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The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT Options · View
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 04, 2011 7:27:36 AM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
The STATIC TRAIT
Secret Weapon of the Clever Writer


The Static Trait is the small personal HABIT an individual character displays which reveals their personal Neurosis, their driving NEED, especially in stressful situations. This habitual or even ritual behavior acts as both their greatest source of trouble and the linchpin to their success. It's the individual character's “Accident Waiting to Happen”.

The most obvious place to find visible Static Traits is in both Comedies and Tragedies. These stories (and movies) RELY on their characters' Static Traits to linchpin the plot.

What made Laurel and Hardy so funny, were the little neurotic habits -- the static traits -- that would appear under stressful situations. Abbot and Costello built whole routines on Bud Abbot’s little twitchy responses. The climactic scene in every one of their movies involved Abbot in a panic attack. You spent half the movie going “Oh no! Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!...AH! He did.”

I don’t watch tragedies as a rule, but just about every Greek play I’ve read involves the Protagonist acting on their Neurosis, the emotional need they can't -- or won't -- control which brings them crashing down.

Pandora acting on her uncontrollable Curiosity – opened that box of ills.
Paris acting on his uncontrollable need for Love – judged Venus as the loveliest goddess in a contest with Hera and Athena, to gain the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately, she was already married to a powerful and vindictive warlord.
Oedipus acting on his uncontrollable need for Recognition – killed the king and married the queen, who just happened to be his biological parents.
Arachne acting on her uncontrollable Pride - bragged that her ability to weave was greater than a goddess's and was turned into a spider.
Prometheus acting on uncontrollable his need for Revenge - gave fire to mankind and was thus chained to a rock to be eaten alive by buzzards for the rest of eternity.

In stories that are Not tragedies, this neurosis-based habit DOES cause their downfall, but also comes to their rescue at the Climax then CHANGES by the end of the story, quite literally Showing that the character has conquered their neurosis.


The movie The Mummy is loaded with static traits.

Just about every single character in the movie had a static trait based on their personal neurosis – and either lived or died because of it.

Evelyn’s (Evie) personal neurosis was her obsession with being an Egyptologist. Her static trait had to do with books.
-- If it was a book, she had to touch it. Evie’s opening scene defined her character – she was filing books and knocked over an entire set of bookcases (rather like dominoes) because she simply HAD to put that book where it needed to be. The entire catastrophic release of the Mummy happened because she simply HAD to have (as well as open and read) the Book of the Dead.
-- Her Trait came to her rescue because her Habit allowed her to be able to Read ancient Egyptian, allowing her to be able to not only find the correct book to dispel the Mummy, but know which spell was the right one to use. She conquered her neurosis when she allowed the book to be destroyed.

Jonathan, her brother’s personal neurosis was greed. His static trait was kleptomania.
-- If it was small and shiny, he had to have it. His opening scene involved showing off to his sister his latest theft. Because of his habit for picking up shiny things, he never quite lost the object he stole – the key to the Book of the Dead.
-- His trait came to his rescue when he pick-pocketed the needed 'key' from the bad guys. However, he didn't conquer his neurosis. He walked out of that temple with a huge stash of gold.

Rick' O'Connell’s personal neurosis was that he was an outsider. He never quite fit in with whatever group he was with – even his fellow Americans.
-- His solution to everything, his static trait was “fight it”. He was constantly leaping into one fight after another. Evie met him while he was in jail for being in a brawl. In every scene involving an attack of some sort, he was the first one to dive into the fight.
-- His trait came to his rescue when he needed to go on a one-on-one battle with a supernatural creature without immediately dying. He conquered his neurosis when he allowed Evie to destroy the monster with a spell rather than trying to do it himself.

Beni’s personal neurosis was cowardice. His static trait was freezing in place and shivering.
-- He ended up working for Imhotep, because he simply did not have the guts to run away.
-- His trait NEVER came to his rescue, and in fact destroyed him.

Imhotep’s (the Mummy) personal neurosis on the other hand, was love.
-- He got into trouble – and became the Mummy - because he was in love with the pharaoh’s concubine. Everything he did was to get his one true love back from the dead. His static trait was his single-minded focus on regaining his lost love – at any cost.
-- Because Evie resembled his beloved, his neurosis made him grab for Evie -- which was his biggest mistake. If he had grabbed any other female, he would have gotten away with the resurrection of his beloved.


CONSTANTINE is very much a “character-driven” movie where a character’s personality (and personal neuroses,) ruled the results of any given crisis.

Those that changed and adapted – lived.
Those that couldn’t – died.

AND ~ Every character had a Static Trait, a Habit that outlined their individual neuroses.

> Constantine's static trait was chain-smoking.
> Angelica used a gun to fix all her problems.
> Balthazar a half-demon, flipped a coin between his fingers.
> Gabrial, an angel half-breed, liked to pontificate on how very noble human-kind could be -- if their natural selfishness didn't get in the way.
> Beeman John's buddy that supplied interesting toys, and hard to find artifacts -- collected bugs.
> Chas a young cabby, and John's other buddy, wanted to be an exorcist like John, so he was forever trying to follow John into dangerous situations.
> Father Hennessy, another of John's buddies, was an actual exorcist with a talent for sensing evil - though he couldn't actually see them the way John could -- was an alchoholic.

If they faced and conquered their neuroses, their Static Trait changed – a visible sign of the change that had happened within the character.

Of course, only a few people in the whole movie fixed their issues and changed their static trait. The rest died. However, being a Horror movie, this was pretty much expected.

How to use this in Fiction…

Start with your character’s personal neurosis and pick a small habit that shows their personal neurosis in action. This Habit should get them Into as much trouble as it gets them Out of trouble, and it should be the linchpin that either sets off or defuses the climactic scene.

Having a hard time finding your character’s Personal Neurosis?
-- Try looking at your character’s core Motivation. What obsessive habit would define this?

In Walt Disney’s Beauty & the Beast
-- Gaston’s motivation was his Selfishness in the form of Narcissism. “I deserve the best!” This was reflected in his static trait of always looking in the mirror. Even when hunting the Beast, he stopped to look at his own reflection.
-- Beast, in complete reverse of Gaston, utterly Refused to look into mirrors because his Original personal neurosis was exactly THE SAME as Gaston’s: Narcissism.

They were BOTH obsessed with their APPEARANCE, but then, the movie’s Premise was all about “Looking Beneath the Surface”.

In Erotic Fiction...
-- The Static Trait should be Sexual in nature.

A woman who wears skimpy clothes.
A guy who wears tight jeans and/or leaves his shirt open to the navel.
Long Hair on either gender. This IS a sexual trait!
Fur, Leather, or shiny Plastic clothing on either gender.
An oral habit such as licking the lips, biting the bottom lip, chewing on pens, sucking on lollipops, or even smoking.
Physically Touching anyone they speak to.
Posing provocatively instead of merely sitting or standing.

For another example...
-- One of my Static Traits is redefining difficult concepts into simple terms. This comes from my obsession to write as clearly and concisely as I can, and is motivated by my personal neurosis of Avoiding Reality – by creating fantasy worlds real enough to hide in. (grin)

Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

LadySharon
Posted: Monday, April 04, 2011 3:21:06 PM

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Thanks for the tips. I never noticed the neuroses in The Mummy and Beauty and the Beast until you pointed it out.

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lafayettemister
Posted: Monday, April 04, 2011 3:29:49 PM

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You two are way too smart for me. My attention span is shorter than my .... I'm doomed to be very subpar at the modest level of writing I do. This is over my puny head.





When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 04, 2011 10:38:53 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
LadySharon wrote:
...I never noticed the neuroses in The Mummy and Beauty and the Beast until you pointed it out.


(Evil Grin) But now that you know, you'll start seeing them EVERYWHERE. The movie Constantine is jam-packed with them.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 04, 2011 10:39:53 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
lafayettemister wrote:
You two are way too smart for me. My attention span is shorter than my ... I'm doomed to be very subpar at the modest level of writing I do. This is over my puny head.


Give yourself time. You'll catch up. :)

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

DirtyMartini
Posted: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 12:29:30 AM

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The Static Traits...sounds like a good name for a band...what do you think?

Neurotic Rock at it's finest..."The neurosis with the mostest"...hmmm, I can see the possibilities...


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MorganHawke
Posted: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 1:53:55 AM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
DirtyMartini wrote:
The Static Traits...sounds like a good name for a band...what do you think?
Neurotic Rock at it's finest..."The neurosis with the mostest"...hmmm, I can see the possibilities...


Actually, that sounds cooler than Deaf Leopard. (Def Leppard)

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

GallagherWitt
Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 1:02:51 AM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 99
Location: Okinawa, Japan
Perfect timing with this thread, Morgan. I just realized one of my main characters has a tendency to shoot off his mouth without thinking about it, which is a major catalyst for the conflict. :D

Lori
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MorganHawke
Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 3:59:55 AM

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GallagherWitt wrote:
Perfect timing with this thread, Morgan. I just realized one of my main characters has a tendency to shoot off his mouth without thinking about it, which is a major catalyst for the conflict. :D


An excellent example of a static trait if ever I heard one.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
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"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

GallagherWitt
Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 6:11:36 AM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 99
Location: Okinawa, Japan
MorganHawke wrote:
GallagherWitt wrote:
Perfect timing with this thread, Morgan. I just realized one of my main characters has a tendency to shoot off his mouth without thinking about it, which is a major catalyst for the conflict. :D


An excellent example of a static trait if ever I heard one.


Like I said, perfect timing. I was working on a scene, he started mouthing off, and I went "Wait a minute...isn't that what Morgan was talking about?" And you wouldn't believe how many pieces fell into place.

I'm still figuring it out with the other two characters, but Levi's mouth will definitely be his downfall.

Lori
L. A. Witt (gay male erotic romance)
Lauren Gallagher (heterosexual erotic romance)
Twitter: GallagherWitt
My Website * My Blog * Marginally Unhinged (my webcomic)

"Service with a Smirk, that's you." - Morgan Hawke
magnificent1rascal
Posted: Saturday, April 09, 2011 5:18:07 PM

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Location: On the ragged edge of disaster
I use static traits in my writing, but I never knew they actually had a name. Thanks!

Maggie Rascal
DirtyMartini
Posted: Saturday, April 09, 2011 7:58:26 PM

Rank: Purveyor of Poetry & Porn

Joined: 10/19/2009
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Location: Right here on Lush Stories..., United States
magnificent1rascal wrote:
I use static traits in my writing, but I never knew they actually had a name.


Yeah, me too...I heard of static cling before, but never static traits...

I guess they're not the same thing...




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Bunny12
Posted: Saturday, April 09, 2011 9:16:05 PM

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To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol

Bunny12


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sprite
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 9:46:49 AM

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Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


all the heart felt inspiration and personal experiences in the world won't make a good story, if you don't know how to translate it onto the written page.

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Guest
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 1:27:39 PM

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Joined: 12/1/2006
Posts: 534,641
Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


You write poetry so what are you talking about? Morgan is talking about static traits of characters in prose. She is right. Reading this has helped me realise a character of mine needs one.
MorganHawke
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 3:51:29 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
magnificent1rascal wrote:
I use static traits in my writing, but I never knew they actually had a name. Thanks!


Yep! They do indeed have a name. Just goes to show that there really is nothing new under the sun. Someone has seen it, done, it named it, and abused already -- and probably a 1000 years ago too.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

MorganHawke
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 3:56:39 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


In other words, you're not writing Fiction, right?
-- In reality most people do have static traits that signal their personal fears and hang-ups. However, they're nowhere near as obvious. Fiction (especially Hollywood) exaggerates to make it easy to recognize, but neurosis-based behavior quirks are quite real. Ask any psychologist.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

MorganHawke
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 4:01:54 PM

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Posts: 347
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Loislane wrote:
Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


You write poetry so what are you talking about? Morgan is talking about static traits of characters in prose. She is right. Reading this has helped me realise a character of mine needs one.


Oh, is that what's going on?
-- I'm glad I could help, Lois Lane.



Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

MorganHawke
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 4:03:06 PM

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Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
sprite wrote:
Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


All the heart felt inspiration and personal experiences in the world won't make a good story, if you don't know how to translate it onto the written page.


Absolutely true.
-- I look at it this way, these tips are merely Tools in your fiction-writer's toolbox. You can choose to use them or not use them, depending on what you need to accomplish.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

GallagherWitt
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 11:07:02 PM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 99
Location: Okinawa, Japan
Bunny12 wrote:
To me this is all a bunch of contrived B.S. all my writing comes from personal experience, straight from the heart driven by pure inspiration. But that's just me lol


That's fine and dandy. Enjoy.

Have you ever watched a student film? One of those ultra deep, heavy-on-symbolism, self-indulgent films that leave most people scratching their heads while the director smugly watches all the peasants try to wrap their heads around his earth-shaking, meaningful, intellectual film? Some of those are beautiful pieces, lovely examples of cinematography and such, but they're shit as far as films go. Why? Because no one gets it. Not because they're stupid, or because they can't get their heads around deep concepts, but because the film doesn't connect with the audience. It resonates with no one except the director.

For those of us who are writing TO BE READ, it's important to learn to convey our story to our readers. Writing, like any art form, is not only a means of expression, but a means of communication. There are methods that make a story speak to its reader more than other methods, those that give the reader a connection to it. Those methods that make a story enjoyable, interesting, memorable.

What Morgan is describing is one of those methods. It's not a bunch of contrived B.S. It's a way of helping people COMMUNICATE their ideas in ways that resonate with readers, entertain them, stick with them, interest them, etc.

No one's saying you have to use it. But calling it contrived B.S.? That's just rude. Morgan's taking the time to post these articles to help writers. If you don't want to use it, don't. If the advice doesn't click with you, by all means, try something else.

If you want to stand off to the side and polish your nails on your lapel as if your methods are somehow superior, I can introduce you to some film school graduates you might get along with.

Lori
L. A. Witt (gay male erotic romance)
Lauren Gallagher (heterosexual erotic romance)
Twitter: GallagherWitt
My Website * My Blog * Marginally Unhinged (my webcomic)

"Service with a Smirk, that's you." - Morgan Hawke
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 1:35:21 PM

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Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
GallagherWitt wrote:
...No one's saying you have to use it. But calling it contrived B.S.? That's just rude. Morgan's taking the time to post these articles to help writers. If you don't want to use it, don't. If the advice doesn't click with you, by all means, try something else.

If you want to stand off to the side and polish your nails on your lapel as if your methods are somehow superior, I can introduce you to some film school graduates you might get along with.


You're so cute when you're fierce! ~smooch

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

nicola
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 6:22:44 PM

Rank: Matriarch

Joined: 12/6/2006
Posts: 25,483
Location: The Orgasmatron
GallagherWitt wrote:
No one's saying you have to use it. But calling it contrived B.S.? That's just rude. Morgan's taking the time to post these articles to help writers. If you don't want to use it, don't. If the advice doesn't click with you, by all means, try something else.

If you want to stand off to the side and polish your nails on your lapel as if your methods are somehow superior, I can introduce you to some film school graduates you might get along with.


My 2 cents

The rudeness is why you've received such terse responses bunny, in case you didn't realise.

I didn't know they had a particular name either Magnificent. I thought they were merely character traits, but since it has been spelled out to me, I can see how the technique is so commonly used in films now.
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 6:36:23 PM

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Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
nicola wrote:
...I didn't know they had a particular name either Magnificent. I thought they were merely character traits, but since it has been spelled out to me, I can see how the technique is so commonly used in films now.


Truthfully, I believe it's also one of the tricks of Method Acting that allows an actor to not only identify with a character, but also illustrate their inner character to their audience without saying a word.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
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DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

magnificent1rascal
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 7:02:50 PM

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MorganHawke wrote:
Truthfully, I believe it's also one of the tricks of Method Acting that allows an actor to not only identify with a character, but also illustrate their inner character to their audience without saying a word.


Like Jack Nicholson in Prizzi's Honor. Even without speaking and with his back to the camera, you can sense the inner struggle his character, Charley Partanna, is having when the Don tells him "it's just business." Now that's what I call acting!

Maggie Rascal
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 7:07:06 PM

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magnificent1rascal wrote:
Like Jack Nicholson in Prizzi's Honor. Even without speaking and with his back to the camera, you can sense the inner struggle his character, Charley Partanna, is having when the Don tells him "it's just business." Now that's what I call acting!


That's it Exactly!
-- Another excellent example of acting without speaking (explaining anything) is Silent Bob, of the Jay and Silent Bob movies such as Dogma.

One of my favorite exercises is having people write a one page conversation between the two of them: Jay & Silent Bob -- WITHOUT using internal narration for either character. If you can write that, you can write ANYTHING.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

TracyAmes
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:45:52 PM

Rank: Advanced Wordsmith

Joined: 4/8/2011
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Excellent post, Morgan. I LOVE Byronic heros but often I find myself shouting, "Oy, here we go again." *Throws book at wall*

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MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:55:55 PM

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Location: The suburbs.
TracyAmes wrote:
Excellent post, Morgan. I LOVE Byronic heroes but often I find myself shouting, "Oy, here we go again." *Throws book at wall*


What do you expect? the original Lord Byron himself was seriously neurotic. (But for some reason, the women of his era thought that was Sexy. Fan-girls never change...)

I'm glad you liked the post!

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
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DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

magnificent1rascal
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:56:05 PM

Rank: Divine Rapscallion

Joined: 8/15/2010
Posts: 3,018
Location: On the ragged edge of disaster
"Erotic Word Slinger & Smarty Pants"

I love it!

And I think I've found a kindred spirit. ;-)

Maggie Rascal
MorganHawke
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 10:01:54 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 347
Location: The suburbs.
magnificent1rascal wrote:
"Erotic Word Slinger & Smarty Pants"

I love it!

And I think I've found a kindred spirit. ;-)


You've got to be a smarty-pants to hang with This crowd! :)

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

nicola
Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 10:12:45 PM

Rank: Matriarch

Joined: 12/6/2006
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Location: The Orgasmatron
I think Morgan does need her own individual rank.

What will it be? coffee
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