Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Torrey & the Vampire

Hello my lovelies,
 -- This is the very first Visual Novel that I made myself!

Torrey & the Vampire
-- An Erotic Kinetic Novella --
Story & Graphics by Morgan Hawke
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

RESEARCH is your Best Friend

"...for bigger fictions (maybe 10-20 chapters, or more) for a big fan fiction or OC fiction, how much do you plan out? Since you are an actual Author I was just wondering how you would fair on this idea?"

How much do I plan out for one of my novels...?
-- I detail everything. Seriously.

I start with a basic plot formula and extrapolate on certain points as needed.
-- Romance needs extra doses of lover's angst, Gothics need psychological breakdowns, Horrors need room for monster attacks, Sci-Fi's and Fantasies need moments of wonder... This gives me a rough plot outline to work from.

Next, I break down each of the Three Main Characters: Hero/Ally/Villain.
-- This is to make sure that they are 'psychologically' in sync with the Plot and Each Other, so their actions/reactions will mesh in the way I intend. (Ahem... That their personalities will clash nicely.)

If I'm doing a Historical, I also look up the 4 years they were in High School (at ages: 15, 16, 17, 18) and check out what books, songs, movies, and/or TV shows were popular during that time. Believe it or not, those are the most common foundational points in most people's personality.

Think I'm kidding? Look up your own high school years and check out what books, TV shows, songs and Movies were out during that time. Now consider how much those things STILL influence you today? (If you're still in school, check out your Mom's or your Dad's high school years. The results will be shocking!)

Once I get my main characters down, I sketch out the major support characters.
 -- I don't go into detail on them. Just names, jobs, physical descriptions, and what I've based their personality on, (Scorpio and an INTJ?) or who. (Riddick under a new name?)

Why not detail the Support characters?
-- Because I don't want to find myself attached to a character that ISN'T who the story is about.

Then, I map out the LOCATIONS I intend to use.
-- Location Research is especially important if I'm writing a Historical piece.

I begin by researching the NEWS local to that area. Did riots break out the summer my story happens? Was there a killing snowstorm that winter? Droughts? Floods? Fires, Quakes...? Weather and social conditions are vitally important because these conditions will make or break all the plot points caused by Setting.

In other words, if one location won't work-- "Oops, on that day, there's a riot on that street..." --I'll have to thrash out either a way around it or find a whole new location -- or a new Time Period.

Case in point, I seriously thought about writing a Meiji Era story--until I discovered that Japan was in and out of war with Russia and China that whole period because of WWI, plus a few other less than savory--and still hotly debated--skirmishes in Korea. Then there was the Kanto Earthquake and hundreds of massive city-wide fires. Also, their Justice system was NOT Just. (If you had money you were innocent. If you didn' weren't.) In short, it was waaaaaaaaay, too much work to thread my little story in the middle of that mess.

  • If I'm using a completely fabricated world or country, I suss out the political system and history for that country or set of countries for that last 200 years--or more. Then there's the time system: how many hours in a day, days in a week, a month... (Is there a moon on this planet--or two?) How long is a year? Education system, medical system, money system, invention or magic system, what occupations are available...etc.
  • If I'm doing a Sci-Fi or Steam Punk, next is Invention and Science research. It always pays to know what actually existed during a certain time period and what current science says is possible in the future! I normally find major inspiration during these research sessions.
  • If I'm doing a Paranormal or Fantasy story, Mythology, Magic and Paranormal research is next. Since I've got quite a home library on these subjects, this is just a matter of pulling a book from a shelf.
After all that is done, I take one last look at my plot outline then set it aside and begin to write.

I believe in a Total Immersion style of writing. In other words, I want to know the world so well I can simply step into the mind and skin of my main character and LIVE the story.

In the course of writing, some plot points will work and some won't. Some locations won't offer quite the right atmosphere I intended for a scene. Sometimes a whole new character will step onstage and become the Ally to the main character or the Villain INSTEAD of the one I mapped out.

When that happens, I take a few moments to extrapolate how such changes will affect the story. If the ending doesn't change--or a better one suddenly crops up, I go with it. I DON'T stick that hard to the plot outline. I change as needed to make the STORY better--not my ego, or worse, my Character's ego.

And...that's pretty much it. *Grin*

Morgan Hawke

The Pecular Popularity of sparkly vampires, Pokemon, and other fairy-tale Lovers.

The Peculiar Popularity of sparkly vampires, Pokemon, and other fairy-tale Lovers.

I think I finally figured out why teenagers and housewives loooove the young adult vampire series "Twilight" so damned much. Well, to begin with, it was written as a Young Adult novel with blatant teenage (read: immature and childish,) views on Love.

The teenage view of love...?

It's ROMANCE with all the hearts, flowers, angst, and over-the-top statements of eternal devotion that one finds in the most popular of fairy tales -- and romance novels.

Specifically, a handsome and powerful man that sees her as the most beautiful girl in the world ('Cinderella',) who will do anything and everything to win -- and keep -- her love ('Princess on a Glass Hill'.) Add to this mix the Bad Boy image; the Monster who loves only Her and will tear apart any foe simply to see her smile, and you have the world's most beloved fairy tale -- and the blue-print for the only romance novels that actually sell: 'Beauty and the Beast'.

In short, the teenage view of love is a rot-gut fantasy that contains no resemblance to the reality of love what so ever. As in, birth control, morning breath, and hoping he calls you later for an actual date rather than just a quickie after work.

Where does 'Pokemon' come in? 
Hmm, a story whose central theme is about adorable little monsters that love only their trainer, and who will attack anyone said trainer asks them to on command? Even I can see the appeal, but beyond that, can you say Pre-Teen 'Beauty and the Beast' for girls -- and boys
Still not seeing the connection? Think: pet. A Pokemon is a magical Pet completely devoted to their 'owner'.

Now, consider this: 
When one fantasizes about love, one thinks in terms of:
  • One who loves YOU -- no matter what. 
  • One who will do whatever it takes to make you happy -- no matter what. 
  • One who stays at your side at all times simply waiting for you to speak and/or command them -- no matter what. 
  • One who is so sexually attractive, powerful, clever, etc.... that You are the envy of all who see them because they are the BEST.
See it now?

The fantasy of love says: lover = a visually attractive, adoring pet who will always come to our rescue, fetch us anything we want, and forgive all transgressions, including extreme selfishness.

*snort* Not even my childhood collie-shepherd dog was that devoted to me. Let me tell you, when danger reared its ugly head she was gone like a shot.

Anyway, I'm sure it's pretty easy to understand why teenagers adore the fantasy of love that is 'Twilight'. Teenagers who've never fallen in love simply don't know any better, but why housewives? Housewives do know better, right?

Yes, the average housewife knows the reality of love very well indeed. They know quite intimately that love isn't when someone falls in love with them. It's when they they do. It's the awful reality of finding oneself helplessly devoted to someone else's happiness whether that person actually deserves it or not  -- often at the cost of their personal hopes and dreams.

That doesn't mean they Like it.

the reality of love doesn't mean that they don't wish with every fiber of their being that the fantasy was true and the reality a lie -- while washing dishes and changing dirty diapers at top speed, so they can get the kids to the daycare/school fast enough to get to their job on time.

Which would you prefer, seriously?
  • The fantasy of romantic love with someone utterly fantastic eternally devoted to only you?
  • The harsh reality of love where You are the one eternally devoted to someone rather ordinary that may not even love you back? 
Now you know why sparkly vampires and other fairy-tale lovers are so very popular -- especially with those who know the reality better than anyone else.

Keep in mind, women aren't the only ones with unrealistic fantasies about love. There are plenty of fantasies for guys about lover-pets out there too, but most call that porn or hentai.

At least, in my opinion.
-- Your mileage may vary.
Morgan Hawke

Writing Adventures ~ A Summary

Writing Adventures
~ A Summary ~

Note: This is the summery of a huge article I found about seven years ago on the ‘net. Unfortunately, I didn’t bother to record the actual name of the article or the author’s name. I was more than a little lax about how I collected information back then. Worse still, the bulk of this has been removed, rewritten and/or paraphrased for brevity and easy grasping. If you happen to know where this came from, please let me know!

• The STORY is the single most important thing.
No one is going to read a book that doesn't have a bold, fast-moving story with a clear course of action that comes to a satisfactory conclusion without too many dangling ends. Any mystery has to be solved; any goals should be achieved; and most characters have to be given what they deserve.

• Don’t be BORING - for more than half a page (125 words) at most.
Ahem... A properly formatted manuscript page is 250 words.

NO: lectures on the rules of magic or astrology - for more than half a page
NO: artistic description - for more than half a page
NO: descriptions of machinery not necessary for the story - for more than half a page
NO: loving re-creation of how it felt to be in, say, 1920 AD or 2000 BC- for more than half a page. Unless this is demonstrated in narrative, it is just a history lesson.
NO: social documentary lectures - for more than half a page
NO: preaching - for more than half a page
NO: general ranting of any kind - for more than half a page
NO: extensive soul-searching - for more than half a page
NO: long exposition of ANY KIND that is unbroken by action - for more than half a page.

• What interests Kids – STILL Interests Adults
DO: cars
DO: guns
DO: computers
DO: gadgets
DO: expertise
DO: frightening things
DO: witches, wizards and magic, but don’t repeat what has already been done. It’s BORING the second or fifth time around.

Give the Reader an experience they can get no other way.

• Offer HOPE.
If your desire is to give a detailed account of bullying, or drug addiction, or parental abuse, fine, but it does no good just to do ONLY that. ‘Readers’ in these situations know all about them, better than you probably do, and will find such narratives boring, while ‘Readers’ who don't know are going to find them either glum or repulsive. You have to show someone handling these situations or, better, overcoming them.

We are programmed to like puzzles, and try for solutions. The best plot for (any) book distances the Reader from her or his problems, so that they become puzzles that the Reader can turn this way and that, and follow with the author to the solution. Do that, and you have made a blueprint for living.

• It is very unimaginative to discourage (anyone) from aiming as high as they can.
It is better to show someone aiming at the moon and only getting halfway than to show them trying to climb to the roof and only getting to the bathroom.

The PLACES where your story happens are as important as the story itself.
Visualize. See the place in your mind, as wholly and exactly as you can, as if you were standing in the place yourself, and then simply write the story that happens there.

Don’t foist on the Reader a loving description of something that has NOTHING to do with the story.

• Beware of making absurd random changes.
Unexplained random changes destroy any feeling of the reality of the story, such as Toad in The Wind in the Willows who is sometimes frog-size and sometimes human-size.

• Use DYNAMIC Characters
The people in your book make the story happen. It follows that they usually have to be fairly strong, dynamic characters, and some of them have to be people that the Reader would follow willingly into the action - likable, understandable, a lovable rogue and so on. 

Before you start writing, you will need to know your characters so well that you can hear their voices - then what they say will come out right without you really trying - and see details that won't get into the book, like the way they walk and what they habitually wear.  

• Never actually specify the character’s actual ages.
No one is more humiliated than the 12-year-old who eagerly follows the adventures of a strong character, only to find that this character is five years old.

• Make your Villains HATEFUL.
EVERYONE likes to have a good hate. Understanding the baddies may seem politically correct, but is not recommended. Children, rightly to my mind, regard this sort of milky tolerance with contempt.

You can ache with sympathy for your villain and delicately comprehend exactly what childhood trauma caused her or him to be such a nasty piece of work, so long as you also remind them that they are also really quite hateful.

Simple Words are NOT always the Better choice.
It is not necessary to limit yourself only to easily-understood words. After all, how else are the Readers going to learn new words unless they read them? On the other hand, almost anything worth saying can be said in short, simple words, and tends to make a greater impact if it is. The advice here is not to start your book with a string of unusual words, which will be off-putting, but to include them by all means when the context makes it clear what the words mean.

• Your sentences must be constructed so that readers will not lose their way in them.
If you are in any doubt, read the sentence aloud. This will almost infallibly show you if it is right or wrong, because you will get in a muddle if it is wrong.

• Clichés make your book very Ordinary.
Clichés are not only found in descriptive passages, but in whole Stories as well, such as when our romantic heroine dislikes a tall dark stranger on sight and then marries him in chapter 30.

Take the time to actually describe the actions and situations. Take the time to make your passages and story DIFFERENT.

• Watch for the Inner Squirm
Good enough is NEVER Good Enough.

• Don’t Leave Anything Out
Every story has to have reasons for the things that happen in it. Make SURE you include the Reasons for those happenings!

• When you End your story, make sure all the important facts are accounted for.
Like explaining why the villain did what he did, or making sure that Jack is not still buried alive in a mineshaft.

• Finally, Don’t end it as a dream.

Morgan Hawke

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Secret to Proper Paragraphing and Dialogue

Want to Know the Biggest Secret in the 
Fiction Writing Industry? 
It's not the Plotting they use, the Characters, the Theme,
the Settings, or anything else like that.

It's the Sentence Structure.

The Secret to
Proper Paragraphing

& Writing Dialogue
(NOT a punctuation article.) 

Disclaimer: This is how I was taught to structure dialogue for publication purposes -- by my editors. If you don't want to do it this way -- Don't. (Less competition for me.)

Once you know what your characters are doing and saying, how do you get all that down on paper without ending up with a huge confusing mess?

Putting the Story on Paper.
Everybody knows that when a new speaker speaks they get a new paragraph, right? In other words, you DON'T put two different people talking in the same paragraph. Okay, yeah, so anyone who has written any kind of fiction learns this pretty darned quick, (usually from their readers.)

What nobody seems to get is that the same goes for a new character's ACTIONS. Seriously, when a new character ACTS they're supposed to get their own paragraph -- even if they don't speak!

In short, you paragraph by change in CHARACTER -- not because they speak, but because they ACT. Ahem... Dialogue is an ACTION. In other words, the reason you don't put two different characters' Dialogue in the same paragraph is BECAUSE you don't mix two characters' Actions. Okay?
"Wait a minute, doesn't that cut everything into tiny bits, you know, when you cut all the dialogue away then divide up all those paragraphs?"

No because Character A's dialogue is supposed to be IN Character A's paragraph of actions. Character B gets his own paragraph of dialogue AND actions. You divide up a story's paragraphs by individual Character -- not by individual lines of Dialogue OR Actions.

What you definitely don't do, is cut all the dialogue away from everything and mash all the different characters' actions together in one messy paragraph where no one can tell who did what.

"Where the heck did THAT rule
come from?"

Strunk & White's Element's of Style, the grammar handbook.

To wit…
"In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is a paragraph by itself; that is, a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker."

This is often misinterpreted as "Make a new paragraph at every new line of dialogue."

Um... No. The key phrase here is:

"a new paragraph begins with each change of Speaker."

As long as the Speaker is Acting, the Speaker HAS NOT CHANGED. However, every time a new character Acts, you ARE Changing Speakers -- even if they don't talk! Therefore, each new character ACTING gets a New Paragraph, whether or not they have dialogue.

How this works...

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. <-- Two Characters acting in the same paragraph.

Becky mumbled, "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave it an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies." <-- this whole line is Abandoned Dialogue.

Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. "You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave it an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies."

What's Missing?

'Becky mumbled.' This is an unnecessary Dialogue tag. Once you link a character's Dialogue to their corresponding Actions, you no longer need the Dialogue tags.

If you really, really want to add that Becky mumbled her words, describe it as an Action. Don't TELL us that she mumbled, SHOW us.

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her voice dropped to barely a mumble. "I wouldn't so much say named, as gave an identifying word to distinguish it from all the other stuffed cute kitty plushies."

-----Original Message-----
"What if the next internals and action/dialogue are his, like:"
"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her reaction was adorable and he couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies."
"Then can you lump those actions together?"
-- Thanks in advance -- Jas

Um... NO.
-- Remember this?

"…a new paragraph begins with
each change of Speaker."

When a new character ACTS they're supposed to get a new paragraph.
"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and {Toby's actions -- Becky's Actions} Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. 
Becky didn't say anything, but she IS acting --a blush is an action-- therefore Becky gets her OWN paragraph.

"Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck.

This is incorrect too:
"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised.

Actions go BEFORE Reactions Toby was surprised so he commented: "You named a stuffed animal?" He didn't comment and THEN become surprised.

Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. "You named a stuffed animal?"

All together now!

"You named a stuffed animal?" Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised, and Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck. Her reaction was adorable and he couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies."

"Toby raised his eyebrows, surprised. You named a stuffed animal?"

Becky's blush grew brighter, creeping down her neck.

Her reaction was so adorable, Toby couldn't resist needling her some more. "I thought you hated stuffies?"

-----Original Message-----
"But when you do that, it looks so...choppy on the page. There's ton's of empty white space!"
-- Hates Empty Space
Yes, it looks choppy on the page, but its Far More Important that there is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind as to who is acting and who is speaking.

Another Example:
"Don't help me. I'm fine by myself," she told him, not bothering to be polite. He looked surprised and perhaps a little hurt. She heard another voice.

"Geez, you're pretty full of yourself, aren't you?" She got to her feet and brushed herself off, glancing in the direction of the newcomer. She nearly recoiled in shock. Another handsome guy. He crossed his arms over his chest. "He was just trying to help you." He told her. She readjusted her bag and said.

"I don't recall asking for help."

By the way, once you separate each of your character's actions into new paragraphs and reconnect each character's dialogue to their actions, you won't need dialogue tags such as "said" because your character's actions are the identifiers for your dialogue.

With actions separated and dialogue attached.

"Don't help me. I'm fine by myself." She didn't bother to be polite.

He looked surprised and perhaps a little hurt.

A new voice called out. "Geez, you're pretty full of yourself, aren't you?"

She got to her feet and brushed herself off, glancing in the direction of the newcomer. Another handsome guy. She nearly recoiled in shock.

He crossed his arms over his chest. "He was just trying to help you."

She readjusted her bag. "I don't recall asking for help."

If you truly loathe all that white space, then fill it in with more actions, description, and internal narration observations.

-----Original Message-----
But what about when someone is watching someone else, or feeling someone do something to them?
-- Concerned about Observation

This seems perfectly fine, right?
He watched her shake her butt.
He felt her skin move against his.

However, once you take this into account:

"…A new paragraph begins with Each Change of Speaker."
When a new character ACTS they're supposed to get a new paragraph.

Not so fine after all. You have two people acting in the same line -- in Both Cases.

The way around this little gem of a problem, is to SHOW the event by character rather than TELL it in one lump.

You begin by dividing the actions by Character:

He watched her.

She shook her butt and her skin moved against his.

He felt it.

Seems kind'a…short eh? That's because those lines TOLD you what happened, instead of Showing you what happened, so there are all kinds of details missing. Once you add enough details to paint a whole picture…

From his seat at the edge of the stage, he watched her.

Tall, svelte, and in the skimpiest bathing suit he'd ever seen, she moved in close and shook her butt. The round, firm flesh jiggled enticingly against his face.

His cheeks were subjected to the most incredible, though slightly sweaty, facial massage ever.

KILL the Dialogue Tags.
When you have an action with a line of dialogue, you don't need Dialogue tags, such as "he said" -- at all. You already know through their actions WHO is speaking.

Dialogue tags are only ever needed when you don't have any other way of identifying the speaker.

HOWEVER, if you have no other way of knowing who is speaking than dialogue tags, then you have committed the heinous crime of:

Dialogue in a Vacuum
Also known as "talking heads syndrome."

A book with nothing but reams of dialogue marked only by dialogue tags means that while people may be talking, there is no PICTURE. The mental movie has stopped and only the sound-track is playing. Compare it to a Radio Show with no sound effects.

I don't know about you, but when I go to read a story, I want to SEE what I'm reading like a movie, not listen to a radio show.

Memorize this:
Readers always interpret what they read the way they want to see it -- unless you SHOW them what you envisioned.

In other words…
What CAN be misunderstood
WILL be misunderstood.

Leave Nothing to Misinterpretation.
Readers will ALWAYS make whatever assumptions come to mind about what they are reading. When a reader realizes that what they thought was going on -- wasn't, they'll get confused, and occasionally pissed off.

Unmarked blocks of dialogue are painfully EASY to get lost in.

I remember reading one whole page of un-tagged action-less dialogue only to find out that I had two of the characters reversed. Did I reread that whole page to figure out what was going on? Hell no! I tossed the book across the room. (In fact, it's still on the floor gathering dust bunnies.)

"But, isn't that what 'said'
and other dialog tags are for?"

Just for the record...
Using dialogue tags is Not against the rules. Dialogue tags are a perfectly viable way to identify who is speaking -- it just makes that part of the story BORING. (I don't know about you, but I won't read something that bores me.)

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

I use...

"What the heck is an Action Tag?" 

Language 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.

Action and body-language tags on dialogue
are Not just for Decoration.
Stories are Mental Movies you play in your imagination. I don't know about you, but I HATE to be interrupted when I'm involved in a good movie. If I have to stop and reread a section just to figure out what the heck is going on, I've been interrupted. One too many interruptions and I'm switching to another story -- with no intention of continuing with something that's just too much work to get through.

Action tags keep the mental Movie rolling and the MEANING of what is being said crystal clear. A small simple action can tell you right away, what's going through the speaker's head.

Don't just SAY it! ~ SHOW IT!
  "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."

WHY I loathe the word
To be perfectly clear, it's not JUST the word 'said', I hate ALL Dialogue Tags inclusively. I utterly refuse to use them.


Because they're wasteful. They clutter up dialogue while slowing down actions, and they use up word-count that could be far better used elsewhere.

I don't believe in putting anything in my fiction that isn't useful. If it doesn't add to the character or the plot, it gets eradicated. Dialogue tags are too easily replaced by something that actually adds to the story, such as an action, a facial expression, a spot of description, or a character's opinions.

Just for the record, I write extremely dialogue-heavy fiction. When I find that a dialogue tag is indeed needed in my story to identify who is talking, I see it as a red flag that indicates that all action has come to a screeching halt. Nothing is Happening other than talking; also known as: Talking Heads Syndrome.

When that happens, I find some way to fill that space with something useful to the story such as an action, a facial expression, a spot of description, or a character's opinions -- ANYTHING other than a dialogue tag.

But those are MY feelings on the subject. Your mileage may vary.

Dialogue tags ARE a legitimate form of sentence structure. When there is no other way to identify a speaker, dialogue tags are indeed a viable option.

What about Punctuation for Dialogue?
- Go here: Read that.

Paragraph Aesthetics
-----Original Message-----
"I suppose the issue I have is with the aesthetics of paragraphing. Though text is not comparable to a visual medium such as film, it is still something that we have to view with our eyes."

Actually, text aesthetics -- the way the words appear on the page -- seems to be a HUGE bone of contention.
-----Original Message-----
"...The way I see it, your example suggests that I break my text up into a lot of little paragraphs. Given this understanding, in a scene rich with alternating action, it looks like I'll be left with a lot of one-line paragraphs. ...I'd greatly appreciate it if you clarified this situation. I suppose that is the trouble with having to jot down the basics, you can't expand on the little details of the rule. ^_^

Paragraph Aesthetics - Illustrated
-- The way a story appears on a standard 9.5 x 11 inch piece of paper is NOT the way to judge whether or not one's paragraphs are too long or too short. A story viewed on a browser page carries even less weight.

Why not?
-- Because Fiction is generally printed on pages HALF the size of a full sheet of paper. What appears to be a lot of short little paragraphs on the "internet page," are NOT so short or so little once you put them on the Printed page.

The standard sizes for printed Fiction are: paperback (4.25 x 6.75 inches), and trade paperback (5.5 x 8.25 inches.) Hard-cover books use the same size page as a Trade. Only coffee-table books possess printed pages anywhere near the size of a standard sheet of paper.

Personally, I could care less what my text looks like on the page. As far as I'm concerned, making the story as clear and easy to read as possible is far more important to me than what the text looks like. If I have done my job well, no one will even notice the words - only the story unfolding in their imaginations.

As for internet reading, I'm completely baffled why anyone would care how it looks on the browser page. All you have to do is narrow the window and the text adjusts.

Visual Aids:
ALL examples are 12 pt. Times New Roman font.
Standard Paperback 6.75 x 4.25, 1/2 inch margins:
Full-Size: Right-Click > View Image
Trade paperback 5.5 x 8.25, 1/2 inch margins:
Full-Size: Right-Click > View Image

Standard sheet of paper 8.5" x 11", 1 inch margins:
Full-Size: Right-Click > View Image
Now do you get it?
-----Original Message-----
"Also, I hope you don't mind, but did you come up with the rules yourself, through experience and trial and error, publisher's advice, or is there a handy guide I can employ? Obviously, I quite loyally follow Strunk and White, but I don't think it talks about this subject much. Is there a book that YOU use?"
Let's start here:
"...did you come up with the rules yourself, through experience and trial and error, publisher's advice...?"

YES -- to all of the above, plus editor hounding and long chats with a number of extremely well-established fiction authors. In addition, I've read a crap-load of how-to books. I'm pretty sure I own, and have practically memorized, just about every book "Writer's Digest" has put out.

My writing advice posts are the results of taking all the info I'd crammed into my head and condensing it into small bite-sized, chew-able, pieces that are easy to remember and much easier to apply. Rather than waste people's time on theory, I focus on application.

As for recommended reads... Unfortunately, there is no one guide that shows it all. Not One. However, there are two books I can't praise highly enough. As far as I'm concerned, they are VITAL reading for fiction writing.

There are lots of other books I could recommend, but these are the two "Must Haves" if an author really, REALLY wants to write fiction well.

Morgan Hawke