Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Goal, Motivation & Conflict ~ SIMPLIFIED

Goal, Motivation & Conflict ~ SIMPLIFIED
 “I am – I Need – I Desire…”

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…

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict:
What are these things, and why do stories need them?

Goal is what your character THINKS they are after.
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.

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

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

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

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

To get back to the main point...

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.

So what ARE, Motivation, Conflicts and Goals. Lets break these down into bite-sized, chew-able pieces...

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 it’s 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:

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 and Physical Conflict

Act Three
4- Ordeal – Sacrifice = Emotional Conflict
Act Four
5- Confrontation – Acceptance = Physical Conflict
Note: Only Tragedies end at Act 3!
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, then adjust the plot events accordingly to worsen their situation, and their angst.

Goal – “I Desire…”
What are they trying to accomplish?

"How do I USE this stuff?"
Motivation, Conflict and Goal rules Character Behavior -- the Character Arc, not necessarily Events -- the Plot Arc. MCG is how the Character acts in reaction to the Plot. MGC is NOT 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 add up to one event. A scene is not limited to a merely single chapter, Scenes can be any length from really long (Some love-scenes take several chapters,) to really short, (one paragraph,) depending on the event.

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, as my Goals and Motivations spans a single story stage. I only need to illustrate all three MCG's at 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.

“I am – I Need – I Desire…”

A Motivation that brings on Conflicts 
forcing them to choose – and change – their Goals.

This drives ALL THREE MAIN CHARACTERS, (Antagonist, Protagonist and Obstacle Character or Lead, Side-kick & Villain). The rest can go hang, but the 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.

Morgan Hawke

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Building the Character Arc - Angst Glorious Angst!

PLOT ARC - The events that happen while the characters make other plans.

CHARACTER ARC – The emotional roller-coaster that the character suffers in dealing with the Plot.

The Stages of Grief

Denial – Anger - Despair – Sacrifice –Acceptance

Why Grief? Because a story needs DRAMA to be Interesting,
and Drama = ANGST!

“That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
– Nietzsche

Stories are all about Characters CHANGING; about Adapting and Overcoming circumstancing that should take them down. The hero and the villain change and develop as the story progresses to allow the hero a toehold chance - and no more - to win.

The difference between the Hero and the Villain is
the Villain’s failure to change

The Villain fails to face his fears, which allows the Hero to take him down. The rest of the cast may or may not have personal growth, but the Hero and the Villain must. This is where dramatic tension is generated.

Changing takes suffering. Both the Hero and the Villain should suffer emotionally and physically to allow for their personal changes.

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.

Drama! Drama! Drama!
What causes ANGST?

Breaks out the text-book …
Angst is caused by a change of circumstance that produces a feeling of loss. This triggers the reaction of grief. The intensity of the grief depends on the importance of what has been lost. If the loss is perceived as minor, ("Oops, I forgot my keys!") then the moment of grief will be minimal and barely felt. However, unresolved and severe loss (a loved one,) can lead to mental, physical, and sociological problems.

Cool huh?

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

The Dead Battery
You're on your way to work. You go out to your car, put the key in the ignition and turn it on. You hear nothing but a grind; the battery is dead.

Think about how you typically react: What's the first thing you do?

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

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

DEPRESSION - "Oh no…it won’t start. What am I going to do?"

BARGAINING / SACRIFICE – What are you willing to do if only the car would start? "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition…”

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

Applied Angst
Story Stages of Angst

Plot Arc is all about what HAPPENS. Character Arc is all about how the characters FEEL. The Stage of Grief that character happens to be going through dictates how that character will React EMOTIONALLY to the event that is Happening.

If you plan it just right, every event will work Against the character’s Stage of Grief.

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 literally pulled into a Viking adventure he wants no part of. They are to travel to a far away Great Hall and defend it from Monsters. Ibn, a man of education, does not believe in monsters.

Anger – “Screw You!
Events hammer at the Protagonist, forcing them to admit that something must be done. Naturally, they want to deal with this problem as quickly as possible then get back home; preferably in time for dinner. The easy and most obvious solution is chosen and they take off to deal with the situation.

This is where the writer starts heaving alligators into the boat to get the Protagonist further and further away from home.

In The Thirteenth Warrior
Ibn has discovered the hard way, that there are indeed monsters. However they are Human. Horribly monstrous humans, but human all the same. The obvious way to deal with them is to fortify the hall and prepare for an attack.

Despair – “I have nothing left to lose.”
After dealing with monumental amounts of alligators, the Protagonist suddenly realizes that he is out of options. He can’t go back. He can only go forward.

This is DARKEST MOMENT in the story.

In The Thirteenth Warrior
Ibn Fadlin and the Vikings learn that the monsters are unbeatable. The Great Hall cannot be defended from them, there are just too many of them. Another solution must be found.

Bargaining / Sacrifice - “I’ll do anything, ANYTHING…!
Out of options, desperation forces the Protagonist to make a Sacrifice and suffers an emotionally heavy ORDEAL. This is where the Antagonist has the best chance of strong-arming the Protagonist into getting them to do what the Antagonist wants by offering a quick solution – a bargain – that the Protagonist simply cannot afford refuse.

The Protagonist’s Sacrifice during their Ordeal transforms the Protagonist into something greater and gives them the inner strength to deal with their situation – and the Antagonist.

In The Thirteenth Warrior
Knowing that it’s a suicide mission and that they may be SACRIFICING their Lives, they sneak into the Monster’s Cavern home in the hopes of taking out the two leaders of the tribe. During this sneak attack Ibn Fadlen and the Viking face a number of their fears and conquer them.

Acceptance – “F*ck it – let’s go down kicking butts!
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. With nothing left to lose, they throw themselves into the fray.

In The Thirteenth Warrior
They have succeeded in taking out one of the leaders, but the other still survives. An attack is coming and there is nothing left to do but defend. Knowing that they are vastly outnumbered, they fully expect to die, leaving them nothing left to fear.

Putting it IN WRITING

EVERY main character has to fulfill each stage of their character arc. BUT...!
Only the VIEWPOINT Character
needs a completely visible Character Arc. 

You don’t need to show every detail for the other character’s arcs, you only need hints through dialogue and actions that they are going through one.


"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 as well as PHYSICAL CONFLICT to be fulfilling. 
However...! The emotional conflict doesn’t have to be Horrific! The stages can be softened.

Denial can become Indifference
- "So what?"

Anger - Annoyance
- "Oh please..."

Despair - Exasperation
- "What do you mean...?"

Bargaining / Sacrifice - Aggravation
- "Fine whatever…! Just get out of my face!"

Acceptance - Relief
- "Oh, that wasn't so bad!"
Does every story have ALL these stages?

Yes. If they're written correctly.

Does every story have only 5 stages in the Character Arc, no more, no less?

No. There are only 5 stage of Grief, but a character can cycle back and forth through them over and over, at different speeds at different strengths to suit the author.

Do these stages go in EXACTLY this order?

Denial ALWAYS comes First, Acceptance ALWAYS goes Last. The other three can be juggled by the author. I listed the most useful and common order. Feel free to Experiment!

Can you Skip stages?

NO. People instinctively know what real angst and frustration looks like; mainly because most people have gone through it themselves. They will KNOW if you 'rush it' by skipping a stage.

How fast can you pass through all five stages?

Very. A character can go through all five stages in one conversation. (But that takes WORK.)

Where the heck did you find these...Stages?

Human Psychology. You can look it up on the Internet by typing : “stages of grief”, in your Google bar.

Are there Other maps for Character Arcs?

Absolutely! “The Stages of Grief” is NOT the Only Character Arc there is, merely the most easily grasped. It's also the most versatile to work with and can be found WITHIN most other character arc maps.

Most action-adventure movies and Walt Disney films, use Chris Vogler's Heroic Cycle pattern in his “Writer’s Journey” for their Character Arc. 
Most Romance authors use the 12 Steps to Intimacy, outlined by Ms. Dixon for their Character Arc. 
There is also a Fairy Tale cycle, Freytag’s “Plot Pyramid,” and Aristotle’s “Elements of a Tragedy”. (Wanna find them? is your friend!)

Any human behavior pattern can be used as a Character Arc map! I use Gavin DeBecker’s excellent book on surviving psychopaths called "The Gift of Fear" to map out the character arc of my Villains because his book details the human behavior pattern of predatory Violence.

But Vogler's The Writer’s Journey uses 12 stages…?

Yes. it does. If you are familiar with Vogler’s 12 stages and you look carefully, you will see all five Stages of Grief mixed in there.

Why not just use Vogler?

You CAN! It’s where I started. But his system is specifically designed on the MALE Adventure Arc, (as outlined by Campbell.) If you are writing something other than pure adventure, such as a Romance or another high-Drama story, then his system will not work all that well. He only leaves room in ONE stage for Love.

What about Syd Field and his 3 Act Plot?

Mr. Field’s system is pure Plot Arc - ACTION – and something I use IN ADDITION to a Character Arc.

Action & Drama
How does all this stuff go Together?

In a story, each Plot stage has a corresponding Dramatic movement from the Character Arc.
  • Normalcy – Character shown under normal conditions.
  • Inciting event - Denial
  • CrisisAnger
  • Climax / Reversal - Despair
  • Ordeal Sacrifice
  • ConfrontationAcceptance
  • Consequences – Character shown adjusting to new form of Normal.

Each dramatic stage of the Character Arc should govern –-or affect-– the characters’ Reactions to what’s happening around them in the Plot, depending on the INTENSITY of each dramatic stage.

ALL Three Main Characters; Antagonist / Protagonist / Middle-man - go through All 5 dramatic stages of a Character Arc, BUT~! ONLY the Viewpoint Character goes through this pattern Visibly. AND ~ they don’t all do it at the same time! The Character Arc (drama) pattern should be staggered between main characters.

If you have more than one View Point Character?
EACH View Point Character’s ENTIRE dramatic pattern should also be Visible.If you don't, it creates a PLOT HOLE.  
NEVER allow a Plot Hole to remain in your story! 
Why? Because the readers get pissy, that’s why. I have the hate-mail to prove it. “But what happened with…?” Woe betide the author that does not conclude all the issues raised with EACH Viewpoint Character - in addition to the Main Characters.

Now, Go Forth and Arc those Characters!

Morgan Hawke

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Interview at Debbie's Den!

Morgan, I’d like to welcome you to Debbie’s Den today! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us!

MH – Thank you so much! I’m honored to be invited here!

Who is Morgan Hawke? What can you tell us about her?

MH – Um… Morgan Hawke is that odd girl with Crayola-red hair that lives alone with her cat in the downstairs corner apartment. Pungent smoke drifts out of her winds from all the clove cigarettes she smokes, the soundtrack music never stops and the computer is on all day and all night. The monitor dims in the living room very early in the morning when she finally passes out.

Rumor has it, she writes spooky action-adventure stories, with Sex. Oh wait, they call that, Erotic Romance. And that’s ALL she does – write. She’s seen once or twice every 3 to four weeks when she goes grocery shopping.

Congratulations on House of Shadows being a Winner in the RIO (Reviewers International Organization) Award of Excellence for Debut Romance Novel. Tell us how you felt when you heard the news!

MH – My first reaction was: “Why is the title of my book there…?” I had to go visit the website before I believed it. Then I jumped up and down for about twenty minutes screaming my fool head off.

What made you decide to write for a living?

MH – The fact that I had lost my job. Although I had a small nest-egg put aside for a vacation trip, the following months’ rent was a big worry. I also had the completed manuscript for “Victorious Star” in my hands. A paperback erotica publishing house was already looking at VS, but anyone who knows anything about shopping a book in NY will tell you, even with the book already in their hands, you still have sometimes, up to a YEAR to wait on an answer. I really didn’t have much of a choice. I needed cash fast, so I sold the electronic rights to Loose Id.

I do not regret sending that story to Loose Id rather than to NY. My bills have been covered ever since. I won’t say cash wasn’t tight – it was, and occasionally, still is. In order to KEEP paying the bills I have to write constantly, putting something new out roughly once, every other month.

If you could change one thing about your publishing career, what would it be? Why?

MH - I would change how long it took me to Start writing. I should have started earlier – a LOT earlier. Writing is TIME CONSUMING, especially when you first start out. I have so many books in my head, I hope I live long enough to get them all written.

What is your favorite part of writing a book?

MH – The first glow of inspiration and the plotting process that follows, when the story could go in a million directions at once. I view the whole story from a hundred different angles and decide which path works the best for that protagonist. This sometimes yields more than one story!

What is your least favorite part?

MH - Finishing it. I get so deeply involved in a book, I don’t want to stop writing about those characters and the world they live in. I hate putting the world I’m in, away.

How did you feel when you signed that very first contract and realized that someone was going to publish your book?

MH - I was first published at 17. When they told me my story was going to show up in a magazine, I refused to believe that it was going to happen – until I actually held it in my hands, and stared at the printed page. I cried for over an hour.

At 17, life was not a happy place for me. I was a poor student, a severe introvert and constantly in trouble for my acerbic personality. That one short story getting published was the ONLY achievement I had ever accomplished. And that’s when I decided that I wanted to be a writer. It was the only thing I could do well.

Can you give us any hints about your current works in progress?

MH - Goodness – I have MANY projects in progress, but the one I am focusing on is a Hentai tale – “Hungry Spirits”. It’s still in the planning stages so I don’t even have an excerpt up on my website, but I will SOON.

You have one of the most fascinating imaginations of anyone I’ve read. Where do you get the ideas for your books?

MH - The first thing any writer hears is: “Write what you know.” At 17, I didn’t KNOW anything, so I devoted the rest of my life to learning the Craft of writing, and stuffing my life with as many experiences as I could – so I would have something to put on the page. And reading. Reading, and reading, and reading, so I would know why that story was published and how they did it.

I have so much stuff in my head that it’s just a matter of mixing a hint of an idea, tossing it into my imagination then shaking hard to see what sticks to it.

Once you get the idea, what happens next? Can you give us an abbreviated step-by-step process of what you do when considering an idea for a book?
  1. I start by outlining each of the main characters; (Antagonist, Protagonist Ally) and find a common ISSUE they all share. 
  2. Then I outline the Events that need to happen in that story to showcase each of their strengths, weaknesses and Issues. 
  3. It’s then a simple case of “tossing yet another alligator into the boat” until all the characters have been explored.
  4. The rest of the story is spent Solving those issue. 
I follow the writing rule for Mysteries: “If a gun appears in chapter one – it better go off by chapter Three.” I never put in anything I don’t actively use SOMEWHERE in the story, and then I try to make sure it’s never the Obvious use. I try to avoid predictability in everything I write.

When do you determine if the idea will work in a book or not?

MH - Once I have the whole story, plot – premise – character, outlined, I pretty can much tell. Either it all comes together – or it doesn’t.

What’s next, on your publishing schedule?

MH – Next to be released is FALLEN STAR from Loose Id Books ( Fair Warning to those who have read “Victorious Star”: this tale from the Imperial Stars is darker and more emotional, but it still has a Happy Ending!

FALLEN STAR is due out somewhere around the 21st of May.

Do you have a mentor or someone who guided you in becoming an author?

MH – Actually I did. A friend of mine was a ghostwriter for some of the biggest names in Romance for over 10 years. She gave me my first lessons on story outlining – which revolutionized the way I wrote, and increased my writing speed astronomically.

But most importantly, she was the one who taught me the real secrets on how the print publishing industry works – the contracts, the agents, the pressure that a professional writer must live with to keep producing, and keep producing, and keep producing.

Unfortunately, she also taught me by example, what NY can do to shatter a writer’s confidence – and career.

Shy by nature, she wrote so many stories for others – under names that she can never admit to, and watched so many brilliant authors fall to desperation-driven greed, petty jealousy and cut-throat contracts, that she now lives in utter terror of the industry.

She is not whole in mind and spirit. She writes constantly – then suffers an attack of doubt and tears apart her stories until they are unrecognizable, then and tosses the once brilliant idea in favor of another, only to tear this one apart too, and then another and another. Nothing is ever good enough.

As brilliant and wise as she is, I fear that she may never complete a story of her own, because her own fear will not let her.

What do you do for relaxation?

MH - Read and watch movies just like anyone else! LOL!

I’d like to thank you again for chatting with us today!! It’s been fun!

MH – Thank you! It was my pleasure!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Manhood? On the subject of penises...

The Naming of the Penis is a difficult matter.
It's not just one of those holidays flings.
Perhaps, you may think, I am as mad as a hatter,
- when I tell you that Peni are called a great many things...

On the Subject of Penises...
Jim pauses in his latest endeavor and frowns. After a moment's contemplation, he saves his work and firmly closes his new fantasy G4 titanium PowerBook. After a meditative sip of his drink, he addresses those around him.
There are some literary subjects that have become total cliché and attempting to describe an erect penis is one.

I am writing a sex scene and my hero is now crossing the room while fully erect. So, basically, his stiff dick is bobbing like a demented conductors baton as he crosses the room ... however, one cannot simply write, 'He crossed the room, his stiff dick bobbing like ... ' and so forth. Well, one could if one was writing that sort of scene (and one was half plastered), but cannot.

To write anything referring to his 'turgid manhood' is also somewhat tacky. Hell, just the term 'manhood' to describe the penis strikes me as idiotic. A dick is no more one's 'manhood' than a hymen is one's 'maidenhood.'

'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds somewhat he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood ... good boy.'

Just describing the state of erection is tough. It is a simple matter of erectile flesh and hydraulics, but damnably difficult to put into terms romantic.  
His penis, reacting to his viewing her naked flesh, achieved satisfactory erection, proving good vascular response and socio/psychological adjustment.

Oh, yeah ... baby, baby.

Terms like 'throbbing,' 'pulsing' and all other variations of this nature make it sound as if the silly thing had a blood pressure cuff wrapped around it.  
'His fleshy organ quickly surged into full alertness, throbbing and pulsing and otherwise scaring the **** out of him.' 

When I envision something throbbing, I imagine an action somewhat akin to a bullfrogs throat sack as it croaks. THROB! Frankly, with this in mind, if my dick ever took to throbbing, I'd call a doctor. Matter of fact, I would think that any woman, faced with an actively throbbing pulsing penis, would be somewhat concerned as well. (I don't know this for a fact, though ... Dian says that in certain situations, the sight is somewhat exciting, but the first time she experienced this situation, she looked for a stick to kill it with.)

And then there is the matter of size, shape, color and texture.

Well, he's the hero ... I suppose it should be heroic, but somewhat shy of practical joke size. Shape, now, there's another difficulty ... as well as color and texture. Hell, let's face it ... a dick is a fairly funny looking, if not downright ugly, piece of equipment. Veins, bumps, ridges and all that; a color that never matches the sheets, much less the surrounding flesh (or any flesh, for that matter); an overall look of a plum precariously balanced on a badly whittled rod. Let's not even mention it and simply stick to the concept of a literary description of my hero approaching the heroine.

Okay, he's naked and fully aroused ... does he stride? Stalk? Strut?

Strikes me as a situation that calls for something more than 'walk,' but something less than 'bound.' I could have the silly sod moonwalk across the floor, but the resulting mental image ... damn, too late! Oh, well...another round of therapy.

And what does the erect penis actually do while he crosses the floor?

Does it bounce against his belly, producing its own applause? Does it wave about in some sort of vague response to his stride? Would it be feasible if I simply had him hang a towel from the damn thing and skip the entire description?

And what about the heroine?

She is languidly reclining on the bed...and doing her level best to not bust a gut laughing, I suspect. Should she stare? Gasp? Giggle? Ogle? Chant 'boingy, boingy, boingy' as he approaches or whistle the 'Elephant Walk' in time to the swaying? This is supposed to be a moment of strong passion and deep emotions... but a bouncing, throbbing, column of manhood slowly moonwalking forward...damn, gotta stop that image ... strutting towards her cannot be what every woman dreams of in her fevered imagination. I want this scene to be equally stirring to both men and women, but fear that this is impossible."
Sailor Jim stares into the fire for a moment, then opens his PowerBook once more. "Screw it ... or, rather, let's not. I'll simply segue from her starting to slip out of her clothes to the morning after. Y'know, the standard story cop-out. Thanks for letting me talk this one through."
Sailor Jim


Sailor Jim walks in, somewhat grumpy, and orders his usual.

Okay, this is the first time --the very first time-- that I have found my quirky sense of humor turned against me. Last night, I shut my computer down, put the birds to bed, moved all the various cat people into the back of the house (so the birds could actually sleep) and took a warm shower.

Dian, as usual, had already showered and I noticed she had used a little Maja (an incredible perfume, I really recommend it to anyone who can find it).

Hot diggity, I knew what that meant and so did Squeeker. By the time I left the bathroom, Squeeker was happily leading the way like an oddly placed periscope on the sub of my body.

I opened the bedroom door and Dian was simply lying back on the bed, smiling.

I grinned back and started across the room.

And she started chanting 'Boingy, boingy, boingy' and broke up laughing.

Sailor Jim drains his drink and requests a second.

Now, I have as good a sense of humor as the next guy, even if the next guy happens to be Groucho Marx, himself, but ... well, let's just say that it was a deflating moment and leave the curtain drawn on the rest of the evening."
He takes a deep swallow of his second drink and mumbles, "Nor did it help matters when she commented, through her tears of laughter, that she finally understood the phrase 'hoisted on his own petard!
from "Naked Through the Snow and Bits of Other Silliness"
by Sailor Jim Johnston

Posted with Permission

Morgan Hawke

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quick and Dirty StoryCraft

Art by Luis Royo

PLOTTING - for Cheaters.

The easiest way for me to craft a story at top speed is by deciding on the Final Climactic Scene, then plot the rest of the story to make that scene happen. After I sketch the Plot, I decide the Premise - the ISSUE (love, revenge, wisdom, honor, trust…) at the heart of the story. I then map out what traits I need my characters to have in order to MAKE that Plot and Premise happen.

In Short -
1 - What’s my Climactic scene?
2 - What’s Issue am I trying to address?
3 - What kind of Villain would personify my Issue in the Negative?
4 - What kind of Lead would personify my Issue in the Positive?

If I have decided that my final climactic scene is a huge fantasy war with Elves, Goblins, Barbarians, Wizards and other assorted interesting critters, it stands to reason that the Premise should have a battle-theme like, Honor, and the characters should have talents, hidden or otherwise that would allow them to survive such a battle when they get there.
Of course you could go in the opposite direction and pick an issue that has nothing to do with battles. The movie “Equilibrium” had a seriously kick-ass duel at its climactic heart, (among lots of other kick-ass battles all around it,) but the whole movie dealt with the value of Emotion verses Total Control to the point of absence.


Figuring out the Main Viewpoint Character is easy – it’s your Protagonist.

Whoever defeats the Villain in your Final Climax is your protagonist. The Main Climax (the 'Reversal' in the dead center of the story,) can be anybody's triumph, but the final showdown belongs to the Protagonist.

I usually have my Protagonist fail at the Reversal – and have to be rescued, (usually by someone they don’t like), THEN triumph in the Final Battle.

Why FAIL at the Reversal?
I don’t know about you, but when I fail, I usually get so pissed at my failure, I go out of my way to make damned sure I don’t fail again. Oddly enough, all my Protagonists feel the same way. (grin)

For why I NEVER use the Villain's POV: The Villain's Point of View?

Premise & Character

To insure that my characters are Premise-tied, or illustrations of the story’s chosen Issue - Balance is the key. Making my Protagonist (the Hero or Heroine,) and my Antagonist (the Villain,) opposing personifications of the same issue, and then the Ally, or Opposition character (the Heroine or Hero,) something in between, usually works like a charm.

If the Premise Issue is Honor:
  • My Villain will obviously be Dishonorable with my Hero being Honorable, and my Heroine being mostly Honest.
  • My Villain will be overly Honorable, with my Hero being barely Honorable, and my heroine painfully Honest.
Movies such as The MATRIX, CONSTANTINE and EQUILIBRIUM are perfect illustrations of Premise-tied stories and Characters.

For in in-depth explaination of linking Premise to Character: The Mysterious and Maddening PREMISE

In case of CHARACTER - Break Glass.

Every once in a while I come up with a really, Really, REALLY cool character – but no story. Or worse, end up with a character that’s too cool for the part he’s supposed to play.

If the character is too cool for the story – I yank his ass and file him for use in a different story, then rebuild from scratch.

When I have a really cool character in need of a story - I ask three Questions*:
(*Shamelessly stolen from Paperback Writer's blog)
1 - What are you, and what do you do?
2 - What do you want?
3 - What's the worst possible thing I could do to you?

In Action –
1 - I am a Spy and I steal secrets from my enemies.
2 - I want to destroy my enemy.
3 - Convince me that I’ve been working on the wrong side all along.

1 - I’m a Vampire and a predator.
2 - I want to be left alone.
3 - Make me fall in love with the one person I will destroy with my appetites.

The "worst possible thing" gives me that character's Ordeal, or Darkest Moment. I build the rest of the PLOT from there.
Before you ask...
 -- YES, you should know all three of these answers for EVERY character you craft in every story you write.

For a more in-depth look at building character: Characters Tailor-made For the Plot

Lagging Plot? Put it in Reverse!

The key to making a story really yank the readers' chain, is by making something totally unexpected go terribly wrong right in the middle of the story. Think of it as being the punch-line in the joke.
  • You rescued the Princess only to discover that the Princess wasn’t the target; the sanctuary you brought the Princess to was. – Star Wars
  • You dug into a lot of hidden information to hunt down the world’s biggest secret; only to discover that the entire world was the secret. – The Matrix
  • You discovered the archaeological find of the century; only to discover that the artifact conjures a monster. – The Mummy & Indiana Jones
  • You decided to do the most authentic vampire movie ever, by hiring an actual vampire;  only to realize that the vampire won’t stop draining your filming crew. – Shadow of the Vampire 
Wrapping it up.

The conclusion shouldn’t be just a hard Win or Lose situation. Winning should come with a cost, and losing should come with an unexpected bonus.

For some odd and unexplainable reason, a total triumph seems to be just as unsatisfying to the modern day reader as a total: “He dies, she dies, everybody dies…” Bittersweet seems to be the preferred flavor for an ending.

I have no idea WHY the majority seems to prefer a balance of good and bad, but I do have the hate-mail to prove it.
Where do you End it?

End where you began, back at square one. Make it a nice tidy loop. It tells the reader: “The next story is about to begin!”
  • Sam Spade always ends up back in his office, ready to begin his next job.
  • Alice comes back out of her rabbit hole; of course she’s being chased, but hey…!
  • King Arthur sailed off in a tiny ship on the lake where he gained Excalibur, and his career as King began, but he wasn’t dead. He could have come back. (He didn’t come back, but He COULD Have!)
Even the classic Romances that end with a wedding party imply a new beginning.

In Conclusion…
Don’t push yourself to be perfect the first time, or even the third.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, practice, practice.

How do you get into the Publishing Houses?
Practice, practice, practice.

Writing a story isn’t that hard. Writing a story that a Publisher will buy is hard and takes lot of work, in addition to an enormous amount of practice. Let's put it this way, I got into writing erotica because I thought it was easy. I was WRONG. I had 18 short stories published (18 stories worth of practice,) before I got paid for my first novel.

Give yourself time to experiment with your stories and grow as a writer. Expecting too much of yourself too fast, is the quickest way to kill your future as an author before your career has even gotten off the ground.

Morgan Hawke

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Reviewers International Organization - Interview

Award of Excellence
Morgan Hawke
is the 1st Place Winner in
Debut Novel
House of Shadows

A very special Thank you to MIDNIGHT SYNDICATE
Listening to their album VAMPYRE made writing this particular novel a total scream! 
Reviewers International Organization


By DeborahAnne MacGillivrary

Morgan Hawke was recommended to me by Roberta Brown, writer/agent, who got the recommendation from Angela Knight author of Master of the Night and Jane’s Warlord. I had thought Angela Knight was one of the sharpest writers since I first read her Roarke’s Prisoner, a Sci-Fi/Futuristic tale for Red Sage’s Secrets. Since then, she had never failed to impress me. So for a writer to impress her, I had to take notice!

Morgan’s House of Shadow:  Enchantment in Crimson earned her a 4 1/2 Stars rating from Romantic Times, and justly so. It has been selling in a secondary market on Amazon.france for nearly $100 a copy!

She’s may be a new name to readers, but won’t stay that way for long. She is a prolific writer with a long backlist of e-books available such as Uber-Gothic, Victorious Star, The Pirate’s Pixie, Passion’s Vintage, Snow Moon, Night Waitress, Teachers Pet, Queen of the Dragons and more.

Her writings are not for Gran or Auntie Bess, but if you want a walk on the wild side, you cannot do better than this hot new writer.

So let’s find out what in on the mind of the talented writer who impresses Angela Knight…

Tell us about what motivates you to write your stories.  Where does your inspiration come from?  What pushed you to write erotica?

Out of sheer desperation for something to read, I started writing my own little stories of erotic adventure. I submitted my little shorts to a small erotic story site, and to my complete surprise, the readers not only liked them, they started hounding me for more!

18 short stories later, I went to Extasy Books with my first full novel near completion – HOUSE OF SHADOWS.

House of Shadows, the first book of the Enchantment in Crimson really blew me away.  You are a sassy writer, with a wicked sense of humor.  When can we expect the next installment of this series?

I’m going to take Michelangelo’s view when approached by the pope on when he would finish the Sistine Chapel: “When it’s finished”.

Victorious Star shows you really pushing the limits.  It was a fine line between erotica and rape in the early part of the tale, but you pulled it off.  How do you go to that edge and still keep the balance? 

The trick to NOT stepping over the line is to clue the reader in through body language and dialogue cues. They may be saying one thing but actions really do speak louder than words.

Context is the Key. If someone is saying something terribly mean, but pressing a tender kiss to your brow at the same time, it changes the entire meaning of what is being said.

In Victorious Star, the two males struck me as resembling Aragron and Legolas, or was that my imagination?

LOL! – I had two completely different actors in mind, but if that’s what made you tingle in all the right ways, by all means imagine them!

There are a lot of vampire writers out there at the moment.  How are your vampire tales different?  What makes them unique?

This is a Very complicated answer. It starts with the fact that I have studied magic for over 23 years and ends with something relatively simple – my vampires feed on the soul. Stoker said it in his novel: “The blood is the life.” I see blood as a vehicle for tapping into the body to get to the soul. The more creative a person is, the more “soul” they have – and the more tempting they are to a vampire.

You writing of witches, warlocks, vampires and pixies shows you adore the magickal side of writing.  What draws you to this?

I grew up in New England; New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The whole area is positively bursting with old ghost stories and tales of magic. I guess you could say it was inevitable that I would write about what I had known all my growing up years.

Which of your books of those books you have written is your favourite?  Which is the one do you like the least and why?

My least favorite book is Demoness. It was written to be textbook Erotica, designed specifically to excite the reader – and no more. It’s a complete success in the male-dominated sex-story genre of pure erotica, but a complete failure in the Erotic Romance market. The characters had no depth what so ever. It is utterly emotionless and plot-driven. People Do things, but they don’t Feel anything about what they are doing. The true pity is that Demoness Could Have had depth, but that was not what that particular market called for.

My newer stories are all character-driven. The characters affect each other’s decisions – feelings and emotions count.

I will say this though, Character-driven stories are MUCH harder to write. I get caught up in the character’s worries and problems to the point that it’s not unusual for me to finish chapters in tears. Victorious Star was so harrowing on my emotions that I actually had to take two whole weeks off from writing (and I write every single day – without fail,) just to recover from what I had wrung out of myself to get it onto the page.

As to a favorite story, I don’t have one just yet…

Which come first?  The plot or the characters?  Which drives the story for you?

Believe it or not PLOT comes first. Once I know what I want to happen, I design characters to work against that plot.

Every once in a while I come up with a very interesting character. When this happens, I immediately try to design a plot that will test them to the limits (mental, physical and emotional) of their being. If a character changes to the point that they no longer work with the established plot, I pull them from the story, and file them away for a story of their own.

For me – The STORY always comes first.

Do you plot it yourself or do the characters come alive and take “control”?  Do you write in pieces or straight through?

I design a loose plot then outline the characters, their drives, their motivations and their fears as thoroughly as possible, and then I outline my plot in detail. This does not mean I know exactly how the characters will accomplish that particular event, I only know that they must, to get to the next event.

I normally write straight through. I know what needs to happen so it’s a simple matter of going from A to B, but every now and again I get a whole scene that I know needs to go in the story, but I don’t know where. I write the scene and save it in its own document, then go back to where I left off and wait for that scene’s place to appear.

House of Shadows was done in bits and pieces, one unrelated scene appearing out of nowhere after another, but then House of Shadows was my first novel too. I had yet to learn the fine art of BLOCKING, making a thorough outline of major events. These days I don’t write without a detailed plot outline set up. If a scene pops up, it’s a simple matter of looking at the outline to see where that scene would work best and jotting a notation into the appropriate block.

Once in a while this great scene blooms into being – and doesn’t go. Those scenes usually end up becoming an entire story all by themselves. 

Was there a book or books that made you say, I have to write Romance or a writer who really influenced your chose in what you wanted to write.

Absolutely! I started writing erotica because I loved reading it. Unfortunately the only author producing stories I actually enjoyed back in ’98, was Angela Knight. Ms. Angela Knight’s “Blood & Kisses” in the Red Sage “Secrets” Book #4, was my first introduction to what I felt erotica should be. Shortly after reading that one story, (1998) I started writing. I have since met her and I have yet to meet a more gracious and generous author! She did the cover art for House of Shadows!

What made you chose erotica?

I made the same mistake most beginning writers make; I chose to write Erotica, because I thought it was easy. Boy, was I ever WRONG. 

Is there some period or genre that you have not explored that calls to your Muse?

I have been very, VERY lucky. Erotica allows exploration into any genre you could possibly imagine – contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, gothic, sci-fi… I have an erotic title published in every single sub-genre, and I am comfortable writing them all.

However, this ability of mine to write in any genre has become something of a worry. I have heard over and over and over, that once you start writing for the New York publishing houses you have to stick to ONE genre – even in erotica. I am having the hardest time choosing WHICH genre to present to them, because which ever one they accept, that’s what I am going to be stuck writing for a long, long time.

How do you write?  Daytime, nighttime?  Do you set the mood with music or need silence for concentration?

I write all day long and into the night. I am a full time writer. My butt is in that chair every waking moment I possess. I have no family, so I have no distractions what so ever. I even eat at my desk.

I use movie soundtracks for atmosphere. This is how I maintain consistency in the flavor of my books even though they take months and sometimes years to write.  

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?  How long have you been writing?

Stories have always crowded into my head. I write them down to get some peace. I have been writing stories since I started drawing pictures on every scrap of paper I could find as a small child.

I was 14 when I began writing as a way to deal with problems at home. I decided that writing stories was what I wanted to do professionally after winning a regional short story contest when I was in the tenth grade back in 1980. I spent the entire rest of my life, since that time, gathering experiences and information on every subject that interested me so I could put it down on paper.

For me, writing is a full blown obsession. I couldn’t stop if I tried.

How long was it before you sold your first book?

In 2000, Amatory Ink asked for one of my stories for their: Mythic Fantasy Anthology. That was the first piece I actually got money for. Amoret bought and published a small flasher that I wrote on a whim. In 2002, Suspect Thoughts Magazine published a short of mine that ended up in the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica Vol. 3. I got the check from BNE3 on publication, a full year after the editor asked for it.

In 2003, I offered Extasy Books a small novella that was getting critical acclaim on a free site and they snatched it up. It sold very well. A collection of 12 of my shorts followed that. Then I submitted my first real novel. The novel "House of Shadows" scooped up 5 and 4.5 star rating with the reviewers. It was a complete success and was one of the first books Extasy sent to print. My largest novel, an SM Sci-Fi, "Victorious Star" broke every record for sales I ever had, but "Uber-Gothic" is gaining on VS for sheer volume of sales very quickly.

I have only ever had one rejection: from Tor books. The book Tor rejected was "House of Shadows" - which is making me a tidy sum at Extasy. It wasn't what Tor was looking for, but it was exactly what Extasy wanted.

How long did it take me to get published? That's hard to say. Everything I've ever submitted has been published. Writing has been very, very good for me. I've been living on my royalties - as my only income - since August of this year. It's not a whole lot - but it's enough for me.

Do you have advice to writers struggling to break into Erotica?

Yes. Do your RESEARCH! If you plan to write about vampires, understand that the readers have very likely already read every other vampire book in print and are Very well informed on their subject. The readers of any given genre will always know if you know your subject  - and will judge you accordingly. 

For more detailed advice, and the occasional rant, visit my Writing Blog (web-log): 

I presume you want to break into Mainstream Publishing?  Is that a goal?  Will you still write for e-books if this comes about?

Seeing my name on the bookshelf of a major book-chain has always been a dream, but unfortunately, mainstream writing does not pay as well – or as regularly – as writing for the ebook markets.

A $10,000 advance on a book that takes 6 months to write, and over a year to see print does not go very far once you realize that you only get one third of it on signing the contract, another third once you deliver the completed manuscript – after they tear it to shreds and you have to rewrite, and rewrite it, and rewrite it…to their specifications, which may or may not be related to the book you actually wrote – and the last third when it finally appears on the bookshelf. A single novel can take anywhere from one year to three to appear on the bookshelf. That’s a Long time between paychecks.

Should I ever make it to mainstream publishing I will not stop writing ebooks, simply because I could not afford the pay-cut. 

Where do you hope your writing career will be ten years from now?

Lucrative. I hope my career will prove lucrative. LOL! I have my doubts though. Very few authors actually make enough to live on their writing. At this point in time, I actually AM living on my royalties, but then my bills are teeny-tiny. A one-bedroom apartment is far easier to support than a family!

My dream is to be able to afford a cottage on the coast. (sigh…)

March 1st 1995