Forum posts made by morganhawke

Topic The Secret to Proper Paragraphing & Dialogue
Posted 02 Mar 2011 16:05

The Secret to Proper Paragraphing
Once you know what your characters and doing and saying, how do you get all that down on Paper?

Everybody knows that when a new speaker speaks they get a new paragraph, right? In other words, you DON'T put two different people talking in the same paragraph. Okay, yeah, so anyone who has written any kind of fiction learns this pretty darned quick, (usually from their readers.)

What nobody seems to get is that the same goes for a new character's ACTIONS. Seriously, when a new character ACTS they're supposed to get their own paragraph too. By the way, Dialogue is an ACTION.

In other words, you don't put two different characters’ Dialogue in the same paragraph BECAUSE you don't mix two characters' Actions.

“Wait a minute, doesn’t that cut everything into tiny bits, you know, when you cut all the dialogue away then divide up all those paragraphs?”

No because Character A’s dialogue is supposed to be IN Character A’s paragraph of actions. Character B gets his own paragraph of dialogue AND actions. You divide up a story’s paragraphs by individual Character -- not by individual lines of Dialogue.

What you definitely don’t do, is cut all the dialogue away from everything and mash all the different characters’ actions together in one messy paragraph where no one can tell who did what.

“Where the heck did THAT rule come from?”

Strunk & White’s Element’s of Style , the grammar handbook.

To wit…
-- "In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is a paragraph by itself; that is, a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker."

This is often misinterpreted as "Make a new paragraph at every new line of dialogue."

Um... No. The key phrase here is "a new paragraph begins with Each Change of Speaker. "

As long as the Speaker is Acting , the Speaker HAS NOT CHANGED. However, every time a new character Acts, you ARE Changing Speakers - even if they don't talk! Therefore, each new character ACTING gets a New Paragraph, whether or not they have dialogue.

How this works...

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. < -- Two Characters acting in the same paragraph.]

Becky mumbled, "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave it an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies." < -- this whole line is Abandoned Dialogue.]

Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. "You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave it an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies."

What's Missing?
-- 'Becky mumbled'. <-- This is an unnecessary Dialogue tag. Once you link a character's Dialogue to their corresponding Actions, you no longer need the Dialogue tags.

If you really, really want to add that Becky mumbled her words, describe it as an action. Don't TELL us that she mumbled, SHOW us.

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her voice dropped to barely a mumble. "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies."

-----Original Message-----
"What if the next internals and action/dialogue are his, like:"

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her reaction was adorable and he couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies."

"Then can you lump those actions together?"
-- Thanks in advance -- Jas

Um... NO.
-- Remember this?

"…A new paragraph begins with Each Change of Speaker. "
-- When a new character ACTS they're supposed to get a new paragraph.

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and <-- Toby’s Actions / Becky’s Actions --> Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck.

Becky didn’t say anything, but she IS acting -- a blush is an action -- therefore Becky gets her OWN paragraph.

"Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck.

This is incorrect too:
"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised.

Actions go BEFORE Reactions Toby was surprised so he commented: "You named a stuffed animal?" He didn't comment and THEN become surprised.

Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. "You named a stuffed animal?"

All together now!

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her reaction was adorable and he couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies."

"Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck.

Her reaction was so adorable, Toby couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies?"

-----Original Message-----
"But when you do that, it looks so...choppy on the page. There's ton's of empty white space!"
-- Hates Empty Space
Yes, it looks choppy on the page, but its Far More Important that there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who is acting and who is speaking.

Another Example:
"Don't help me. I'm fine by myself," she told him, not bothering to be polite. He looked surprised and perhaps a little hurt. She heard another voice.

"Geez, you're pretty full of yourself, aren't you?" She got to her feet and brushed herself off, glancing in the direction of the newcomer. She nearly recoiled in shock. Another handsome guy. He crossed his arms over his chest. "He was just trying to help you." He told her. She readjusted her bag and said.

"I don't recall asking for help."

By the way, once you separate each of your character's actions into new paragraphs and reconnect each character's dialogue to their actions, you won't need dialogue tags such as "said" because your character's actions are the identifiers for your dialogue.

With actions separated & dialogue attached.
She didn’t bother to be polite. "Don't help me. I'm fine by myself."

He looked surprised and perhaps a little hurt.

A new voice called out. "Geez, you're pretty full of yourself, aren't you?"

She got to her feet and brushed herself off, glancing in the direction of the newcomer. She nearly recoiled in shock. Another handsome guy.

He crossed his arms over his chest. "He was just trying to help you."

She readjusted her bag. "I don't recall asking for help."

If you truly loathe all that white space, then fill it in with more actions, description, and internal narration observations.

-----Original Message-----
But what about when someone is watching someone else, or feeling someone do something to them? -- Concerned about Observation

This seems perfectly fine, right?
He watched her shake her butt.
He felt her skin move against his.

However, once you take this into account:

"…A new paragraph begins with Each Change of Speaker. "
-- When a new character ACTS they're supposed to get a new paragraph.

Not so fine after all. You have two people acting in the same line -- in Both Cases.

The way around this little gem of a problem, is to SHOW the event by character rather than TELL it in one lump.

You begin by dividing the actions by Character:
He watched her.

She shook her butt and her skin moved against his.

He felt it.

Seems kind’a…short eh? That’s because those lines TOLD you what happened, instead of Showing you what happened, so there are all kinds of details missing. Once you add enough details to paint a whole picture…

From his seat at the edge of the stage, he watched her.

Tall, svelte, and completely nude, she moved in close and shook her butt. The round, firm flesh jiggled enticingly against his face.

His cheeks were subjected to the most incredible, though slightly sweaty, facial massage ever.

Character Thought & Dialogue
How does an author portray the direct thoughts of a character? ...I think I worded that question poorly, but what I'm trying to say is, when I want to show what a character is actually thinking, do I italicize? Anything of the sort? Or is this completely unnecessary?

Direct thoughts, as in what's spoken in the characters' heads, AND telepathic communication are both italicized. However, telepathic dialogue has Quotation Marks where direct thoughts do not.

Unfortunately, some websites don't allow you to italicize. When this happens, single quotes (') or slashes (/) can be uses to indicate that something is supposed to be italicized.

KILL the Dialogue Tags. (Seriously.)
-- When you have an action with a line of dialogue, you don't need Dialogue tags, such as "he said" -- at all. You already know through their actions WHO is speaking.

Dialogue tags are only ever needed when you don’t have any other way of identifying the speaker.

HOWEVER, if you have no other way of knowing who is speaking than dialogue tags, then you have committed the heinous crime of:

Dialogue in a Vacuum
- Also known as “talking heads syndrome.”

A book with nothing but reams of dialogue marked only by dialogue tags means that while people may be talking, there is no PICTURE. The mental movie has stopped and only the sound-track is playing. Compare it to a Radio Show with no sound effects.

I don’t know about you, but when I go to read a story, I want to SEE what I'm reading like a movie, not listen to a radio show.

Memorize this:
Readers always interpret what they read the way they want to see it -- unless you SHOW them what you envisioned.

In other words…
What CAN be misunderstood -- WILL be misunderstood.

Leave Nothing to Misinterpretation.
-- Readers will ALWAYS make whatever assumptions come to mind about what they are reading. When a reader realizes that what they thought was going on -- wasn't, they'll get confused, and occasionally pissed off.

Unmarked blocks of dialogue are painfully EASY to get lost in.

I remember reading one whole page of un-tagged action-less dialogue only to find out that I had two of the characters reversed. Did I reread that whole page to figure out what was going on? Hell no! I tossed the book across the room. (In fact, it's still on the floor gathering dust bunnies.)

"But, isn't that's what 'said' and other dialogue tags are for?"

Just for the record...
-- Using dialogue tags is Not against the rules. Dialogue tags are a perfectly viable way to identify who is speaking -- it just makes that part of the story BORING. (I don't know about you, but I won't read something that bores me.)

I choose to write my dialogue without using "said" unless I am actually describing a change in voice, tone, or volume in the same paragraph. And even then, I try to avoid them. I use the speaker's actions to define who is speaking to whom.


"What the heck is an Action Tag?"
Language is Visual not just a bunch of words. Watch the average conversation between two people. 90% of that conversation isn't in what's spoken, it's in what they are DOING as they are speaking. It's in their Body Language. Body-language cues the reader as to what is going on in a character’s head – in ADDITION to dialogue and internal narrative.

Action and body-language tags on dialogue are Not just for decoration.
-- Stories are Mental Movies you play in your imagination. I don't know about you, but I HATE to be interrupted when I'm involved in a good movie. If I have to stop and reread a section just to figure out what the heck is going on, I've been interrupted. One too many interruptions and I'm switching to another story -- with no intention of continuing with something that's just too much work to get through.

Action tags keep the mental Movie rolling and the MEANING of what is being said crystal clear. A small simple action can tell you right away, what's going through the speaker's head.

Don't just SAY it! ~ SHOW IT!
“I love you too.” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She dropped her chin and pouted. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She glared straight at him. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She turned away and wiped the tear from her cheek. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”

WHY I loathe the word "said".
- To be perfectly clear, it's not JUST the word 'said', I hate ALL Dialogue Tags inclusively. I utterly refuse to use them.

- Because they're wasteful. They clutter up dialogue while slowing down actions, and they use up word-count that could be far better used elsewhere.

I don't believe in putting anything in my fiction that isn't useful. If it doesn't add to the character or the plot, it gets eradicated. Dialogue tags are too easily replaced by something that actually adds to the story, such as an action, a facial expression, a spot of description, or a character’s opinions.

Just for the record, I write extremely dialogue-heavy fiction. When I find that a dialogue tag is indeed needed in my story to identify who is talking, I see it as a red flag that indicates that all action has come to a screeching halt. Nothing is Happening other than talking; also known as: Talking Heads Syndrome.

When that happens, I find some way to fill that space with something useful to the story such as an action, a facial expression, a spot of description, or a character’s opinions -- ANYTHING other than a dialogue tag.

But those are MY feelings on the subject.
-- Your mileage may vary.

Dialogue tags ARE a legitimate form of sentence structure. When there is no other way to identify a speaker, dialogue tags are indeed a viable option.

What about Punctuation for Dialogue?
- Go here: Punctuating Dialogue Read that.

Paragraph Aesthetics
-----Original Message-----
"I suppose the issue I have is with the aesthetics of paragraphing . Though text is not comparable to a visual medium such as film, it is still something that we have to view with our eyes."

Actually, text aesthetics -- the way the words appear on the page -- seems to be a HUGE bone of contention.

-----Original Message-----
"...The way I see it, your example suggests that I break my text up into a lot of little paragraphs. Given this understanding, in a scene rich with alternating action, it looks like I'll be left with a lot of one-line paragraphs. ...I'd greatly appreciate it if you clarified this situation. I suppose that is the trouble with having to jot down the basics, you can't expand on the little details of the rule. ^_^

Paragraph Aesthetics - Illustrated
-- The way a story appears on a standard 9.5 x 11 inch piece of paper is NOT the way to judge whether or not one's paragraphs are too long or too short. A story viewed on a browser page carries even less weight.

Why not?
-- Because Fiction is generally printed on pages HALF the size of a full sheet of paper. What appears to be a lot of short little paragraphs on the "internet page," are NOT so short or so little once you put them on the Printed page.

The standard sizes for printed Fiction are: paperback (4.25 x 6.75 inches), and trade paperback (5.5 x 8.25 inches.) Hard-cover books use the same size page as a Trade. Only coffee-table books possess printed pages anywhere near the size of a standard sheet of paper.

Visual Aids:
ALL examples are: 12 pt. Times New Roman font with somewhat 1 inch margins.
Standard Paperback 6.75 x 4.25
Trade paperback 5.5 x 8.25
Standard paper 9.5" x 11"

Personally, I could care less what my text looks like on the page. As far as I'm concerned, making the story as clear and easy to read as possible is far more important to me than what the text looks like. If I have done my job well, no one will even notice the words - only the story unfolding in their imaginations.

As for internet reading, I'm completely baffled why anyone would care how it looks on the browser page. All you have to do is narrow the window and the text adjusts.

-----Original Message-----
"Also, I hope you don't mind, but did you come up with the rules yourself, through experience and trial and error, publisher's advice, or is there a handy guide I can employ? Obviously, I quite loyally follow Strunk and White, but I don't think it talks about this subject much. Is there a book that YOU use?"

Let's start here:
"...did you come up with the rules yourself, through experience and trial and error, publisher's advice...?"

YES - to all of the above, plus editor hounding and long chats with a number of extremely well-established fiction authors. In addition, I've read a crap-load of how-to books. I'm pretty sure I own, and have practically memorized, just about every book "Writer's Digest" has put out.

My writing advice posts are the results of taking all the info I'd crammed into my head and condensing it into small bite-sized, chewable, pieces that are easy to remember and much easier to apply. Rather than waste people's time on theory, I focus on application.

As for recommended reads...
-- Unfortunately, there is no one guide that shows it all. Not One. However, there are two books I can't praise highly enough. As far as I'm concerned, they are VITAL reading for fiction writing.

SCENE & STRUCTURE by Jack. M. Bickham
THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler
-- (Google is your friend.)

There are lots of other books I could recommend, but these are the two "Must Haves" if an author really, REALLY wants to write fiction well.


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.

Topic Basic PLOTTING
Posted 02 Mar 2011 15:29

Great advice.
I'm glad you like it! I have more ... Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 23:26

Thank you. I'm aware of all that; I'd just like to think we're all pretty supportive of each other here, as opposed to overtly competing against each other.
This site's writers are Very supportive of each other. However that doesn't change the fact that every last one of us authors want our stories read --and Liked-- by the readers, and Readers only read what they Like . That's merely a fact of life.

After all, there's plenty of reading opportunity to go around, individuals' schedules permitting.
That doesn't change the fact that people only read what they Want to read. If a story has gross errors in it or is of a style, or topic, a reader is uncomfortable with, you can guarantee that they're putting that story down in favor of something that suits them better.

I realize that for some people, there's a wish to 'win' in damn near anything they do, but in what I assume is a generous spirit of all your advice here, I'd like to think we'd all want to learn from each other more so than wanting to defeat another writer.
If everyone writes at least close to the same skill level, (decent sentence structure, good plotting, realistic characterization, effective description...) then the only deciding factor between one story and the next will be Genre preference and writing style. That is what I am after.

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 17:49

marry me? no, seriously, for this post alone, i think you just stole my heart, Ms Hawke. ;)
I'm pretty sure I'm too old for you darlin', but thank you for the offer!

ok, funny thing is, this is another issue of mine, really, not so much that i don't know how to finish, but i tend not to know what's going to happen at the end, UNTIL i get there.
You're not alone. It's a really, really common problem.

1)Resolution of the issues is important. It's fun to leave some minor things unresolved, but yes, just petering out with the story, be it smut or not, unless you're into very experimental writing AND willing to piss your readers off, is a must.

2) Twists. Keep it interesting, this is a great point. Recently while perusing my local book store, i kept picking up and putting down books, simply because they looked predictable - i don't want to know by chapter 3 how it's going to resolve - oh, i might want to have a good feel for how i WANT it to resolve, but yeah, if it's telegraphed to me by then, i loses a lot of it's oomph. now, that doesn't mean that it messes up a story if i know that Prince Armand and Princess Danielle are going to live happily ever after, but i'd like to be surprised, and in suspense, about how they are going to manage it and certainly, all the subplots within should be full of twists and turns.

3) Deus Ex Machina! the hand of God - this is when the writer gets himself into a corner and the only way he can think of resolving it is to just have some supreme power intervene, or the like. case in point - Prince Armand is eaten by the giant slug - there goes the happy ending EXCEPT suddenly, Princess Daniele discovers her perfume bottle contained a Djinn, she accidentally sets it free and, in return, it brings him back to life... yeah, it's a good way to make your reader roll their eyes and mutter 'whatever'. if you have to fix your story by tossing in ultra powerful being or extremely unlikely co-incidences, you have issues - rethink, rewrite, re-imagine.
I didn't forget it, sweety. Deus Ex Machina has it's own Essay. ~grin

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 17:42

...It means less competition for me .
How is it a competition, really?
Readers do not read a story simply because it's posted. They look through the list and CHOOSE the story they want to read by title, genre, and excerpt. That's where competition comes in. Every story posted is in Competition with the next one to catch the Reader's eye and keep their attention long enough to Finish it. Hopefully, they'll even like it.

> An interesting title will catch the eye and imagination faster than a boring one.
> An excerpt with full of spelling errors will always be passed over in favor of an exciting story hook.

Even during reading, a Reader can suddenly change their mind and drop a story unfinished to go find a better one. I certainly am Not going to waste my time reading a story full of spelling errors, head-hopping, poor research, or one that bores me with clichéd characters and situations.

Generally though, it looks like good advice to me.
I should hope so. I worked hard on it. :)

When writing stories ... one of the major worries was always how to make an ending that did justice to everything prior.
That's something ALL writers struggle with. Hopefully, my essay will prove helpful to someone looking for a way to solve their story issues.

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 15:52

I usually just stop when I get tired...then I add the sentence "And they all lived happily ever after..." That seems to work well for problem with that, right???

I certainly don't have any problems with stories that end like that.
-- It means less competition for me. :) So, go ahead and write all the stories you like that way! I assure you, I'll be glad to see every single one you post. ~evil grin

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 15:48

Thanks for posting Morgan. Your series have been most educational and informative.

My pleasure!
-- There are way too many writing 'how-to' articles out there --including whole books-- that don't actually show you 'How-To'. I've made it my personal mission to fix that.

Topic writing as the opposite gender
Posted 25 Feb 2011 18:35

all of my stories have been written from the guys point of view and i have a story idea which i think will be better written from the female point of view. what are your ideas on writing from the opposite sex's point of view?

I write from both gender's POV, but I did a lot of research first.
-- One of the best books out there on just how differently men and women Think is Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. I have it in hardback.

Other resources:
"Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives" - James Dobson
"Men, Women and Sex" - Margaret Paul, Ph.D
"Yes, Biologically Speaking, Sex Does Matter" - Karen Young Kreeger
"Gender Differences Are Real" - Frank York

Topic Anonymous Voting versus Members Only
Posted 25 Feb 2011 18:27

-- I have no interest in letting some unknown troll knock my ranking simply because they Can.

Topic How to make THE END.
Posted 25 Feb 2011 18:11

HOW do you make
THE End?
"When will you make an end?"
- The Pope on the painting of the Sistine Chapel

"When I'm finished."
- Michelangelo.

Okay, so you got this GREAT Idea for a story!
- This Great Idea...that births chapter after chapter...
- This Great Idea... that you can't seem to finish. (WTF?!)


So what do you do now?

HOW do you make an End?
Fairy tales and Myths were my foundational reading, so they became my base model for how a story should finish -- by ending where you began with a solution.

This doesn't mean ending a story in the location it started, or that full irrevocable transformations don't happen, but that the story ties the knot to the Emotional or Karmic place they began. ...The lost find their way, the wicked are punished, the weak become strong, monsters are faced, emotional hang-ups are dealt with, and problems are solved. What is begun - finishes.

-- Stories aren’t just about characters Doing stuff, it’s about character’s Dealing with stuff and Figuring out stuff about themselves. The really good stories, the ones that grab us and stay in our memories the longest, all illustrate normal people problems and issues, and the SOLUTIONS they come across.

No matter how fantastic the setting or characters are, stories are still about people being people dealing with people stuff. It isn’t what they Do, it’s How they did it, and what they discovered about themselves on the way.

It sounds perfectly simple, and it can be, however I despise stories I can guess the ending to, so naturally, I refuse to write them that way. (Insert evil snicker.) I prefer to make my stories a bit more unpredictable.

How? Subterfuge.

The Wrong direction is the Right direction!
I prefer to write stories that throw the reader completely off the obvious path, straight through the center of the village, and force them into the deep dark woods. I deliberately make every straightforward solution unbelievably problematic!

• The obvious answer is the wrong answer.
• The simple solution is impossible to accomplish.
• What seems to be a easy task has impossible if not fatal complications.

Once the reader has been sent careening off into territory they never expected to go, and gotten utterly wrapped up in a plot they never expected - that's when I start tying up ends by way of pulling rugs out from under the reader's feet.

Characters reveal motives that change how their base characters are perceived.
• The obvious bad-guy isn't the bad guy, he's AFTER the bad-guy. However, he's completely ruthless in his hunt, which is what made him seem like the bad-guy in the first place.
• The bumbling fool that merely wants to help improve his fellow man, is in fact completely deranged sociopath that likes to do his improvements with a scalpel.
• The person the main character is trying to rescue, not only doesn't want to be rescued, but in fact resents the intrusion.

Random events and objects are revealed to have unexpected connections.
• The gun on the mantelpiece wasn't merely a decoration.
• The strange recluse neighbor turns out to be the one person who actually knows what's really going on.

What was accepted as fact is revealed to be something else entirely.
• "We're all living in a computer generated dream-world."

And in the process of dealing with all that...
• Monsters are faced.
• Emotional hang-ups are dealt with.
• Problems end up solved.
• What was begun - finishes.

" HOW do I fix the problem I have right now? "
" ...Too many good books, book series, anime, etc. suffer from Bad Endings ."
-- A Frustrated Reader
THE #1 Most Common Problem:
“ The story is already halfway written and I have no idea where to go from there !"

This most frequently happens when:
-- A) The author didn't know how they wanted to end the story before they started writing. They just wrote ... until they couldn't write any more. (AKA: Writing by the seat of their pants.)

-- B) They planned the end, but painted themselves into a corner by tossing in a major (head/heart/sex) problem they didn't know how to fix before they could get to the end. (AKA: Bit off more than they could swallow.)

FIXING the Problem
1) Written by the Seat of your Pants
-- When you've written something by the seat of your pants, the only way to fix it is by stopping cold and figuring out where you want it to end - then adjusting the whole story to suit your ending. This means extensive rewrites.

This also means making a decision.

What's more important to you as an author?
A) The hours you spent writing all those words that got you nowhere?
- OR -
B) Making a story your readers will swoon over?

2) Bit off more than you can Swallow
-- I've noticed that this shows up most frequently when you have an ANGST plot. Oddly, it also shows up when someone wants to write a smut scene, but never had sex before.

Fixing Smut
- This is actually really easy. READ smut stories. (Porn movies give you the visuals but not what it FEELS like.) Just, for God's sake, don't copy someone's smut scenes word for word - that's plagiarism. Paraphrase instead -- that's perfectly legal.

Het smut - I recommend reading books by author Angela Knight for excellent graphic detailing without making you wanna hurl.

M/M smut - go here: Minotaurs Sex Tips for Slash Writers Read that.

Fixing Angst
- This one's tough. If you're trying to fix a serious problem like Grief over lost loved ones begin by Googling 'stages of grief', so you know what your character is supposed to be going through, and follow the advice given for getting over it. If you're trying to fix a heart-ache like a break-up between lovers, the stages of grief still works.

If you're trying to get them back together again, then you have a real problem.

-- Here in the West, getting back together rarely ever happens in real life because it's just easier to end the relationship completely and not deal with it anymore.

-- In the East, it's another story entirely. People do get back together because they are taught from childhood that Family and Personal Honor is far more important than one’s personal feelings.
• Enemies WILL put their personal vendetta on hold until a common enemy is vanquished.
• Wives WILL go back to their husbands for the sake of keeping the rest of the family safe from harm; giving those husbands a chance to make their wives fall in love with them again.

In Conclusion...
-- When you've come up with the most diabolical problem known to man (or beast) the only way to fix it is by finding out how REAL People fixed it and applying that to your characters. Ahem, RESEARCH. (Hint: is your friend.)

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.

Topic Essentials of a Short Story ~ Edgar Allen Poe
Posted 25 Feb 2011 18:00

Love the disclaimer.
Thank you!
-- It became necessary when one too many 'creative' writers started screaming that " there are no rules for Arte !"

My response was, "Well, there ARE for publication." I was then accused of being arrogant and snotty. And so, my Disclaimer was born.

Topic Essentials of a Short Story ~ Edgar Allen Poe
Posted 21 Feb 2011 10:43

Essentials of a Short Story
Quotes raped from a critique of Nathanial Hawthorn’s Twice Told Tales by
Edgar Allen Poe - 1837
Edgar Allen Poe, celebrated as one of the finest short fiction writers of all time, was also a literary critic. These are bits of his wisdom on writing short stories gleaned from one of his critiques.

“The true critic will but demand that that the (story’s) design intended be accomplished, to the fullest extent, by the means most advantageously applicable…" -- Poe

Poe’s Prerequisites -- in a Nutshell:
To deliver fullest satisfaction, a short story should be structured:

1) To be read in one sitting.
2) Using a deliberate number of characters and incidents.
3) With words restrained in style and tone.
4) All done that should be done with nothing done which should not be.

Poe’s Prerequisites -- in DETAIL
A short story should be structured:

1) To be read in one sitting.
“Were we bidden to say how the highest genius (of the short story) could be most advantageously employed for the best display of (the short story’s) own powers, we should answer, without hesitation- in the composition of a rhymed poem, not to exceed in length what might be perused in an hour.” – Poe

-- How much can YOU read in an hour or two? THAT’S how long a short story should be.

According to most publishers, this means no more than 15k, (15,000 words) or 60 NY publishing formatted pages. (60 pages at 12 point courier font, on an 8.5” by 11” page with 1” margins, are counted as 250 words per page, regardless of actual word count.)

20k, or 80 NY publishing formatted pages, is considered a Novella. Magazine publishers tend to look for 5k stories, (5,000 words) or 20 NY publishing formatted pages.

2) Using a deliberate number of characters and incidents.
“ A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents- he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tends not to the out-bringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. ” – Poe

-- Plot with a Purpose in mind, a Premise, and write your story to carry out that purpose, and only that purpose.

If you’re writing a novel you can add other ‘purposes’, but when you’re writing a short story you don’t have the room for more than one.

“What do you mean by…purpose?”
-- Very simply…

What are you SAYING with your story? What are you trying to Show or Prove?
• The reality of Love? – Romeo & Juliet
• The pain of Jealousy? – Othello
• The results of Revenge? – Hamlet
• The path of Ambition? - Julius Caesar

Plotting is essential in all forms of fiction for cohesion. Plotting ensures that your story has all the important bits that make a story, a STORY, such as: a beginning, a middle, and an end. It keeps you from missing something vital – or putting something in that does not belong.

Side-tracked by a really cool subplot?
-- Does it fit with the theme of what you are trying to accomplish?

• If it does – GREAT! Is there enough room for it? (What kind of word-count limit are you dealing with?)
• If it doesn’t – GREAT! You have the makings of a whole new story! (Chop it out and make a whole new document file just for it.)

However, Plotting does NOT have to be a chapter by chapter outline; it can be a short list of just the important bits:

A Plot Arc for an Erotic story
Early trouble, revealing the character's talents and setting.
-- Boy meets Girl, Adversary meets Proponent…

Rising Action
Increasing tension - crisis after crisis
-- One succeeds in seducing the other.

Climax / Reversal
Point of highest tension & the story's turning point.
-- Something happens that separates the two lovers, such as misunderstandings, rivals, bad-guys in general…

Falling Action
All plot threads unravel leaving only one solution.
-- Motives & all other angsty secrets are uncovered, revealing the REAL problem.

Final choice, ending in hope or ruin
-- Confessions, fights, forced seductions, and begging for forgiveness…

-- Happily ever after…?

3) Using words restrained in style and tone.
“The author who aims at the purely beautiful in a prose tale is laboring at great disadvantage. For Beauty can be better treated in the poem. Not so with terror, or passion, or horror, or a multitude of such other points.” – Poe

-- Hunks of sweeping, emotionally blissed-out, text is generally SKIPPED in favor of: “What happens next?” The only place for fancy words is in Description.

Why? Because in this day and age, the average book-store browsing Reader (or the fan-fiction reader,) does not have the patience to read fancy prose.

Think I'm kidding? In this very article, how many of you have been skipping over Poe's literary-heavy quotes to get to the Translations? ( Rhetorical Question! You are not expected to answer! )

Seriously, no matter what genre you write, the average Buying Reader reads with a TV-Watcher's attention span (about the same as a 12-year old). Unlike Poe’s readers, ALL of your readers grew up watching TV. Because of this, they’re used to their stories being action packed, directly to the point, and SHORT.

How short?
-- How long is a TV program? Sit-coms are half an hour. Actual programs are an hour - two at the most. How much can YOU read in that amount of time? That’s how short. Your story has to fit into a TV-program slot -- and compete with the next program they plan to watch.

As a rule, only the college-heavy teacher-types read literary prose for pleasure. Everybody else (the BUYING public) reads pulp fiction.

DESCRIPTION is a MUST in Modern Fiction!
-- Our modern-day, TV-addict readers are trained (by their TV-watching,) to be VISUALLY stimulated. These readers PICTURE their stories as they read them, and expect enough description to be able to make those mind-pictures crystal clear – AND emotionally visceral.

They not only want to SEE it, they want to FEEL it too -- but they don't have much of an attention span, so every word must count!

Description should be trimmed down to:
• Distinct nouns rather than vague nouns - Toyota instead of car.
• 1 Adjective per Distinct Noun – The red Toyota
• 2 Adjectives per Sensation – smell, taste, texture, sound, view – “I stared with horror at the dilapidated, red Toyota.”
• 2 Adjectives per Emotion – anger, lust, love, joy, misery – “The bitter ache in my weary heart…”

4) All done that should be done with nothing done which should not be.
“ In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction .” –Poe

-- Make every character, object, event…, do double duty. Don’t just throw something in the story for decoration like a sex scene, or a piano in the living room. Make that piano, or that sex scene IMPORTANT to the story. Make something happen because they had sex. Make something happen because they played the piano.

This is more commonly known as:

The “Gun on the Mantelpiece” rule of Fiction:
-- “If a gun is shown on the mantelpiece in Chapter One, it better go off by Chapter Three – and there had better be a damned good reason for that gun to go off.”

Applied to Erotica:
-- “If a Kiss is shown in the living room in Chapter One, Sex better happen by Chapter Three – and there had better be a damned good reason for that Sex to happen.”

Applied to Sci-Fi:
-- “If a mysterious artifact is shown in the living room in Chapter One, the mysterious artifact had better cause chaos by Chapter Three – and there had better be a damned good reason for that chaos to happen.”

The trick to knowing what to include in any story, is whether or not you intend to actively USE it. If the character trait or object does not matter to the plot – skip it. If it doesn’t Actively MOVE the Plot, (even a teeny bit,) you don’t need to include it.

The shorter the story the LESS room you have to work with, so the only details that you need are what actually changes the plot -- even character details. If that detail has no bearing on the plot, you don’t need it.

In Conclusion…

Poe’s Prerequisites – Translated

-- A short story should be Plotted:
1) Between 5,000 words, and 15,000.
2) With a Beginning, Middle, End, and a Point in mind.
3) For a TV-watcher’s visually oriented (12-year old) attention span.
4) Using only what is needed to make your point, and complete the story.

Read the entire critique, by Edgar Allen Poe:


DISCLAIMER: 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.

Topic Story Writing for BEGINNERS
Posted 20 Feb 2011 02:23

More great advice, thanks for posting Morgan.

My pleasure!

Topic Writing Emotions VISUALLY
Posted 19 Feb 2011 13:22

The very nature of telling puts you one step back from the action, with the narrator, or the author, acting as a buffer. It's a choice of style that needs to be based on the story and the characters.


Topic Writing Emotions VISUALLY
Posted 18 Feb 2011 12:31

The ability to 'show' not 'tell' is indubitably the dividing line between writing and good writing ....Regardless of genre an author's ability to 'show ' is the seductive force that compels reader to continue

Not necessarily.
-- I've actually read a few absolutely brilliant stories that were almost entirely Told.

The dividing line between writing and good writing lies with Experience, not Technique. An experienced author can use Any technique --including pure Telling-- and make it Good.

Topic Writing ANGST
Posted 18 Feb 2011 10:43

Writing ANGST!

One way to add excitement to your story is by adding lots of bad-guys, also known as EXTERNAL Conflict. Another way is by adding INTERNAL Conflict, more commonly known as Angst.

I’m sure most of you have noticed by now that most movie characters, and far too many book characters, are One-Dimensional. They do stuff, but they don’t face any personality issues: a hang-up, a fear, paranoia, a moral code, a love interest, a strong dislike… Or worse, they do have all these things, but they never really affect the story.

There’s a Plot Arc, things happen, but no Character Arc. The things that happen don’t affect the characters emotionally.

Where’s the ANGST?
Answer these two questions:

1. What is your character’s biggest character flaw?
(Think: 7 Deadly Sins.)
• Apathy (Sloth)
• Addiction (Lust)
• Obsession (Greed)
• Resentment (Envy)
• Hate/Revenge (Wrath)
• Avarice (Gluttony)
• Arrogance (Pride)

2. What is the worst possible thing that could happen to them in the story?

Add the answers to these two questions together and voila …! Instant Angst.

“When should one introduce the personality flaw that leads to the Angst?”
-- Chapter One is good, HOWEVER…!

Don’t toss in a personality issue you don’t intend to use!
The rule of Mystery Fiction states:
-- “If the gun is shown in Chapter One, it better go off by Chapter Three -- and there had better be a damned good reason for that gun to be there.”

The Rule of Erotic Fiction :
-- “If the Kiss is shown in Chapter One, the Sex better happen by chapter three -- and there had better be a damned good reason for that Kiss to be there.”

These rules should apply in ANYTHING you put in a story. No matter what it is, if you have it in the story, you better have a use for it fairly quickly, and that use had better turn the plot. If it DOESN’T affect the plot in some way, shape or form, you’ve just made a PLOT HOLE, and I guarantee that someone will not only see it, they’ll call you on it. It could be a fan who writes you a concerned letter, “Whatever happened with…?” or worse, a Reviewer read by thousands.

This includes Emotional Conflict.

The Rule of CHARACTER DRIVEN Fiction:
-- “If the Personality Flaw is shown in Chapter One, the first Emotional Crisis better happen by Chapter Three -- and there had better be a damned good reason for that Emotional Crisis to be there.”

The fastest way to write a story that you won’t be able to finish, is by writing about an emotional issue you don’t know how to FIX!
When your main character has a personal hang-up, it not only needs to be addressed, it needs to be SOLVED. Only the Villain can get away with an unsolved personal hang-up. In fact, this unsolved personal issue is WHY the Villain traditionally LOSES to the Hero. It’s as simple as, the Hero adapts, the Villain does not, giving the Hero an advantage the Villain literally cannot deal with.

Making ANGST Happen:

Character Arc = The Stages of Grief
Denial – Anger – Negotiation - Despair – Acceptance

Why Grief?
-- The best stories are all about Personal CHANGE, about Adapting to and Overcoming physical AND emotional circumstances that should take them down. This is where dramatic tension is generated. Think about how hard it is for YOU to change your mind about liking or disliking anyone. What would it take to change your mind? That's the level of suffering - of Angst - your characters need.

What causes ANGST?
(Breaks out the text-book…) Angst is caused by a change of circumstance that produces a feeling of loss. This triggers the reaction of grief. The intensity of the grief depends on the importance of loss. If the loss is perceived as minor, then the moment of grief will be minimal and barely felt. However, unresolved and severe loss can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems.

Cool huh?

And everyone deals with one form of angst or another on a daily basis.

Example: The Dead Battery
-- You're on your way to work. You go out to your car, put the key in the ignition and turn it on. You hear nothing but a grind; the battery is dead. Think about how you typically react: What's the first thing you do?

DENIAL – “Oh no! No! No! No! Not the battery!” You try to start it again. And again. You check to make sure that everything that could be draining the battery is off: radio, heater, lights, etc., and then try it again. And again…

ANGER - "Screw you, you stupid car! I should have junked you years ago." Perhaps you slam your hand on the steering wheel? "I should just leave you out in the rain and let you rust!"

NEGOTIATION - "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition…”

DESPAIR - "It won’t start. I give up. What's the use?"

ACCEPTANCE - "Okay, it’s dead. I had better go call a friend and see if they can get me to work."

USING the Stages of Grief for the Character Arc

PLOT ARC is what happens to the characters.
CHARACTER ARC is how the Characters react Emotionally to those events.

If you are writing a Short story, the Character Arc (the Stages of Grief) can be used as an outline for your entire story.

Stage One: Denial
Stage Two: Anger
Stage Three: Negotiation (Sacrifice)
Stage Four: Despair
Stage Five: Acceptance

However, if you intend to write a full length novel, you may want to ADD a Plot Arc too.

Plot Arc
0 - Introduction
1 - Inciting event
2 - Defiance
3 - Reversal <-- The worst possible thing that could happen.
4 - Crisis
5 - Ordeal
6 - Confrontation
0 - Consequences

Character Arc + Plot Arc
0 - Introduction
1 - Denial - Inciting event
2 - Anger - Defiance
3 - Negotiation - Reversal
4 – Despair - Crisis
5 - Sacrifice - Ordeal
6 - Acceptance - Confrontation
0 - Consequences

Looks a little different, and a little more complicated, doesn’t it? That’s because a new stage has been added the Stages of Grief: Sacrifice .

Sacrifice is the one thing your character does not want to do. It’s the moment they face their worst fear, or their biggest hang-up and make a choice they cannot take back: Go on, Give up, or Give in? Fight, Flight, or Forfeit.

Consider the following diagram a Cheat Sheet!

The Plot Arc & the Character Arc
The movie, ‘SECRETARY’

The Hero & Heroine’s (Semi/Uke) Mirrored Issue:
Both characters feel that PAIN = LOVE, however, they both express this in opposite fashions.

• She uses Physical Pain on HERSELF to relieve her Emotional Pain by 'cutting'.
• He uses Physical Pain on OTHERS to relieve his Emotional Pain through disciplinary actions.

Plot arc
# - Character Arc

0 – Talented & Troubled
Boy meets Girl – Mirrored Issues trigger Emotional Conflict
• A wonderful typist, but otherwise clueless, girl becomes a secretary for a dominating, but soft-hearted, lawyer.

Inciting Event
1 - Denial – Instigation
Response to Emotional Conflict exposes Issues.
• Her desire to please him drives her to cut her clothing.
• He sees this and recognizes her “self-punishment.” He demands that she stop her self-destructive behavior.

2 - Anger – Provoked
Issues instigate a Dilemma prompting a Fight/Flight response
• She goes on a date and is seen by her Lawyer.
• The lawyer’s emotional conflict (his growing feelings for her,) drives him to begin disciplining her at work. He spanks her for a typing mistake.
• The secretary discovers that his spanking brings her an emotional release and an emotional connection to her lawyer. She begins to encourage his discipline by making more mistakes.

3 - Negotiation – Intolerable Surrender or Unacceptable Rescue
Conditional compliance to resolve Dilemma
• Despite the fact that his secretary is blooming right before his eyes, the lawyer sees his behavior as being destructive. He decides that he is wrong in his discipline and stops.

4 – Despair - Reversal (Worst Case Scenario)
Disaster strikes bringing Emotional Consequences - Issues Surface
• Desperate to get her lawyer to discipline her, and give her the emotional connection she craves, she mails him a worm. (He truly hates bugs.)
• The lawyer discovers that he cannot stop disciplining her, (she won’t let him,) and fires her.

5 - Sacrifice – Forfeit & Surrender
Desperation forces confrontation of Issues & Emotional Conflict
• Her boyfriend proposes marriage.
• Out of guilt over HIS feelings for her, and pain at losing her lawyer, she agrees. In her wedding dress, she realizes that she does not love her boyfriend, she loves her lawyer.

6 - Acceptance - Bitter-sweet Revelation & Talents Reborn
Acceptance of Issues presents solution to Crisis.
• In her wedding dress, she confronts her lawyer. She demands that he love her.
• He insists that what he’s doing is wrong.
• She insists that it’s not – that it’s just a different kind of love. They belong together.
• He demands that she sit at his desk – with her hands flat on the surface -- until he comes for her. (It’s a test.) He doesn’t believe that she could possibly love him.

0 – A Promise Kept
Emotional Conflict resolved - Relationship secured
• She sits at his desk for days, dealing with family and friends about her personal choices concerning who she loves, and why.
• The lawyer has been monitoring her progress the entire time and realizes that she does love him, just as he is and for what he is. He comes for her.
• Happily ever after – for them.

The END.


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.

Topic Basic PLOTTING
Posted 18 Feb 2011 10:28

You'll be happy to know that my neighbors cat loves your article on plotting...

But of course! Cat's invented plotting. :)

Topic Basic PLOTTING
Posted 18 Feb 2011 10:27

You're very welcome!

Topic Keep them related!
Posted 16 Feb 2011 09:32

Francis Ford Coppola - director

Topic Word association game
Posted 16 Feb 2011 09:31

Dolphin (My vibrator is a Dolphin!)

Topic Top Five Deal Breakers
Posted 16 Feb 2011 09:27

1. Stupidity. Ignorance can be cured. Stupid can't.
2. Lying. The truth always surfaces eventually.
3. Poor hygiene.
4. Emotional/mental issues of ANY kind. If you're taking prescription medication for your Mind, don't even talk to me.
5. Doormat. I can't stand a man that won't stand up for himself against his friends or me.
6. Ass-kisser. Tells me what I want to hear instead of what they actually feel.
7. Whining. If you want something, ASK. Don't Beg.
8. Lazy. Won't keep a Job.
9. My name is not Mama. Can't find his own socks, underwear, TV controller, etc. Won't wash his own clothes. Won't clean up after himself.
10. Violence.
11. Verbal/Mental Abuse.
12. Alcoholic and/or drug user.
13. Already has a wife/girlfriend. I am NOT interested in threesomes where a spouse or steady girlfriend is involved.

Topic Lush authors who are published
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:39

I'm published with Extasy books, Loose Id LLC, Mojocastle Press, and Kensington books.

Topic Word association game
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:30


Topic Sexual Compatibility Test
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:27

I scored "Sensual".

68% Sensual and 57% Aggressive sexy, so smooth, so giving, so...good. Bet you really enjoy sex don't you? In fact, probably more than most people. That's what being Sensual is all about: PASSION. But not just for your pleasure, for theirs. For you, it's the whole experience that makes great sex. You obviously like to take your time and do it "right". You mostly know what you want and you definitely know what you like. To top it off you're just plain good at it -- less so than someone more Aggressive. You're not opposed to trying some new things or embarking on an adventure as long as you and your partner do it together and, more importantly, it works for them. You strive to put your partner's needs ahead of your own which many people claim is difficult to find so keep it up!

Topic Around the world.
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:16

Azerbaijan -- a former republic of the USSR.

Topic Keep them related!
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:13

Sophia Loren

Topic Word association game
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:10


Topic The 7 Letter Game
Posted 16 Feb 2011 08:08

Thanks for the welcome, FicklePickleTickle!


Danny admittedly made Nancy's yoni orgasm ultimately.


Topic Around the world.
Posted 16 Feb 2011 07:57


Topic Word association game
Posted 16 Feb 2011 07:56