Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Premise is NOT a CONCEPT! ~ A small Rant

The Premise is NOT a story’s Concept. (sigh)
WARNING: A small Rant ahead.

People get the definitions of Concept and Premise mixed up all the time. I think it has to do with the fact that Premise and Concept are not words that we hear (or see) until we become writers. Movie people deal with the words: Premise and Concept, all the time, but their egos are on the line so they’re painstakingly careful about not mixing the two words up.

A Concept is what the Story is ABOUT.
Movie folks are always nattering on about: High Concept. A story with a high concept means that the story’s plot can be said in one sentence using comparisons to known stories.
Most movies are High Concept. 
  • Take the movie SPEED: Die Hard on a bus.” 
  • How about UNDERWORLD? “Romeo’s a werewolf, Juliet’s a Vampire.” 
  • Let’s try INDEPENDENCE DAY: “D-day with Aliens.”
Not particularly original, I know, but...  
Movies are designed to catch the largest common denominator of bodies for their audience
As a rule, the biggest hunk of the movie-watching population is made up of TV Watchers, not Book Readers. TV Watchers are used to Simple Uncomplicated Stories. You hand them a complicated plot and they get really lost, really fast. This audience DOES NOT WANT TO THINK, they want to watch all the pretty pictures and feel good about themselves--and that’s it.

Unfortunately, High Concept DOESN’T work all that well on Book Readers. 
Book Readers are used to complicated plot-lines, so they DON'T like to have everything spelled out and handed to them. Book Readers find simplistic plots BORING. (We LIKE thinking.) They want to live the adventure and figure things out for themselves.

This is why Mysteries are so Popular among readers, but don't do nearly as well in the movies. However, Suspense is a High-Action Mystery, so they do just fine in the movies. The light mystery keeps the thinkers interested, and the Action satisfies all the TV-Watchers that just want to see things blown up.

Don’t believe me about the TV-Watching audience wanting the simplistic?

Talk to a pack of your friends about what they thought of The MATRIX
The MATRIX was a gamble. It had some pretty damned deep messages in it – but then it had cool fight scenes too. Those of your friends that thought it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen – GOT the message. Those that shrug and mention the cool graphics DIDN’T get the deeper messages, and probably don’t read for pleasure!

The deeper message in The Matrix is what made it so satisfying for those of us that THINK. 
That deeper message was the PREMISE; what The Matrix was trying to say
 -- “Question REALITY”.

The CONCEPT of The Matrix was how they planned to Explain that Message
 -- "What if we were all living in computer generated reality?"

The Premise is what the story 
is Trying to SAY.
The Concept is what the story is ABOUT.
Get it?
Understanding Theme and Premise: by Susan J. Letham

Morgan Hawke


Thursday, December 16, 2004


From TRUST to Intimacy
People talk about how hard it is to write Sex. Romance, is actually far more difficult. Sex is simply a squence of ACTIONS: "He did this, she reacted, and then did this in return...etc.” Romance, on the other hand, is a psychologically based sequence of actions for gaining Trust.
On TRUST and the Alpha Hero ~ in ROMANCE
By Angela Knight

In a romance, a great deal of the conflict revolves around trust issues.
  • Can I trust this person not to hurt me?
  • Can I trust him with the most delicate parts of myself; emotionally and sexually?
  • Can I trust him to love me?”
So for reasons of the greatest drama, in romance we want a guy who is manifestly NOT trustworthy; a womanizing alpha male, a vampire, a werewolf. Because when the heroine trusts this guy anyway, the risk is that much greater, and the stakes she’s playing for are that much higher.

That’s why you see so many arrogant alpha male heroes – because they come with built-in conflicts. And that’s why in the 80s, the heroes were so often outright rapists and abusers; they were not trustworthy, in any way, shape, or form. They had to learn to become trustworthy to make themselves worthy of the heroine.

Paradoxically, in today’s romances we want heroes who really are heroes from page one. The heroine may doubt whether this guy is trustworthy, and he may seem NOT to be (because he’s a vampire, a werewolf, or an alpha male asshole) — but the writer must reassure the reader right up front that the guy IS a hero, and he can be trusted.

Because otherwise, the heroine is an IDIOT for trusting him, and the reader is not going to want to get into the skin of an idiot.

Posted with Permission
Someone skilled in the Arts of Romance
is NOT necessarily demonstrating Love!

A manipulation technique designed to make someone receptive to Sex.
The motive behind Romance is LUST.
When someone's happiness means more than your own.
The motive behind Love is AFFECTION.

To many people, Romance means 'showing love'. That's not true. You show love by protecting the ones you care for with the intent to ensure their lasting happiness. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're nice to them.

Romance is about being nice to the point that they'll let you have sex with them.

Make sure you SHOW the difference!

The Ritual of: "May I...?"
So, how do we make it known that a hero is Trustworthy without STATING it? We use BODY LANGUAGE. We SHOW, through the use of the psychological cues of actual Romance.

Basically, we apply the same Dating rules that we follow in real life – how we know when a guy is actually worth trusting enough to kiss -- to our fiction.

Romance is a ritual dance of Query / Answer on the path toward Intimacy. An interested party makes a Query, they hold out their hand. If the other party grasps that hand voluntarily, then they have Answered in the positive and the next Query, the next step toward Intimacy may be presented. Each positive answer received implies that a request for more intimate contact may also be accepted.

Defining the Twelve Stages of Intimacy
(Derived from a presentation by Linda Howard)

1. Eye to body. "What have we here?"
He sees her, she sees him. If she turns toward him, in even a small amount, that is his cue that he may approach.

2. Eye to Eye. "I find you interesting."
He looks at her. She looks at him. If she smiles, this is his cue that he may speak to her and introduce himself. If he stares too long without speaking, he implies that she is an object being assessed for use. If she perceives this she may turn away to deny continuing contact.

3. Voice to Voice. "I'd like to know you."
He introduces himself. If she responds with a smile and friendly conversation, then he is well on his way to closer contact.

4. Hand to Hand. "I like you."
First contact. He holds out his hand. If she accepts his hand and smiles, she has given permission to take the next step.

5. Arm to Shoulder. "May I touch you?"
First Body to Body contact. He sits or stands next to her. If she stays close, he may proceed to put his arm around her shoulders. If she moves away, then he must go back to Stage 3 to establish trust.

6. Arm to Waist. "May I have you?"
Placing his arm around her waist is a potent and very important step. All contact beyond this point is Sexual in nature. Arm to waist contact is also a territorial signal to others that this person is Taken. It is at this point that she decides if she wants to be intimate with him – but she does NOT let him know this.

7. Mouth to Mouth. "This is how I intend to treat you."
The kiss. First sexual contact. How someone kisses implies how they intend to make love. It is not unusual for a Heroine to flee after a kiss that is too controlling or possessive. If this happens, he will need to retreat all the way back to Stage 3 to rebuild trust.

8. Hand to Head. "Will you trust me?"
He touches her hair, her face, her mouth with his fingers. If she allows this, she is giving her ultimate trust. Grasping the hair and/or the face gives the holder complete control. If he has a tight enough hold, she will not be able to escape without a fight and possibly harm. By allowing this contact, she gives permission to allow all other hand contact with her body.

9. Hand to Torso. "I want more..."
Heavy petting normally begins with the clothing still on. The intent is to excite her into voluntarily opening her clothes and exposing her skin for more intimate contact. If he starts at the top of her body, head, neck, shoulder, breast, stomach…etc. stroking her as one would a pet, then he shows an acceptable level of affection. If he immediately digs under her clothes to grab her, BEFORE full intimacy has been established, she will assume he sees her as an object he intends to use and throw away.

This is the point where most rapes begin, so females tend to be hyper-aware of their partner's actions during this stage. If she is not 100% comfortable with his actions, she will immediately withdraw. If he reacts with anger, she'll assume that she is in danger and seek to escape using any means possible, after which she will refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he is dangerous.

10. Mouth to Torso. "I hunger for you."
He kisses her throat, her shoulder, and any other exposed skin. Acceptance of mouth to skin contact implies extreme trust. The mouth is the most dangerous part of the body; it contains the teeth. This is where all remaining clothing is removed and full skin to skin contact begins.

She must be the first to open her clothing to him before any further contact can be made. If he takes the initiative and removes his clothes without her first having opened something to him, then he implies that he is not interested in her readiness, he is there for his pleasure, not hers. If she perceives this, she will immediately withdraw and possibly refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he an extremely selfish lover.

11. Hand to Genitals. "Are you ready for me?"
His hands explore her intimately. His explorations are to insure that she is ready for full sexual possession. (Are her nipples hard? Is she wet?) If she is not ready, he will use his hands and mouth to stir her passions, insuring that she is eager to welcome him and will enjoy what they are about to share.

Taking someone when they are not ready is not only painful, it destroys all trust. Should this happen, she will immediately seek to escape using any means possible, after which she will refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he an extremely poor lover.

12. Genitals to Genitals. "You are mine."
Full sexual contact implies ownership on a primal level. Once full sexual contact is gained, both partners assume that they may have it again at any time. Making Love implies a relationship. Having Sex implies a diversion, a form of entertainment on the level of a video game. With this one act, she knows for certain if he sees her as a potential life partner, or merely a form of entertainment to be tossed away when a new game comes along.

the Sexual Act is a metaphor for 
a Relationship’s Emotional Progress.
Good Sex Does NOT equal Trustworthy.

These stages are based on the actual rules of courtship, but these stages are meant for fiction. In the real world, someone that cares whether or not the female reaches climax is NO GUARANTEE that he cares beyond ensuring that she will allow sex a second time.

Real Life doesn’t make sense – Fiction Must.

A Note on Female Costume & Intimacy

The skin exposed, while fully dressed, advertises exactly how fast one is willing to proceed from Skin Contact to Sex.

A female in a low-cut but full-skirted gown states that she will allow some kissing contact (stage 8) but sex must still be negotiated.

A female in a floor length gown that exposes her entire back to the hips is stating that the man who gains permission to put his arm around her, (stage 6) will be allowed sex.

A female wearing very little, short skirt or skin-tight pants, a short top that exposes belly and/or back...etc., is advertising that she will allow sex to the man that gains hand contact, (stage 4).

A female in a skin-tight body suit is perceived as nude, even if the suit covers her from ankle to throat, as there is no impediment to immediate intimate contact. Sustained eye contact (stage 2) is considered a direct invitation to sex.

Color choice is also a factor in readiness for Sexual Contact. Light colors and pastels signal innocence. Bright colors and colorful prints signal playfulness. Dark jewel tones and satin, signal interest but caution. Animal prints, leather, dark velvets, and fur are a sign of sexual aggression.

The Ritual of Male & Female

The stages of Intimacy are fluid. Steps can be rushed, one right after the other, and some may even be skipped. However, skipped steps imply a lack of respect. Skipped steps can also imply a need to Control. These warning signs may not be understood consciously, but be rest assured, subconsciously the other party is well aware of what's going on.

She meets a suitable young man. They are introduced and he immediately goes to hug her without bothering to offer his hand or speak with her personally. She may not feel that she has a reason to turn him down and so may allow the full-frontal contact. After that, she will refuse to be alone with him; in fact she may avoid him altogether, likely for the rest of the night. She may not even realize she's avoiding him, but she will avoid him none the less.

Why? Because whether she is aware of it or not, his rush into close physical contact removed all trust.

If the young man is wise, he will find her, hold out his hand and begin again, all the way back to a full reintroduction, preferably with an apology inserted somewhere.

If he does not, she will continue to avoid him. She will continue to feel uncomfortable, unsafe and 'pressured' by him. She will continue to feel that because she allowed 'full frontal contact' he will expect the Next Step in the Dance of Intimacy: a Kiss.

Respect is a Two-Way street.

When a female decides to break the order and jump steps with a potential partner, this tells him that he does NOT have to respect her personal boundaries because she has violated His.

A female that spontaneously kisses a man on the mouth when she does not already know him intimately shows an extreme lack of respect toward him. She is in effect, treating him like an object to be used. This gives him permission to use her any way he cares to, even to the point of taking her right there because her lack of respect for him has removed the need for him to treat her with respect.

In Conclusion…

The steps in the Ritual of Intimacy allow potential lovers the chance to demonstrate respect for each others' personal boundaries and encourage Trust to build between them.

Without TRUST between both parties
 - Love cannot happen.
Without TRUST between both parties
 - Love SHOULD NOT happen.

Morgan Hawke

All you need to Know to write EROTIC ROMANCE

The Main Ingredients for an Erotic Romance

To create any story, you need interesting characters, things that Happen to those characters and a logical conclusion. Erotic Romance is no different, however, Erotic Romance has some special needs, one of them being graphically detailed and action-packed Sex and the other ~ ADVENTURE!

The Characters
The Heroine must be able to stand toe to toe with the hero and the Hero must be written in such a way as to have the readers fall in love with him. The Villain must actually be Villainous. A weak Villain makes for a weak plot. Realistic behavior and dialogue are the keys to strong characters.

The Plot
Something happens to fling the Hero and Heroine together. While dealing with the unusual circumstances, they fall violently in lust. Shortly before the main climax, they both realize that it's not just lust, its love. During a life or death climactic scene they admit their love. They finish out the story by straightening out all the rest of the story’s loose ends and close the book in one hell of a final sex scene that cements their relationship.

Happily Ever After
To make a Happily Ever After the Hero and the Heroine end up In Love and Together. How difficult is that?

The Genres of Erotic Romance
Simply put: ALL OF THEM. Every single genre you can think of can be turned into an Erotic Romance. Isn’t that cool?

Sounds simple, even easy, doesn’t it? Well, there’s just one little hitch…

Erotic Romance is NOT True Romance
Nor is it True Erotica
True genre Romance stories are driven by the DRAMA of Love and Angst; they’re read for their EMOTION. Because of this, most genre Romances don't bother with a whole lot of detailed action. What they have is detailed Emotional Drama – and the Emotional Drama in a Romance is Very detailed.

Erotica is driven by its sexual action. Drama is non-existent, because the ACT of sex is the centerpiece of the story.

Erotic Romance is a whole different story – literally.

Erotic Romances are read mainly for their Sexual ACTION, but Drama is not the other side of this coin.

Erotic Romances are Not just Sexual Action stories--like the average trashy men’s magazine. Nor are they Romances with added Sex. Trust me, the romance authors adding sex to their stories are discovering this the Hard way -- and the Publishers along with them.
In Erotic Romance the Sex STILL forwards the Plot, as it does in Erotica, but the sex scenes are true LOVE scenes. Physical Love is used to SHOW the progress of the Romance happening WITHIN another whole Adventure story.

Yes, I said ADVENTURE Story.

Erotic Romances are honest, and for true, ADULT Action-Adventure stories!

The reason for the addition of Action-Adventure, is that Sexual Action needs other types of Action to balance the story out, or the Reader skips everything in between "to get to the good parts". The Emotions of love and angst have to be there, or the story is not a Romance, but the Drama is not nearly as detailed as in a common ordinary Romance, because Drama bogs down Action.

And so Women’s Adult Action-Adventure Fiction was born – cleverly disguised as: the Erotic Romance.
The Heart and Soul of the Erotic Romance! 

Think of every cool adventure story in ANY GENRE you ever read, or saw in the movies that could have been spiced up with a bit of romantic hanky-panky.

Erotic Romance adds that hanky-panky in!

What If ~ We change a few names and details…?
    • In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Watson was in fact a woman dressing as a man, and Dr. Moriarity was rather cute (instead of old and wrinkly,) and had a kinky streak a mile wide?
    • In Frankenstein – Dr. Frankenstein lived in the distant future and was Female, and was trying to make a date for the upcoming Doctors’ Dinner?
    • In Dracula – The person knocking on the Count’s door wasn’t a man during the Victorian era but was instead a modern-day intrepid Lady Treasure Hunter?
    • In The Phantom of the Opera – The Phantom was seduced by an experience courtesan, before a certain seventeen-year-old singer could break his heart?
    • In Flash Gordon - Oh come on, you just KNOW Ming the Merciless was Kinky!
    • In any Western – Desperados and saloon girls, or better yet: School Marms!

      What favorite Movie or Adventure story would You like to see rewritten as: Women’s Adult Adventure Fiction?

      Erotic Romance
      Not just a story with Sex in it.

      Erotic Romance is more than one sex scene after another. Each event should signal and then trigger another event. If you intend to write something more than simple stroke fiction, (like Men’s Magazine fiction, stories that get people off and that's it,) you have to have a REASON for that Sex to be there - In Addition to titillation.

      Memorize this: 
      In any form of Erotic Fiction the SEX has to forward the plot, and to forward the plot you need Dramatic Tension. If all the dramatic tension comes from somewhere OTHER than the sex, then the sex isn’t necessary to tell the story. If the sex isn’t necessary to tell the story, it doesn’t belong in the story.

      In Erotic Romance, SEX is just as Important as the Romance and Adventure, and MUST Drive the Plot. Seriously. Erotic Romance is a Cross-Genre of Erotica and Romance in an Adventure plot. The Sex, the Romance AND the ADVENTURE Plot must all have Equal Importance to BE a true Erotic Romance.

      If the Sex and/or the Adventure are not as important as the Relationship in the story, then you have a Romance that is Erotic, but NOT an Erotic Romance.

      If the Sex or the Relationship or the Adventure can be removed without harming the actions of the Story - the Plot - then you did it WRONG.

      First Law of Fiction: 
      If you can tell the Story without it
      then it SHOULDN'T be in the Story.

      Adding Sex to an existing story 
      is a BAD IDEA
      You should never put anything into a story that does not belong there - INCLUDING SEX.

      Sex should NEVER be something put in simply to make a Romance Hot. The same goes for adding Romance to a Sex Story simply to sell it to an Erotic Romance Publisher.

      Sex should NEVER be Gratuitous--something added for decoration, like sprinkles on a cake. Adding ANYTHING gratuitously (a little sex just to make it hot, a little romance, a little mystery, a little fantasy, a little Sci-Fi, a vampire...) to appeal to an audience or a publisher, is CHEATING! It's the sign of a Lazy Writer, someone who didn't bother to find a way to make everything work together.

      Doing it RIGHT

      The easiest way to generate an Erotic Romance without making the mistake of Gratuitous Sex or Romance, is to decide on what you want for your climactic sex scene where the Hero and Heroine declare their love – then build a story and characters around it to make it VITAL for that scene to happen.

      All Too Common PLOT PROBLEMS

      Plot Problem ONE
      ONE sex scene in the entire book.

      If your Erotic Romance only has one sex scene, then that story had better be under 20k (twenty-thousand words). If the story over 20k then it's not an Erotic Romance. It's a romance with an Erotic Bit.

      Having only ONE sex scene does not mean that the story isn't worth reading or even Erotic, especially if the sexual tension is there throughout. However, the bulk of the Erotic Romance buyers are looking for Sex first.

      Sexual Tension is NOT enough

      A book over 20k with only one sex scene (no matter how much sexual tension is in the rest of it) is NOT what the largest ratio of buyers in this market are Shopping for. The biggest ratio of Erotic Romance buyers are Shopping SPECIFICALLY for Sexual Adventure Stories. A story over 20k should have at least 2 sex scenes.

      There ARE exceptions; readers who prefer Story to Sex, but they do not represent the largest ratio of BUYERS. If you want to make decent sales numbers, catering to the smallest denominator of buyers is NOT the way to do it. If you want to make Big Sales you have to catch the attention of the largest ratio of buyers - and they want SEX. It's ugly, but it's the TRUTH.

      There ARE top-selling authors whose stories Do Not rely on Sex. Mary Janice Davidson writes spectacular romantic paranormal comedies and Brenna Lyons weaves epic adventures, for example, but they are VERY GOOD, and they are Very Established. If a newcomer wants to compete with them, they had better be good enough to tempt the readers who are shopping for sex-books.

      - Plot Problem TWO
      Boy Gets Girl - IS the plot.

      If boy and girl getting together IS the plot, then that story had better be under 20k. If it's over 20k then you better have a LOT of Sex to make up for it. If all you have is two people falling in love and nothing else, your story lacks MEAT. If the story is over 40k you have a Serious Problem, sex or no sex, you have NO PLOT. Sex alone does not sell to this market; they want a STORY too!

      NO PLOT = Bored Readers -- Bored Readers = NO SALES.

      In this jaded market, boy and girl STAYING Together --NOT Getting Together-- should be the plot in ADDITION to the story's actual Adventure plot-line. Technically, the sexual Romance should be a Sub-Plot with the rest of the adventure story trying to keep them apart.

      In Conclusion -

      This is a Choosy market and there are too many really talented authors that know how to weave a attention-grabbing STORY with their sexual Romance. If you expect to compete for those buyers, you had better have a Meaty Plot - in addition to lovingly detailed Sex.

      References ~
      For: The Twelve Steps to Intimacy
      Go to: Making ROMANCE 
      For: How to Write Sex Scenes
      Go to: Writing SEX - Technique & Structure 
      Morgan Hawke

      Tuesday, December 14, 2004

      Writing Erotic FLASHERS – A Primer

      Writing Erotic FLASHERS – A Primer 
      By Gary

      What exactly is a Flasher?

      A flasher is a story with an erotic element, no longer than a hundred words, excluding the title.

      It sounds deceptively simple, doesn't it? But as soon as we start to write one, we realize how difficult they are to write, but what a delightful challenge they are. But firstly, what sets apart a story from a scene?

      Story Vs. Scene
      What is a Story?

      There's plenty of room for argument there, but for me, a story conveys a feeling of completeness. It must have a beginning, middle, and an ending. A story should have at least one character working toward a goal. This goal brings him/her into conflict with your other characters, but the conflict is ultimately resolved. Every story should involve conflict and resolution.
      What is a Scene?
      A scene is a unit of action defined by time, place, and characters. When any of these elements change significantly, a new scene begins. A scene does not necessarily contain a denouement, IE the factors that bring together all the loose ends to form the story's climax.

      Here's a quick practical demonstration showing the differences between story and scene.

      1.) In an abandoned mansion, a couple discovers a secret hidey-hole. They climb into it, and make love.
       This is a scene. There's no conflict, no resolution.
      2.) In an abandoned mansion, a couple discovers a secret hidey-hole. They climb into it, and make love. After, the man discovers the door is locked; they're trapped.
      "We are trapped?" The woman smiled and vanished into thin air.

      This is a story. The conflict arises when the man realizes the door is locked. The story resolves itself by revealing that the woman is a malevolent ghost. The character's goal- the woman wishing to trap and kill the man, has been realized. The denouement is the woman walking through the locked door.

      Of course, the conflict in your story does not mean your characters have to scream at one another, hurl crockery or custard pies. The conflict is often internalized. The conflict can be the heroine's desire to experience the unknown, tempered by her naiveté, uncertainty or fear. The conflict can be a simple matter of deciding on what to wear. The conflict can be huge- a spaceship crashing into the heart of a sun while the two inattentive occupants make love, for example. There may be more than one source of conflict. In the example I cited, there are two levels of conflict that between the ghost and the man, and the man's experience of conflict when he realizes he is trapped inside the cupboard.

      Where do Stories come from?
      Tolstoy read a short article in a provincial newspaper about a woman who committed suicide by throwing herself under a train. 900 pages later, and he'd finished writing Anna Karenina. Stories are all around us.


      Simply put, plot is the action within a narrative. For example:
      The King, and then the Queen died.
      That's a plot.
      The King died, and the Queen died of grief.
      That's a story.

      With flashers, don't worry overly about plot. It is not possible to structure a complex plot. No one expects something with a many-tentacled plot as in: John Fowle's ‘The Magus’, or Tolstoy's ‘War and Peace’. With a flasher, much has to be implied.

      Let us say that the lead character of your flasher is married, but has decided to cheat on his wife with a stranger. A conventional story would expect a certain amount of back story, giving the reader vital information like the state of his marriage, and why he wants to cheat on his partner. Your flasher doesn't give you this luxury of expansion. Maybe you might want to give the flasher a title that explains the back story: 'The Unfaithful Husband.' Okay, it's not very imaginative, but you've set the scene before you've even begun to mine those hundred words. Here's where we might go with this premise.

      The Unfaithful Husband
      Feeling guilty, Jack ordered two beers. The blonde sipped hers; Jack downed his in one swallow.

      With the title and two sentences we've established everything that a story requires in its beginning.
      We've established character. Jack is the unfaithful husband, as implied by the title. He feels guilty. The blonde, sipping her beer, is the cool, detached lady of the night. I inferred that she's not known to him by the use of, 'the blonde.'

      We've established setting, a bar.

      We've also established Jack's mental state, his sense of guilt, and his nervousness, which is shown how he drinks his beer.
      We've partly established the relationship between Jack and The Blonde.
      In sixteen words, we've established what might take a chapter if this were a novel.

      What happens next, is down to you and your imagination. From that simple situation you can go anywhere. And you've got nearly eighty odd words to tell it. When you've established situation, character, and setting in less than twenty words, suddenly eighty five words seems like a lot of mileage to build a fully formed plot with a definite ending. I'd like to conclude by truncating all of the above into one sentence.

      A little while ago, we had a fun competition to see who could write the shortest flasher.

      The outcome, thanks To Christine Walls's off list observation, was the quintessential flasher told in three words, if one uses the Latin. Six, if you use English.

      It is this:
      I came, I saw, I conquered.
      - In no any particular order :-)
      All the essential ingredients for flasher writing that I've touched upon here are contained within that most famous quote.

      Thank you for reading.


      Flashers Editor, Erotica Readers and Writers Association (ERWA) 

      Featured reviewer of erotica:

      Friday, December 10, 2004

      $Money Facts$: Ebooks & NY Print Publication

      Writing is an Art.
      Publishing is a BUSINESS.
      "70% of book fair visitors are ready to buy electronic books if they can run them on any computer. 67% are ready to read them. 62% would borrow them from a library."
      -- Open E-Book Forum as reported in Booktech the Magazine, January/February 2003

      Forewarned is Fore-Armed.

      "eBook sales increased 1,442% in January 2003 over January 2002."
      --Publishers Weekly, March 24, 2003.

      You CAN make a living, or a least a decent income writing erotic fiction for the EBook Market if you are prepared to write what the paying market is looking for. Just for the record, I am currently living without a day job, or any other second income, paying my bills on my royalties - from my Erotic Romance ebook sales. Since erotic romance is hot in the e-book market, and pays pretty darn regularly, that's what I write.

      $ Money Facts $:

      I write and publish erotic ebooks because I simply do not have the patience to wait a year or two for money from NY. I need the cash now. An Erotic Romance can be written, contracted and earning money in two months time or less. Sure there is no advance, and the number of per-book sales are generally lower, but the money is faster and they pay Monthly - rather than every 6 months.

      The Truth about Advances

      "Many advances are between $1,500 and $7,500."
      --Publishing for Profit by Tom Woll, page 109.

      The average NY author makes between $2000.00 and $10,000.00 in an advance. (This is STILL TRUE in 2014!) In addition, you DON’T get the advance in one lump sum. You get part when you sign the contract, part when you turn in the manuscript and the rest when it finally goes on the shelf – and that can be one to two Years after the manuscript was turned in!

      The Truth about Royalties 

      "70% of the books published do not earn out their advance - do not make a profit."
      --Jerrold Jenkins, 15 May 99.

      Royalty checks from a NY print publisher come every 6 months AFTER you pay back your advance -- IF you make enough sales to cover your advance PLUS the cost of the books that are Returned.

      Royalties average between 8% and 5% of their NET earnings -- NOT off the cover, and no one tells you that it’s 8% or 5% AFTER everyone else has taken their bite out of it First.

      An ebook author gets anywhere between 25% and 35% off the COVER they sell, and they get their first check the month following their release.

      The Ugly Truth about DISTRIBUTION

      Ingram’s, the #1 book distributor, demands 60% of the net sales per book and Ingram’s gets their 60% FIRST. Ingram's sends the publisher the 40% left, and the author gets 8% of that:  that's 8% of 40%. The author cannot fight this, it's in the contract -- every contract.

      Ingram’s is the primary distributor for Barns & Nobles, and Waldenbooks. In fact, every major bookstore you can think of. Every major book publisher in NY kowtows to them because NY simply doesn’t have a choice.

      NY’s only saving grace is the sheer numbers of books they distribute, but the shelf-life of a NY paperback is measured in Weeks.

      The Brutal Truth about Shelf-life

      "A book must move in the stores in six weeks."
      --Brian DeFiore, Maui Writers Conference.

      The average shelf-life of a mainstream print book is 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, books are cover-torn and returned to the publisher as a loss.

      You have 6 weeks to sell every copy NY produces to make your advance. If you don't, your chances of reprinting, (staying on the shelf and under the public eye,) goes down. So does your chance of selling to that publisher again.

      If a NEW author is Not an “instant hit” the Author is written off as a loss – and we all know how Big Business deals with Losses.

      The average shelf-life for an ebook is as long as that publisher remains in business. Ebooks do not go off the shelf. As long as you continue to promote your book, you will continue to sell.

      I am NOT anti- NY!

      I write for BOTH markets. Kensington Books contracted me for two books on a single book proposal -- signed, sealed, and the first third of the advance already delivered, (after a 4 month wait.)

      However, I am doing business in the NY publishing market with my eyes open. I knew what to expect and that's just the way it goes. The NY publishers will not get a panicked phone call from me that begins with: "But I thought...!"

      By the way, I wrote and released an e-novel, and an e-novella, in that four month period, so I could AFFORD to wait on NY.

      So, do Advances Compare
      to eBook Royalties? 
      They don't. Not even close.

      Thirty days after I released my e-novella, and e-novel, I made MORE in that one month ebook royalty check than what I received in the (1/3) advance check from NY. AN advance that took four months to get to me. (A lot more.) If you want to add up what I made in ebooks during that four month waiting period verses what NY sent me...? Um, lets just say, I didn't have any problems paying ALL my bills while waiting on NY.

      Do I have an Agent? 

      Yes, I did, but I did NOT go looking for her, she contacted me. I didn't even have a manuscript ready for her because I was not expecting an agent to contact me. (I do not have an agent anymore -- for Stress reasons.)

      If I wasn't looking for an agent, how did I get one?

      She read my Ebooks and asked to represent me. Word on the internet is: Agents and Publishers are Reading EBOOKS Looking for Potential Authors. Apparently the fastest way to get an agent, these days, is be e-published and SUCCESSFUL. Most of the top names in ebooks have agents, but to name just a small handful:
      • Angela Knight
      • Mary Janice Davidson
      • Lora Leigh
      • Kate Douglas
      • Shiloh Walker
      • Morgan Hawke

      If I make it big will I stop writing trashy E-Romances? 

      HELL NO! I fully intend to continue publishing erotic ebooks. At this point in time, the Erotic Romance ebook market is the only one that publishes this fast and pays monthly. I will NOT be able to pay my bills writing strictly for NY. By writing for the ebook market I have the time and comfort to devote to books headed for NY in between writing trashy romances. (And the constant practice doesn't hurt.)

      Not everyone is comfortable writing
      Erotic Romance!

      To many people, fiction is an outlet and/or an ART. To me it's a way to pay the bills. Either you like writing erotic romance or you don't. It's not a Bad thing - it's just a thing.

      I'm lucky in that I happen to be very comfortable writing a wide range of erotic genres, but not everyone is. If you don't feel comfortable writing steamy romance for the ebook market, or anywhere else, DON'T!

      You should NEVER try to write something you don't enjoy simply for the cash because it shows in your writing and that WILL affect your sales!

      57% of new books are not read to completion. Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
      --Jerrold Jenkins.

      The reader can always tell if the author has written something they feel is distasteful. It's simply a matter of personal choice.

      For those of you interested in writing for Money...

      You have to know the truth and be prepared for it. Hope will not get you published or make sales. Ruthless planning will. I do exhaustive research on what is currently selling in BOTH MARKETS before I write a single word.

      Morgan Hawke

      More on: Print & E-Print?
      by Amy O'Conner

      More on: How much an Author actually makes?
      Go To:
      Advances & Royalties
      : How Authors are Paid
      by Rebecca Brandewyne
      (Yes - THAT Ms. Brandewyne)

      Thursday, December 09, 2004

      Lord of the Rings by Other Authors?

      What if The Lord of the Rings was Written by Other Authors?
      Shamelessly ripped off from

      LOTR by Mickey Spillane
      I was sitting by the fire, puffing on a pipe, still nursing a hangover from the ale-fest the night before, when HE walked in. He had a long white beard, a magical staff, and legs that youd like to eat on toast.
      "Are you Frodo Baggins," he intoned.
      "I might be," I said. "Who's asking?"
      "My name is Gandalf, Mr. Baggins. And I need your help."
      I looked him over. "Lots of people need my help. What makes YOU special?"
      "Well, Mr. Baggins...there is a certain piece of jewelry. If it fell into the wrong hands, it could prove...troublesome. I need someone to take this ring to Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed."
      I stuck some more weed in my pipe, and said, "Look, doll, let's get one thing straight- you can't come into my hole, tell me a fairy-tale about a magic ring, bat those pretty eyelids, and have me fall at your feet. I stick my neck out for nobody."

      LOTR by Ernest HemingwayIt was very late and everyone had left the hall except an old man who sat in the shadows the leaves of the old Mallorn made against the moonlight. The two elves inside the hall knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he usually was quiet and kept to himself they knew that if he became too drunk he would start setting things on fire, so they kept watch on him.
      "He's drunk," one elf said.
      "What do you care?"
      "He's muttering about the secret fire."
      "Leave him alone. He used to carry a ring."
      "He'll stay all night. He should never have been rebodied."
      The old man rapped on the table with his goblet.
      The younger elf went over to him. "What do you want?"
      The old man looked at him. "Another miruvor."
      "You'll be drunk," the elf said.
      The old man looked at him.
      The elf went away. "Look at his bushy eyebrows," he said to his colleague. "There is nothing as nasty as an old Man. He'll stay all night and I'll never get any sleep."
      The elf took the bottle of miruvor from the counter inside the hall and marched to the old man's table. He poured the goblet full. "You should never have been rebodied," he said to the old man.

      LOTR by Mark Twain
      Persons attempting to resolve the question of Balrog wings by means of this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to define the nature of Tom Bombadil will be banished; persons attempting to find allegory in it will be shot.
      BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

      FOREWORD:In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Quenya Elvish dialect; the extremest form of the Rhovanion dialect; the ordinary Sindarin dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.
      I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.

      CHAPTER 1
      You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Red Book of Westmarch; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Frodo Baggins and his Uncle Bilbo, and they told the truth, mainly. There was things which they stretched, but mostly they told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was the Lady Galadriel, or Elrond, or maybe Gandalf. The Lady Galadriel - the Lady of Lothlorien, she is - and Elrond, and the wizard Gandalf is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

      LOTR by George Orwell
      "I cannot read the fiery writing," said Frodo.
      "There are few who can," replied Gandalf. "It is the language of Mordor, which I will not speak here. Translated into the common tongue, it reads: 'All rings of power are equal, but some rings of power are more equal than others.'"
      LOTR by Dave Barry
      At the end of the Council of Elrond, everyone concluded that 'Shards of Narsil' would be a great name for a band.

      LOTR, by John MiltonOf the great War of the Ring, and the quest
      Of that Forbidden power, the long and
      Arduous trek, thru' fiery, blasted plains
      With faithful Hobbits and treacherous beasts
      To Chaos' edge, and there to cast the One
      To endless fire and eternal death:
      Sing Heav'nly Muse, that in Rivendell did'st
      First teach of the Rings of Power forgéd,
      In the beginning how the Dark Lord Sauron
      Brought into the world from fiery depths
      Of Doom this ring of gold, pouréd into't
      His Malice and his Evil; I now
      Invoke thy Aid to my Adventrous song
      That struggle as it might to take to th'air
      Though will I drag from bottomless perdition
      Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime
      And justifie the ways of men to Elves.

      LOTR by Tom ClancyThe King of the Nazgul (KotN) fingered the safety buckle that secured the shortsword in its scabbard. It was modeled after the Gladius design, making it wholly inadequate for going up against Elven armour, but it was perfectly suited for being jammed in the collarbone of a Hobbit 'merc, without calling too much attention to it's owner. His XO, "Camel" Khamul had used a similar weapon in numerous CoIN missions in North Gondor, where he had been sent to disrupt "Elrond's" supply fellowships sneaking down the Is-ild-ur trail.
      The KotN smiled, even without a head. This mission was almost going to be a mead-run. Taking out a squad of sleeping halflings was going to be easier than slaying Wyvyrns sitting on a tarmac...

      LOTR by Dr Seuss"Gandalf, Gandalf! Take the ring!
      I am too small to carry this thing!"

      "I can not, will not hold the One.
      You have a slim chance, but I have none.
      I will not take it on a boat,
      I will not take it across a moat.
      I cannot take it under Moria,
      that's one thing I can't do for ya.
      I would not bring it into Mordor,
      I would not make it to the border."

      LOTR by Danielle SteeleEowyn felt her heart flutter when she saw him. His raven hair flew in the breeze off the plain, and his piercing eyes caught her gaze as if by magic. He bore a kingly attitude; surely he was a prince. Her mind turned to forbidden things, things which would be forbidden to the King's niece, but surely allowed for a free shieldmaiden. She knew that she was made to love this ranger.

      LOTR by Ayn RandSmeagol writhed in corruption, his lifelong attempts to collectivize the Hobbit economy had twisted his soul and body and brought ruin to the Shire. "Precious," he muttered. "Precious collective good giving according to need." He shuddered at the thought of the unbroken individual standing proudly over a conquered plain with the Ring, and felt jealous that the wholesome power could not be his.

      LOTR by Choose Your Own Adventure
      You're sitting in your hole, smoking a pipe and drinking some fine hobbit ale, when the door knocks. Outside, there's Gandalf the Wizard. Do you let him in?
      If yes, go to page 65, if no, turn to page 43.
      Page 65
      "Ah, my dear Frodo, it's good to see you. Now, my boy, I'm here on urgent business. The magic ring your Uncle Bilbo took from Gollum is cursed, and must be taken far from here, until we decide what to do with it. Will you take on this mission?"
      If yes, go to page 13, if no, turn to page 72:
      Page 13:"Your courage does you honor, Frodo. Take this ring, and I'll meet you later. Do you want me to meet you at Galdriel's tree fortress or at Elrond's palace?"
      For Galadriel's fortress, go to page 68, for Elrond's palace, turn to page 27.

      Page 68:
      As you enter the forest, the beautiful Galadriel and her footmen greet you. She says, "My, you're courageous to take this quest. Carrying that ring must be exhausting. Would you like to keep it, or give it to me?"
      To keep the ring, go to page 47, To give it to Galadriel, turn to page 88.
      Page 88:
      "HAHAHAHAHAHA, you foolish halfling," she cries. "Now I am beautiful and terrible and mighty, and will rule all the Earth."
      As she laughs, she signals her minions to torture you to death. At least, you die knowing you won't be around to see all of Earth under her tyranny.
      THE END
      LOTR by a Lawyer
      COMES NOW, plaintiff, Sauron, to file this original Complaint, and would show this honorable court the following:
      1. Plaintiff and party of the first part, Sauron ("Sauron") is a(n) (un)natural person, and resident and domiciliary of Mordor.
      2. Defendant and party of the second part, Frodo Baggins ("Frodo") is a natural person and resident of Hobbiton. Co-Defendant and party of the third part Samwise Gamgee ("Sam") is likewise same.
      3. All parties being properly diverse, jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 M.E.C. 1332. Damages far exceed the minimum jurisdiction of the court.
      4. Defendant has converted and trespassed against the chattel and personalty of the plaintiff, namely, the One Ring ("Ring") and is liable to plaintiff for same.
      5. Plaintiff would further show on or about the final day of the Third Age, defendants did intentionally cause the destruction of Ring while plaintiff was engaged in defending his business from hostile takeover. In the alternative, plaintiff pleads that the actions of the defendants toward ring amount to recklessness, gross negligence, and negligence.
      6. As a direct result of destruction of Ring, plaintiff has suffered actual damages in the form of irreparable harm to his business and personal reputation, as well as direct and indirect loss of income. Plaintiff has further suffered from mental anguish, humiliation, and loss of consortium.
      7. Insofar as actions of defendants were intentional, plaintiff further requests punitive damages in the amount of treble his actual damages.
      WHEREFORE, PLAINTIFF, SAURON, PRAYS FOR: all reasonable damages above named; FURTHER, plaintiff prays for all additional relief in law or equity deemed necessary and proper by this honorable court.
      Respectfully submitted,
      Mouth of Sauron
      Attorney for Plaintiff
      Middle Earth Bar No. 734925639

      LOTR by CNN
      Ringbearers still at largeMordor (CNN) - Reports from the field have just arrived that the notorious group of ringbearers known mysteriously only as "the nine" were spotted by a band of orcs entering the terrorist safe haven known as "Lothlorien" several days ago. The Mordor State Department issued an official proclamation today that the group were known to be armed and dangerous and had already caused the death of many orcs in the region as well as the notorious brutal murder of a high ranking Balrog previously residing in Moria. They warn that any concerned citizens were to contact the Mordor Foreign affairs office immediately with information as to the whereabouts of these fugitives and to not try and confront them themselves.
      "We will act in our utmost to bring these terrorists to justice" President Sauron declared today. "These terrorists are attacking our way of life, our culture and the way we live. The world must know that the collected will of the dark lord’s minions will be strong and resolute."
      First detected in the town of Bree in the north of middle Earth, these terrorists wasted no time in coldly taking the lives of all nine Ringwraith Agents when it was discovered that they were on a plot to topple Mordor. It is believed that the group is composed of primarily hobbits backed up by support from a wide variety of races including dwarves, elves humans and a mysterious backer only known as "Mithrander".
      "I must stress, Hobbits are a primarily peace loving race" President Sauron warned today after a spate of hate attacks against hobbit dwellings. "These hobbits are extremists, fundamentalists; they do not speak for hobbit kind".
      Agents also believe that these terrorists have strong links to the group that assassinated the Foreign Diplomat, Smaug, earlier this age. If so, it would explain the impressive array of mythical weapons that the group has acquired.
      So far, the terrorist group has been utilizing safe houses in elvish country to evade capture and have slipped passed even the most stringent defenses the Dark Lord has set in place. Residents are afraid for their children and people have stopped going out at night. "How am I going to let my kids go out and torture humans if I know that there’s a group of orc killers roaming the countryside" a concerned mother said today".
      Experts believe that, if these rogues are not brought to justice, a rash of copy cat attacks will follow and severely hurt the economy.
      -- written by CNN correspondent, Sauraman

      LOTR by The Onion
      Area man loses magical ring of power, thinks it may be behind the couch.

      Local area man Sauron (last name withheld for privacy reasons) has been looking everywhere in his spacious 3 bedroom volcano for a ring he forged over 6000 years ago. He claims that the ring, although of little intrinsic value, has great sentimental value to him since he poured most of power into it.
      "I mean, I guess it could be used to turn people invisible and bend knights to your will and stuff like that, but basically, it’s just a nice gold ring which I happen to like wearing"
      Having last seen the ring when he went outside to check on some damn punk kids who were making a whole lot of noise outside of his estate in Mordor, he's not quite sure what happened to the ring after that.
      "I was just going outside to shut those damn elves up, ya’know. There always barging in here every thousand years or so demanding I stop razing their lands and enslaving their people, gets to be kind’a a nuisance ya’know."
      Sauron reports that he is not quite sure what happens next but, all of a sudden, he becomes a dis-corporated spirit, capable of doing no more evil than a overly dry turkey club sandwich.
      "Anyway, I dunno what happened but I guess I just dropped the ring somewhere. Gee, I hope nobody picked it up cus, that would be theft plain and simple and even elves are above that. Although, come ta’think of it, those damn whippersnapper 'umans might’a done it. There not above anything, them spoiled brats."
      Hoping that nobody picked up the ring over the ensuing 3000 year interval, Sauron is sure that the ring is just wedged behind the refrigerator or maybe even under the bed. He has high hopes on finding the ring and looks forward to wearing it again.
      "Ya’know, about the only place I haven't checked yet is the forging room, I was going to do it two days ago but there was some ruckus with a spider in the west quadrant. At this rate, I probably won’t get a chance to have a good look in there until next week."

      LOTR by Seinfeld
      Seinfeld Episode 144: "The Ring":
      So anyway my uncle gives me this ring of power and I can't even recharge my cell phone with it. What's up with that?
      "Don't tell me you lost the ring George."
      "I had it a minute ago. I must have left it in that restaraunt."
      "No Rings for you," cried the Soup Nazgul.
      This guy who wants me to get rid of the ring is named Gandalf. Have you ever met anybody named Gandalf? What's up with that?
      The Council of Elrond:
      "Sauron created the ring of power in the year...yadda, yadda, yadda... and that's how Frodo here got it."
      Why didn't Sauron make a spare ring? What's up with that?

      LOTR by Eminem
      Lord of the Rings-Eminem
      Do you know what it's like to be given a quest
      To be told that my best is a jest in the mess of a world my parents confessed?
      To be told that I'm going to fail no matter what I do
      That everything's gonna go black
      To be given a ring that my uncle's addicted to like smack?
      A ring he won't let go
      `It's mine,' Bilbo says, `just let go, Frodo,'
      `F**k you,' I say, `You know yo flow is blow, that ring ain't no f**king memento.'
      My man Gandalf comes in and lays down the law
      Oh no motherf**king Bilbo sees his flaw
      'Take this thing,' he says to Gan, and hands it over to the man
      'Now it's been given,' he says to him, 'given and now I'm going to Rivendell.'
      `Rivendell, hell," Gandalf says, 'elves run that place like some f**kin' jail cell, you do well to go to a Deep of Helm's,' he said.
      `I'm going to Rivendell,' Bilbo said. `I'm sorry Gandalf but I'm going. Now take that f**king ring before it blings and f**king makes me cry like some f**king halfling.'

      LOTR by TarantinoExcerpt from: 'Pulp Fellowship' by Tarantino
      (please excuse the length)

      2. EXT. HORSE DRAWN WAGON (MOVING) - MORNINGA rickety Horse Drawn Wagon creaks down the dusty back roads of the Shire. On the drivers board are two people-- one a Wizard, the other a Hobbit - the wizard wearing Homespun Robes and a pointy hat, the Hobbit standard Hobbit clothes, with a thin tie. Their names are Frodo (Hobbit) and Gandalf (Wizard). Gandalf holds the reigns.

      That did it, man -- I'm f**kin' goin', that's all there is to it.


      You'll most certainly enjoy it. But You know what the funniest thing about Gondor is?



      It is the small differences. Many the same things we have here, they have also there, but there they are somewhat different.

      How so?


      Well, in Rohan, you can buy Pipeweed at a theatre. And I don't mean in a rolling paper either. They give you a pipe full of weed, like in a guest in your parlour! In Minas Tirith, you can buy weed at Denethor's. Also, you know what they call a Long Bottom Leaf in Gondor?

      They don't call it a Long Bottom Leaf?


      No, they have no sense of the Shire there, they wouldn't know what the f**k a 'Long Bottom Leaf' is.


      What'd they call it?

      Sweet Galenas.

      (repeating) Sweet Galenas... What'd they call Silver Star?


      Silver star remains Silver Star, but they call it the 'King's' Silver Star.


      What do they call Old Toby?

      I know not, I could not find Old Toby. But you know what they put on Mushrooms in Gondor instead of Bacon?





      Contributed by a Many Talented Straightdope readers

      Wednesday, December 08, 2004

      Active Voice - the Voice of God

      From Phil Phantom’s: Guide to Writing Good Trash"
      I know, you hate to think of your writing as trash, but if done well, others will. If done poorly, your magnificent creation is just crap, shit, or garbage. Excellent trash can rise to the level of good shit, but you and your good shit will never be studied in English Lit. As for riches, sure, but it helps if you are wealthy when you start.

      ACTIVE Voice - the Voice of GOD
      In the writing world we have two kinds of voice: Passive and Active.

      Passive voice is for wimps, fairies, and limp-wristed momma's boys.

      Active voice is the voice of power, action, and drive. Active voice knocks you on your ass, kicks you in the balls, rips out your heart, shows the bleeding pumper to you, then spits in your fucking face while squeezing you to death.

      Guess which voice we write in?

      That's right.

      Active voice is direct, to the point, no nonsense, cut and dry.

      God speaks in the active voice. God didn't say, "Thy neighbors wife shall not be coveted by you." Hell no, He said, "Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's wife." If God wrote the Ten Commandments in the passive voice, they would sound like the Ten Suggestions. When He writes like a God, you know you'd best not covet your neighbor's ass, neither.

      When you write in the active voice, the subject of your sentence does the acting. The subject precedes an action verb. The English language is full of rich action verbs. We even have nouns that serve duty as action verbs - finger, for one.

      You tell me. Which is stronger?

      Mary was fingered by John.
      John fingered Mary.

      You can tell passive voice because it sounds like the minutes of a meeting. Check it out:
      The minutes of the last meeting were read by Mr. Dudley. The chair was then turned over to his wife, Ann. The meeting hall was suddenly entered by a lion and all hell broke loose. Mr. Dudley's wife was pounced upon by the lion. She was dragged by the butt into a corner and was then eaten whole. The meeting was adjourned in short order.
      Now, lets check out the active voice version:
      Mr. Dudley read the minutes from the last meeting, then handed the chair over to his wife, Ann. A lion burst into the room. All hell broke loose. The lion pounced on Ann, bit her on the butt, dragged her ass to a corner, and ate her hole. We adjourned the meeting, ASAP.
      Now, which version do you think God would like?

      God is a busy deity. He writes no more than he has to, and reads no more than he must. The active voice version had fifty-three words, the passive had sixty-five. That's not the main reason God liked it. The active voice version conveyed the real excitement created by a large predator disturbing a boring meeting.

      In almost all cases, active voice is better. In the active version, we replaced a vague "It" with a person, "the author." We replaced the wasteful "was written" with a single action verb, "wrote." The author wrote. The active version was tight and clear. All writing should be tight and clear.

      Passive voice sentences sneak into your writing like enemy agents infiltrating your AO, weakening your power, causing confusion, misdirection, and creating chaos. After you write something, you must go back and ferret-out those insidious, passive, godless, commie bastards of the passive voice brigade.

      Look for the "to be" verb: am, is, are, was, were. These verbs replace action verbs and usually travel with IT, THEY, THOSE, and THERE. Get 'em outta there. Kill 'em. Stomp the crap outta of 'em.

      If you see something like this:
      • There are many crabs in my shorts.
      Change it to something like this:
      • Crabs infest my shorts!
      Isn't that better, tighter, clearer?

      The first sounds like a simple observation; the second conveys urgency. The exclamation point fits the second but not the first, and a situation like that which I just described should be followed by an exclamation point. Don't you agree?

      Remember, clearly identify your subject, then make the subject do the acting unless the subject is being acted upon.

      "Ann was eaten by the lion" is passive, but so was Ann at the time. If the author tells Ann's story, passive voice fits. Now, if the lion is the subject of the story, that sentence would suck. We'd want the story from the lion's perspective. We don't care about old biddies in a lion story. "The lion ate Ann!" Far out. Eat dat bitch! Am I right?

      Now, you're catching on. We want action, right? We don't want no panty-waist, mamby-pamby, beat-around-the-bush, word-wasting, bombastic verbosity, now do we?
      From Phil Phantom’s: “Guide to Writing Good Trash"(Click article title to read the whole thing.)

      Morgan Hawke

      Characters Tailor-made For the Plot

      Let us begin with:
      There are  
      Three Essential Characters in Every Story --
          The PROPONENT
          The one trying to keep things the way they are.
          Traditionally the Hero, the Protagonist with character traits designed specifically to work against the plot. 

          The ALLY 
          (Middle-man) – The close companion of one or the other.
          The Companion, the Lover, or Best Friend that adds complications and makes matters worse. Also, traditionally the viewpoint character! 

          The ADVERSARY
          The one causing all the trouble.
          The traditional Villain, the Antagonist that the Hero absolutely Cannot beat when the hero first enters the fray. 
          You can tell any story with ONLY these Three Characters; perhaps not with any real detail, but you could still do the entire basic plot-line.
          CHARACTER verses PLOT

          You never want characters that could handle everything with ease - that's BORING. It should be a struggle every step of the way, especially for the Hero & the Villain, but avoid tossing in too much angst. No reader can handle whiney characters.

          For the best results:ALL your characters should have traits designed to work AGAINST the plot - and against each other. One physical trait (a handicap) and one mental trait (a fear) should be working against each character at all times.

          • A Vampire's physical Handicap is normally Sunlight.
          • His Fear is normally Discovery.

          What about:  
          Predictability? Repetition? Standardization?
          Should we worry about the characters and plot being so - Structured? 
          Actually no. Hollywood uses this formula for characters in every single movie they make.

          Lets look at three very different movies:

          Miss Congeniality - Romantic Comedy
          A Hero with character traits that work AGAINST the plot.
          • Gracie Hart is a wisecracking, serious-minded and somewhat clumsy FBI agent with a serious soft spot for helping those in need. She's never worn dresses or silly girl stuff. The FBI wants her to not only enter, but Win a beauty pageant.
          A Companion to add complications and make matters worse.
          • A love interest that follows orders and never argues with his superiors.
          • A personal beauty trainer that will make her shine - in spite of herself.
          A Villain that the Hero absolutely Cannot beat when they first enter the fray.
          • The intimidating and influential owner of the pageant.

          The Matrix - Urban Fantasy
          A Hero with character traits that work AGAINST the plot.
          • Neo is a quiet computer hacker. He deals in facts, not fantasy. He's not an action kind of guy but everyone thinks he's supposed to save the world. He thinks they're wrong.
          A Companion to add complications and make matters worse.
          • Both Morpheus and Trinity believe in him - to the point that they keep risking their lives so he has to keep saving them.
          A Villain that the Hero absolutely Cannot beat when they first enter the fray.
          • The matrix is a sentient mega-verse. Mr. Smith is a replicating Virus. It takes 3 whole movies to deal with these monstrous threats.

          The Lost Boys – Vampire Classic
          A Hero with character traits that work AGAINST the plot.
          • Michael desperately wants to fit in with a motorcycle gang that rules the entire town because he likes the girl that hangs with them. Michael does not believe in Vampires.
          A Companion to add complications and make matters worse.
          • Michael has a nosy younger brother who is terrified of vampires.
          A Villain that the hero absolutely Cannot beat when they first enter the fray.
          • Michael absolutely positively cannot defeat an entire gang of Vampires.

          ~ MAKING CHARACTERS ~ 

          The Beginning Writer’s Pitfall
          MARY SUE / Gary Stue

          Your memories allow you to sympathize with your Characters and write convincingly about what they are experiencing – but the character should not be a glorified model of the author.

          A writer who identifies too closely with their character
          -- has committed the heinous crime of Mary Sue’ism.

          A Mary Sue (or Harry Stu, if you're a guy,) is a character that you refuse to let come to harm. They are so perfect in every way, that they know exactly how to deal with every situation – which makes the story fall flat on it’s face.

          How do you bring excitement back into your story?
          Take YOU Out of your character.

          By putting yourself into your characters, you end up having too much sympathy for them to ever allow them to suffer enough to make the plot really fly.

          For most writers the Mary Sue adventure is their first story. Think of all the times as a child you pretended to be a character in your favorite cartoon? That was a Mary Sue / Harry Stu adventure. This was your first exercise in figuring out the motivations, goal and drives of the cartoon characters you are Making Pretend with. "So, why does the vampire want to get me anyway?"

          Mary Sue is a good way to practice
          – but a bad way to get published.

          Detaching the Writer from their Characters.

          Goodness gracious, you have this great idea, but now you need people to play it out. If you can’t use yourself as a character--whom can you use?

          Answer: Everybody else.

          Pick an actor or fictional character from another story and use THEM as your character. The trick is to change their names and appearance enough to disguise them while leaving their base character - and dialogue - intact!

          Every single one of my characters (in all 30+ titles published) comes from somewhere else.
          Favorite characters I like to use:
          • Trinity from the Matrix
          • Keiffer Sutherland as David from the Lost Boys
          • Robert Carlyle from both Ravenous and Plunkett & McLean
          • Wolverine from the X-Men
          • Sandra Bullock no matter what movie she's in.
          • Johnny Depp as Icabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow
          When building characters always remember:
          The End Justifies the Means.

          Exercising your experience without becoming your characters.

          Story is nothing without Good Strong Characters. And that means PAIN. But how do you write about the feelings of someone you don’t know? You Empathize – but you don’t fall in.

          The Lost Boys:
          Michael invites the girl of his dreams to go for a ride on his motorcycle. She agrees, but this other guy, on a bigger fancier bike comes out of nowhere and asks what she's doing. She ends up climbing onto another guy's motorcycle. She doesn't look happy about it, but she does it anyway.

          The other guy turns to Michael and invites him to get on his bike and come along.

          Michael knows a set-up when he hears one. He rolls his eyes and smiles sourly. "I can't beat your bike."

          The guy grins. "You don't have to beat me. You just have to keep up."
          • What is Michael feeling through all this?

          The Matrix:
          Neo has just received a Fed Ex package with a cell phone in it. He's holding the phone in his hand when it starts to ring. He answers it.

          "Neo, this is Morpheus. You have to get out of there. Now."
          • What is Neo feeling through all this?

          Michael has had one hell of a day. First there was the shooting at the train station then the crap at his hospital job. He comes home to find a really beautiful and incredibly strong girl in his apartment and then he's running for his life from things galloping on the walls and ceiling. He escapes into an elevator and the door closes.

          The elevator door opens. A guy he's never seen before in his life smiles and says: "Hello Michael." Suddenly, bullets rip into the guy right in front of him. The guy falls forward onto Michel and bites him.

          Out of nowhere the strong girl comes and drags the weird guy off of him. Only the weird guy is laughing.
          • What is Michael feeling through all this?

          No one needs to know whom you modeled your characters from; if you have enough differences in description and background they never will. They haven't guessed any of my characters yet and I have a stock set! Most characters change as you write them anyway, becoming their own entity.

          The trick is to Start with something familiar and then, go with the flow, letting your characters progress and develop as they like, becoming their own individual selves.

          Once you have a good Idea for a Character, you need to make that character YOURS. Begin by asking Three Questions*: (*Shamelessly stolen from Paperback Writer's blog.) 

          Three Questions

            1. Who am I, and what do I do?
            2. What do I want?
            3. What's the absolute worst possible thing that could happen to me?
              You need to know all three of these answers with EVERY main character you craft for every story you write. (The Hero, the Ally, AND the Villain too!)

              The "worst possible thing" gives me EACH characters' Ordeal -- their darkest moment in the story.

              Combining all THREE "Worst Possible Things" creates the "Crash and Burn" moment in the story where everything falls apart just before the story's big Climax.

              Three Questions -- In Action:

              Leon - The Professional 
              1. I am a kid and my family has just been killed.
              2. I need to destroy my enemy, before he destroys me.
              3. Find me the perfect assassin – but make him too honorable to allow a kid to kill.
              1. I am a professional assassin. I don’t kill kids or women.
              2. I want to do my jobs and remain hidden from the police.
              3. Have me take pity on a kid and hide her from her family’s killers, but make her determined to exact revenge – against the police. Oh, and make her a loud-mouth too.
              The Cop
              1. I am a crooked (and happily insane,) cop.
              2. I need to protect my secrets.
              3. Make person that knows my secrets a child – with a professional assassin for her guardian.
              Crash and Burn
              Having learned how to handle a gun from Leon, Mathilda trails the cop that murdered her family all the way to the precinct to kill him -- but she’s never actually killed anyone before. Face to face with her enemy, she bails at the last second.

              The Cop recognizes her as the only witness to his murder of a family, and trails her.

              Disappointed in her failure to avenge her family, Mathilda doesn't pay attention to the fact that the cop had spotted her, and is following her all the way back -- to Leon.

              More of this in Detail?
              Go To: High Speed Plotting

              Sample of a Character Outline:
              • Who am I? "David and I am a Vampire."
              • What do I want? “To live.”
              • The absolute worst thing that could happen to me? “Having to choose between two people I care about.”
              • Motive: Loneliness & desperation to escape his master’s control.
              • Negative Trait: Extreme practicality. Embracing his death-dealing inhumanity. “I am a killer.”
              • Positive Trait: Loyalty and protectiveness toward his small brood.
              • Inner struggle: His unconscious hatred of his dark nature shows in his attacks on Michael’s assertions of humanity, in spite of his obviously vampiric nature. “You are a killer!”
              • Secret: Being a vampire is not as wonderful as he tells everyone else it is.
              • Fatal Flaw: (Their Greatest Strength/Greatest Weakness) He's a Vampire, an unstoppable all-powerful, immortal creature -- but only after sunset.
              • Greatest Fear: He will become the true monster his master is.
              • Appearance: Maybe 21, fair and small in stature. His absolute confidence makes him larger than life.

              Morgan Hawke