Forum posts made by morganhawke

Topic Goal - Motivation - Conflict: SIMPLIFIED
Posted 17 Mar 2011 09:01

“I am... I Need... I Desire...”
Goal, Motivation & Conflict - SIMPLIFIED

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict seems to be the BIG MYSTERY of fiction writing. Everyone says that they’re essential to good writing -- and they’re right, they are, absolutely -- but this stuff can be a little confusing.

Lets begin at the beginning…
-- What are all these things and why do stories need them?

Goal is what your character is trying to ACHIEVE.

Motivation is what makes them WANT to go after it.

Conflict is what Gets in their Way.
-- Internal conflict being ANGST or Drama.
-- External conflict being the PLOT or Events.

The Plot (Events) Arc is the stuff that happens to the characters – the plotline. There are 5 basic stages in a Plot Arc:

1 - Inciting Event
2 - Challenge
3 - Crisis/Reversal
4 - Ordeal
5 - Confrontation

The Character (Drama) Arc is the complimentary (or contrary) stage of Angst that the character goes through at each stage in the Plot Arc. This maps the emotional stages they go through when dealing with the plot. I use the "Stages of Grief" as a map for my Character Arcs:

1 - Denial
2 - Anger
3 - Despair
4 - Bargaining / Sacrifice
5 - Acceptance

Okay, now that we know what these things are...
-- I use Goal, Motivation and Conflict all the time, but a little differently than everyone else. I have discovered that for me, a better order for GMC is MCG:

MCG – instead of GMC: Motivation – Conflict – Goal
You need to know each main characters' Motivation to know what kind of Conflicts will force them to choose what Goals they are likely to chase.


Each Main Character needs a Motivation that brings on Conflicts that forces them to choose – and change – their Goals .

I find that GMC makes a whole lot more sense as MCG.

Motivation – “I Am…”
Motivation is what drives them to Do things and Want things. The drive itself comes from the character’s personal Neurosis. It’s the basic drive that makes a character WANT to do and have stuff. When under pressure, it can make the character leap in the Wrong direction.

In Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast …
-- Beauty’s motivation was BOREDOM. Smart girl in a small town. The only excitement to be had was in books. Her Neurosis was CURIOSITY. Under pressure, her curiosity would take over and either get her out of trouble or deeper into trouble.

Gaston’s motivation was SELFISHNESS. The only pretty male in a small town. Everything he tried came easy to him – and he was worshipped for it. His Neurosis was PRIDE. This made him try suicidal stunts because he was convinced that he would succeed. He always had before.

Beast’s motivation was also SELFISHNESS. Once upon a time he was pretty much as Gaston was – in fact Gaston represents everything he used to be – only the beast was richer and more powerful. When Beast bargains with Belle’s father for Belle, he is still operating under the motivation of SELFISHNESS. Pride is still his neurosis – only it has gone in reverse – he smashes mirrors and assumes that he’ll have to strong-arm Belle into staying, because no one could possibly like him as a beast. This is also a form of Pride that has developed into the “Why bother?” attitude.

Conflict – “I Need…”
Conflict is Angst. Plain and simple. Conflict is either External – something physically preventing them from accomplishing their chosen task, or Internal – they don’t WANT to accomplish their task because it hurts them emotionally.

Internal conflicts: These are the characters' emotional Achilles Heels, the essential neurotic ingredients to making it really hard for your character to defeat the bad-guy and survive the climax – because they have to fight THEMSELVES first! However, try to avoid tossing in too much angst. No reader can handle whiney characters.

> A Physical Dependence: “I need…”
A vampire needs blood. A cyborg needs maintenance. In Erotica they need to get laid – sex is a PHYSICAL need. Beast needs a Female. In the beginning of the fairy tale, Beast doesn’t know that he needs love; he thinks he just needs Beauty’s presence.

> An Emotional Need: “I want…”
The desire to belong, to be loved, to be hated, to be feared, to be rich, to be famous, to be understood, to control others, to be safe, to be free, to achieve revenge, to achieve greatness, to know something...

> A Physical Restriction: “I can’t…”
A vampire is limited by holy objects and daylight. Superman is limited by Kryptonite. Dorothy is limited by being a human child. Jason is part god but limited by his mortal body. Harry Dresden is a powerful wizard whose powers short out every electrical device in range of his influence. Harry can’t watch TV, get on the internet, or have a hot shower.

> An Emotional Hang-up: “I don’t like…”
In Romances liking sex is often a big hang-up. Fear of commitment. Vampires and other monsters often fear the loss of what little humanity they have left. Neo is limited by his disbelief. Jason is afraid of failure. Selene has racial prejudices; she is a vampire but the man she loves is a werewolf.

External Conflict: Anything that happens TO the characters physically, in the course of the story.

Depending on where you are in the story, the conflict is Internal, External or BOTH. Here’s a quick plot map to show how it works:

Plot Arc stage - Character Arc stage
Act One
1-Inciting event - Denial = Emotional Conflict

Act Two
2-Challenge – Anger = Physical Conflict
3-Reversal (Crisis) – Despair = Emotional & Physical Conflict
4- Ordeal – Sacrifice = Emotional Conflict

Act Three
5- Confrontation – Acceptance = Physical Conflict
Once you know their personal Conflicts, what has them tied up in knots mentally and physically, you can tell what Goals they are likely to choose and adjust the plot events accordingly to make their situation -- and angst -- WORSE. Sound like fun?

Goal – “I Want…”
What your character thinks they Want, which may not be what they actually Need; save the world, save my family, escape the bad-guys, get the kingdom, marry the prince, get the Maltese Falcon, get laid...

"How do I USE this stuff?"
Motivation, Conflict and Goal rules Character Behavior ; how the Character acts in reaction to the Plot. It doesn't affect the Plot itself, the stuff that happens to the character.

I think the confusion is coming from the fact that everything I read about Goal, Motivation and Conflict states that you’re supposed to have them in “Every Scene”.

A scene is a sequence of actions that lead to a story's turning point or a conclusion by one of the characters. A scene is not limited to a single chapter. Scenes can be any length from really long; love-scenes and fight scenes frequently take several chapters to conclude, to really short; one paragraph. It all depends on the author's love of detail.

Depending on what you are writing, you don't always have ROOM for a Motivation, a Conflict, and a Goal for every single scene. I usually only have room in each scene for a Conflict because my Goals and Motivations tend to span a whole story stage. I only need to illustrate all three MCG's at the key turning points – Story Stages - and I write 100k novels!

I’m of the opinion that “Every Scene” is a misinterpretation. Change the word SCENE to the phrase STORY STAGE and suddenly the whole thing makes a lot more sense.

Motivation – Conflict – Goal & Character !
A Motivation that brings on Conflicts forcing them to choose and change their Goals should drive ALL THREE of your MAIN CHARACTERS: Antagonist, Protagonist and Obstacle Character . In Erotica it's Lover, Beloved , and Interference . The rest of your cast can go hang, but your Three Main Characters all need a Motivation, a Goal and a Conflict to function in a story.

In The Matrix – Neo, curious by nature, and Motivated by his “need to know” was brought into Conflict with Agent Smith in his desired Goal to discover the secret of the Matrix.

In Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Beast, proud by nature, and Motivated by his “need to remove his curse of ugliness,” blackmailed Belle’s father into bringing Belle back to trade places with him, putting him in direct Conflict with Belle as they both searched for their desired Goal of a cure for their loneliness.

In The Mummy – Evie, proud by nature, and Motivated by her “need to be an Egyptologist”, was in direct Conflict with what was acceptable for a woman to do, which provoked her desired Goal to find the City of the Dead.

In Conclusion...
Goal, Motivation and Conflict is not that hard to figure out once you change the order to reflect how it’s actually used: Motivation – Conflict – Goal .


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 Writing Emotions VISUALLY
Posted 17 Mar 2011 08:44

If anyone is looking for a resource to help with visually conveying emotions, there is a clever little "emotion thesaurus" on "The Book Shelf Muse" on Blogspot, which matches up body language and behaviour to emotions and thoughts.

I made a Non-Verbal Thesaurus for my own use a few years ago.I posted it here so you guys can use it too. It has Pictures! -->

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 17 Mar 2011 08:16

"I suck for no apparent reason..."
Those are evil. They are the main reason for my Ego Band-Aids. I've been told it's stupid to have it now that I have a writing career, but honestly? I think I need it more now than I did as a beginner. lol

It's not stupid at all. I swear that my ego has developed major fractures since I became semi-popular. I worry a lot more than I did when I was just tossing stuff up at whim.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 17 Mar 2011 08:13

What? What? It's not my fault!! She DRAGGED me in here. By my EAR! I swear it!!

Lori, while I freely admit to dragging you in here (not that it took that much effort,) but might I remind you that I am Short? My hands can't reach your ears. They only go as as high as your nipples. :)

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 17 Mar 2011 08:08

And as far as warning me about you? Darling, most people need to be warned about ME. I mean, look who I hang out with. *points at Morgan*

Lori has a point, Sprite dear. Really . L16

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 21:19

Mmm... Leather...

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 16 Mar 2011 20:51

YES. They're awful. I know some people get them as a result of negative reviews, rejections, etc., and once in a while I do, but usually it's just a moment of "No, really, I suck" for no apparent reason. The Band-aids help. :D

I get the 'I suck for no apparent reason' ones myself. Those are frikken hard to deal with.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 20:03

There's a topic?

There's supposed to be. Oh well...!

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 16 Mar 2011 20:02

They're quite nice!! I mean, it sounds kinda silly, but they REALLY are nice to have around on those "OMG I suck" days.

I get those too, and they're crushing. They can freeze all my work up really bad. It's frustrating.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:58


Yay! (Topic? What topic?)

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:40

Coming from you, that's an awesome compliment, and I am currently pasting it into my Ego Band-aids file. WHAT? I know, I'm

It wasn't a compliment. It was the Truth.

Ego Band-aids file...? Oooo... I need one of those too!

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:38

Yep. Service with a Smirk, that's you.

I'm adding that to my signature...

You really ought to!

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:19

*rubs hands together and giggles maniacally*

Yep. Service with a Smirk, that's you.

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:18

Ahh, good point. Triple-duty sex...I like that. :D
You're a damned fine writer. OF COURSE the sex in your erotic stories is going to have more than one function. You're nothing of not Thorough.

Again, Sex isn't merely the Goal but the Cause behind everything that happens in your story.
Kinda sounds like life in general...*snerk*

The kind of life "I" enjoy, definitely.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:14

I was, shall we say, instigating. Not nasty, not vicious, but definitely stirring the pot to get a rise out of people. So yes, I richly deserved the ban. And yes, I found the entire thing insanely amusing. I'm shameless...

You just named all the reasons for why I love you, and brought you in here. :)

Topic Say something nice about the profile of the person above you
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:07

Lori writes some hot, hot, hot shit! I love it.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:05

I haven't gotten myself banned from anywhere yet, so I should be okay. Well, there was that ONE time, but I richly deserved it. :D

That must have taken quite a bit of effort on your part. I just can't see you being nasty without a damned good reason.

Topic Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 16 Mar 2011 19:03

Agreed, agreed, 1,000 times agreed. I rather like the approach of making sex necessary to reach the goal. One of my own books is pretty much a non-stop sex-fest. If I recall correctly, it's something like 4 sex scenes for every 1 non-sex scene. But every scene is necessary for the main character to reach the other end of her character arc, which is getting from "sexually-frustrated with no clue how to change it" to "confident enough to know what she wants and get what she wants." Each sex scene is a step away from her shy, naive self and toward her bolder, more confident self. There was simply no other way to show that journey.

In this one, sex is not only the Goal but the Cause, the Reason why the story happened. BECAUSE she didn't have the confidence to get the SEX she wanted, she embarked on a journey that Also helped her grow as a person. So, in this case, Sex did Triple-duty in your story.

Similarly, I have another book in which sex scenes (progressively more intense kink scenes, specifically) are used to help a woman past previous trauma. She's a rape survivor who wants to reclaim her sexuality from the traumatic past experience, and in her situation, having a trusted male friend ease her back into sex is the way to go.

Again, Sex isn't merely the Goal but the Cause behind everything that happens in your story.

So...yeah. Sex as a means to reach a goal works.


Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 18:47

LOL! Well, there are differing degrees of behaving badly, so... hehehehe

I'll try not to get myself banned, how about that?

Fine, fine... But truthfully, I don't think you're rude enough for that.

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 18:17

Awww. :) Thanks for inviting me in. And I promise I'll behave. Sort of. Sometimes. Enough to keep me from getting kicked off. Much.

Darlin', if you behave then the point of having you here would be lost. :)

Posted 16 Mar 2011 16:55

Lori & Morgan~~ Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm always up for a challenge, I don't mind having to fit my writings to someone else right now. The advice is very helpful. Thanks!!!

My pleasure!
-- I love being helpful. (It makes me feel all warm and squooshy inside.)

Topic Advanced Plotting: The CHARACTER ARC
Posted 16 Mar 2011 11:29

Advanced Plotting:
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.

Understanding Plot
To make a story a cohesive whole, every single thing in it must be there for a reason. Every single character, object, location, and event must push toward the ending you have planned even if it doesn't look that way to the casual observer. In short, every scene in the story should either illustrate a characteristic attribute of a main Character or be an Event that makes your ending happen.

What the Character Arc does is map out the Emotional path your characters need to take to grow and change into the heroes and heroines your story needs to achieve your story's ending.

For the record, a Character Arc can be used all by itself as the plot-line for a story or in addition to an actual Plot Arc such as The Heroic Journey , or any of hundreds of Plot Arcs found in books and on the 'net.

My personal choice is to use a Character Arc in addition to a Plot Arc, but that's just me.

The 7 Stages of Grief :
Shock &Denial: Pain &Guilt: Anger & Bargaining: Despair & Reflection: Precipice & Choice: Reconstruction & Adjustment: Acceptance & Hope
Why Grief?
Stories are about CHANGE; about adapting and overcoming circumstancing that should take the characters down physically AND emotionally -- and that takes Angst.

In a solidly built story, both hero and villain change and develop emotionally as well as physically. Changing takes suffering. Both the hero and the villain should suffer emotionally and physically to make those personal changes happen.

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 - you need.

However, the ultimate difference between the Hero and the Villain is the Villain's failure to face his fears and make the final sacrificial emotional change. This inability to change and Mature is what allows the hero to take him down.

In short, in a battle between Maturity & Immaturity, Maturity always wins.

This isn't fiction. This is Fact. Without maturity, and the emotion of Compassion that comes with it, the human race would have wiped itself out in petty selfish squabbles ages ago. In fact, it almost did as recently as WWII.

What causes ANGST?
"A change of circumstance of any kind (a change from one state to another) produces a loss of some kind (the stage changed from) which will produce a grief reaction. The intensity of the grief reaction is a function of how the change-produced loss is perceived. If the loss is not perceived as significant, the grief reaction will be minimal or barely felt. Significant grief responses which go unresolved can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems. " - Editorial - TLC Group, Dallas Texas

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

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?

"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...

"Damn it... Why does this crap always happen to me? Sure, I had problems starting it yesterday, but I didn't think it was this bad."

"Start damn it!" Perhaps you slam your hand on the steering wheel? Then you try it again. "Damn you! Start! Start! Start! 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..."

"It won't start. Crap. If only I'd taken it to the shop when I had the chance."

"Crap, crap, crap... I need to get to work! Should I call in to work and tell them I'm not coming in, or just say I'm going to be late?"

"I need the cash too badly to skip out of work; especially now with the car. I'll call a taxi or maybe my friend and see if they can get me to work?" You pick up the cell phone and start dialing numbers.

"I'll call the mechanic from work and ask them to look at my car. Hopefully, it won't be too expensive to fix it."

STORY Stages of the Character Arc
1. Shock & Denial: "This can't be happening to me!"
An Inciting Event has happened to ruin the Protagonist's blissful ignorance. Rather than deal with it the Protagonist keep going as though it never happened: "I'm busy! Go away!"

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Ibn Fadlan is an Arab noble who is literally pulled into a Viking adventure he wants no part of.

2. Pain & Guilt: "If only I hadn't..."
The situation is no longer avoidable. It's right there staring them in the face and the Protagonist suspects that what happened is their own damned fault: even if it isn't.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Ibn knows for a fact that he'd been sent out into the far reaches of civilization because he'd fallen in love with a noble's wife. However, his own mouth is what gets him into trouble with the Vikings -- and why they decided to take him with them on their monster hunt.

3. Anger & Bargaining: "Screw You!"
The main character does everything in his power to wiggle back out of the situation by way of threats, bribes, and outright begging. This is also where the Antagonist has his best chance of strong-arming the Protagonist into getting what they want by offering a quick solution: a bargain: that the Protagonist simply cannot refuse.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Ibn has finally arrived in the far distant land and learned the language of the Vikings. It is then that he finds out exactly what sort of barbarous monsters he and his 12 companions are expected to defeat: and that they are in the thousands. To make matters worse, the king of that land is old and his son power hungry.

4. Despair & Reflection: "We're going to die."
This is where your characters realize exactly what they're up against and just how overwhelming the enemy truly is. Not only is their boat surrounded by alligators, a few more are in the boat with them disguised as friends.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Ibn and the Vikings learn that the monsters are undefeatable. The Great Hall can not be defended. There are just too many. Another solution must be found.

5. Precipice & Choice: "Give up or go down fighting?"
Quite literally trapped in a "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" situation, desperation forces the Protagonist to make a personal Sacrifice during an emotionally heavy Ordeal (often provided by the Antagonist.) This often means facing the Protagonist's main debilitating fear -- and conquering it. This success gives them the inner strength to deal with their situation.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : In the hopes of taking out the two leaders of the monster tribe, Ibn and the Vikings sneak into the Monsters' vast caves with the full knowledge that it's a suicide mission. During this sneak attack, Ibn and the Vikings face a number of their fears and conquer them.

6. Reconstruction & Adjustment: "Okay, so here's the plan..."
The Protagonist finally gives up and commits himself to what needs to be done. Home is so far away it no longer matters. The problem at hand matters.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Ibn and the Vikings have succeeded in taking out one of the leaders, but the other still survives. An attack is coming and there is nothing they can do but try to defend themselves.

7. Acceptance & Hope: "We'll make them regret messing with us!"
With nothing left to lose, they throw themselves into the fray.

In The Thirteenth Warrior : Knowing that they are vastly outnumbered, Ibn and the Vikings fully expect to die, leaving them nothing left to fear. However, there is still the chance that the final leader will show his face. If one of them can succeed in killing him, hopefully that will stop the invasion before the monsters kill every last man, woman, and child.

"Must I use Grief?"
Does my character's arc have to be so...depressing?"
In the Stages of Grief, the word "Grief" is actually misleading. The stages aren't strictly about crushing depression. They merely map the cycle of someone under emotional pressure created by conflicts; and story conflict should create emotional pressure for your characters. Never forget: Stories need Emotional conflict to be fulfilling.

However, the emotional conflict doesn't have to be Horrific! The stages can be softened.

For example:
Shock & Denial can become Indifference
- "So what?"

Pain & Guilt: Self-reproach
- "Okay, so maybe I could have...?"

Anger & Bargaining - Annoyance
- "You stay out of my way, and I'll stay out of yours. Okay?"

Despair & Reflection - Exasperation
- "How do I always get myself into these messes?"

Precipice & Choice - Aggravation
- "You know what? I don't need this crap!"

Reconstruction & Adjustment: Accommodation
-- "That's one less problem to deal with."

Acceptance & Hope - Relief
- "Oh, now I have time to do other things."

"Do these stages go in EXACTLY this order?"
Denial ALWAYS comes First. Acceptance ALWAYS goes Last. The others can be juggled around as you please. Feel free to Experiment!

"Where the heck did you find these Stages?"
Human Psychology. You can look it up on Google by typing in: stages of grief.

"Are there Other maps for Character Arcs?"
Absolutely! Any human behavior/emotion pattern can be used as a Character Arc map. "The Stages of Grief" is merely the easiest to work with and most commonly used.

In Conclusion...
Using a Character Arc is one of the best ways to enrich an otherwise dry event driven story. However, that's not the only function it serves.

Outlining a Character Arc for each of your three main characters (Hero, Ally, Villain,) is your most powerful Secret Weapon toward keeping your characters from running all over you. Knowing your Characters' emotional stage allows you to choose the events and situations that will Force your characters to make the decisions needed to make your ending happen.

After all, it's YOUR story.


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 Classic Plotting Patterns
Posted 16 Mar 2011 11:12

-----Original Message-----
"I'm writing my first erotica novel, and I've set a Daily Word-count limit to improve my writing speed, but writing a whole novel takes so long. What are some other methods to break down a novel so it isn't so overwhelming?"
-- Enthused but Overwhelmed

Dear Enthused,
-- Besides setting daily word-count goals, another method for cutting novel-writing into bite-sized chewable pieces is to write the story Scene by Scene. However, this method means planning the book out from beginning to end BEFORE you start writing, also known as: PLOTTING.

Classic Plotting Patterns

Aristotle's Plotline:
From: " Elements of a Tragedy "
1. The reversal of the protagonist's fortune is brought on by a personal flaw.
2. The eventual recognition by the protagonist of this tragic flaw
3. The resulting moral consequences of their actions.

Aristotle Translated:
1. Glorious Hero does something he really shouldn't do, and everything falls apart on him.
2. Not-so-glorious Hero scrambles to fix it, and realizes that it's his own damned fault.
3. Hero crashes and burns. (He dies, she dies, everybody dies...)

Look familiar? It should. This is where the traditional Acts: One, Two, and Three, come from. However, most modern plot-lines have a Fourth Act:

4. Burned hero fixes Himself and ends up fixing the problem in the process.

Aristotle in a Nutshell:
1. Hero Rises.
2. Hero smacks into his own Ego.
3. Hero Crashes and Burns.
4. Hero rises again - and Kicks Butt!

The Shakspearean Plotline
From Freytag's Plotting Pyramid
In 1863, Gustav Freytag, a German playwright and critic, developed a diagrammatic outline for the Three Act Tragedy in his book " Technik des Dramas ", known as Freytag's Plotting Pyramid. According to him, all of Shakespeare’s tragedies have six distinct structural elements:

1. EXPOSITION: The mood and conditions existing at the beginning of the play.
2. EXCITING FORCE: The initial incident.
3. RISING ACTION: The series of events that complicate matters.
4. CLIMAX: A crucial event where the tragic hero begins his downward spiral.
5. FALLING ACTION: Advances and declines in the various forces acting upon the main character.
6. CATASTROPHE: The consequences of the hero’s actions.

Freytag (Shakespeare) Translated:
1. EXPOSITION: Once upon a time there was a moderately Decent Guy...
2. EXCITING FORCE: Decent Guy runs into trouble, and pisses the wrong people off.
3. RISING ACTION: While trying to fix things, Decent Guy does things that are not-so decent.
4. CLIMAX: Everything totally falls apart on Decent Guy. He panics and does the one thing he really shouldn't do.
5. FALLING ACTION: Decent Guy suddenly realizes just how badly he messed things up and scrambles to fix it -- but it's too late!
6. CATASTROPHE: With a stiff upper lip, and a really long speech, he dies, she dies, everybody dies. ( Othello / Hamlet / Romeo Juliet / MacBeth ...)

Alternate Shakespearian Ending!

6. HAPPY ENDING: With a stiff upper lip, and a really long speech, he's forgiven, she's forgiven, everybody's forgiven. ( Midsummer Night's Dream / Much Ado About Nothing ...)

The Mythic plotline:
From Joseph Campbell's Mythic Cycle
(Paraphrased -- so I won't get into copyright trouble.)
This is the pattern that most Walt Disney movies follow and Star Wars uses.

Act One - Chosen
• Humble Beginnings
• Destiny Comes Knocking
• Shoved into Adventure
• Sagely Advice ~ Paramours & Sidekicks
• Leaving the Known World behind

Act Two - Challenge
• Challenges, Friends & Foes
• Dragon at the Crossroads
• Into the Labyrinth
• Temptation & Betrayal

Act Three - Crisis
• Anger ~ Despair ~ Sacrifice
• Inheritance / Blessing / Curse
• Treasure & Celebration
• Escape / Expelled from the Labyrinth

Act Four - Climax
• The Hunter becomes the Hunted
• Rescue & Loss of Paramour / Side-kick
• Dragon at the Crossroads to Home
• Death / ReBirth
• Delivery of Treasure & Just Rewards

The Fairy Tale Plotline
From 1001 unabridged Fairy Tales
Once Upon a Time:
• An impossible Oath/Promise
• Attacked /Abandoned – Lost
• Suspicious Rescue – Cornered
• Promise is partially broken
• Dangerous Revelation
• Deception / Betrayal / Debt

Into The Wilderness
• Quest / Leaving the known world behind
• Troubles & Battles
• Saves/ Saved by -- a suspicious stranger
• A dubious Gift/Revelation (Hero’s trademark)
• An Impossible Task – Refused
• Unexpected Destruction /Emotional Loss
• No choice, but Impossible Task

Evil’s Lair
• Arrival at the Stronghold
• Traps & Tests
• The Villain Enraged – Dire Consequences
• Promise Kept - scarred/marked/changed
• Impossible task completed
• Greater threat revealed

• Daring Escape / Rescue
• Pursued & Cornered
• Climactic Confrontation
• Hero uses gift (Hero’s trademark)
• Demise of Villain / Evil Land
• Celebration

Homecoming - The Unrecognized Hero
• Unfounded claims to hero’s accomplishments
• Challenge & Confrontation
• Hero uses gift (Hero’s trademark)
• Villain is exposed & punished
• Hero gains new rank/appearance
• Two possible futures: the Villain’s wealth/position, or the Hero's Heart’s desire

Looks a lot like the Mythic Structure doesn't it? It should. Fairy Tales are in fact old pagan myths that were adjusted to suit cultural changes.

Interestingly enough, only the really old tales in their original forms, (not doctored to make them suitable for children,) follow the entire pattern. ( The Goose Girl, Donkeyskin, East of the Sun-West of the Moon , the Grimms' Snow White, Jack & the Beanstalk, Vasalisa the Wise, Mother Holle, Wild Swans ...) The modern (sanitized,) tales skip whole sections.

The Romance Plotline
From 1001 paperbacks.
1. The Lovers meet -- and have Issues.
2. The Lovers' Issues drive them apart.
3. The Lovers realize that they can't live without each other. "Oh no, it's Love!"
4. The Lovers battle odds to get back to each other -- fixing their Issues along the way.
5. He's forgiven, she's forgiven, everybody's forgiven... "I love you!" -- and they shack up together.

The Erotica Plotline:
From 1001 smut magazines and smut story sites.
In Erotica the basic plot is always the same: " They NEED to have sex - and they'll do anything to have it !" However, there are many Genre Variations :

• Romantic Erotica: "I love you! Let's f*ck!"
• Glam Erotica: "One was rich, the other was famous -- they f*cked."
• Mystery Erotica: "Oh my god! Someone's been f*cked!"
• Crime Erotica: "They'll never stop me from f*cking them!"
• Suspense Erotica: "Oh no! Am I going to be f*cked?"
• Humor / Satire Erotica: "You call that f*cking?"
• Sci-Fi Erotica: "They f*cked where no one has f*cked before!"
• Horror Erotica: "Oh my God! It's f*cking me!"
• Fantasy Erotica: "They f*cked -- and it was Magic!"
• Paranormal Erotica: "What the hell am I f*cking?"
• Fetish Erotica: "Mmmm-mmm f*ck! Mmm-mmmm!" (Ball gag.)
• Literary Erotica: "They came together in a glorious explosion of glittering climax. The roses painted on the battered wallpaper of their silent room watched them in the approaching twilight, a reminder of how fragile pleasure is."

Honestly, an Erotica plot really IS that simple.
-- The easiest way to plot an Erotica Story is to decide on what you want for your climactic sex scene, then build a story and characters around it to make it VITAL for that scene to happen. You couldn't possibly write anything Other than Erotica.

In Conclusion…
The fastest way to write a story is by knowing what you want to write BEFORE you start writing. Plotting is also the easiest way to keep from writing yourself into a corner or getting lost in the details.

Look at Plotting as being a Map of the route you plan to take. Once you know where you are going, getting there is just a matter of staying pointed in the right direction. This doesn't mean you can't take off-roads or stop to look at the scenery, it just means that you won't get lost while taking those scenic bypasses.


Posted 16 Mar 2011 11:09

Morgan~~ You mentioned finding out from the publisher what they want in a book, and then write to meet that desire. How does one go about doing that?
What Lori says is 100% correct, and it applies to the bigger publishers as well. Most if not all of the big New York publishers, as well as most of the international publishers have websites where they post Submission Guidelines for their individual lines. READ Them. Embrace them. Love them for the writing challenges they are and try a few out, but be prepared to shift things around if it doesn't quite suit what their lead editor is looking for.

... I hate when someone says "That's great!" or "That sucks!" That tells me nothing other than you liked it or hated it, but what about it did you like or hate. My own personal pet peeve I guess.
Have you considered writing your critique partners and/or beta readers a List of what you want them to look for? I did. --> MY Beta-Reader's Questionnaire

Topic Morgan asked me to say hello, so...
Posted 16 Mar 2011 10:54

...HELLO! Morgan invited me to join her here...

Yes, I did! Hi Lori!!!
-- Lori is one of my closest friends and fellow authors. She also has a wicked sense of humor so watch out for it! I invited Lori to help field writing questions and offer alternate viewpoints and techniques. Think in terms of a Second "professional" Opinion.

Please be kind to her.

Posted 15 Mar 2011 05:46

...makes me think, where is an editor when you actually NEED one?
Real editors don't come cheap. My guess is they tried to do it themselves instead of hiring a real one. Just goes to show "you get what you pay for".

Posted 14 Mar 2011 17:52

Ohhh dear god... I went into that link and my eyes are burning..... have never read a worse line in all my years of reading and I have read a lot!!! Absolutely agree with you Morgan, no idea what their editors were thinking!! And by the way I can understand why you would be ashamed...
Where did they get their editors? From a high school? From a coffee shop? Or did they just skip using editors at all?

...but having read some of what you have written there is no need for you to be ashamed... You are fantastic at what you do!!!! And I think someone who really loves books, which were my first love and still my greatest passion!!
Aww... That's so sweet! Yes, books were my first love and are still my primary love. This is why I refuse to write CRAP, even if they are just porn stories. 'Good enough' is Never good enough for me.

Posted 14 Mar 2011 13:53

I I don't even want to entertain that thought in my brain...though she could probably publish a collection of some of the best, or should I say "worst" examples and sell it as a humor piece. Have you ever read some of the examples cited here? Interesting stuff.

I have indeed. It makes me ASHAMED that these works were Published. What were their editors Thinking?!

Topic Writing the GOTHIC
Posted 14 Mar 2011 13:11

Writing the GOTHIC
NOT your average Horror story...

What is the difference between a Gothic tale and a Horror story? Intent . Seriously .

Both Horror stories and Gothic tales delve into the realm of emotional trauma such as revenge, abuse, and hate including if not especially, sexual trauma. However, the darkness in a Gothic tale is not expressed or defined by graphically detailed, and gruesome, violence, as it is in a Horror. Though violence can be featured in the Gothic, it is NOT the main focus of the story. The drama of Despair is the vehicle of the Gothic where a Horror story is driven by the action of violence.

In addition, unlike Horror stories which deal with the monsters that can lurk within our friends and neighbors, Gothics deal with the monsters within our selves. They are tales of the spiritual and/or psychological reality of the human psyche. They deal exclusively with the hidden self-destructive side of ourselves that we don't want to admit exists inside us.

This means that the unlike the Horror plotline which is simply a gory adventure story that follows the common Heroic Cycle plotline, the Gothic plot is far more complicated -- emotionally complicated.

The Gothic Plot
Act 1. Rise (> = “leads to…”)
1. Character is Valued/not Valued > (Pride/Shame.)
~~ Underestimated Talent (Issue)
2. Incidental Accomplishment
~~ The wrong kind of attention
3. Enter the Monster (symbol of Pride/Shame)
~~ Contamination / Gift

Act 2. CRASH
1. The Sincere Mistake
~~ Pride > Value threatened/challenged
2. CRASH > Monstrosity unveiled
~~ Wrath > Ruinous Victory
3. Departure from Society
~~ Regret > Escape / Removal

Act 3. Fall (Stages of Grief & Transformation)
1. Dangerous territory
~~ Denial > Outcast / Abandoned
2. Meeting with the true Monster
~~ Anger > Love/Hate Relationship
3. Threats & Promises
~~ Negotiation > Temptation & Persuasion
4. Surrender & Sacrifice
~~ Despair > Submission & Adaptation
5. Escape / Rescue -- Release of the Beast Within
~~ Acceptance > New core Value

Act 4. Return
1. Unfinished Business
~~ Hiding in plain sight
2. Confrontation with the Monster
~~ Deliberate Transformation > Protect / Revenge.
3. Conclusion > Willing sacrifice
~~ New Life / Heroic Death

‘ Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allen Poe, is a Classic Gothic tale. However, at first glance the story doesn’t appear to fit this pattern at all, until you realize that the point of view character, the narrator, ISN’T who this story is about. In fact, he barely affects the plot at all. The story is about Roderick Usher, the last heir to an old decrepit family mansion. The narrator is merely a witness to Usher’s final decent into madness (Acts 3 and 4).

Oddly, ‘ The Count of Monte Cristo ’ by Alexander Dumas, is also a Gothic! It follows the plot pattern perfectly and it covers the most common and devouring psychological monster of all -- revenge.

The Gothic is about TRANSFORMATION.
In the average Horror story, the main character usually gains some form of outside help and / or finds a weapon to defeat their monster. In a Gothic, the main character must transform themselves into a weapon. They must become a monster to defeat their monster, then learn to live with the aftermath of their transformation.

This is why ‘ Phantom of the Opera ’ is simply a Horror story. NONE of the characters transform . Christine Daea, the main protagonist does not change herself to deal with her monster. She gains outside help, a protector who basically does all her fighting for her.

On the other hand, the movie ‘ The Matrix ’ is very much a modern Gothic. Neo must transform himself into someone and something completely alien to his original geeky character in order to survive.

Another Gothic movie, though it appears to be a Western, is ‘ Ravenous ’. In this story, the cowardly Cavalry officer protagonist must accept full transformation into a wendigo , a Native American cannibal monster in order to have the physical strength to defeat the wendigo stalking him.

The other key difference between Horror stories and Gothic tales are the monsters. Unlike Horror monsters which are simply opponents to be defeated, each and every Gothic monster is in fact a metaphor for a spiritual or psychological issue. In most cases, the Setting is too.

Common Gothic Settings & their Meanings
1) Old Mansions / Abandoned Houses = Forgotten/Historic family issues/inheritance issues
2) Run-down / Abandoned Houses = Hidden 'current' family issues
3) Antique Shops = Curiosity (nosiness) issues
4) Modern Corporations / Old Factories = Hidden/Buried business issues
5) Modern Suburbia = Peer pressure issues

Common Monsters of the Psyche
1) Ghosts = Guilt
2) Vampires = Destructive Addictions
3) Witches = Wishes that Shouldn't come true
4) Sorcerers /Scientists = Insanity issues
5) Werewolves = Rage issues
6) Urban Faery = Rebellion
7) Man-made monsters = Personal Mistakes

The Gothic Hero / Heroine
The main character, the one telling the tale is always starts out as a fairly nice, normal, and decent person. Why is that?

Because Gothics are about how the individual deals with being transformed into their own worst nightmare. In other words, how they deal their own monstrous issues. It's all about the battle within . The climax of the Gothic isn't the battle with the monster that needs to be slain, it's when they accept their own monstrosity -- and find a way to deal with it.

The ENDING of a Gothic Tale
There are only two options when facing a dark issue of the psyche. Interestingly enough, either option can lead to Destruction or Redemption.

1) Acceptance
~ a) Empowerment
~ b) Addiction to power > Insanity
~ c) Coexistence / Balance of dual nature

2) Rejection
~ a) Search for release / escape / cure > Insanity
~ b) Search for control > Empowerment
~ c) Denial > Insanity

In Conclusion…
Gothic tales are metaphors, proverbs, and fables of goodness verses evil that describe the spiritual and psychological challenges of the human soul. They are modern-day, un-sanitized, fairy tales filled with the horrific punishments that the original fairy tales held:

• Punishment for the wicked…
• Empowerment for those trapped in darkness…
• Redemption for those who have learned to adapt to the living, breathing shadows, within themselves…

They also conclude exactly like any other fairy tale. The Brave save the day, the Foolish die, and the Guilty are Punished -- usually horribly.

"But real life isn't so neatly tied. Bad people get away with doing bad things."
-- True. Real life ISN'T so neatly tied. Bad people DO get away with bad things. That does not change the fact that Evil IS Bad and the Wicked SHOULD be punished, even if it only happens in a story.


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 Erotic vs EROTICA
Posted 14 Mar 2011 12:59

----Original Message-----
"...I don't think erotica can support an entire novel by itself, but I think it can be a very effective element in larger works.
-- N

This just begs the question: Why not ?

Why do you think Erotica Can't support an Entire Novel?
-----Original Message-----
"... The main reason that erotica can't sustain an entire novel is the same reason that action or description or any other element can't sustain an entire novel. People want some buildup, they want rising tension and denouement and resolution and all those other fancy literary things. There has to be something more than just a related series of sex scenes. The sex scenes can be strung together like pearls on a necklace, but there still has to be a thread to hold it together."
-- N

Ah, I think I understand.
-- You're saying: 'A string of sex scenes does not a novel make'. If so, then I agree.

Erotica is NOT defined by how many sex scenes a story has.

However, from what I can surmise, you see 'erotica' as merely "an element", something that decorates a story, and/or flavors it; rather like an exotic spice added to plain chicken soup, or frosting added to a cake.

This leads me to think that you build your stories first and then add erotic elements where they suit the storyline. Sex is the Results of your scenes, actions and character interactions. This also means that you could quite easily remove all the sex and still have a viable story.

That may make an erotic story -- but not Erotica .

"If you can remove the Erotic from your Fiction in your Erotic Fiction, and still have a viable story in another genre,
you did it WRONG." -- Edo Von Belkom
To make Erotica, the "erotic" should be the thread that holds the pearls of action, setting, and character together. Rather than being the Result of action, setting, and character, it should be the Motivation, the WHY all those actions, settings, and characters happen. In Erotica, Sex is the driving force that makes the story happen -- not something tossed in as flavoring.

Don't add Sex Scenes to the story. Add Story to make the sex scenes happen.
Sex & Plot
People talk about 'forwarding the plot' or 'intrinsic to the plot', but not a whole lot of people talk about what those actually mean.

* " Forwarding the plot " means: Motivational Force : nothing happens without this reason to push events into happening.
* " Intrinsic to the plot " means: Important Element : the story needs this to fulfill its plot.

The statue 'The Maltese Falcon' is intrinsic to that story's plot. It is absolutely necessary to fulfill that story, but it's not what makes the plot happen. You could pull out that statue and replace it with just about any other object and the story wouldn't even flinch. (The interchangeable object is commonly known as a macguffin.)

However, the pursuit of this object is what forwards the plot -- not the object itself.

An element ' Intrinsic to the plot' can be REPLACED.
Something that ' Forwards the Plot' can NOT .
This is why I say: A story with sex in it is Erotic -- but not Erotica.

It's not just Sex. It's what the Sex Does .
If you can take out your sex scenes and replace them with another action, such as a single kiss or even an act of violence - it's ' intrinsic to the plot', but not something that ' forwards the plot'.

For example, if we make the Maltese Falcon a Maltese Dildo and every single person in possession of said object has sex with it, the story become erotic, but it still wouldn't be Erotica.

Why not?

Because Pursuit of the object is still the motivational factor. The plot would not actually need to change. In fact, you can still leave out the sex completely with no harm to the story's plotline what-so-ever.

On the other hand, if we CHANGE the Motivational Factor to "the Pursuit of the Ultimate Sexual Experience" with this object as the key to said experience, then the plot Would change, and so would ALL of the main characters -- into nymphomaniacs.

With this one shift, SEX suddenly becomes the Reason to chase the Maltese Dildo. In addition, the main characters would have to have sex at least once to discover that the object was the key to the "ultimate sexual experience", instantly making Sex Scenes absolutely necessary for the plot to move forward -- making the story Erotica.

You can STILL swap out the Maltese Dildo with any other object your heart desires, but as long as the reason you want it remains SEX it's Erotica -- even if the sex is offstage!

In Conclusion...
Coming up with a viable reason to make sex important to a story's plot can be a tough challenge. Most stories tend to be goal -driven toward an accomplishment (save the world, save my family, escape the bad-guys...) or toward a prize, (if I do this I get the kingdom, I get the girl, I get the Maltese Falcon...)

Making sex part of a story's plot is MUCH harder. An easy way is to make sex necessary to get to their goal. However, the Best way is by making Sex the CAUSE or the RESULT of everything that happens in the story.

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.