining about the world having unrealistic expectations I don’t know who I am anymore. It’s important to keep your mind occupied, stimulated, but at a manageable pace, and preferably stress-free.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Power Rangers on Netflix

The Sims


If you’re a gamer, it’ll help to put on something where you know you can control the pace and keep it at just the level you’re comfortable with. The best game ever for this so far is LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Just start a new file and see how far you get before the cold is finished (and then beat the rest of the game afterward if you really get into it). It’s a simple design. It’s slow but fun. You have infinite lives so dying isn’t that big a deal. You can go your own pace. And all the while the unlockables still make you feel like you’re accomplishing something even while being as lazy about it as possible.

There are other games that offer similar benefits. The Sims allows you to sit back and watch other people do life for a while, but sometimes I find the time constraints stressful if I want to accomplish certain things. Skyrim has many different kinds of missions available so if you’re not up to it you can avoid high adventure for a while and just go mine some ore and build up your Smithing skill at the forge. You may get the odd dragon attack or bandit robbery, but if you save frequently then you can just back-track and visit somewhere else for the moment.

Normally when going through a tough time I recommend watching comedies to help keep your spirits up, but when you’ve got a sore throat chortling isn’t a good feeling, so I would save comedies for after the sore throat stage has passed. It may feel good in the runny nose portion of your cold, and chortling might help clear out some more snot. Until then, just something nice and easy and not too funny.

Shows you remember from childhood can be a fun, comfort-zone kind of thing to put on while you lack the energy to do anything but aren’t tired enough to sleep. If you have a streaming service like Netflix or can find a series of videos on YouTube, that would allow for optimal laziness because they’ll automatically put on the next episode when each one ends. I also have the entire series of Dragon Ball Z on DVD, but that requires getting up to change the DVD every few episodes or so. I gotta weigh my need for entertainment against my need to fall into the couch and not move for ages. Nobody should have to make that choice.


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Chester Bennington

I was stunned when I heard the news that Chester Bennington had died. I intended to write a quick message on Facebook about my feelings, once I had sorted them out, but that ‘quick message’ turned into this blog post once I got everything out. Linkin Park has been one of my favourite bands for over a decade now. I heard their song ‘Robot Boy’ almost four years ago and it became my favourite song of all time. I don’t know if the band plans on continuing without one of their main voices, but I know something great has been lost before its time.


I’m a fairly soft-spoken and calm individual. I think it surprises people to learn how much Linkin Park I listen to. The truth is I do have a lot of anger, angst and frustration inside. There’s been deep pain in my life that is difficult to understand or even know how to respond to. I’m not the kind of person to scream out my frustrations, but I’ve been through things where that kind of emotional response would seem appropriate. I don’t know how to do that though, or at least not how to do it well. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve needed Linkin Park over the years. It gave expression to feelings I didn’t know how to express. When I listen to Linkin Park, Chester screams on my behalf when I don’t know how. It gives me the freedom to acknowledge how dark things feel, without demanding that I respond in one way or another. It gives me permission to just feel how I feel.


Now I’m thinking of particular tracks, of course. There’s a division in their collection between songs that go to a dark place and stay there, and songs that start off in a dark place but show me a way out. ‘Robot Boy’ is one of the latter – and it’s those tracks that I tend to listen to the most. When I’m going through a true depression, the fix-it people (though well-meaning) will recommend pure feel-good songs to lift me up; but they don’t do it for me. A song can’t touch me if it never gets close. And songs that begin in the dark and stay there are not very helpful either. When I’m in a truly dark place, the only songs that help me are the ones that start in that darkness with me and show me a road out from there. The only really helpful songs are the ones that meet me where I’m at, but don’t let me stay there.


That’s what Linkin Park did for me. I hope the writers will continue to write. Whether the band continues with the same name or the members break off into different groups, I hope they won’t quite writing. People like me still need what they have to offer. Chester was unique, and even with another skilled lead singer, there will be something different and something missing without Chester. His trademark scream will live on in the songs already produced. I can only hope he’s screaming with angels now, (but I don’t know him well enough to say). Either way the echo won’t fade for a long time yet. The music is still too precious to me.


I felt I should end with a list of the Linkin Park songs that have meant the most to me over the years as they gave context and expression to the feelings I had at the time but couldn’t grasp. This may be the best and simplest way of saying “thank-you; this is what your work meant to me.”



‘Points of Authority’

‘Waiting for the End’


‘Robot Boy’

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‘Crimson Dawn’ Book Launch Celebration

On July 29th, 2017 I’ll be celebrating the release of Crimson Dawn at Boston Pizza in Bowmanville. I’m inviting everyone to come celebrate with me. I’ll have other books available as well, and 50% of all book sales will go toward SafeHope Home to help provide a safe environment for women coming out of human trafficking.


Come help us celebrate and you may get to meet some characters from the world of Crimson Dawn as they help out the servers at Boston Pizza!


Remember to call BP and reserve a table if you’d like to stay for lunch. Info on the flyer above.


This book is a sequel to my first published novel ‘The Kingdom’. If you don’t have a copy you can pick one up at the event or order it from Amazon


To learn more about SafeHope Home, follow this link


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What Video Games Have Taught Me

Wisdom from Video Games.

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One Punch Man – (a TV review slash analysis)

Saitama. One Punch Man. In the Rain. Dramatic‘One Punch Man’ – if you read that and think “How can that possibly be interesting?” then you’re right on track with understanding the basic needs of an interesting story. I myself would not have given this a try unless I had seen images of the protagonist and realized these people clearly have a sense of humour.

And that theory was reinforced before even the opening song (which is now stuck in my head).

This show combines the most engaging elements of the super-hero genre and anime styling while taking them both beyond the unspoken boundaries of reason to just tell a great action story while having as much fun with it as possible. The main character (Saitama) is far from the only interesting character on the show. Whether your thing is Super Man, Iron Man, Ninjas, Guyver, The Force, you are likely to find at least one character that appeals to you. I found several.


So what’s the premise?


This one guy becomes so strong that he can take out any threat with a single punch.


Isn’t that boring?




So… So why are you raving about it?


That’s why this is worth analyzing. I was just as surprised as you are. If you read my Storytelling blog post about Tension Killers, you’ll notice I warn writers not to make their heroes so strong that there is no perceived threat.

“The best way to understand tension (and equally important, to understand tension-killers) is to think of it as a game… … A game is only a game as long as there is a chance that you can win, and a chance that you can lose. If there is no chance of winning, then you check out. If there is no chance of losing, then there’s no excitement. The tension only exists as long as the Protagonist has both a chance of winning and a chance of losing.”

You might ask, “Then how does this show get away with it?”

It doesn’t. Saitama’s life is incredibly boring. He’s lost all passion. And the audience feels that about him.

Saitama. One Punch ManThe thing is, in Saitama’s case, the antagonist is not his enemy – the antagonist is boredom. In a weird way, we as the audience end up wanting the villains to be incredibly strong, just so that Saitama can have some excitement in his life.

There are other points of tension as well. His friends are not invulnerable, and he notes early on that he has a habit of never arriving on time, as well as other issues he has to deal with. But the usual primary point of tension is thrown out in this show, which makes for a very challenging premise to write with. I keep wondering how they can possibly keep the show interesting, and they keep finding a way. I even have my doubts about a second season, but I’ve come to enjoy them proving me wrong.


This show was brought to my attention at the perfect time. I’d been struggling with writer’s block for a while. A lot of the entertainment I used to get excited about has not been as interesting to me lately – that includes various anime and super-hero titles. So a show that takes both of those genres, mashes them into one, takes them to the extreme level of absurdity and shoots it into my face with a bazooka is the kind of wake up I needed right now.


Saitama vs. Genos. One Punch ManThe action is stylistically over the top and very well choreographed, and the art design is fantastic (in the right places). The combination of themes from western and Japanese pop cultures makes this show an easy transition for sci-fi fans who are new to anime and want to be introduced to the genre, while the diversity in the characters serves as a showcase of what makes anime character designs so awesome. Many of these villains are so well thought out, detailed and executed that it makes you feel as if they could have been very significant characters if they didn’t have the misfortune of existing in the same world as Saitama. A lot of inspirational material here for fellow writers.


One complaint I have is that the intro song keeps putting me in the mood for a video game, but as the show is still fairly new there aren’t yet any games based on it, nor any that comes close to the feel of the show.



I wanna do some analysis now and explain some more why this show impresses me so much. As of yet, we have not been given an explanation of Saitama’s power. Although it feels as though the show may be riddled with clues, a definitive explanation has not been given. We know where Saitama thinks his power came from, which is a rigorous exercise regime, but it doesn’t logically follow for physical workouts alone to cause that much difference. This created an interesting response in me as a viewer though, because even though I don’t know how he got his power, his level of intensity in training makes me feel that he’s earned it; and that actually feels more important than the how. How many times have we seen heroes with supreme power that they didn’t seem to do anything to earn? They tend to feel like dooshes to me. But because Saitama’s power is addressed the way that it is I end up not giving credit for his power to science or magic or fate or anything else like that – I end up associating his power with just how hard he worked to get it – and that makes it even more impressive whenever I see a demonstration of his power. This is what makes Saitama better than Super Man.


Here’s my problem with Super Man. He’s not a man – he’s an alien. That disqualifies him from being a representative of how ‘Super’ a ‘Man’ can be. But that’s how writers want to use him. Writers keep holding him up as a symbol of greatness and justice that men can achieve if they stand up for what they believe in and all that, but his powers are not accessible to humans. You have to be born a Kryptonian in order to even have access to those kinds of powers.

Dragon Ball Z was very upfront about this. You can’t be as powerful as Goku unless you have Saiyan DNA, no matter how much training a human does. At BEST you’re Krillin.

But Saitama is human. We don’t know where his powers came from. They may even be alien in origin. But if Saitama himself is human, then whatever power he gained and how, it is something accessible to humans. And even though we don’t know what he needed to do to access it, we know that he worked hard in the meantime. This makes him a far better representative of a ‘Super’ ‘Man’ than actual ‘Super Man’.




And now for the Parental Cautions part of the review. I would certainly say it’s not for young kids. Teens maybe, but there are some things to be aware of as a parent.



Though cartoon, animes are known for being horrifically graphic, and this show is no exception. Most enemies pretty much explode when Saitama punches them. Though I find the violence in this show significantly less oppressive in the humourous, hyperbolic context in which it’s used. Kind of like Mortal Kombat if everyone had ten times as much innards.



Occasional guy butt. There are definitely more naked men in this show than I would normally agree to watch. And though there are some shots of naked guys from the front, their frontal matters are generally hidden by shadow or carefully placed wreckage.

There is also a mosquito girl that is naked but doesn’t seem to have the expected parts. As with many naked female creatures in sci-fi or fantasy fiction, she has bosom bumps instead of nipples.

There are some T-shirts going around in the show that say “Oppai” which means “Breasts” and that have a symbol resembling a curvy ‘W’ with dots for nipples. So, not very graphic artwork.



Practically nothing. It really impressed me. The mosquito girl makes satisfied noises when her minions drain their blood into her, and there are some phrases that could be taken as innuendo, but she is only around for half an episode. After that, the only other mildly sexual comments come from Purri Purri Prisoner, who talks about not being able to control himself around cute men.


Creepy Factor

As is common with anime, the writers and artists employ a lot of tactics like gnarly, monstrous faces and pseudo-sexuality in the behaviour of some of the villains in order to make the audience more uncomfortable with them. It’s the only explanation I have for why the Deep Sea King wears a speedo. For me, the monstrous mutant effects are not quite nightmare inducing, but it’s another reason the show is not really suitable for young children.



There is Mild Language throughout, with brief Profanity.



There doesn’t seem to be much, at least not that caused me any concern personally, and I’m pretty uptight about that stuff. I’ll just mention a few things that come to mind that might concern others. As usual, when I do these reviews I’m thinking primarily of what might be concerns to Christian audiences.

The villain Vaccine Man calls himself “Mother Earth’s Apostle.”

The villain Beast King calls himself “Almighty”.

In episode 7 Saitama wears a shirt with a cartoon devil face. I do not know what the shirt says.

Purri Purri Prisoner’s special attacks are called ‘Angel Mode’, ‘Angel Rush’ and ‘Arc Angel Flash’.

There is mention of a couple of fortune tellers and it shows them looking into crystal balls, but I recall no chanting or use of common occult symbols.

Tornado is described as having E.S.P.

There is a super hero called “Pig God”.


There is the brief appearance of winged creatures that to me resembled Japanese bird demons. They were not around for long.

As is explained in the show, there is a rating system for threat levels that goes (in ascending order) from “Tiger” to “Demon” to “Dragon” to “God”. Now since it’s a Japanese show I assume they don’t mean “Threat Level Jesus”. They are likely using a generic term, but it’ll sound weird when someone on the show looks at a particular threat and says “This is ‘God’”, unless you know the context.



This article uses material from the Saitama Anime Gallery on the One Punch Man wiki at Fandom and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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How to Write Love Stories

Couple. Sunset

Despite the seeming necessity to spend at least a bit of time on this subject, I found myself hesitating to do this. The reason is that it seems a bit counter-natural to give out a list of rules regarding what love ought to look like. Both in fiction and in reality I’ve seen people fall in love in any number of ways. Probably too many to list. So the best advice I can give on writing a love story well is just to be authentic to your personal tastes. Not everybody will get it, but some will.

I can’t suggest a single formula for it, because it happens in different ways all the time. And why shouldn’t it? Those of us who have been looking for a long time tend to get over-focused on other people’s stories, assuming that it happens the same way with each person, so that we’ll recognize it when we see it. But love is meant to be special, so why would we assume that all love stories should look the same?

You can only write what you believe, because audiences sense and get turned off by inauthenticity. If you are familiar with hardship, write hardship into your love story. You don’t have to “write what you know” from personal experience, but you may need to talk to people who have gone through what you want to write. And you will have to believe that this love story is actually possible for your characters.

Storytelling. How To Write Love Stories.

As far as writing for your audience, there are a few things I’ve noticed that modern audiences are not keen on, so I mention the following things in light of trends I’ve seen in audience feedback from various stories.


Abusive relationships are a no-no. This includes physical and verbal. We live in a world that is waking up to the realization that spousal abuse goes on a lot more than we had thought a few decades ago. Even the threat of violence, even in jest, won’t be accepted by today’s audiences. The days of The Honeymooners are over. If a husband says he’s gonna send his wife to the moon it better be a romantic getaway.

The same goes for women being physically or verbally abusive toward their men. This goes on in real life too, and it’s equally reprehensible.


Shutting down their heart is another situation audiences don’t want to see a character get into in order to be in a love relationship. Modern audiences are aware of the need to take care of one’s self, and even if the relationship itself feels right, audiences will feel uncomfortable with the idea that the character has to put their heart aside to do it.


Sacrifice in order to be with someone is okay, but only if it is the person’s own choice and not something the other person requests of them, because then it falls under the abusive relationship category.


If your character is currently involved with someone, and said person is not Mr. or Ms. Right, any of the above issues can be considered acceptable reasons to end a relationship, to the majority of audiences.

It doesn’t have to be that the current significant other is a bad person – they could be the nicest person in the world, but if your protagonist feels that they have to ignore a part of their heart in order to be with them then audiences will generally feel that it’s not the right move for the character to stay in the relationship.

Mr. Wrong will often fall into the category of Self-Satisfied Dooshes, so look up that blog post for more details on what those characters are like if you want to use that approach.


Loyalty is good, but on its own it is not enough reason for a relationship in the eyes of modern audiences. Usually because if loyalty is the only thing then it means the person’s heart is not in it. Loyalty can suffice as a bridge to keep the couple together from one stage of life to another but, for example, with a married couple audiences won’t want to see them reach a point where loyalty is the only reason they’re staying together. Audiences will want to see the couple remember why it is they fell in love in the first place.

If they have nothing else going for them, staying together out of loyalty may be the right thing to do, but it’s not the happily ever after thing to do. It depends how you want your audience to feel about the relationship.


Change is okay if done for the right, personal reasons. Changing just to be with someone is not smiled upon as much, since modern audiences want to see two people in love learn to love each other for who they are rather than demand that they change. It’s okay if a love interest inspires change, only if the change itself is something that lines up with what is on the character’s heart to begin with.

Case in point: when it comes to Disney’s The Little Mermaid modern audiences dislike the message sent by Ariel changing herself into a human to be with a guy she just met. And understandably so. But don’t forget that what lay on Ariel’s heart was a general interest in “that world” long before she ever encountered anybody from “that world”. Once she met him, her interest changed from general to specific and personal (“your world”) and then her judgement was clouded. (And now half of you are singing. My apologies.) So by the time she made the decision to change, she was doing it for the wrong reasons, but in the big picture the change itself was in accordance with what was already written on her heart from the beginning.


Again, I say all this only as an analysis of how modern audiences respond to different kinds of love stories. Ultimately, you decide what is and is not best for your characters. You can go against the grain of how most audiences feel about certain relational situations, but if you want to cause audiences to feel a particular way about things then you’ll need to carefully consider The Message you want to send and how to go about it.

Storytelling. How To Write Love Stories.

This concludes my series on Storytelling for the time being. I may add some extra subjects to this blog category later on but my focus for Storytelling now is going to be putting together a book for release in early 2018. I’ll take what I’ve written here, expand on it, add some more categories and revise as necessary before publishing the book. (Update: The Storyteller’s Handbook is available now. Click here to purchase!)


I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and learned some things. From here on the blog posts will go back to their natural, more random states, but discussions on Storytelling will still come up here and there as I do reviews and analyses of various films and TV shows.


Happy writing,


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How to Write Women

Opposite SidesThe most common mistake I see male writers make when writing women is to write every woman the same. All women are written as stereotypical women who are good at cooking and cleaning and staying at home and not having an opinion. Then there’s other male writers who, trying not to seem sexist, go in the complete opposite direction and write all women as aggressive, leather-bound power bitches who are really good at fighting and making witty comebacks.

Neither approach works, because in either case the writer is painting all women the same. Now here’s the thing, some women are stereotypical, and some women are tomboys. And neither of them feel that they need to be anything different, because they don’t. That’s who they are. They’re individuals. Every woman is different. The problem comes when we write all women as being one way or another. It’s unrealistic because that’s not the world we live in. It’s like how in comic books every woman has the same measurements. Nobody believes that.

Ladies, the same goes for you. Whenever I’m watching something where every guy has a muscular build and the same dark-brunette haircut, and the only difference between them is their jobs and how much money they make, I start to feel like my only purpose in the world is to give you kids. Let’s both try and employ more variety in our characters of the opposite sex.

Storytelling. How To Write Women. Writing Women.

So what’s the solution? The easiest way to avoid coming across as sexist is to have multiple women in your story and paint some of them one way, and others a different way. And try to avoid making comments about what’s stereotypical and what isn’t. Women don’t care, so they wouldn’t bring it up. Women want to be known, they don’t want to be categorized. If it requires explaining then it’s not true femininity.

It gets trickier when you have only one prominent female character in your entire story. But in that case, the lack of variety is understandable, and the audience knows that. I would recommend mixing both stereotypes and non-stereotypes into the one character. This seems to have worked for me. Nevaeh likes long flowing dresses, and she also fishes. Women aren’t often portrayed as fishers. I made Cary a mechanic with a working knowledge of hi-tech computers, who dances in her pajamas to various pop songs. She likes to talk about relationships, but she’s unsure whether or not she wants children. Most women are pretty darn sure whether or not they want to have a child, so this matter was something that made her feel more like an individual rather than a stereotype.

If this area is a challenge for you, a book that I strongly recommend reading is Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. It does an excellent job of saying “here are some common themes we’ve noticed in the hearts of women” without saying “you need to do all these things in order to be a woman”. You will find plenty of variety in there, in terms of how women are portrayed, while seeing how it all fits together with the feminine heart.

Storytelling. How To Write Women. Writing Women.

The next post will be my last on Storytelling for a while. We’ll talk about one of the more complicated themes to work into your tale – Love Stories.

For more on these and other writing topics, The Storyteller’s Handbook is available for purchase now.


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