Forum posts made by morganhawke

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 13 Apr 2011 09:56

We can talk until we're blue in the face. I guess the fundamentals reek of tyranny. They certainly improved my life!...sans water-board. :)

The fundamentals only reek of tyranny when one doesn't know them -- and it Shows.
It's when someone's Arrogance slams head-first into their Ignorance, and they cry out, "I meant to do that!"

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 12 Apr 2011 18:21

...The aren't meant to fence us in...they're a springboard.

-- Now how do I get the ' creative ' writers to believe this?

I'm told water-boarding is an effective means of-- *looks around* What???

That does have possibilities...for entertainment value if nothing else.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 12 Apr 2011 08:38

....and there I was, worried that I may not learn anything new for today when, Lo the wise Morgan came to my rescue. Nice tip. Many thanks.

You're very welcome.
-- I answer questions too!

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 12 Apr 2011 08:37

...The aren't meant to fence us in...they're a springboard.

-- Now how do I get the ' creative ' writers to believe this?

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 12 Apr 2011 08:35

Without ever knowing why I was doing it or what it was called, but somehow instinctively knowing it needed to be there, I have a "habits" section in my character profile sheets. Now I'm going to be stuck thinking about this all day, trying to work it through in my head.
Food for thought -- Literally!

...just throw your ingredients in the pan and add what you like? If the result tastes good, that's what's important, right? Only you'll never make a soufflé that way.
= TALENT --> When you get it right by Accident.

...Cooks follow recipes. Eventually you get to be a chef, and you understand the food so well you can adapt the recipe with skill to produce something exquisite and unique.
= CRAFT --> When you get it right On Purpose .

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 23:41

I'm confused again...
That's okay. We're used to you being confused. :)

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 23:37, anyways, I decide to name my characters static traits, and funny thing is? Once I have a name for them? Once I know? It becomes so easy to write a scene, using the knowledge of what drives them each time and wow, it’s amazing how I can just reference that in dialogue, in actions, in pushing the scene forward… and it's consistent as well!

Anyways, my way of saying thank you *hugs*

Ha-ha! You've just taken the step from 'talented' writer to become a 'skilled' writer. Congrats!

Talent is when you get it right Accidentally.
Skill is when you do it On Purpose.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 23:31

So I see! Well, I'm in good company. Love both of your work. :)
Thank you so much!
-- And yes, you're in Very good company.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 21:01

"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! :)

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 20:55

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!

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 18:07

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 .

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 17:36

...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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 11 Apr 2011 12:35

...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

Topic Emotional Conflict & PLOT!
Posted 10 Apr 2011 16:29

Emotional Conflict & PLOT!
PLOT ARC - The events that happen while the characters make other plans.
CHARACTER ARC - The emotional roller-coaster that the character suffers while dealing with the Plot.

NO CONFLICT = No Character Depth
I’m sure, most of you have noticed by now that far too many movie characters, and many book characters, are One-Dimensional. The characters DO stuff, but they don’t face any real personal issues: a hang-up, a fear, paranoia, a moral code, a love interest, a strong dislike… Without hang-ups to deal with, and face down, those characters are not PEOPLE. They’re pretty card-board cutouts moving around on a pretty stage. They're EMPTY. Or worse, they DO have issues, but those issue are never faced in the story.

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: a situation, an object, a person... If you have it in the story, you better have a use for it, and that use had better Show Something, Do Something or Make Something Happen. If your Character has a Hobby, a Pet, a Family, a JOB -- you need to show that character involved with those things, and those things effecting the plot in some way shape or form. If you DON’T, 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.

That includes a character's PERSONAL Issues.

Adding CONFLICT to your story.
The best way to give your characters greater dimension is to put them in conflict – with EACH OTHER.
Let’s start this lecture with a HUGE secret:
--> There are Three Essential Characters in Every Story.

Adversary – The one trying to change things.
Proponent – The one trying to keep things the way they are.
Ally – The one caught in the middle.

Traditionally known as: Hero, Villain, Victim, and/or Antagonist, Protagonist, Ally.

Seriously, you can tell any story with ONLY these Three Characters; perhaps not with any real detail, but you could still do the entire basic plotline from Star Wars to Gone with the Wind .

Why does this matter?
-- To really make your Proponent shine, the Adversary and the Ally should have Physical and Mental traits that go AGAINST the Proponent’s traits.

In a medieval-style RPG, role-playing game, you will often see a hulking Paladin Knight (an ACTION-driven character,) paired with a slender but highly dexterous Elvish bowman, or knife-throwing Thief, (an EMOTION-Driven character,) and a physically weak but highly intelligent and powerful Mage, (a MOTIVE-Driven character). Each of the three characters possesses traits that overlap to cover most monstrous encounters, and their strong differences in temperament make for very lively chit-chat in between.

By the way, RPG books on Character Creation are a great way to dig up mental and physical traits for characters!

How this works:
-- If you have a tough-guy, kick-ass Proponent, like Riddick in Pitch Black , you give also your kick-ass Proponent has a handicap your other characters can take advantage of, such the inability to see in ordinary light. Make the Plot work AGAINST him by putting him in situations where his handicap can be used against him, (at least twice,) rendering him helpless and in physical danger each time.

Most importantly, expose his emotional soft spot; a hang-up, a fear, a paranoia, a moral code, a love interest, a strong dislike... at the same time and then force him to face them to succeed.

Use the PLOT against them!
-- To really torque your Characters, make your Events CONFLICT with one of your characters' physical and / or mental hang-up at least TWICE - each!

A well-placed REVERSAL (where everything that Can go wrong DOES,) throws your characters right into Looming Danger, forcing them off the straight-line path to the goal they’ve chosen and onto a path to a different goal. This is more commonly known as the Plot-Twist.

Making EMOTIONAL Issues HAPPEN in a Story
My Issue/Plot Template
A Cheat-Sheet for adding Emotional Conflict to the Plot

In the movie: Secretary

Adversary: He is trying to make things Change for her; to make her a more emotionally stable person, someone that doesn't need to hurt herself.
Proponent: She fights to continue his 'punishments,' to keep things the way they are after he suddenly decides to stop.
Ally: Everyone else in the story are caught between them. This is particularly evident in the final act.

The Mirrored Issue: (Opposing reflections of the same issue.) Dealing with Emotional Pain
Her Issue: She uses Physical Pain, she hurts herself, to relieve her Emotional Pain.
His Issue: He uses Physical Pain as a disciplinary tool to relieve his Emotional Pain.

His Mental Handicap : Confrontation Issues
Her Mental Handicap : Abandonment Issues


0 – Alarm - Encounter : 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 - Situation : Response to Emotional Conflict exposes Issues.
-- Her desire to please her boss drives her to cut her clothing, and later wound herself, as punishment for not pleasing him. Horrified by her “self-punishment” he demands that she stop her self-destructive behavior. An emotional bond develops between them.

2 - Antagonism - Dilemma : 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, beginning with a spanking for a typing mistake.

The secretary discovers that his spanking brings her an emotional release and a deeper emotional connection to her lawyer. She begins to encourage his discipline by making more mistakes.

3 - Bargaining – Crisis : (Worst Case Senario) Conditional compliance to resolve Dilemma
-- Despite the fact that his secretary is blooming right before his eyes, the lawyer sees his disciplinary behavior as being destructive. He decides that his behavior is wrong and stops.

4 – Despair - Panic : Disaster strikes bringing Emotional Consequences - Issues Surface
-- Desperate to get her lawyer to discipline her, and give her the emotional connection she craves, she makes mistake after mistake until finally, she mails him a worm, (he truly hates bugs,) literally mailing him a demand to be punished.

The lawyer cannot resist her demand, she's pushed one button too many to ignore, and discovers that he cannot stop disciplining her, (she won’t let him,) and fires her.

5 - Sacrifice – Breaking Point : 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 - Resignation : 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 and figures she'll give up before it goes too far.

0 – Resolution - Conclusion : Emotional Conflict resolved - Relationship secured
-- She doesn't give up. He's far too important to her. 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.

WHY Issues???
In my opinion, good fiction, no matter the genre, presents us with characters dealing with a basic human issue. This 'Issue' permeates a story and is the story's heart. Every character should face this ONE issue and either succeed or fails when they get there - presenting different results to the core argument (issue) that is the Premise.

A story's Premise = the human ISSUE being addressed
Once upon a time in ancient Greece, the plays of Greek theatre were used as Therapy. The stories were all lessons dealing with the basic drives of human nature - love, hate, jealousy, greed, abandonment... (Ahem - ISSUES.) The old Greek plays were gut-wrenching for a reason, they were trying to make the viewer FEEL what was happening enough to laugh out loud, scream with rage, or burst into tears, experiencing a therapeutic cathartic release. This is where the word 'Catharsis' comes from: Greek Theatre.

In modern fiction, when a story's core issue is addressed we feel a release, laughter, anger or tears. If the story does not wrap up the core 'issue', negatively or positively, we feel instinctively cheated because that sense of relief or release is Missing.

In Conclusion...
-- Don't cheat your readers! Make sure to give your story plenty of conflict by giving your characters ISSUES to solve -- a PREMISE.


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 The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 10 Apr 2011 15:03

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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 10 Apr 2011 15:01

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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 10 Apr 2011 14:56

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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 10 Apr 2011 14:51

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.

Topic Borrowing PLOTS!
Posted 08 Apr 2011 19:08

Ripping Off Plots!
(A Gothic Romeo & Juliet)

Originality is Overrated
When designing a car, why stop to reinvent the wheel if someone else has already done all the research and done it better?

Why work when you don’t have to?

Why struggle trying to find a good story, and interesting characters, when the data on what people already like is right there in front of us?

When it comes to figuring out what is popular in a story, Hollywood has streamlined just about everything: plot, setting and character. A quick perusal of the top box office hits tells us point blank what stories the general public liked Best.

(of all time)

1. Gone With the Wind (1939)
2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
4. E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
5. The Ten Commandments (1956)
6. Titanic (1997)
7. Jaws (1975)
8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
9. The Exorcist (1973)
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The TOP 10 FILMS for 2010

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Despicable Me
Easy A
The Ghost Writer (UK/Germ/Fr)
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
How to Train Your Dragon

What does this list tell you?
-- In 2010, the viewers preferred Fantasies with a dark twist. Bad guys that weren't so bad, and good guys that weren't so good, endings that were more bitter-sweet than happy, and characters that made human mistakes then faced them, even if they didn't conquer them.

Why Not take advantage of all that plotting & character foot-work and write what people are already looking for only Better -- with SEX?

Ransacking & Renovation
-- Take a look at your personal DVD movie shelf. I bet there’s a whole bunch of movies that are (in your personal opinion,) that could have really used some Sex.

So, DO IT. Yank them off your movie shelf, and write them with SEX. And while you're at it, figure out the flaws in all those stories, and FIX them.

Plots that could have used one more twist.
The tragic ending that could have been happy.
Secondary characters that should have had their own story.
The Heroine the Hero should have preferred.
The Regency Romance that would have made a better Sci-Fi.
The Hero from one story that would have done better with the Heroine from another story entirely.
The TSTL* Heroine that should have been Kick-ass.

(*TSTL: Too Stupid To Live)

Once you've changed the setting, the genre, the characters’ names, appearances and their personal backgrounds… Voila! ~ Instant Brand New ORIGINAL Story!

How simple can you get?

“Wait a minute! Isn’t that STEALING?”
-----Original Message-----
I'm sorry but I think that's just wrong. Apart from copyright infringement issues it seems creatively sterile to me. I realize that every story ever told has already been written but to deliberately steal other people's ideas leaves me with a very nasty taste in my mouth.
-- Concerned about Copying

Dear Concerned,
- What is so terrible about finding a way to make what’s been proven to work, something already popular, something “Tried & True” – into something fresh?

Borrowing whole plots didn’t stop WEST SIDE STORY the Broadway play, (a direct and unashamed ‘Romeo & Juliet’ rip-off,) from being a tremendous hit, or the Broadway play CAMELOT, (a rip off of TS Elliot’s ‘Once & Future King’) or MY FAIR LADY, (a rip off of the Greek myth ‘Pygmalion’.)

Seriously, Hollywood ransacks and renovates all the time! There must be a million and one Frankenstein, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, and Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The movie "UNDERWORLD" was openly marketed as a Gothic ‘Romeo & Juliet’. STAR WARS is a carbon copy of Kurosawa’s Samurai/Ninja movie ‘The Hidden Fortress’– including the comedic antics of two highly recognizable ‘Laurel & Hardy’ characters. (For goodness sake, they’re Still in Japanese costumes!)

In case you haven’t spotted it, Walt Disney ransacks and renovates EVERYBODY, and makes a ton of cash doing it too! Just about every single Walt Disney Adventure movie, from BEAUTY & THE BEAST to THE LION KING to HERCULES to MULAN to TARZAN was ransacked from elsewhere. TREASURE PLANET is a very unashamed rewrite of ‘Treasure Island’ – and one of my favorite movies.

The Original Romance?
Romance, erotic or otherwise, has only TWO plotlines, so it's kind of hard NOT to follow in someone else’s footsteps. In fact, how can you AVOID it? Really?

The “Happily Ever After” Romance Plotline
(Used in 1001 paperbacks)

The Lovers meet -- and have Issues.
The Lovers' Issues drive them apart.
The Lovers realize that they can't live without each other. "Oh no, it's Love!"
The Lovers battle odds to get back to each other -- fixing their Issues along the way.
He's forgiven, she's forgiven, everybody's forgiven... "I love you!" -- and they shack up together.

The “Romeo & Juliet” Tragic Romance Plotline

The Lovers meet -- and have Issues.
The Lovers' Issues drive them apart.
The Lovers realize that they can't live without each other. "Oh no, it's Love!"
The Lovers battle odds to get back to each other.
He dies, she dies -- and everybody cries over the cruelty of True Love.

The trick to making the well-worn Romance plot original is to ADD another whole Plotline (pick a genre, any genre.).

Romeo & Juliet + horrific disaster from old newspapers = TITANIC
Happily Ever After + High school in the American 50’s = GREASE

To be Perfectly Clear...
I am NOT saying you should copy anyone else's work.
I am merely suggesting a way to jump-start a story by modeling it after a story that's already been proven to work, through popularity, then make extensive changes to disguise the original source.

As long as you shift genres, change the characters around a bit, and don't use any trademarked names or designations, you won't step on any copyrighted toes.

It’s not what you HAVE.
It’s what you DO with it.
When it comes to making Original Fiction, it’s NOT how unique the plot is, it’s Your VISION of that plot that makes it fresh and different!

Alice in Wonderland + CyberPunk = THE MATRIX
Treasure Island + James Bond = NATIONAL TREASURE
Robinson Caruso + Space Aliens = ET
Romeo & Juliet + the Old South = GONE WITH THE WIND

Hollywood ransacks and renovates, then mixes and matches whole plotlines all the time. Look at all those box-office smashes. What other proof do you need?


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 RANT: I want to SEE the story damn it!
Posted 07 Apr 2011 08:26
How would you write what is happening in this picture?

How would you convey the actions?
The characters?
The setting?
The mood?
(Go ahead and jot something down.)

Frustration is a BAD thing to generate in your readers. Books that frustrate (poor grammar, limp dialogue, wishy-washy action, weak description, over-blown description...etc.) are tossed against a wall. The technical term is: Wall-Bangers .

I want to SEE the Story ~ Damn it!!!

My BIGGEST Pet Peeve: Description-less Fiction.
-- I utterly loathe reading a book where everything happens in a colorless vacuum. You don't know where they are, you don't know what they're doing, you don't know what the Characters LOOK LIKE! I despise a book where I can’t SEE, or worse can see only bits of what's going on.

How the heck am I supposed to imagine the scene like a movie in my head without knowing what stuff looks like?

In far too much Erotica it's worse. The sex is detailed but the rest of the story is barely sketched out. If they’re gonna go into that much detail in the sex, they should do the same for the rest of the damned story!

For example, you get a nice juicy sex scene and some sprightly dialogue, but then you get:

She went into the kitchen and got a glass of water.

Then the dialogue starts back up again -- without bothering to even mentioning that she came out of the damned kitchen! WITHOUT a SCENE BREAK! Right in the middle of the damned paragraph without skipping a beat! Hell, it's done right in the middle of the damned dialogue!

This happened because the writer ASSUMED that reader KNOWS that she’s not in the kitchen any more. However, the truth of the matter is that the reader actually thought: "Oh wait, she's NOT in the kitchen any more...!" And then they had to GUESS how how it happened.

If you have to GUESS How the character got From position A ~ To position B,
You've been TOLD - Not SHOWN.

SHOW ME - Damn It!
By the time I got to the end of that book, I knew she had a living room, a bedroom and a kitchen, but I still didn't know if she lived in a House, a Condo, or an Apartment, and I didn't know what was in her house other than a couch in the living room and a bed in the bedroom. You KNEW from the sex scenes that the author knew how to write descriptive details, but it was like she decided to be lazy about everything else -- that describing stuff didn't matter as long as the sex was good.

Well, she was WRONG, and Damn it I felt CHEATED!

No Color = No CHARACTER!
When you were a kid, the first thing you did with a new friend is check out their bedroom.

Why? Seriously, think for a minute. Why did you want to check out the other kid's room?

To see what kinds of cool toys they had sure, but also to find out what KIND of kid you were playing with. The kinds of toys and pictures in their room told you what Kind of Kid they were.

Consider the room the kid Sid had from the movie Toy Story .

How much of Sid's character was in his bedroom?


Now, why would anyone leave such a gold-mine of character information; their HOME, their Clothes, their Stuff... out of the story?

I dunno, but it happens ALL THE DAMNED TIME.

There is way, Way too much Telling instead of Showing going on in the fiction I’m reading.
Too many stories read like a TV show with the picture too snowy to see anything clearly. Where the heck are they? What are they doing? How are they doing it? Gimme some Details! Gimme some color and textures! Some sounds! Some flavors! Some aromas!


But...! But...! But...!
"Descriptive detail, like any other element of fiction, should be present ONLY to develop character or advance plot. Too much leads to excessive wordiness, which in turn kills the pacing. It's not necessary to include details the reader can be expected to assume because they are normal life events. So, someone going to the kitchen to get a glass of water would be expected to return when she was finished, and that information isn't necessary. If the next part is dialogue between hero and heroine, her return is simply accepted." -- A well-meaning and very nice editor.

-- If she went to the kitchen in the fist place, it SHOULD be forwarding the plot. If getting that glass of water isn't an element of either "what has happened", "what is happening" or "what will happen" she should have never gone into the kitchen. BUT~! If that glass of water is important, so is her trip to the kitchen to get it. Therefore it should be SHOWN instead of TOLD.

ANYTHING that isn’t necessary to tell the story DOESN'T BELONG in the story!
If it CAN be pulled out - it SHOULD be pulled out.

If it's Important enough to be Mentioned, it's Important enough to be DETAILED.


"A picture is worth a thousand words."
-- Unless you are writing kiddie books, you don't get a picture, you get Words to illustrate your story. USE those Freaking Words! You don't need the whole thousand words to give me the picture, but SOME would be nice. Damn it!

If you want to write Fiction with clarity, VISUALIZE what is happening in your head. Play the scene out in your imagination and view it, just like a movie. If it shows up in your mind's eye, it belongs on the page. Okay? :)

Descriptive ASSUMPTIONS.
Normally, description-less fiction is Not what the writer intended. Usually it's a case of Oversight -- an Assumption. The writer saw the scene in their head and jotted down a few cues that would trigger the picture that they envisioned and ASSUMED everyone else reading those phrases would see what they saw.

Guess what? They DIDN'T.

The Reader always sees what THEY want to see unless you force them to see something else.

"They fucked, and it was glorious."

I can guarantee that no two readers (or writers) saw what I envisioned when I wrote those words.

The Writer's job is to SHOW the fucking and Convince the reader that it was glorious without actually Telling them. You have to Seduce the reader into getting all hot and bothered, so they come out of the book thinking; "Wow that turned me on so much... It must have been glorious!"

You DON'T need blocks of descriptive text to get your point across, but the reader CANNOT see what the writer is trying to show them -- pictures or feelings -- without descriptive cues, preferably Sneaky descriptive cues.

No one likes to be pummeled. We prefer to be, enticed, tempted, and seduced -- not assaulted. A handful of well-placed descriptive words sprinkled here and there, really enriches an otherwise blank blue-screen imagination, without beating the reader over the head.

So HOW do you do just that? Go here: Tricks for Writing DESCRIPTION Read that.

-- You read the linked essay right? Good! Now how would you describe that picture at the top of the page? Can you make me FEEL the Passion?

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 The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 06 Apr 2011 02:59

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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 05 Apr 2011 00:53

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)

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 04 Apr 2011 21:39

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. :)

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 04 Apr 2011 21:38

...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.

Topic The Subtle (and Annoying) STATIC TRAIT
Posted 04 Apr 2011 06:27

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)


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 Details: Less can be MORE
Posted 04 Apr 2011 04:05

Agreed with both of you. Too much detail becomes tedious, and it muddies all the IMPORTANT details. Assuming it doesn't put your reader into a coma first...

No details at all can be just as bad. It's like I'm listening to a radio show -- without the background music or sound effects.

Topic Details: Less can be MORE
Posted 04 Apr 2011 03:20

...His attention to detail, overly so a lot of the time, makes it too difficult for me to enjoy the story. You're constantly stopping to try and create the image he's painting, rather than naturally creating your own.

Tolkien could be the same way. I swear, he described so much and in such detail that sometimes his stories were more like travelogues.

Topic Details: Less can be MORE
Posted 02 Apr 2011 08:50

Me too. But you can stop dragging me around by my hair if you want to. You don't HAVE to. I'm just sayin'. If your hand's getting tired or somethin'. It's all good if you want to keep doing it too...

Bu your hair is so pretty and soft...!
-- Fine, I'll find another body part to grab onto.

Topic Keeping Count ~ Tricks for Controlling Word Count
Posted 02 Apr 2011 08:46

Word Count - My biggest Nightmare.
It’s much easier for me to go long than it is short. Once I started writing full length novels, it became pathetically easy to run too long.

In the past two years, the shortest story I've been able to write was just short of 4000 words. (I was aiming for 2000.) 3 stories I originally planned for 20k (20,000 words) - went to 40k, (40 thousand words.) I have the detailed outlines for 3 more that were originally supposed to be 40k. According to my outline, all three of these want to be full length 100k novels. Sigh...

Avoid Whack-Jobs ~ Write Fresh!
I'm known for my water-tight plotting. My background is in writing Advertising Copy, so I tend to write very, very spare. Once a story is completed I CAN'T cut. There's nothing TO cut. No extra nothing. Every single thing in my stories has a reason to be there.

I'm lucky. If the word count doesn't come out exactly right my Publishers will normally take the story anyway. In most cases they ask me to ADD scenes. (I have yet to be asked to delete a scene.)

But ~! If I'm writing for an anthology, I'm dealing with a hard-limit. The story HAS to be the correct length or it won't fit. If I get it Wrong? I'll write a whole new story rather than attempt a rewrite.

It is always better to have TWO sellable stories
~ than One carved down beyond recognition.
If your plot is tight -- everything is absolutely necessary to make that story happen, DON'T waste your time cutting! Writing a whole new story is actually faster, and far less stressful. This way you have two stories for sale instead of one badly mangled tale.

Deadline = No Time to Waste on the WRONG Story!
When I am on deadline and I am dealing with a hard word-count, I don't have time to waste on false starts so I do a detailed plot outline before I write. (Actually I do a detailed plot outline for everything I write. I'm what you call a Plot-Whore. *Grin.*)

Novella Plot
20,000 to 60,000 words
One Event that changes the Characters' lives
8 major movements:
0 – Overture - Alarm
1 - Introduction - Denial*

2 - Rising Action - Anger*
3 - Climax / Reversal - Bargaining*

4 - Falling Action - Despair*
5 - Crash - Sacrifice*

6 - Confrontation - Acceptance*
0 - Denouement - Resolution
16 chapters at 3.75k words each = 60k
8 chapters at 3k words each = 24k

3 Main characters: Hero / Heroine / Villain
(Proponent / Obstacle Character** / Adversary)
Only 1 or 2 POV characters - 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited

* Note: Character Arc: Denial - Anger - Despair - Bargaining (Sacrifice) – Acceptance: the Stages of Grief.

** Note: The Obstacle Character is the Nay-sayer that possesses the opposing opinion. In a 3-character plot, the Viewpoint Character tends to play opposition for both the Adversary and the Proponent.

For the HARD CANDY anthology, I had a hard limit - 20 to 30k.
-- By outlining my ideas, I discovered that 3 of my story concepts needed too high a word count. All three novel-sized ideas went into my Unfinished Projects folder, this way I didn't waste all my deadline time writing something I couldn't use.

When I finally put together a story that had all the necessary criteria for the anthology, I still had a story that was double the length of the other stories by the other two authors. I contacted the publisher and told her what I had. I was lucky. Both of the other contributing authors ran short - exactly 20k, so there was room for my 40k monster.

Why did my anthology story run to 40k?

The publisher wanted a ménage, three sexually involved main characters, in a cross-genre of sci-fi / fantasy. This was for an Erotic Romance publisher so a “Happily Ever After” was essential - the ménage set had to become a 3-way relationship.

Both sci-fi and fantasy take a lot of detailing to do right. (You can't throw a fairy into a story without explaining what it's doing there or how it got there, in addition to having a reason for its presence.) In order to pull off a logically sound sci-fi / fantasy mix, I used paranormal elements as the fantasy element.

The complications of the mixed genre forced me to add an antagonist, a villain to have a USE for those paranormal elements. I ended up with a total cast of 5 main characters: a cyborg, a telepath, a fortuneteller and a man haunted by a ghost - the ghost being character #5, all running around on a space station.

Then there was the sex.

In order to cut the encounters to as few as logically possible, I started the story with two of the ménage characters already sexually involved, and then I added my viewpoint character.

That meant that I needed a minimum of 3 encounters. One where the viewpoint character became sexually involved with one of the established couple ASAP, then a ménage scene to show the beginnings of their 3-way relationship, and finally another ménage at the end after all the story problems were solved, to show them as a viable 3-way relationship and deliver on a happy ending.

The final count for the Sci-Fi / paranormal story FORTUNE'S STAR came to just above 44k.

From the editor at Loose Id, on FORTUNE'S STAR :
"Excellent work. I was almost hoping I would find some extraneous stuff to cut, to make it shorter, but I found that the pace moves along very well and there isn't anything that's not vital to the story. It really keeps you guessing but is not too confusing."

Tricks I use to Limit word count:
- Limit the CAST to Only the absolute Essentials to tell the story.
- The closer to the main event - the shorter the story.
- Simplify the genre. Contemporary stories take far less descriptive detailing than Sci-Fi or Fantasies.

- Story Under 10K - You only need 2 characters - the two people having sex. Start the story with them already getting nekkid.
- Story Over 20k - This calls for a Problem, (a plot twist,) to come between the main characters.
- Story Over 40k - This calls for an actual Antagonist, a villain, in addition to a problem to solve -before the main characters can have their "Happily Ever After".

Expanding Word Count is Easy.
- add characters
- add problems
- use a genre that takes a lot of detail
- cross genres

In Conclusion...
- If you are dealing with a hard word-count limit, and a deadline, outlining the entire plot to your story, before you write it, will save you time and grief.

For those of you interested, Fortune's Star can be found here .

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 Details: Less can be MORE
Posted 02 Apr 2011 06:25

...Of course environmental and sensory details are important. I'm not saying they aren't. Quite the contrary, actually: They're so important that they should be used sparingly and judiciously so that each one registers in the reader's mind. ... Less is more. Much more.

...Make every detail count. If you're describing someone's living room, give me a reason to care how the furniture is arranged, whether or not it matches, and what knicknacks are on the mantle. For the love of God, if you're going to spend a page and a half telling me about a chair, you'd better be subtly telling me about something besides the damned chair.

Less is more. Subtlety has more impact. Don't insult your reader's intelligence.

Excellent Advice!
-- I'm so glad I dragged you in here.