Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to Make THE END

Sephiroth by Yubinbasya

"When will you make an end?"
- The Pope on the painting of the Sistine Chapel
"When I'm finished."
- Michelangelo.

Okay, so you got this GREAT Idea for a story!

This Great Idea...that births chapter after chapter...

This Great Idea...that you can't seem to finish. (WTF?)


So what do you do now?

HOW do you make THE END?

Fairytales and Myths were my foundational reading, so they became my base model for how a story should finish. Fairy Tales have Symmetrical Closure, they end where they began, making a nice tidy 'Karmic' loop.
  • The lost find their way.
  • The wicked are punished.
  • The weak become strong.
This doesn't mean ending a story in the location it began, or that full irrevocable transformations don't happen, but that the story ties the knot to the Emotional or Karmic place they began. Monsters are faced, emotional hang-ups are dealt with, and problems are solved. What is begun - finishes.

It sounds perfectly simple, and it can be, however I despise stories I can guess the ending to, so naturally, I refuse to write them that way. (Insert evil snicker.) 
The Wrong direction is the Right direction!

I prefer to write stories that throw the reader completely off the obvious path, straight through the center of the village, and force them into the deep dark woods. I deliberately make every straightforward solution unbelievably problematic!
  • The obvious answer is the wrong answer.
  • The simple solution is impossible to accomplish.
  • What seems to be a easy task has impossible if not fatal complications.
Once the reader has been sent careening off into territory they never expected to go, and gotten utterly wrapped up in a plot they never expected - that's when I start tying up ends by way of pulling rugs out from under the reader's feet.

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

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

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

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

"But the story is already halfway written and I have no idea where to go from there!"

Go back to the beginning and figure out what your MAIN Character's Problem was Internally (emotionally) & Externally (plot/quest). If you haven't solved them yet, then that's all you need to do -- solve the quest & fix their emotional issue. 

Note: Your main character is the Point of View character most of the story is told from. 

"But what do you do if you've come to the end, but you wanna keep going?"

That's what Sequels are all about.

Very simply: Same cast - New Problem -- and new title!

"...too many good books, book series, anime, etc. suffer from
Bad Endings."

Most often, this happens when: 

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

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

How do you
FIX the Problem?

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

This also means making a decision.

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

2) Bit off more than you can Swallow.

-- I've noticed that this shows most frequently when you have an ANGST plot. Oddly, it also shows up when someone wants to write a sex scene, but never had sex before. 

Fixing Sex
- This is actually really easy. READ smut stories. (Watching porn movies gives you what it looks like, but not what it FEELS like.) Make damned sure you read the warnings on each story! Some of this stuff might make you wanna hurl.

  • Hetero smut - I recommend reading books by author Angela Knight for excellent graphic detailing without making you wanna hurl, and a solid romance with her adventures.
  • Yaoi smut - go here: Minotaurs Sex Tips for Slash Writers. Read that.
Just, for God's sake, don't copy someone's smut scenes word for word - that's plagerism. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.

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

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

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

In the East, it's another story entirely. People do get back together because they are tought from childhood that Family and personal Honor is far more important than personal feelings.
  • Enemies WILL put their personal vendettas on hold until a common enemy is vanquished.
  • Wives will go back to their husbands for the sake of keeping the rest of the family safe from harm; giving those husbands a chance to make their wives fall in love with them again.
In Conclusion...
-- When you have come up with the most diabolical problem known to man (or beast) the only way to fix it is by finding out how other people did it and applying that to your characters. Ahem, RESEARCH. There are literally thousands of help sites for dealing with relationship problems, and even more on how to deal with grief, loneliness, and other emotionally devistating issues.

Hint: Google is your friend.
Morgan Hawke

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Plotting Causes & Effects

Edward Elric
Full-Metal Alchemist

-----Original Message-----
Could you tell me more on "... plotting story points? I can get the big story idea well enough, but I run into a snag deciding the whole causality thing -- A leads to B, leads to C, …etc."
-- Jasmine R
Ah, so you wanna know how to put all the theories together to make a story, do you? (Gee, you couldn’t pick the easy stuff could you?) Okay...

A story’s Causes & Effects, the triggers that lead from one event to the next, comes from your Premise.
The Premise is the theoretical / emotional problem that your story is trying to illustrate and answer. It's the glue that holds the whole thing together. It's the Purpose of your story.

In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':
Edward decided to bring his mother back to life – against the laws of Alchemy. He learned the hard way exactly why you Didn’t do that. His entire story revolves around this massive Wrong Decision that looked like the right decision when he decided to do it.

The Premise for the entire series is Right vs. Wrong.
All of the characters throughout this long and convoluted story are involved in dilemmas of right actions verses wrong actions, and then dealing with the consequences of their decisions.

How to Use this:
  • Each pivitol Character should represent a different reflection of the Premise - the Story's theoretical / emotional problem.
  • Each Cause is an event where your characters make a decision in an attempt to Fix their individual theoretical / emotional problem.
  • The Effect is the results - whether or not their action / solution works, works temporarily, or doesn't work at all.
  • Those results lead to the Next Attempt at trying to solve their Problem.
How it works:
In 'The Matrix':

  • Each Character is a different reflection of the Story's theoretical / emotional problem.
Each character is a representation of the story's Premise, Knowledge vs. Ignorance. The meanings behind their Names are the biggest clue as to what facet of Knowledge each character represents.
  • Each Cause is an event where one your characters makes a Decision in an attempt to Fix their individual theoretical / emotional problem.
Neo the main character, is faced with one problem after the other. Each one forces him to make a Decision. "Do I want to Know, or do I want to Ignore it?" < -- the Premise
  • The Effect is whether or not their solution works, works temporarily, or doesn't work at all.
When the entire cast is caught in a trap set by the agents, each character makes a different choice on how to deal with the problem.
  • Neo just follows along. His name means 'New' and he stands for complete ignorance. He has no clue what so ever about what's going on around him.
  • Morpheus's name means 'Dream', and his dream is that he will find 'the One' whom he thinks is Neo. He sacrifices himself so Neo can escape, choosing to follow his Faith in his dream blindly.
  • Trinity, named for the great Triple Goddess, (AKA Mother Nature,) makes her choices based on her emotions. She is emotionally attached to both Neo and Morpheus. Unable to choose between them, she freezes in momentary indecision when Morpheus makes his sacrifice.
  • Those results lead to the Next Attempt at trying to solve their Problem.
To solve the problem of Morpheus's sacrifice, Neo makes a decision based on the Knowledge that the Oracle had given him. He takes responsibility for losing Morpheus and decides to go get him. Trinity also feels responsible for Morpheus's loss, and as second in command of the ship (mother figure to the crew,) she is determined to bring him home. Together, they run to the rescue.

And so the story continued with the next dilemma.

-----Original Message-----
"I know you said you work backwards from your climax, but I don't know how to settle on the climax either. So how do you do it?"

The Climax is where you Apply the RIGHT Answer to the story's Premise, the theoretical / emotional problem.
This works best if you make it the LAST thing anyone wants to do.

In 'The Full-Metal Alchemist':
The last thing Edward wants to do, is leave well enough alone. He is determined to use Alchemy to fix the problem he caused by using Alchemy in the first place.

More on Premise:
The Mysterious and Maddening PREMISE

-----Original Message-----
"What questions do you ask yourself to get yourself moving in the right direction?

To generate a basic Plot, I set up my three main characters...
Adversary –(Antagonist) the one making the most trouble.
Proponent – (Protagonist) the one trying to keep things the way they are.
Ally - Companion to one or the other who is at odds with both.

And I ask each one Three Questions:
1 Who am I, what am I, and what do I do?
2 What do I want?
3 What's the worst possible thing that could happen to me?

The 9 answers to these questions give me the Major turning points for the story. In order for the plot to be water tight, each character must Demonstrate the answers to each of these questions. Leaving any of these out of the story gives you a Plot Hole.

How it works:
In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':
1 Who am I, what am I, and what do I do?
I am Edward Elric and I became the Full Metal Alchemist because I made a major mistake, and now I have to deal with it.

2 What do I want?
I want to restore my brother back to his human body, and get back my missing arm and leg.

3 What's the worst possible thing that could happen to me?
I could find out that the cost to reverse my mistake is measured in human lives.

More on the Three Questions and how to use them:
High Speed Plotting!

More on the Three Characters and how they function together:
When the Hero is NOT a Hero

-----Original Message-----
"I get frozen by the unlimited places I could go to from the start..."

Hell, so do I. LOL! I try to choose the one direction no one expects, the one thing that hasn't been done, or the one action that seems most likely to fail. I like surprising my readers.

-----Original Message-----
"What's the specific place that's the most exciting and most engaging for the reader?"

The Darkest Moment - the story's Reversal.
This is the place where everything falls completely apart and the Main Character crashes and burns. It is the character's moment of total failure that forces them to face the real solution to their emotional / theoretical problem -- and make a decision:

  • Give up & die...
  • Refuse to admit that they were Wrong -- and ignore the solution to their emotional / theoretical problem.
  • Admit they were Wrong -- and act on the solution to their emotional / theoretical problem.
In 'The Matrix':
This story's darkest moment is when Morpheus sacrifices himself to let Neo escape. The rest of Neo's decisions and the story's entire plot, hinges on this one moment.

In 'Constantine':
This story's darkest moment is when the leading heroine decides to reawaken her denied psychic abilities -- instantly making her a target for the story's main villain. If she hadn't awakened her latent talents, she would have been useless to the villain.

In 'Leon the Professional':
The story's darkest moment is when young Mathilda realizes that she can't shoot the villain dead, she just doesn't have it in her to kill -- and then the villain recognizes her as the one that got away.

The Answer to the Premise -- is the story's actual pay-off. This is what the Reader has been waiting for.
Everybody is looking for solutions to their personal issues.
  • "How do I deal with a sucky job, and a boss I seriously loathe?"
  • “How do I know if someone is worthy of of my love?”
  • "How do I handle my family issues?"
  • “How do I deal with the monster in my closet?”
Ever hear the phrase: “People are People”? No matter who they are or where they live, human issues Never change. "People are People." Embrace this phrase, love this phrase, use and abuse this phrase! THIS is the key to fiction people WANT to read.

Sure you could be writing a Horror or a Fantasy, but the people in your horror or fantasy should STILL be dealing with the same issues everybody else deals with:
  • Sucky bosses - How do you think Saruman really felt about working for Sauron?
  • Love interests - Arwen's dad did not approve of her scruffy human boyfriend.
  • Family issues - Eowen of Rohan had to deal with a senile dad PLUS several bossy older brothers.
  • Monsters under the bed - Ringwraths & Orcs. Need I say more?
No matter how fantastic or unusual, people STILL suffer from the same issues.

That's what the Darkest Moment of the story does, it forces the Main Character to realize the answer to their personal problems -- offering a solution to your Readers' problems too.

Caution! Don't leave anybody Out!
All three characters (Proponant, Ally, Villain) should have a Dark Moment that occurs in somewhere in the story. That dark moment is what leads them to a pivitol decision which then rolls straight downhill into the Climax - the big confrontation between ALL the main characters.

The Climax's deciding factor?
The Villain’s INABILITY to Change enough to make the Right Decision is the reason WHY they LOSE.
  • The Hero Crashes, Burns, Learns from his mistakes, and Rises Again.
  • The Villain merely Crashes and Burns. He does NOT learn from his mistakes. He does Not rise again.
And the Ally?
Traditionally, the Ally knew the right answer all along. Because of this, they were often instrumental in triggering the Crash & Burn for both the Hero and the Villain, as the victim of one or the other's bad judgment. (Sometimes the victim of Both.)

In 'The Full Metal Alchemist':
Aphonse Elric knew all along that some things should be left alone, but his devotion to his brother Edward allowed him to join in on his brother's Bad Decision to raise their mother from the dead with a forbidden spell. And so he became a victim of the story's Hero -- his brother Edward.

This of course, triggered Edward's next decision -- to rise from his ashes and become the Full-Metal Alchemist.

Hope that helped Jaz!

Morgan Hawke

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crossing Genres

(Sin City ~ A perfect example of a Romantic Horror)

When it's MORE than Just a Fantasy
Every genre has core elements that make that genre that genre. In order to Cross Genres properly, you need to know each of your genre’s distinctive elements and make them Equally Important in the story.

Simple, no? However...

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in every genre of fiction: IGNORANCE.

“Most of the common mistakes come with any writing that isn't so good—bad characters, bad plots, bad writing. The ones which are peculiar to alternate histories (fantasy and sci-fi) are bad research and bad extrapolation.”
-- An Interview with Harry Turtledove

How do you expect to cross genres properly if you don't even know the genres you're working with?

Contrary to popular belief, even if you're writing pure Heroic Fantasy, just making it up as you go is NOT good enough!

On writing Heroic Fantasy:
“…The consequence of making that assumption [research is not necessary for a completely made-up world] is, inevitably, a sleazy product. It may be bought by an editor hard up for material, but it will carry none of the conviction, the illusion of reality, which helps make the work … memorable. At best, it will drop into oblivion; at worst, it will stand as an awful example. If our field becomes swamped with this kind of garbage, readers are going to go elsewhere for entertainment and there will be no more…”
-- On Thud and Blunder by Poul Anderson

Genre Ignorance
Genre ignorance is where the author writes a story in a genre they know nothing about.

Someone writes a Historical Romance, when they’ve never read any Romances.
This shows up as a beautifully detailed Historical with barely a drop of real Emotional Passion. They would have been better off writing a Historical Adventure.

CLUE: It’s all about the Relationship. Really.

Someone writes an Erotica story, when they’ve never read any real Erotica.
This shows up as a sloppily detailed journal entry written in first person POV, and present tense, with lousy grammar, and no emotional content beyond amazement. Even worse, the descriptions involve actual numbers and letters. "She was 5'6" and a DD." They would have been better off writing a Xenthouse Letter.

CLUE: It's not: "The characters had SEX." It's: "What happened BECAUSE the Characters had sex."

Someone writes a Sci-Fi, when they’ve never read any Sci-Fi’s.
This shows up as a beautifully detailed Adventure, with hardly a drop of real Science anywhere. These stories are normally labeled Futuristics, as the only Sci-Fi they have going for them is the Setting. They would have been better off writing a Western, or a High Seas adventure, a historical War story, or just about any other kind of Adventure you can think of.

CLUE: “If you can take the Science out of the Fiction and still have a viable story in another genre, you did it WRONG.” -- Isaac Azimov

Someone writes a Gothic, when they’ve never read any Gothics.
This shows up as a beautifully detailed Romance, with hardly a drop of deep dark Emotional Issues anywhere. They would have been better off writing a Historical Romance.

CLUE: It’s all about the Angst. Really.

Someone writes a Mystery, when they’ve never read any Mysteries.
This shows up as a beautifully detailed Adventure, with a barely real criminal and hardly a drop of a real Investigation anywhere. Or worse, the readers KNOWS “whodunit” by the end of the fourth chapter because the author was foolish enough to give “whodunit”, a Point of View.

CLUE: It's all about NOT being able to figure out "whodunnit" until the bitter end. Seriously.

Mystery readers read Mysteries to match their wits against the Author’s. If they guess the answer too quickly, the author has done the worst thing they could possibly do to their reader – DISAPPOINTED Them. They would have been better off writing a Suspense adventure.

Planning to write a Vampire Romance or Vampire Erotica?

WARNING! ~ Most hard-core vampire readers won’t touch a Vampire Romance or a Paranormal Romance, or a Gothic Romance for that matter, with a 10-foot pole and they're damned choosy with their Vampire Erotica too.

Why not?
~ The Vampire reader is a Purist, and more often than not, Goth. To the hard-core Goth crowd, Vampires are more than mere entertainment they’re an Icon, and very often, represent a personal obsession with Death.

To put it bluntly, these readers have already read just about everything there is to read about vampires; fiction and non-fiction, in addition to classic Gothic literature. These folks have VERY intimate knowledge about anything and everything to do with vampires and Gothics, so it’s blatantly obvious to them, when an author hasn’t done their research on Vampires, or has no clue on what Gothics and Horrors are really about.

CLUE: To a vampire obsessed Goth, a vampire has meaning, and ANGST. They want their vampires to be VAMPIRES brooding over the nature of Life and Death, not just a hot guy with pointy teeth.

On the other hand, the die-hard Romance reader is perfectly happy with a romantically inclined hot guy with pointy teeth – but you better get the Romance right! Erotica readers are also cool with hot guys (or girls) with pointy teeth, but they're reading to Get-Off, so the characters had not only better be attractive, the sex had better be explicit.

And that’s just Vampires. Fantasy and Science-fiction have their share of fanatical purists too.

The easiest way to FIX the Ignorance problem?

There’s no excuse for Lack of Research.

If you think the readers won't notice when you get something Wrong, you are sadly mistaken. I can't tell you how many readers have come to me because they looked up an obscure little fact I tossed into a story and were astonished that I was Accurate.

Avoid hate-mail, do your damned research, and do it BEFORE you write.

The advent of the Internet has made looking anything up a freaking breeze. Anything you could possibly want to know is up on somebody’s website somewhere. is your friend, seriously. USE IT.

"What has all this to do with Crossing Genres?"

Well, before you can combine two genres, you need to KNOW the two genres you're working with because BOTH of them must be equally important in the story to BE a Cross-Genre.

The Rule of Cross Genre Fiction:
When you Cross Genres, if you can take either genres’ identifying elements out of the Fiction and still have a viable story in the genre that’s left – you did it WRONG.”

The Genres
(Broken down to their simplest common denominators)

Character driven = Drama
Gothic – mysterious circumstances caused by repressed/hidden issues
Romance – intimate circumstances caused by love issues
Horror – life and death circumstances caused by despair/madness/hate issues

Premise driven = Consequence
Science Fiction – scientific elements and human values
Fantasy – fantasy elements and mythic values
Paranormal – supernatural elements and Karmic values
Erotica – sexual elements and emotional values

Setting driven = Exploration
Contemporary – set in the present-day
Historical - set in the past
Futuristic – set in the future
High Fantasy – set in the Mythic past

Plot driven = Action
Mystery – a crime and investigation quest
Suspense - a contemporary heroic quest
Adventure – a heroic quest
Sci-Fi - a futuristic heroic quest (space opera)

Okay, there you go. You now know what makes each genre tick. What’s next?

Let’s play: Mix and Match!
Take any genre from one of the four drives, and another genre from any of the Other three drives, and put them together.


“What if I wanna use two genres from the SAME drive?”
Go ahead, be my guest. The three DRAMA drives work fine paired up with any of the other DRAMA drives, however you’re going to find it a little tough to pair up the rest of them.

All right, once you’ve picked your two genres, simply use ALL the elements of BOTH and you’ve got a perfect cross genre.

Premise driven = Consequence - Science Fiction: scientific elements and human values
Character driven = Drama - Gothic: mysterious circumstances caused by repressed/hidden issues

= The Matrix - A Gothic Sci-Fi

Let’s define The Matrix:
Scientific elements = Computer Generated Reality and Villains
Human values = Knowledge verses Ignorance < -- Premise
Mysterious circumstances = Strange coincidences that couldn’t possibly be Natural
Repressed/hidden issues = The True nature of Reality

Get it? Wanna do it again?

Premise driven = Consequence - Paranormal: supernatural elements and Karmic values
Character driven = Drama - Gothic: mysterious circumstances caused by repressed/hidden issues
Setting driven = Exploration - Contemporary: set in the present-day

= Constantine - A Paranormal Gothic

Let’s define Constantine:
Supernatural elements = Demons and Angels
Karmic values = Actions verses Motive/Intent < -- Premise
Mysterious circumstances = A sudden increase in demonic activity.
Repressed/hidden issues = Faith
Set in the present-day = New York City

One more time!

Premise driven = Consequence - Romance: intimate circumstances caused by love issues
Premise driven = Consequence - Horror – life and death circumstances caused by despair/madness/hate issues

= Sin City - A Romantic Horror

Let’s define Sin City:
Because we used Two Premise driven genres, we ADD the premises together, and ADD the Circumstances together.

Intimate circumstances + Life and death circumstances = Sex and Murder
Love issues + despair/madness/hate issues = The insane lengths one will go to when in Love. < -- Premise

Got it now?

Ruling Elements
Many cross genres are ruled by one genre or the other. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it frequently is. For example, Romance tends to outweigh any other genre its paired with. Why? Publishers' insistence, or rather, their Marketing Department's insistence. Romance readers outnumber all other readers. In other words: specifically to generate Profit.

By the way, the genre Romantic Suspense was originally an attempt to grab some of the Mystery readers. (Increased Readers = Increased Profits) Unfortunately, Mystery readers tend to be Purists. They read Mysteries for the Puzzle the story represents and for no other reason. While they don’t seem to mind a bit of hanky-panky in their stories, they will NOT put up with a story they can guess in a few chapters, or a story that isn’t actually focused on the Mystery to be solved.

Romantic Suspense failed at grabbing the Mystery readers completely BECAUSE their stories weren’t actually Mysteries. They were mystery-flavored action-adventure romances. See what I mean about Genre Ignorance?

However, adding a PLOT to a Romance made the genre a hit with the Romance readers, who had gotten very, very bored with only Historicals or Contemporaries to read.

Oddly enough, this discovery of adding a fully functional plot to a Romance, plus the rise in interest in Women's Erotica via the "Black Lace" novels and the Red Sage's "Secrets" anthologies, led to the birth of another whole genre:

Erotic Romance
The big secret behind the overwhelming popularity of Erotic Romance is neither the Romance nor the Erotic elements, but the fact that there’s a THIRD genre in the mix. This third genre is the PLOT that ties the Romance and the Sex together.

Which genre? Any of them, each of them, ALL of them. Erotic Romance is a genre of Cross-genres.

Romance + Erotica + Genre = Erotic Romance
  • Romance + Erotica + Sci-Fi = Erotic Sci-fi
  • Romance + Erotica + Fantasy = Erotic Fantasy
  • Romance + Erotica + Mystery = Erotic Suspense
  • Romance + Erotica + Pulp Fiction = Erotic Romance
  • Romance + Erotica + Horror = Erotic Horror
What made this Genre of Cross-Genres so hot a sale?

Contrary to popular (Publisher) belief, Romance readers are NOT purists. As long as there’s a sexually-explicit Romance and a vaguely Happy Ending they’ll take any genre it comes in.

At this point in time, the only deciding factor between one cross-genre of Erotic Romance and the next is the author’s Skill, seriously. A skilled Erotic Romance author can make ANY cross-genre of Erotic Romance profit.

In Conclusion...
To create a true Cross-Genre, ALL the genres involved must be equally important in the story to BE a Cross-Genre. However, doing it Wrong doesn’t mean it won’t get published. It just means you “missed the point” of crossing your genres.

Even so, I’m firmly of the opinion that if you’re going to do something, do it RIGHT.

Why? Because if you do it Wrong, and someone else does it Right, guess who’s gonna grab all the readers?


DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Morgan Hawke

Dear Morgan ~ a Cover Letter?!?

Morgan Hawke
~ Mad, Bad, and Dangerously in the Know!

----- Original Message -----

"Dear Morgan,
-- The submission guidelines specifically request that you include your writing background in the cover letter.

What should you say when you have NO writing background? Do I just say: "I have no writing background, this is my first book." Or should I write something flowery that sounds good, but pretty much states the same thing?"

-- Aspiring Author

Dear Aspiring...
-- What do you tell your potential Publisher?

The blunt TRUTH.
Beating around the bush may be polite in some circles, but it's not a good idea when you're dealing with an Editor. They don't have time to plow through a hunk of text to find out if you're a Name Brand author or just fresh new talent.

Your cover-letter is, in fact, a snap shot of YOU, as much as it is the book you want them to look at. Polite never hurts, but flowery will only make the editor reading your letter expect a very verbose novel -- something that's going to take a ton and a half of editing to weed out all the extra fluff.

Honesty is Always the Best Policy.
Padding, or Embroidering your credentials is also a Bad Idea. This is the Age of the Internet. The truth about your publishing credits, or your lack of them, is not something you can hide for long.

Also, the person reading your manuscript is an Editor. Whether they work for a magazine or a publishing house, you can be rest assured that YOUR Editor has seen THOUSANDS of manuscripts from rank beginner to polished professional. They will know in One Glance how much writing experience you actually have.

The last thing a potential Publisher wants working for them is a Lia... Ahem... Someone that is Less than Honest.

Cover Letter Format:
Good afternoon Mr. (LAST name of the editor you are (e)mailing, this letter to),

This is who I am, and where I live. This is where I heard about you.

I would like to offer you my book, My title, at this word-count length/this many pages. Whether or not it's ever been published before.

This is how much experience I have writing. (Newspapers, magazine articles, story post sites, fan-fiction, and contests count.)

My book in detail:

My title
The story's genre
My log-line

My book blurb.

My first three chapters and my detailed plot synopsis can be found on the following/attached pages.

This is how much I would like to work with you, and how willing I am to take what editing help I am offered.

Very Sincerely,

My REAL Name
My Pen Name (if you're using one)
My email
My phone number
My websites (ALL of them)
(And for Pete's sake -- Don't forget to SPELL CHECK your Letter!)

Okay, what DIDN'T I put in there?

My life history, my family life, my job, anything embarrassing, anything self-loathing, anything that might make them think I wouldn't be absolutely positively devoted to writing for them, anything that might make them think I wouldn't have the TIME to write for them.

In short -- Only what they ASKED FOR in as short, and tight, and Professional a fashion as possible. If they want anything Personal, they'll ASK.

Think of your Cover Letter as a Job Interview cuz guess what? That's exactly what it is.

Morgan Hawke
Smut-Writer - and Damned Proud of it!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An Opening Hook?

(cover to Assassin Apprentice)

An Opening Hook?
-----Original Message-----
"We constantly hear people talk about a hook. I was just wondering, how important is an opening hook? How close to the opening does it have to be? Seriously, how many people pick up a book or story and put it back down after the first sentence or paragraph? Do we have some forgiveness here? I would think that a published, well known author might not need one."
-- Writer in Waiting
Let’s break this down and tackle each, one at a time.

"I was just wondering,
how Important is an Opening Hook?”

How important? Vitally important.
"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
This means you have 4500 words to hold your reader -- AFTER they buy your book.

However ~ in order to GET someone to buy your book, most potential readers decide what books they’ll purchase by:
  1. Cover Art*
  2. Back Cover Blurb
  3. Inside Excerpt
  4. First Page (first 150 words)
  5. Last page (A LOT of buyers will not buy a book with an Unhappy Ending no matter how good the meat of the story is.)
-- In that order.

If your first page is dull and boring, you’re more or less screwed.

* Note on Cover Art
– Although it is the first thing assessed by a potential buyer, Cover Art actually carries far less weight in the final purchasing decision than any of the others. Cover Art is merely a tool to catch the eye and make the buyer pick up the book for consideration.

Most readers have learned that few covers actually have anything to do with what the book is about, so if the cover art stinks, but the rest is interesting, they’ll buy it.

“How close to the opening does it have to be?”

To GET them reading, your hook should be the First Three Paragraphs on the First Page.

According to Les Edgerton in Hooked:
...intentionally look for an opening that 'hooks' the reader by creating a question.

Not sure if this is sound advice? Try this little exercise by Ed Lists:
In one of my crits, I suggest writers take their top ten favorite stories/novels and read the first three paragraphs. What were you, as the reader, thinking about by the end of those three paragraphs?  Odds are, it was a question--you wanted to learn more about something in those paragraphs (the character, the plot, whatever). 

To KEEP them reading, you should have a hook --a Question-- at the end of every single chapter.

“Seriously, how many people pick up a book or story and put it back down after the first sentence or paragraph? Do we have some forgiveness here?”

Survey says…!
“As a reader I generally give a new book (before I've bought it) the first paragraph to get my interest, sometimes less. I'll almost always put down a book that starts with a description of landscape, as lots of fantasy seem to.”
“As a reader, I always open the book to the first page and start reading (in a book shop before I buy the book). If the writing style is awkward, or the wording is boring, I'll put the book down and keep looking.”
“Weather report beginnings are a turn off for me. But something subtle, interesting, or thought provoking, in the first paragraph is enough to keep me reading, for a while.”
“I'll only grant ‘forgiveness’ to an author who has entertained me in the past, and even then I'm not all that lenient.”

Most if not ALL potential buyers have only one interest when buying a book to read: PERSONAL ENTERTAINMENT. If the reader is not grabbed on the first page, your book goes back on the shelf in favor of one that DOES grab them.

The only books allowed to be dull and boring on the first page, are text books designed strictly for education. (They’re expected to be dull and boring.)

“…I would think that a published well known author might not need [a hook]."

Being published and well known does NOT mean that a reader won't put a book down that doesn't interest them, and there are ALWAYS people that have never heard of you.
“If a book is going nowhere after initially getting my interest, I'll stop reading, and never pick up another book by that author again.”
“If I'm not ‘into’ it after 15 pages I usually give up.”
“It's the author's job to keep me interested from the very first line to the very last, because if they can't, there are plenty that can and I'd rather be reading their books.”

Never forget! Your book is in direct competition with every other book in that store, therefore you should avail yourself of every trick you can think of to Get that Reader – and then Keep that Reader.

“What is a HOOK anyway?”

Very simply, it’s what makes the reader turn the page. It’s the Mysterious Circumstance, the Precarious Situation, the Horrible Turn of Events, etc. that drives the Reader to Keep Reading to discover: “What will happen NEXT?” More commonly known as: SUSPENSE.

There is a Reason why MYSTERIES are the Number One selling genre – they keep the reader guessing right up to the last page.

“But I’m not writing a Mystery!”

So what? I don’t write mysteries either, but I do have a Mysterious Circumstance, a Precarious Situation, a Horrible Turn of Events -- a hook -- at the end of every chapter. And I never give anything away until the last possible second.

“But what if I'm writing Literature?
They rarely (if ever) have hooks?”

Once upon a time they didn't, (like 10 years or more ago.) They DO NOW or they don't get past the publication editor. A book without an opening hook certainly won't make it past an agent.

These days agents and editors ask for Partials manuscripts, that's 60 pages - 4 chapters - not whole manuscripts. Not a whole lot of room to impress someone. What they DON'T tell you, is if you don't hook them on the First Page, they won't even bother reading the REST.
Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile
They can’t judge a book without its cover.
-- Jonathan Calvert and Will Iredale
The Sunday Times, London UK, January 01, 2006
Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors.

One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britain’s greatest living writers, who won the Nobel Prize for literature.

The exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent.

Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul’s “In a Free State” and a second novel, “Holiday”, by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents.

None appears to have recognized them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections.

In Conclusion:
If you expect your manuscript to get past an agent, or a publishing editor, you need to make your story engaging, and compelling to read at the Opening Line.

If you want to make your READERS ask for More, you you need to make your story engaging, and compelling to read, from Opening Line to the Closing Chapter.

Morgan Hawke

Monday, March 06, 2006

Raping Plots!

(A Gothic Romeo & Juliet)

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

Why work when you don’t have to?

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

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

(of all time)

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

for 2006
  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Historical Fantasy PG-13)
  2. Night at the Museum (Suspense/Fantasy PG)
  3. Cars (Contemporary Fantasy G)
  4. X-Men: The Last Stand (Contemporary Fantasy PG-13)
  5. The Da Vinci Code (Mystery/Suspense PG-13)
  6. Superman Returns (Contemporary Fantasy PG-13)
  7. Happy Feet (Fantasy - G)
  8. Ice Age: The Meltdown (Historical Fantasy G)
  9. Casino Royale (Action/Suspense PG-13)
  10. The Pursuit of Happyness (True-Life/Inspirational PG-13)
What does this list tell you?
In 2006, the viewers preferred Fantasies and Happy Endings; specifically with clearly defined Good-Guys that did good things for bad reasons & Bad-Guys that did bad things for good reasons. People wanted ESCAPISM and HOPE.

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

Ransacking & Renovation
Take a look at your personal DVD movie shelf. I bet there’s a whole bunch of movies that are (in your personal opinion,) ALMOST perfect. Stories that Could have been perfect but fell just a bit short; stories with tons of potential just waiting to be told properly.
  • Plots that could have used one more twist.
  • The tragic ending that could have been happy.
  • Secondary characters that should have had their own story.
  • The Heroine the Hero should have preferred.
  • The Regency Romance that would have made a better Sci-Fi.
  • The Hero from one story that would have done better with the Heroine from another story entirely.
  • The TSTL Heroine that should have been Kick-ass.
So, DO IT. Yank them off your movie shelf, and write them better. Figure out the flaws in all those stories, and FIX them. Once you've changed the setting, the genre, the characters’ appearances and their personal backgrounds… Voila! ~ Instant Brand New ORIGINAL Story!

How simple can you get?

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

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

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

Seriously, Hollywood ransacks and renovates all the time! There must be a million and one Frankenstein, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, and Sherlock Holms adaptations. The movie "UNDERWORLD" was openly marketed as a gothic ‘Romeo & Juliet’.

STAR WARS is a carbon copy of Kurosawa’s Samurai/Ninja movie ‘The Hidden Fortress’– including the comedic antics of two highly recognizable ‘Laurel & Hardy’ characters. (For goodness sake, they’re Still in Japanese costumes!)

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

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

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

The “Romeo & Juliet” Tragic Romance Plotline
  1. The Lovers meet -- and have Issues.
  2. The Lovers' Issues drive them apart.
  3. The Lovers realize that they can't live without each other. "Oh no, it's Love!"
  4. The Lovers battle odds to get back to each other.
  5. He dies, she dies -- and everybody cries over the cruelty of True Love.
The trick to making the well-worn Romance plot original is to ADD another whole Plotline (pick a genre, any genre,)!
  • Romeo & Juliet + horrific disaster from old newspapers = TITANIC
  • Happily Ever After + High school in the American 50’s = GREASE

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

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

It’s not what you HAVE.
It’s what you DO with it.
When it comes to making Original Fiction, it’s NOT how unique the plot is, it’s Your VISION of that plot that makes it fresh and different!
  • Alice in Wonderland + CyberPunk = THE MATRIX
  • Treasure Island + James Bond = NATIONAL TREASURE
  • Robinson Caruso + Space Aliens = ET
  • Romeo & Juliet + the Old South = GONE WITH THE WIND
Hollywood ransacks and renovates, then mixes and matches whole plotlines all the time. Look at all those box-office smashes. What other proof do you need?

In Conclusion:
If ‘ransacking and renovating’ is not something you want to do, GOOD! Less competition for me. If you think I’m a hack for doing so, that’s okay too, but just so you know, I’m crying all the way to the bank – along with just about every top author in the writing biz, and in the movie biz.

It all boils down to your personal choice:
  • Do you really want to spend your whole life searching for, and perfecting, something Original?
  • Or do you wanna make money?
I don’t know about you, but I need the cash. I don’t have the time to waste ‘reinventing the wheel’ when so many others have already spent their lives perfecting it. I have books to write and bills to pay.

Morgan Hawke

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Non-Verbal Thesaurus

Don't need No Stinkin' "SAID!"

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

What the heck is an Action Tag?
Want to express how your characters really feel -- even when their lying -- without head-hopping? Cue their dialogue with their body-language!

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


A Writer's Cheat-Sheet to

Annoyance, Resentment, Rage
a. Jaws tensed to a biting position; “I’m going to bite you!”
b. Chest display, and/or hands-on-hips; “I’m bigger than you.”
c. Cut-off and head-jerk cues; “I don’t want that.”
d. Hand-behind-head. “I may or may not strike you.”
e. Fists, palm-down beating gestures. “I will strike you!”
f. Frowning and tense-mouth expressions; “Don’t make me bite you.”
g. Growling voice tones; “Consider me a threat.”
h. Staring; “I consider you a threat.”
I. Gaze avoidance; the head is turned fully away to one side; “Run while I am not looking and I will not attack you.”

(Cover of Devil x Devil by Sachio Sawauchi)

Revulsion, Loathing, Nausea
a. Curled upper lip, a retracted upper lip, and mouth movements. "I feel like vomiting."
b. Digestive vocalizations of repugnance. Guttural sounds ("ach" or "ugh"); "I AM going to vomit!"
c. Narrowed or partly closed eyes; “Don’t make me look at that!”
d. Lowered brows of the frown face. "Ewww...gross!"
e. Backward head-jerks and side-to-side head-shakes. “Keep it away from my mouth.”
f. Visible protrusions of the tongue. “I can see that it tastes bad.”

(Art by ROYO)

Anxiety, Apprehension, Dread

a. Angling body away; “Don’t touch me.”
b. Release of underarm scent; “Go away -- I stink!”
c. Increase in breathing rate. "I'm going to run away!"
d. Trembling and/or chattering teeth. "I want to run away!"
e. Crouching. “Don’t hurt me!”
f. Crying. “I’m hurt enough!”
g. Displacement gestures; “How did I get here?”
h. Fast eye-blink rate. “I don’t believe this!”
i. Fear grin. “I’m friendly! Honest!”
j. Widely opened flashbulb eyes. “I don’t believe this!”
k. Unconscious escape motions designed to remove a body part, or parts, from danger (e.g., flexing the neck to lower and protect the head). "Don't hit me!"
l. Freeze reactions; “Am I in danger?”
m. Hair-bristling; “I feel danger!”
n. Accelerated heart rate. "I'm getting ready to run away!"
o. Tightened shoulder muscle tension; “Do I need to flee?”
p. Screaming; “Don’t touch me!”
q. Squirm cues; “Let go of me.”
r. Staring eyes with dilated pupils; “How much danger am I in?”
s. Sweaty palms. "Too slippery to grasp."
t. Tense-mouth. “Don’t make me bite you.”
u. Throat-clearing. “I do not approve.”
v. Audibly tense tone-of-voice, either low and close to a growl, "I'm warning you..." or high to present a non-threatening sound. "I'm not a threat!"
w. Yawning. “No fangs, see? I’m not a predator!”

Contentment, Well-being, Joy

a. Laugh or smile
b. Crying; “I am overwhelmed.”

Unlike most other facial signs of emotion, the smile is subject to learning and conscious control. In the U.S., Japan, and many other societies, children are taught to smile on purpose, e.g., in a courteous greeting, whether or not they actually feel happy.

A true (i.e., involuntary) smile, crinkles the skin around the outside corners of our eyes, forming "crow's feet" or smiling eyes.

(Art by ROYO)
Sorrow, Unhappiness, Depression, Gloom

a. Bowing postures; “I’m terribly sorry.”
b. Cry face and lip-pout; “Please don't hurt me anymore.”
c. Gazing-down; “I am not a challenge.”
d. Slumped flexed-forward posture of the shoulders; “I give up.”
e. Audible sigh; “I give up.”
f. Compressed lips; “No, I don’t want that.”

The facial features constrict as if to seal-off contact with the outside world. In acute sadness, muscles of the throat constrict, repeated swallowing occurs, the eyes close tightly, and then tears.

(Art by ROYO)

Indecision, Misgiving, Doubt

a. Involuntary sideward eye movements; “Who is watching me?”
b. Self-touching gestures; “Am I still in one piece?”
c. Frown
d. Hand-behind-head; “I don’t think so…”
e. Side-to-side head-shakes “No.”
f. Sideward head-tilts; “I don’t want that…”
g. Lip-pout, lip-purse, and tense-mouth expressions “That tastes bad.”
h. Palm-up gestures; “I surrender.”
i. Shoulder-shrug; “Don’t touch me.”

Men will rub their chins with their hand, tug at the lobes of their ears, or rub their forehead or cheeks or back of the neck, in reaction to the increased tension. Male college students express uneasiness by changing their sitting posture to a more direct body orientation. “I’m going to to defend myself.”

Women will put a finger on their lower front teeth with the mouth slightly open or pose a finger under the chin. “I have no fangs, I am not a predator.” Female college students show uneasiness by sitting still and arm-crossing. “Dont touch me.”

(Art by ROYO)

Acknowledgment, Compliance, Surrender

a. Turning away “No thank you.”
b. body-bend, body-shift, and bowing “Please don’t…”
c. displacement cues “How did I get myself into this?”
d. facial flushing
e. freeze reactions “Am I in danger?”
f. gaze-down; “I am not a threat.”
g. give-way; “I will not challenge you.”
h. head-tilt-side; “Don’t…”
i. Mimic of superior’s body movements “I will not challenge you.”
j. laughing; “I will not challenge you.”
k. palms-up; “I surrender.”
l. exaggerated personal distance; “Don’t touch me.”
m. pigeon toes; “I can't chase you, I am not a threat.”
n. shoulder-shrugging; “Don’t touch me.”
o. shyness; “Don’t notice me.”
p. difficulty gazing directly at, or cross lines of sight with, a dominant individual. "I don't want to challenge you."
q. higher vocal pitch "I'm weak, and helpless."
r. yawning; “No fangs, see? I am not a threat.”

Note the considerable overlap between expressions of lower status (submission) and fear.

(Art by BROM)

Influence, Power, Control

a. Eyebrow raise; “Are you challenging me?”
b. Hands-on-hips posture; “I’m ready for battle.”
c. Head-tilt-back; “I dare you to bite me.”
d. Palm-down gesture; “Do I need to strike you?”
e. Swagger walk; “I’m stronger than you.”
f. Table-slap; “I will strike you!”
g. Lower tone of voice, close to a growl. "Don't make me bite you."
h. Wedge-shaped chest display; “I’m bigger than you.”
i. Direct stare; “I consider you a threat.”
j. Looming with chin down; “I will bite you.”

Aggressive behaviors include the head brought forward toward another person, chin out and pushed forward, wrinkled skin on the bridge of the nose, and a sharp movement of the head towards the other person, as though in preparation to bite.

The Business Suit
Built-in Aggression
The business suit allows a powerful, influential ‘wedge-like’ silhouette for business and public affairs.

Exaggerated chest display Strength cues are tailored into every Brooks Brothers® suit. The coat's squared shoulders exaggerate the size and strength of the upright torso. Flaring upward and outward, lapels enhance the illusion of primate pectoral strength. Dropped to fingertip level, the jacket's hemline visually enlarges the upper body to gorilla-like proportions. Pads and epaulets cover inadvertent shrugs and slips of the shoulder blades, to mask feelings of submission or uncertainty in the boardroom or on the battlefield.

(Art by ROYO)

LOVEAffection, Devotion, Attachment

a. Physical contact, including hugs and kisses. "You belong to me."
b. Increased breathing rate; “I want to smell you.”
c. Courtship behavior; “I want to make love to you.”
d. Direct gaze with wide pupils; “I find you pleasing to look at.”
e. Facial flushing "You make my heart pound."
f. Head-tilt-side; “Are you looking at me?”
g. Increased heart rate "I am aware of you."
h. Mimic of behavior and/or appearance; “We make a set, we belong together.”
i. Softened tone of voice; “Come closer.”
j. Closing personal distance "I want to touch you."

For The Stages of Courtship:
Go to: Making Romance Happen

Summary of Facial Expressions

1. Nose:
a) nostril flare (arousal)

2. Lips:
a) grin (happiness, friendship, contentment)
b) grimace (fear)
c) lip-compression (anger, emotion, frustration)
d) canine snarl (disgust)
e) lip-pout (sadness, submission, uncertainty)
f) lip-purse (disagree)
g) sneer (contempt)
3. Brows:
a) frown (anger, sadness, concentration)
b) brow-raise (intensity)
4. Tongue:
a) tongue-show (dislike, disagree)

5. Eyelids:
a) flashbulb eyes (surprise)
b) widened (excitement, surprise)
c) narrowed (threat, disagreement)
d) fast-blink (arousal)
e) normal-blink (relaxed)
6. Eyes:
a) big pupils (arousal, fight-or-flight)
b) small pupils (rest-and-digest)
c) direct-gaze (affiliate, threaten)
d) gaze cut-off (dislike, disagree)
e) gaze-down (submission, deception)
f) CLEMS* (thought processing)

*CLEMS -- An acronym for "Conjugate Lateral Eye Movement." When the eyes move sideward (to the right or left) in response to a question. Rightward movement is associated with symbolic thinking, or Memory, (what we KNOW,) while Leftward Movement is associated with visual thinking, or Creativity, (what we INVENT).

Right = TRUTH -- Left = FICTION
Don't just SAY it! ~ SHOW IT!
Skip the dialogue "he said / she said" tags altogether by using Body-language cues and ACTIONS to SHOW what the characters mean when they say: "I love you."
“I love you too.” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She dropped her chin and pouted. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She glared straight at him. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She turned away and wiped the tear from her cheek. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
"I love you too." She raised her balled fist and smiled with bared teeth. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.” She thrust up her middle finger.

Morgan Hawke
This information gleaned and paraphrased from the research by:
 The Center for Nonverbal Studies (CNS).