Friday, June 17, 2011

Faery Tale ~ A Visual Novel

 Faery Tale
A Romantic Fantasy Visual Novel
Story & Graphics by Morgan Hawke

The faery tale the fair maiden ends up in depends entirely on your choices!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Creative Narrative - A Description EXERCISE

Creative Narrative
A Description Exercise.

DESCRIPTION is the key to fleshing out ANY scene, but most especially Sex Scenes. 

Don't just call it 'juice'...

Describe HOW the moisture Looks while sliding in slender rivulets down the inside of her thigh, THEN describe how it feels physically, THEN how the character feels emotionally about the fact that they're dripping from excitement.

1. What it Looks & Feels like physically.
2. How they Feel about it emotionally.

You have FIVE senses -- USE THEM:
Texture, Flavor, Appearance, Sound, Aroma

The glistening moisture slid in slender rivulets down the inside of her thigh. The coolness of the moisture tickled in contrast to the warmth of her skin. Because her skirt was so short, her excitement was clearly visible to anyone who happened to be looking. Her cheeks filled with embarrassed warmth and she lowered her gaze, not wanting to know who might be staring at her, aware that she was aroused. 

"So how do you DO that sort of writing?"
The same way you do anything; you PRACTICE

Exercise in Writing DESCRIPTION

Stage 1:
Watch a Movie

For this exercise, you will need the movie Sin City. If you don't have it, The Matrix or Equilibrium will do.
  • WATCH the movie undisturbed from beginning to end. 
Watch where the Camera looks.  

Sin City in particular is a brilliant example of how to describe using pictures. The movie is filmed in black and white with splashes of color only where the viewer's eye needs to be.

When a character is first introduced, LOOK at how the camera starts in Close Focus on the character's face and then pulls back to reveal the character's body; lovingly showing the viewer exactly what the character looks like, AND their distinguishing characteristics from top to bottom. THEN the view expands wider to disclose where that character is and what they are doing at that moment.

After those first few moments of sheer View, you get a narrative from the Point of View character, which may Not be the character the camera is showing you. You get the narrator's opinions, their feelings, and their delusions. THAT is how the viewer (the reader) learns about the character.

Once the movie is over, put on some music that fits the movie. (I actually have the soundtracks, to these.)

Next! Break out your remote control and Watch The Same Movie AGAIN -- but this time, with the volume OFF.

Sit on your couch and Out-Loud, Narrate what you are looking at. Do NOT Write anything.

Just talk to the TV screen Out Loud and Describe --in detail-- what you are looking at as though it was a book you were reading.

  • Describe the Characters.
  • Describe the Actions.
  • Describe the Fight Scenes.
  • Describe the Kisses.
  • Describe the Backgrounds and Setting -- including the rooms and weather conditions!

Use your remote control and STOP the scene where you have difficulty describing what you are seeing. Work at it until the words come to you. They don't have to be perfect. CLOSE IS good enough for this exercise.

In a Nutshell:
  • Describe Out-Loud what you SEE
  • Do NOT Write anything down.
  • Keep Going until the movie is Over.

This should help loosen up a few things in your writing mind -- and give you some strong visuals to write from later.


Stage 2:
Write a 1000 word Scene that introduces a character of YOURS.

Make sure you picture the scene in your mind with the same dramatic camera angles and close-ups the movie and Describe it so that anyone Reading it can clearly see it.

Compare that scene with any introductory scene in a story you've already written and SEE the difference.

Just so you know, this is an exercise I created to make my own writing more Visual back when I first started writing. The movie I used was "The Lost Boys", the original 1984 version. It really helped my ability to describe in my stories.


Morgan Hawke

Friday, April 08, 2011

Modern Fiction Story Structures

Office by Jenova Art

Modern Fiction Story Structures
PLOT ARC - The events that happen while the characters make other plans.
The emotional roller-coaster that the character suffers in dealing with the Plot. 

If it does not forward the plot
it does not belong in the story.

When I set out to write a tale, I begin by blocking out the plot, listing what I want to happen:

Inciting Incident

For a 100k novel that's 20 chapters at 5000 words each. I note what I want to happen in each chapter and that's the frame I work from. If I find a better way to twist the plot great! But a detailed outline or block keeps me from wandering all over the place and going over my word count.

Blocking or outlining is not the only way to build a story. It's just the easiest way.

Steven King does not Block. (Keep in mind - he is a master at his art.) He writes his opening chapter, then his closing chapter then writes almost pure stream of consciousness to get from one to the other.

What he does is write a bunch of character-based stories surrounding one event. What makes his books so huge is the size of his cast of characters. This is also why he ALWAYS goes way-way-way over his word count. *grin* But then, his publishers are not about to make him conform, there are too many other publishers dying for his work. 

Plot & Character Integration

To make a cohesive whole, every single event must happen for a reason. Every single character must have a reason to be there and EVERYTHING must tie in together. Every scene in a story should either illustrate Character (Character Arc) or be an Event (Plot Arc)

The Stages of Grief:
Denial - Anger- Bargaining - Despair -Acceptance

Why Grief?
Because STORY needs ANGST to BE Story.

Stories are all about CHANGE; 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. This is where dramatic tension is generated.

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.

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.

Plot Arc is all about WHAT HAPPENS to the characters.
Character Arc is all about how the characters FEEL about what's happening.

The Stage of Grief that character happens to be going through dictates how that character will React the event. If you plan it just right, every event will work Against the character's Stage of Grief.

The whole Idea being:

"That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." - Nietzsche

The plot movements combine both the Plot Arc (Events/Actions) and the Character Arc (Emotions/Reactions)

Flash Fiction / The Vignette
Under 1000 words
The climactic moment of a single event
1 Movement:
Ordeal - Sacrifice
  2 characters
2 main characters: Protagonist / Antagonist
1 POV character ~ 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited POV


The Short Story
5000 to 19,000 words
One Small Event in the Hero's life.
3 major movements:
1- Crisis - Anger
2- Ordeal - Sacrifice
3- Climax - Acceptance
1 chapter per movement.
2 main characters: Protagonist / Antagonist
1 POV character ~ 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited POV


The Novelette
20,000 to 59,000 words
A single event that changes the Hero's life
5 major movements:
Act One
1-Inciting event - Denial
Act Two
2-Crisis - Anger
3-Reversal - Despair
4-Ordeal - Sacrifice
Act Three
5-Climax - Acceptance
2 chapters per movement.
3 Main characters: Protagonist / Obstacle Character */ Antagonist
1 or 2 POV characters ~ 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited
*Note: The Obstacle Character is the Nay-sayer that possesses the opposing opinion. In a 3-character plot, the Emotionally-driven character tends to play opposition for both the Antagonist (Motive-driven character) and the Protagonist (Action-driven character).

The Novella ~ Category Novel
60,000 to 89,000 words
(Many publishers consider anything over 60k a novel.
However, most ePubs will not print a book under 80k.)

A single that changes all the Main Character's lives
7 major movements:
Act One:
Set up - Something Bad has Happened
2- Inciting Incident -Denial

3-Crisis - Anger
Act Two:
4-Reversal - Despair
5-Ordeal - Sacrifice
Act Three:
6-Climax - Acceptance
7-Resolution - Acknowledgment
2-4 chapters per movement.
3 Main characters: Protagonist / Main Viewpoint Character */ Antagonist

2 Support characters: Hero's Obstacle Character / Villain's Obstacle Character
1 to 3 POV characters - 1st Person or 3rd Person Limited
*Note: The Main Viewpoint Character is rarely the Protagonist or the Antagonist. In most stories, the Viewpoint Character is the one caught in the middle, if not completely lost, in the battle between the Protagonist and the Antagonist. (Neo, in The Matrix was the Viewpoint Character caught between Morpheus and the Agents of the Matrix.) 
The Novel
90,000 to 125, 000 words
(Publishers rarely take manuscripts higher than 125k.)
A collection of events that lead to a single Major Event that brings change in all the (main) character's lives.
9 major movements:
Act One:
1-Set up - Something Bad has Happened
2- Introduction - Innocence
3- Inciting Incident -Denial
Act Two:
4-Challenge - Anger
5-Crisis - Betrayal
6-Reversal - Despair
7-Ordeal - Sacrifice
Act Three:
8-Climax - Acceptance
9-Resolution - Acknowledgment
2-5 chapters per movement.
3 Main characters*:
Protagonist / Main Viewpoint Character / Antagonist

3 Major Support characters:
Protagonist's Obstacle Character
Antagonist's Obstacle Character
Viewpoint Character's Obstacle Character
1 to 3 POV characters**
1st Person or 3rd Person Limited, or Omniscient
*Note: With casts of Characters - Less is more - ALL major character arcs must conclude to fulfill resolution. The larger the cast, the longer the story.

**Note: With Viewpoint Characters - LESS is definitely more. Hopping from Viewpoint to Viewpoint can get very frustrating to the reader who has to keep track of each of those different story threads. And then there's the Fatal Flaw of: Head Hopping.  

Keep in Mind: Each POV character chosen, automatically becomes a Main Character. Woe betide the author that does not conclude all the issues raised with EACH Viewpoint Character - in addition to the Main Characters. Any more than 4 POVs and you're looking at a Massive undertaking to conclude them all, or make plot-holes you can drive trucks through.

Tragedy vs. Happily Ever After

The difference between a Tragedy and a Happily Ever After seems to be that in a Tragedy, the Protagonist FAILS at their Crisis Point in Act Two. Act Three is merely the death scene that fullfils their failure to change.

To make a Happily Ever After, the Protagonist still Fails their Crisis Point in Act Two, but then replays their Crises Point in Act Three and finally Wins at the end of the Act. The story then goes on to a whole new FOURTH act. 

Additional Reading:
The Internal Journey - Premise Building
Being, Doing, Becoming:
The Heroic Strength, the Heroic Flaw, the Heroic Journey

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Periodic Table of Storytelling

If you are any kind of fan of fiction writing, whether it books, TV scripting, movie scripting, or even fan-fiction, THIS is the ultimate cheat sheet for story crafting -- especially if you are a fan of TV Tropes!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview with

Interview with Morgan Hawke

1. What made you decide to write Erotica?

Well, I like sex, I had several years experience in the Adult Industry so I had plenty of experience to write from, and I love writing. 

S+Exp+W = Author

However, the main push toward writing Erotica, and Erotic Romance in particular, was that there was so little respect or care for any book labeled 'Erotic.' Back when I first started posting stories; years before Erotic Romance had been invented, Erotica was known for having the absolute worst writing out there. Poor plots, poor characterization, poor description, poor everything – and this stuff was Published!

I wanted to fix that. I wanted to prove that Erotica could be written with as much care, research, and respect as a sci-fi or a mystery novel. Truthfully, this very motive is what propelled me into writing Erotic Romance.

2. Would you ever write for Harlequin/Mills & Boon?

Hell No! They have the absolute worse reputation for screwing their authors in the publishing industry.

Would I write that type of novel?

 If the publishing house was NOT Harlequin/Mills & Boon, or Dorchester, and they offered me the right kind of money to do it?

Absolutely. I'm a mercenary author; I write what pays the bills. At the moment, Erotic Romance is the most lucrative and fastest paying genre out there.

3. What is the one piece of advice you would give aspiring Erotica / Romantica Erotic Romance writers?

Before you consider plot, character, or setting, learn to write in Chronological Order, the order in which things actually happen --> Action THEN Reaction.

The fastest way to do this is by dropping the word "as" from your vocabulary. If you see the word "As" in your sentence, nine times out of ten, you've written the line Backwards. The events are written in the Reverse of what actually happened.

The vampire drank his fill AS he crouched over his victim. < -- WRONG!
Which really happened first?
The vampire drank his fill.
The vampire crouched over his victim.
Obviously, the vampire had to crouch before he could drink his fill, therefore...
The vampire crouched over his victim AND drank his fill. < -- RIGHT!
If you want a full explanation, go here:
Read that.

4. Do you think that Sci-Fi elements in erotica enhances sales or would the books sell just as well if set in a present day earth?

I follow Azimov's rule of Science-Fiction:
"If you can remove the Science from the Fiction and still have a viable story in another genre, you did it WRONG."
However, doing it Wrong doesn’t mean it won’t get published. It just means you missed the point of the genre. Just for the record, 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?

5. What is your favorite book you have written and why?

Truthfully, I don't have a favorite, not yet anyway. Sooner or later, I'll write a world I want to keep coming back to, but that hasn't happened just yet.

6. Who is your favorite character you have created?

I don't have a favorite, not yet anyway. Each character; hero, heroine, villain, ally... was created to make that particular story happen. Unlike many writers, I come up with the plot first then craft my characters to make that story happen

7. What are the top three characteristics every Heroine should have?

First of all, when you're writing a Romance or an Erotic Romance, you should never forget that the Main Character is an Avatar for the Reader. Because of this, one should always make the Main Character someone the reader would like to be. With this in mind, I craft my characters to have these three characteristics:
  • An Emotional Flaw
  • A Physical Limitation
  • A professional-level skill
The first two are the literal, "two strikes against them," and the last is the hidden key to their success in the story.

8. Do you believe in avoiding Mary-Sue's in writing romantica Erotic Romance?

Yes and No. I believe that the author should avoid creating OBVIOUS Mary-Sues; they look, act, and talk like the author only Better! Or worse, a character that is Too Good To Be True.

Give the character some major personality flaws and it won't matter if it is a Sue or not. American readers in particular adore underdog characters, the one who keeps trying in spite of the fact that they can't seem to win. Perfect people, on the other hand, are their favorite targets to bash out of sheer Envy.

9. Where do you find inspiration for your stories ?

EVERYWHERE. Everything I see, everything I do, everything I experience becomes food for thought in my stories.

10. If you could write one book in the mainstream fiction sector, what would it be about?

LOL! It depends on the publisher, literally. I never write a book without knowing exactly who I plan to send it to. I believe in reading a publisher's Submission Guidelines FIRST then crafting the story to be exactly what that publisher is looking for. It's the fastest -- and easiest -- way to guarantee that a publisher will take a manuscript.

Morgan Hawke
March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Online Erotic Plot Generators

Just for fun!
 Erotic Plot Generators

Looking for a quick and painless way to get ideas for Erotic stories or Yaoi stories? Have I got the toys for you! One click and there you go! 

Example of results:
As an apology, a socially inept yet sincere actress put on a strap-on and ass-fucked a submissive police detective in a narrow stall of a public toilet. This resulted in a business proposition.

After catching the peeper red-handed--literally and figuratively, a naive and unsuspecting actress made tender love to a vivacious, red-haired erotica author in a high class hotel overlooking the bay. This resulted in the discovery of a hidden fetish.

Wearing only a towel, a dominant delivery girl called in some friends and had an orgy with a submissive college student in a seedy hotel in the bowels of the city. This resulted in a very sincere apology.

And for those interested in Boy on Boy erotic stories...?

Example of results:
Having fallen hopelessly in Love, a petite, fair and delicate teacher had anal sex with an eccentric martial artist in the VIP room of a night club. This resulted in the loss of his underwear.

Wearing only a towel, a vivacious, red-haired private detective was fucked by an attractive mail man in a seedy hotel in the bowels of the city. This resulted in the annulment of a debt.

Caught masturbating, a submissive graffiti artist ass-fucked a friendly college professor in front of the fireplace of a Victorian mansion. This resulted in an invitation to live together.

The Java code is from Seventh Sanctum, but rest is all mine. Feel free to use any of the ideas generated for your own stories.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Writing Erotic HORROR

Writing Erotic Horror

What is Erotic Horror?

According to Wikipedia:
Erotic horror, alternately noted as Dark Erotica, is a term applied to works of horror fiction in which sensual or sexual imagery (or descriptions of the physical act of sexual intercourse) are blended with horrific overtones or horror story elements.

In other words:
If Erotica is: They have sex and something happens.
Then Erotic Horror is: They know exactly what will happen if they have sex, and do it anyway.

Believe it or not, the basic principal is actually a left-over from the antique Victorian view of "If you have Sex, something bad will happen to you." Something still promoted in today's horror flicks, especially those featuring teens.

Erotic Horror takes it one step further with: Sex = Death, and occasionally Death = Sex.

Most Common Plotlines:

The new girlfriend is a real monster.
-- Commonly foreshadowed by the fact that none of his family or friends likes her. The male protagonist then ignores all warnings to meet her in some deserted and blatantly creepy spot. They have sex and her true monstrosity is finally revealed.

This ends in one of two ways:
- He dies in her embrace.
- He kills her in self defense, and regrets it

Far less often do you see the opposite:

The new boyfriend is a real monster.
-- In this style of story, the family usually approves as do her friends, while the heroine is the one with all the doubts. Eventually she gives in to family and peer pressure and goes on a date with this guy. By the end of the date, she decides he's not so bad after all. He then takes her to some deserted and blatantly creepy spot. They have sex and his true monstrosity is finally revealed.

This ends in one of two ways:
- She dies in his embrace.
- She kills him in self defense, and resents* it.

In an M/M story...
 The new friend is a real monster.
 -- None of his friends or family knows about the guy the protagonist is seeing because the protagonist is actively hiding or in denial about his attraction to this guy. The male protagonist then agrees to meet the guy in some deserted and blatantly creepy spot. The protagonist is seduced into sex and the other guy's true monstrosity is finally revealed.
This ends in one of two ways:
 - He dies in his lover's embrace.
 - He kills his lover in self defense, and actively tries to *forget it ever happened.

The new lover is a real monster to everyone except their lover.
-- In this style of story, the protagonist shacks up or marries their new love and realizes that their love is hiding some kind of secret. Meanwhile, the people around them are disappearing or dying. Completely ignoring the fact that people are dropping like flies round their love, the protagonist begins to suspect that their beloved is cheating on them. The protagonist follows their beloved and witnesses their lover seducing someone and then killing them in a particularly nasty way. Discovered, the beloved confesses their monstrosity and immediately goes all out to seduce their beloved.

This ends in one of three ways:
- The protagonist willingly dies in their beloved's embrace.
- The male protagonist kills their beloved in self defense, and regrets it.
- The female protagonist kills their beloved in self defense, and resents* it.
- The protagonist kills their beloved to save them, and then commits suicide to join them.

The new lover convinces their beloved to become a real monster.
-- In this style of story, the protagonist shacks up or marries their new love who then refuses to have sex with the protagonist until they prove their love by killing someone and bringing back a trophy. Sometimes it's an object, but usually it's a body part. Eventually, the protagonist realizes that they have become a mass-murderer, regrets what they've become and finally begins to question their lover's sanity.

This ends in one of two ways:
- The protagonist snaps and kills their beloved in a mad sexual frenzy, then commits suicide.
- The protagonist kills their beloved lovingly and then commits suicide.

In short,
Erotic Horror is when two lovers have Sex and Death is either the result or the cause.

Occasionally you'll see a story where two lovers have sex and then a monster comes out of nowhere and kills one or both of them. This kind of story is not Erotic Horror – it's ordinary Horror.

What's the difference?

In any Erotic story, the Erotic MUST turn the plot. In other words, Sex must make the story happen. If something else makes the story happen; such as the sudden appearance of a monster, then it's not an Erotic story. It's just a Monster story -- a Horror story.

In order to be a true Erotic Horror, both the Sex AND Death must turn the plot.

However, a simple 'raped to death' story isn't Erotic Horror either. That's just a Snuff tale. To be an Erotic Horror, the protagonist needs to be willing, eager, and enjoying the sex in order to be Erotic with Death as the result or the cause of the Sex.

In other words, no matter how many sex scenes you toss into a Horror story, if the sex is not directly related to the horror as the cause or result, then what you have is a plain ordinary horror story with a few extra scenes.
How can you tell if you've written an Erotic Horror? 
 If you can cut out the Erotic scenes without hurting the main Horror plotline – you did it WRONG.
  If you can cut out the Horror scenes without hurting the main Erotica plotline – you did it WRONG.
If cutting out the Horror scenes or the Erotic scenes ruins the story – you did it RIGHT.

In Conclusion...
Tossing a random sex scene into a Horror story will not give you an Erotic Horror story. All that does is make a Horror story with erotic bits. To write a true Erotic Horror, both Death and Sex must carry equal weight in the plot line. Death and Sex must both make the story happen, preferably with one the result of the other: Sex = Death or Death = Sex.

*Note: Why does the female protagonist Resent losing their lover while the male protagonist Regrets losing their lover?

Basic psychology. Males have a tendency to regret losing anything they found pleasurable, where females tend to resent having made a bad choice (in lovers). In the case of two male lovers, Denial is the normal route; "That never happened," because most men hate to admit they made a mistake. However, as the author, you are entitled to write your character's feelings any way you like. Those were merely what I found in the Erotic Horror stories I read.

Morgan Hawke

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Araragi from Bakemonogitari.
He used to be a vampire. He got better. Mostly.

Advanced Plotting:

PLOT ARC: The events that happen while the characters make other plans.
CHARACTER ARC: The emotional roller-coaster that the character suffers while dealing with the Plot.

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

What the Character Arc does is map out the Emotional path your characters need to take to grow and change into the heroes and heroines your story needs to fulfill your story's driving point; the Premise, and achieve your story's desired Ending.

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

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

The 7 Stages of Grief:
Shock &Denial – Pain &Guilt – Anger & Bargaining – Despair & Reflection – Precipice & Choice – Reconstruction & Adjustment – Acceptance & Hope

Why Grief?

Stories are about CHANGE; about adapting and overcoming circumstancing that should take the characters down physically AND emotionally -- and that takes Angst. In a solidly built story, both hero and villain change and develop emotionally as well as physically. Changing takes suffering. Both the hero and the villain should suffer emotionally and physically to make those personal changes happen.

Think about how hard it is for YOU to change your mind about liking or disliking anyone. What would it take to change your mind? That's the level of suffering - of Angst - you need.
However, the ultimate difference between the Hero and the Villain is the Villain’s failure to face his fears and make the final sacrificial emotional change. This inability to change and Mature is what allows the hero to take him down.

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

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

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

Here's a common example: 
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?
  1. SHOCK & 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…
  2. PAIN & GUILT: "Damn it... Why does this crap always happen to me? Sure, I had problems starting it yesterday, but I didn't think it was this bad."
  3. ANGER & BARGAINING: "Start damn it!" Perhaps you slam your hand on the steering wheel? Then you try it again. "Damn you! Start! Start! Start! Please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition…”
  4. DESPAIR & REFLECTION: "It won’t start. Crap. If only I'd taken it to the shop when I had the chance."
  5. PRECIPICE & CHOICE: "Crap, crap, crap... I need to get to work! Should I call in to work and tell them I'm not coming in, or just say I'm going to be late?"
  6. RECONSTRUCTION & ADJUSTMENT: "I need the cash too badly to skip out of work; especially now with the car. I'll call a taxi or maybe my friend and see if they can get me to work?" You pick up the cell phone and start dialing numbers.
  7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE: "I'll call the mechanic from work and ask them to look at my car. Hopefully, it won't be too expensive to fix it." 

STORY Stages of the Character Arc

1. Shock & Denial
“This can’t be happening to me!”
An Inciting Event has happened to ruin the Protagonist’s blissful ignorance. Rather than deal with it the Protagonist keep going as though it never happened: “I’m busy! Go away!”
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Ibn Fadlan is an Arab noble who is literally pulled into a Viking adventure he wants no part of.
2. Pain & Guilt
“If only I hadn't...”
The situation is no longer avoidable. It's right there staring them in the face and the Protagonist suspects that what happened is their own damned fault – even if it isn't.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Ibn knows for a fact that he'd been sent out into the far reaches of civilization because he'd fallen in love with a noble's wife. However, his own mouth is what gets him into trouble with the Vikings -- and why they decided to take him with them on their monster hunt.
3. Anger & Bargaining
“Screw You!”
The main character does everything in his power to wiggle back out of the situation by way of threats, bribes, and outright begging. This is also where the Antagonist has his best chance of strong-arming the Protagonist into getting what they want by offering a quick solution – a bargain – that the Protagonist simply cannot refuse.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Ibn has finally arrived in the far distant land and learned the language of the Vikings. It is then that he finds out exactly what sort of barbarous monsters he and his 12 companions are expected to defeat – and that they are in the thousands. To make matters worse, the king of that land is old and his son power hungry.
4. Despair & Reflection
“We're going to die.”
This is where your characters realize exactly what they're up against and just how overwhelming the enemy truly is. Not only is their boat surrounded by alligators, a few more are in the boat with them disguised as friends.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Ibn and the Vikings learn that the monsters are undefeatable. The Great Hall can not be defended. There are just too many. Another solution must be found.
5. Precipice & Choice
"Give up or go down fighting?"
Quite literally trapped in a "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" situation, desperation forces the Protagonist to make a personal Sacrifice during an emotionally heavy Ordeal (often provided by the Antagonist) that removes the Protagonist's main debilitating fear and gives them the inner strength to deal with their situation.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – In the hopes of taking out the two leaders of the monster tribe Ibn and the Viking sneak into the Monsters' vast caves with the full knowledge that it’s a suicide mission. During this sneak attack, Ibn and the Viking face a number of their fears and conquer them.
6. Reconstruction & Adjustment
“Okay, so here's the plan...”
The Protagonist finally gives up and commits himself to what needs to be done. Home is so far away, it no longer matters. The problem at hand matters.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Ibn and the Vikings have succeeded in taking out one of the leaders, but the other still survives. An attack is coming and there is nothing they can do but defend.
7. Acceptance & Hope
“We'll make them regret messing with us!”
With nothing left to lose, they throw themselves into the fray.
In The Thirteenth Warrior – Knowing that they are vastly outnumbered, Ibn and the Vikings fully expect to die, leaving them nothing left to fear. However, there is still the chance that the final leader will show his face. If one of them can succeed in killing him, hopefully that will stop the invasion before the monsters kill every last man, woman, and child.

"Must I use Grief?
" Does my character’s arc have to be so…depressing?”

In the Stages of Grief, the word "Grief” is actually misleading. The stages aren't strictly about crushing depression. They merely map the cycle of someone under emotional pressure created by conflicts; and story conflict should create emotional pressure for your characters. Never forget: Stories need Emotional conflict to be fulfilling. However, the emotional conflict doesn’t have to be Horrific! The stages can be softened.

For example:

Shock & Denial can become Indifference
 - "So what?"
Pain & GuiltSelf-reproach
 - "Okay, so maybe I could have...?"
Anger & Bargaining - Annoyance
 - "You stay out of my way, and I'll stay out of yours. Okay?"
Despair & Reflection - Exasperation
 - "How do I always get myself into these messes?"
Precipice & Choice - Aggravation
 - "You know what? I don't need this crap!"
Reconstruction & Adjustment – Accommodation
 -- "That's one less problem to deal with."  
Acceptance & Hope - Relief
 - "Oh, now I have time to do other things."

"Do these stages go in EXACTLY this order?"
Denial ALWAYS comes First. Acceptance ALWAYS goes Last. The others can be juggled around as pleases. I listed the most useful and common order. Feel free to Experiment!

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

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

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

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

After all, it's YOUR story.

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

Morgan Hawke