People talk about how hard it is to write Sex. Romance is actually far more difficult. Sex is simply a sequence of ACTIONS: “He did this, she reacted, and then did this in return…etc.” Romance, on the other hand, is a psychologically based sequence of actions for gaining the trust needed to attain Intimacy.
Someone skilled in the arts of Romance is not necessarily demonstrating Love!
* Romance: A manipulation technique designed to make someone receptive to Sex, the motive behind Romance is LUST.
* Love: When someone’s happiness means more than your own, the motive behind Love is AFFECTION.
To many people, Romance means ‘showing love’. That’s not true. You show love by protecting the ones you care for with the intent to ensure their lasting happiness. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re nice to them. Romance is about being nice to the point that they’ll let you have sex with them. Make sure you SHOW the difference!
The Ritual of “May I…?”
Romance is a ritual dance of Query / Answer on the path toward Intimacy. An interested party makes a Query, they hold out their hand. If the other party grasps that hand voluntarily, then they have Answered in the positive and the next Query, the next step toward Intimacy may be presented. Each positive answer received implies that a request for more intimate contact may also be accepted.
Defining the Twelve Stages of Intimacy
1. Eye to body. “What have we here?”
He sees her, she sees him. If she turns toward him, in even a small amount, that is his cue that he may approach.
2. Eye to Eye. “I find you interesting.”
He looks at her. She looks at him. If she smiles, this is his cue that he may speak to her and introduce himself. If he stares too long without speaking, he implies that she is an object being assessed for use. If she perceives this she may turn away to deny continuing contact.
3. Voice to Voice. “I’d like to know you.”
He introduces himself. If she responds with a smile and friendly conversation, then he is well on his way to closer contact.
4. Hand to Hand. “I like you.”
First contact. He holds out his hand. If she accepts his hand and smiles, she has given permission to take the next step.
5. Arm to Shoulder. “May I touch you?”
First Body to Body contact. He sits or stands next to her. If she stays close, he may proceed to put his arm around her shoulders. If she moves away, then he must go back to Stage 3 to establish trust.
6. Arm to Waist. “May I have you?”
Placing his arm around her waist is a potent and very important step. All contact beyond this point is Sexual in nature. Arm to waist contact is also a territorial signal to others that this person is Taken. It is at this point that she decides if she wants to be intimate with him – but she does NOT let him know this.
7. Mouth to Mouth. “This is how I intend to treat you.”
The kiss. First sexual contact. How someone kisses implies how they intend to make love. It is not unusual for a Heroine to flee after a kiss that is too controlling or possessive. If this happens, he will need to retreat all the way back to Stage 3 to rebuild trust.
8. Hand to Head. “Will you trust me?”
He touches her hair, her face, her mouth with his fingers. If she allows this, she is giving her ultimate trust. Grasping the hair and/or the face gives the holder complete control. If he has a tight enough hold, she will not be able to escape without a fight and possibly harm. By allowing this contact, she gives permission to allow all other hand contact with her body.
9. Hand to Torso. “I want more…”
Heavy petting normally begins with the clothing still on. The intent is to excite her into voluntarily opening her clothes and exposing her skin for more intimate contact. If he starts at the top of her body, head, neck, shoulder, breast, stomach…etc. stroking her as one would a pet, then he shows an acceptable level of affection. If he immediately digs under her clothes to grab her, BEFORE full intimacy has been established, she will assume he sees her as an object he intends to use and throw away.
This is the point where most rapes begin, so females tend to be hyper-aware of their partner’s actions during this stage. If she is not 100% comfortable with his actions, she will immediately withdraw. If he reacts with anger, she’ll assume that she is in danger and seek to escape using any means possible, after which she will refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he is dangerous.
10. Mouth to Torso. “I hunger for you.”
He kisses her throat, her shoulder, and any other exposed skin. Acceptance of mouth to skin contact implies extreme trust. The mouth is the most dangerous part of the body; it contains the teeth. This is where all remaining clothing is removed and full skin to skin contact begins.
She must be the first to open her clothing to him before any further contact can be made. If he takes the initiative and removes his clothes without her first having opened something to him, then he implies that he is not interested in her readiness, he is there for his pleasure, not hers. If she perceives this, she will immediately withdraw and possibly refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he an extremely selfish lover.
11. Hand to Genitals. “Are you ready for me?”
His hands explore her intimately. His explorations are to insure that she is ready for full sexual possession. (Are her nipples hard? Is she wet?) If she is not ready, he will use his hands and mouth to stir her passions, insuring that she is eager to welcome him and will enjoy what they are about to share.
Taking someone when they are not ready is not only painful, it destroys all trust. Should this happen, she will immediately seek to escape using any means possible, after which she will refuse all future contact, ending the relationship. She may also report to every female she knows that he an extremely poor lover.
12. Genitals to Genitals. “You are mine.”
Full sexual contact implies ownership on a primal level. Once full sexual contact is gained, both partners assume that they may have it again at any time. Making Love implies a relationship. Having Sex implies a diversion, a form of entertainment on the level of a video game. With this one act, she knows for certain if he sees her as a potential life partner, or merely a form of entertainment to be tossed away when a new game comes along.
A Note on Female Costume & Intimacy
The skin exposed, while fully dressed, advertises exactly how fast one is willing to proceed from Skin Contact to Sex.
A female in a low-cut but full-skirted gown states that she will allow some kissing contact (stage 8) but sex must still be negotiated.
A female in a floor length gown that exposes her entire back to the hips is stating that the man who gains permission to put his arm around her, (stage 6) will be allowed sex.
A female wearing very little, short skirt or skin-tight pants, a short top that exposes belly and/or back…etc., is advertising that she will allow sex to the man that gains hand contact, (stage 4).
A female in a skin-tight body suit is perceived as nude, even if the suit covers her from ankle to throat, as there is no impediment to immediate intimate contact. Sustained eye contact (stage 2) is considered a direct invitation to sex.
Color choice is also a factor in readiness for Sexual Contact. Light colors and pastels signal innocence. Bright colors and colorful prints signal playfulness. Dark jewel tones and satin, signal interest but caution. Animal prints, leather, dark velvets, and fur are a sign of sexual aggression.
The Ritual of Male & Female
The stages of Intimacy are fluid. Steps can be rushed, one right after the other, and some may even be skipped. However, skipped steps imply a lack of respect. Skipped steps can also imply a need to Control. These warning signs may not be understood consciously, but be rest assured, subconsciously the other party is well aware of what’s going on.
She meets a suitable young man. They are introduced and he immediately goes to hug her without bothering to offer his hand or speak with her personally. She may not feel that she has a reason to turn him down and so may allow the full-frontal contact. After that, she will refuse to be alone with him; in fact she may avoid him altogether, likely for the rest of the night. She may not even realize she’s avoiding him, but she will avoid him none the less.
Why? Because whether she is aware of it or not, his rush into close physical contact removed all trust.
If the young man is wise, he will find her, hold out his hand and begin again, all the way back to a full reintroduction, preferably with an apology inserted somewhere. If he does not, she will continue to avoid him. She will continue to feel uncomfortable, unsafe and ‘pressured’ by him. She will continue to feel that because she allowed ‘full frontal contact’ he will expect the Next Step in the Dance of Intimacy: a Kiss.
Respect is a Two-Way street.
When a female decides to break the order and jump steps with a potential partner, this tells him that he does NOT have to respect her personal boundaries because she has violated His.
A female that spontaneously kisses a man on the mouth when she does not already know him intimately shows an extreme lack of respect toward him. She is in effect, treating him like an object to be used. This gives him permission to use her any way he cares to, even to the point of taking her right there because her lack of respect for him has removed the need for him to treat her with respect.
The steps in the Ritual of Intimacy allow potential lovers the chance to demonstrate respect for each others’ personal boundaries and encourage Trust to build between them.
* Without TRUST between both parties - Love cannot happen.
* Without TRUST between both parties - Love SHOULD NOT happen.
For All Your Literary NeedsThere Is No Such Thing As A Stupid Question (Ask Box) And So The People Were Heard (submissions)
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.
Just for the record…
A Premise is NOT a Concept!
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.
A Concept is HOW you intend to illustrate that Premise, it’s the story you wrap around it.
Example: The ‘Matrix’:
Premise: Knowledge vs. Ignorance
Concept: “What if we were all living in a computer-generated dreamworld?”
— On with the tutorial…
Using a Premise…
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 pivotal 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 Matrix’s Premise: Knowledge vs. Ignorance. The meanings behind the characters’ names are the biggest clue as to what facet of Knowledge each character represents.
Neo means New, reflecting that he’s completely ignorant of what’s really going on.
Morpheus means Dream, reflecting that he follows his dreams — blindly.
Trinity stands for the triple Goddess, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone which represents feminine intuition.
• 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. He has no clue what so ever about what’s going on around him.
• Morpheus’s dream is that he will find ‘the One’ whom he thinks is Neo. Choosing to follow his Faith in his dream, he sacrifices himself so Neo can escape.
• Trinity, named for feminine intuition, makes her choices based on her emotions. She is emotionally attached to both Neo and Morpheus. When Morpheus makes his sacrifice, she is unable to choose between them and freezes in momentary indecision.
• Those results lead to the Next Attempt at trying to solve their Problem.
To solve the problem of Morpheus’s sacrifice, Neo makes his decision based on what he has learned. 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 on to the next dilemma.
“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.
In ‘The Matrix’:
The last thing Neo wants to do is believe that he’s the savior of the world, the One. He is determined to keep his head down and simply survive, as he’s done all his life.
“What questions do you ask yourself to get yourself moving in the right direction?”
Plot = Momentum
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 - The Companion to one or the other who is at odds with both.
I ask each of my 3 characters 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 fix 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.
“I get frozen by the unlimited places I could go to from the start…”
Hell, so do I. After reviewing my options, 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.
“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.
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 — which allows the villain to recognize her as the one that got away.
The Answer to the Premise — is the story’s actual pay-off.
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 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 whom 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 the White really felt about working for Sauron?
• Love interests - Arwen’s dad, the king of the elves 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 (Proponent, Ally, Villain) should have a Dark Moment that occurs in somewhere in the story. That dark moment is what leads them to a pivotal 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 knows the right answer all along — even if they don’t realize it. They also tend to be the primary victim of one or the other’s bad judgment, sometimes both, which triggers the Crash & Burn for both the Hero and the Villain.
In ‘The Full Metal Alchemist’:
Alphonse 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. When the spell went wrong, 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.
What is Point of View (POV)?
— It’s the view of the person telling the story.
First Person: I am telling the story.
Second Person. I am telling the story to YOU. (Diaries and letters are commonly written this way.)
Third Person: He is telling the story.
Close Third Person: He had no clue how he got roped into telling this story, but he was telling it, and by god, they better listen up!
Omniscient Distant POV: The camera’s eye view. (No internal narration what so ever. You only know what the camera sees. This is the POV used in plays and movie/TV scripts.)
Omniscient Close POV, AKA: Storyteller’s POV, AKA: Author Intrusion: When the author expresses their opinions on what is happening in the story. (The Lemony Snicket books are written this way, as are Fairy Tales and many Japanese novels.)
Note: The stories currently being published in America most often use Close Third POV and First Person POV.
POV = ATTITUDE + ACTION
Close Third POV = the POV Character’s Voice.
When you are in Close Third POV, everything the main character sees and experiences should be flavored with that character’s Attitude — that character’s voice.
If Oscar the Grouch is looking at a bed of roses, what is going through his head is not going to resemble what would be going through Big Bird’s head. If you are in Oscar’s POV, the way you would write the description of those roses would reflect how he saw them.
Attitude Alone (AKA - Internal Narration):
— Oscar could not believe that someone had the gall to drop his comfy garbage can in the middle of a disgustingly bright mound of flowers. At least they were roses. He could almost stand something that closely resembled a heaped snarl of barbed wire, if it weren’t for those eye-searing explosions of hideous pink. To make matters worse their stench was overwhelmingly sweet. He just knew that it was going to take a whole week to get the smell out of his can. He seriously considered heaving, just to have something more comforting to smell.
What’s wrong with this snippet?
— Technically, nothing other than it’s BORING. NOTHING is happening — and that’s totally wrong for this character. Oscar would not sit there and contemplate the roses; he would make faces and say something snotty.
Attitude + ACTION:
— Oscar the Grouch popped out of his trash can. Serrated green leaves waved among slender and barbed branches around the mouth of his home. He gasped in horror. “What is this disgusting mess?” He leaned out and looked around in disbelief. “Oh ugh, I’m surrounded. Somebody put my trash can in a revolting pile of… What are these? Roses?” He could almost stand something that closely resembled a heaped snarl of barbed wire, if it weren’t for those eye-searing explosions of hideous color. He curled his lip. “Pink, I hate pink.”
To make matters worse the stench was overwhelmingly sweet. “Oh, eww! The smell!” He slapped a fuzzy green hand over his fuzzy green nose. “It’s gonna take me a week to get that stink out’ta my can!” He felt his gorge rising. “I think I’m going to be sick. At least it’ll smell better.”
Not quite so boring this time.
Pet Peeve of mine: TOO MANY POVs!
Your mileage may vary, but…
— As far as I’m concerned, there is only ONE legitimate reason to have more than one POV — SUBPLOTS.
When you have a large cast of characters, making more than one story thread going on, only then do you need POV switching to show the full scope of the story. Since another story is being told within the first, the main POV character may or may not ever be involved. This makes another POV character a necessity.
Jane Austin, Steven King, Robert Jordan and Terry Pratchet are authors that use multiple subplots – multiple stories within one bigger story, and even they stick to ONE POV per subplot. When they bring all the characters together in a story’s final confrontation, they use the first POV Character that appears in the book (that is not killed by the villain.*)
* In most mysteries, horror stories and suspense, nine times out of ten, the very first POV character is usually someone dealing with the Antagonist – the villain of the piece, and they usually end up dead. The next POV character is (normally,) the story’s leading Protagonist.
But…! But…! But…!
— “But how will the reader know what’s really going on in the other characters’ heads?”
The exact same way YOU know what’s going on in your friends’ heads. You GUESS by reading into what they say and what they do. You read their Body Language. This means that if you want your reader to guess right — or wrong — you put in the speaker’s body language too — what they’re doing AS they speak.
When you have more than One POV character in a scene…
When you have multiple characters to choose from for a particular scene which one do you pick? Who has the most to LOSE? Who is going to be the most tied up in knots? Who is going to get the most frustrated? THAT’S your POV character for that scene.
POV Problems & Cures
The Horrors of Head-hopping
— Head-hopping is when the Point of View changes, and changes, and changes, and changes…sometimes every few paragraphs, sometimes every few sentences.
Obsessive Head-hopping normally happens for these reasons…
The Author is still at the learning stage.
— The most common reason for obsessive head-hopping is that they don’t even KNOW that they are head-hopping.
1) Every character’s opinionated view is presented without any form of scene breaks, (often in the same paragraph.)
2) Poor grammar skills.
My advice to Beginners: Write in FIRST PERSON, until you know how to STAY in that one person’s head, then attempt Close Third person. Once you know how to STAY in one person’s head, POV switching will be much easier to master.
Don’t rush into Third Person after one try. Handling First Person POV is tough enough. Seriously, I know a lot of published authors who have a rough time with that POV. Taking one step at a time will save you a LOT of grief in the long run.
They’re a multi-million dollar author.
— Their editor isn’t about to risk pissing off an author that makes the publishing house THAT much money.
— Their name is Nora Roberts. (She even ADMITS to head hopping, and has point blank stated that she sees no need to fix it since they’re going to publish her anyway.)
Emotional DETACHMENT from the Official Lead Character
— A lot of obsessive head-hopping is caused by the author’s emotional connection to a character that is NOT the protagonist – the official lead in the story. When the author becomes fascinated by a character that is not the official lead, they will often pop in and out of their ‘favorite’. They simply cannot bear not being in that person’s head.
1) ALL the characters are involved in only ONE plotline.
2) No real subplots, no secondary stories about different, but related, sets of characters.
3) The POV characters are narrowed to only two or three people.
4) The official lead character does not affect the plot in any major way.
5) The second (and preferred,) POV character defeats the Villain – not the official lead character. This makes the second (and preferred,) POV character the Protagonist, the Official Lead.
The Author thinks they are enriching the story.
— The author is convinced that both leading characters are interesting. They are attempting to provide the reader with a ringside seat to BOTH sides of the story. This shows up chronically in Erotic Fiction of every stripe.
This problem normally takes a very firm publication editor to fix because the author will often refuse to fix it for any other reason. They did it on purpose and don’t see anything wrong with it. (My editor b*tches about this ALL THE TIME.)
1) Only the two main characters have a POV.
2) The POV switch happens without breaks, one successive paragraph after the next – from one end of the story to the other. (Seme > Uke > Seme > Uke…)
3) Events are often repeated; displayed in one POV and then the other.
4) Its deliberate. The author did it on purpose.
The Author thinks they’re making SUSPENSE.
— The author is convinced that the entire cast is soooo interesting, they MUST be revealed to the reader. They completely miss that by allowing the readers a peek into each of the character’s heads, it does not take much effort for the reader to guess how the story will end by the third chapter.
1) No real subplots.
2) The entire plot and every characters’ motivation, including the villain’s, is revealed by the third chapter.
3) Its deliberate. The author did it on purpose.
Why is this a Problem?
— The reader has NO REASON to finish the story. Why should the reader bother continuing to read a story they already know the ending to? And by the way, once one already knows how a story will end, where’s the suspense?
I have heard loud cries of – “But they don’t know HOW it all falls apart!”
— The point is, that once the reader knows it’s going to fall apart, they are Distanced from the characters’ joy and pain. They are no longer participants in the drama, but merely observers because they already know what’s coming.
Look at it this way…
Scene One —
— Someone leans close to you and says: “Watch this, I’m gonna yell Boo in that kid’s ear!” They yell.
— The kid jumps.
— And you do - what? You smile, maybe you laugh.
Scene Two —
— Someone else leans over and grabs a different kid, yelling: “TICKLE!”
— You — jump out of your skin, maybe even shout, because it was totally unexpected.
See the difference?
Quick & Dirty Head-hop Proofing
Try writing it in First Person POV then do a Search / Replace.
• “I” = Character’s Name at the beginning of a paragraph. You only need to use a character’s name once per paragraph — unless they are directly interacting with another character of the same gender. If so, then you’ll need to use both names to keep the reader from getting confused as to who is doing what to whom.
• He/She = Her/Him, everywhere else in the paragraph. (Need a gender-neutral word? I use THEM or ONE. “He didn’t know what to tell them.” “One needs to be sure before one acts.”)
• “My” = her/his.
• “Mine” = Their
Read your story line by line correcting and adjusting as you go until the story reads properly in the third person.
Many people have asked me, “Why don’t you watch TV anymore?”
I do, sort of. I play movies that I buy and rent on my TV regularly. However, I Don’t watch cable TV or local TV, and I NEVER watch sitcoms or Reality TV of any kind. If I want the news, I go to the internet.
Why Not? Because there’s too much Programming going on in those programs, and not one drop of Reality in Reality TV — especially the Law & Order ones.
WARNING: Continuing to read this article will expose you to opinions- not facts, unlike all of my other articles. PLEASE REMEMBER THIS while you are reading.
TV = The Tool of Propaganda
By Phil Cunningham
Posted WITH Permission.)
Propaganda and Advertising, affects us all. The two operate using the exact same techniques, so it can be very difficult to recognize one from the other. The only major difference between the two is that advertising sells Products, while propaganda sells IDEALS.
Increasingly, the corporate advertising of goods and services is being coupled with political, “moral”, and religious value messages - Propaganda.
Advertising = You should Have this…
Propaganda = You should Think this…
It is called TV Programming for a Reason.
Many people say that they don’t pay attention to TV commercials, and are not affected by them.
They are mistaken.
You might watch 1000 commercials for every time that you actually purchase something, or maybe you only shop for clothes at second hand stores, buy only used cars, and bake your own bread… You’re affected by advertising — and propaganda — nonetheless.
Much of the effective propaganda material, is not in the commercial advertisements, but in the actual TV shows between the commercials.
Television shows, movies, and commercial advertisements, have a lot in common, (when it comes to branding messages on your brain,) but television shows, and movies, have more time to present complex messages. These can include simple things like product placement, which are relatively harmless, (E.T. and Reece’s Pieces = Reece’s Pieces are Cool,) but messages that induce us to think that something is cool, while something else is NOT Cool, encourages behavior modification.
Cool vs. UnCool = Behavior Modification
Behavior Modification = PROPAGANDA
This is Propaganda.
Propaganda TEACHES us, through sitcoms and commercials, what is GOOD, “Polite people can be Trusted,” and what is BAD “Rude people are Criminals” – so we don’t have to decide for ourselves.
* We have reality shows to tell us how to be normal, and show us how to react to stressful situations.
* We have talent search programs which tell us what we should consider to be good, and acceptable musical fare.
* We have sitcoms which guide us through social and moral dilemmas.
* We have dating shows to show us what should be desirable in a partner, and shows like “Jerry Springer” to show us what is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, we quietly absorb the other messages within the programming themselves, about:
* How to dress: “Preppies look like this…”, “Druggies look like that…”, “Hoodlums look like this…”,
* What to buy: “Expensive = Successful!”, “Inexpensive = Failure.”
* What to eat: “Fast Food = Youthful!”, “A healthy diet = Old.”
* What to drink: “Being drunk gets you laid!” and, “Being extremely hyper on a chosen power drink, makes you Clever!”
* How to Act:”Being Clumsy makes you Popular!” (Seinfield, Friends, Cheers, ANIME, anyone?)
The TV people are glamorous, and we quietly want to be like the successful happy ones, and avoid being like the ones carried off by the police.
* Popular = beautiful, foolish, and desirable — with good grades
* Criminal = uneducated moron
* IT guys = smart but socially inept
* Corporate Americans = smart, good-looking and powerful
(Note from H: Ever wonder why so many Anime/Manga people DON’T look Asian? Especially the ones in Suits?)
Monkey See = Monkey Do
We are primates (creationists can ignore this; you will anyway,) and we have a lot of things in common with our tree-dwelling cousins. We copy behavior without consciously deciding to do so. Monkey see, monkey do.
We should know better, and those of us who are paying attention, do.
What IS the Monkey Showing us?
Propaganda uses the same tools as Advertising, but the messages are angled somewhat differently.
Advertising = You should Have this…
Propaganda = You should Think this…
Propaganda tells us who we can Trust:
* The Government and its many agencies (Law & Order, Six-Million Dollar Man, MIB, X-Files, The Profiler…)
* Well-dressed people driving shiny new vehicles (Criminals drive clunkers)
* The police (Do you even know what the US Patriot Act says they can do to you — without a warrent?)
Propaganda also shows us who, and what, to Hate.
* Dirty-clothes people — who are all that way because they are bad.
* Poor people – who are lazy, and all need to get a job.
* Foreigners – who all want to destroy our way of life, (except for the EU of course).
* Anybody who is different, from the normal people that we see on TV — is suspect.
Cool vs. UnCool = Behavior Modification
Behavior Modification = PROPAGANDA
Propaganda = BRAINWASHING
The Nature of Un-Reality
We learn from what we see. When what you see isn’t real, then you can learn unrealistic things without knowing any better.
As people spend more time indoors looking at the idiot tube, their real world experience decreases – and their ability to judge a book beyond its cover, decreases with it. We can shop, and work from home. We have in-home entertainment. The TV people might be the people we see most frequently. This is certainly so with children who rarely play outside anymore.
People grow to trust, fear, or hate other people based on their representation on the TV screen — because they, honestly, don’t know any better. (THINK: Is ignorance Really bliss?)
How Life-Experienced are You? Really?
People judge others based on what they see and their sub-conscious associations relative to their “experience.” Propaganda programming most affects individuals who lack the real life experience — to see that they are being manipulated. In fact, they never see it coming.
By the time television inundated people go out into the real world, if they ever do, they already have firm notions of what to think based on years of their vicarious TELEVISION-based experience.
* They can recognize bad people by their clothes and habits — they saw such things on “COPS.”
* They know not to trust anyone that the friendly, TV police would pick out of a crowd. (Anyone that doesn’t LOOK like everyone else.)
* Obliging “rebellious” youths even buy their bad-person-rebel uniforms at “HOT TOPIC” — so the cops can easily identify them as bad-person-rebels.
Without the experience of real-time social interaction, to measure against the fantasy of the ‘TV programs’ they’ve ‘imprinted’ on their minds, for hours - and days, if not years - at a time, how CAN they know the difference – between a book and its cover?
If the TV is right…?
* All Veterans are unstable
* All bikers are bad
* All kids who push drugs wear ratty clothes and leather
Good people are:
* well fed
* get good grades
* look just like everybody else who is good (See: Friends, Seinfeld, and similar shlock.)
Following in Hitler’s Footsteps
TV, widely used by Hitler, has proved to be the best propaganda tool yet conceived.
Corporate and governmental agencies employ armies of expert industrial-strength psychologists to modify our beliefs. They produce messages designed to be appealing and persuasive to the most amount of people, in the shortest amount of time — all the while representing other ideas as backwards, or otherwise inferior.
These messages are repeatedly worked into commercials, movies, and TV programs. Then they poll the viewing public to gauge the effectiveness of those messages for future reference.
Ideally, the entire culture becomes brainwashed (this is GOOD — this is BAD) as effectively as any fundamentalist Christian cult member.
The Goal of Propaganda?
Make the general public: predictable, docile, homogeneous and paranoid of anyone not like us, all without conscious thought.
Make us: weak – and submissive.
It is time to become conscious of what we are sticking in our heads. A good start is unplugging your TV.
First published in: “The Clock,” Plymouth State University newspaper, by Phil Cunningham
Posted with Permission.
Okay, now it’s my turn.
What does this have to do with Writing Fiction?
How much Propaganda are YOU writing into Your Fiction? Seriously?
How much Propaganda do you have in your Characters?
* What do your Villains Look like, and how do they Act?
* What do your Heroes Look like, and how do they Act?
* In your stories - who is Trustworthy, and how do you identify them — to the Reader?
* How many of your Characters are STEREOTYPED from TV, Movie, Anime, or Manga Characters?
How much Propaganda do you have in your Situations?
* How do you show a Good relationship?
* How do you show a Bad relationship?
* How do you show how a Good friend treats someone, as opposed to a Bad friend?
* How many of your Situations — and their Solutions — are STEREOTYPED from TV, Movie, Anime, or Manga Situations?
How much Real-Time Experience are you writing from?
WHO do you KNOW?
Have you ever met:
* A real Criminal?
* A real Hero?
* A real Romantic?
* A real Stalker?
* A real Witch?
* A real Cop?
* A real PI?
* A real Soldier?
* A real Stripper?
* A real political figure?
* A real rebellious Teen?
* Someone truly in Love?
* A real happily married couple? — with children?
* Someone who Defied the stereotypes seen on TV?
What have you DONE?
Have you ever Experienced:
* A real loving relationship?
* An abusive relationship?
* An obsessive infatuation?
* Committing an act of Vengeance?
* Driving cross country?
* Being a problem child?
* A corporate job?
* A fast food job?
* A foreign country?
* Military service?
* Using a sword?
* Actual Magic?
HOW do you KNOW?
Where is your Information actually coming from?
* Role Playing Games?
* TV shows?
* First-hand Experience?
Where are YOUR Ideas coming from?
How much do you rely on the TV & Movies for references and accuracy?
How much Propaganda are YOU writing into Your Fiction?
What the heck are Commas for, anyway?
Besides abusing the sanity of the writer, the comma exists to help readers organize information in a sentence. It makes all the stuff the author is trying to say easier to swallow. Without them, sentence bits and pieces collide into one another causing confusion; rather like a train-wreck, though not nearly as exciting.
Just in case you’d like to know who made up all these comma rules, I got most of them from Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” the grammar handbook used by every publishing house in America, and a few overseas. The rest came from my editors.
To get a good idea of how commas work, let’s take a look at what they are supposed to do — and some major screw-ups.
Doing it RIGHT
1. Commas separate items in a series.
The werewolf had fleas, a couple of ticks, and a very slight case of mange.
2. Commas separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, so…,) and the comma goes IN FRONT of the word — not behind it!
Several vampires were writhing on the dance floor, and a dozen more were scattered about the bar.
3. Commas set off introductory clauses and phrases.
When the gargoyle crashed through the plate glass window, the housewife handed him the broom to clean up his mess.
4. Commas set off non-restrictive (non-essential) clauses, phrases, and modifiers from the rest of the sentence.
a) The restrictive (essential) clause:
Two fallen angels, who frequently dangled from the church tower, were throwing rotten tomatoes at the gargoyles.
a) Non-restrictive (non-essential) clause:
Chateau Dracula, located in the green hills of Tuscany, hosted the vampire prince’s inauguration.
5. Commas separate descriptive modifiers of equal rank. If you can use your adjectives interchangeably and can put in an “and” between them, put the comma there.
The Court simply could not predict the next activity of the fickle, explosive vampire queen.
6. Commas set off parenthetical expressions. (Stuff that could be put in parentheses, but isn’t.)
The werewolf council members, you may recall, voted themselves a thirty-five percent pay increase last year.
7. Commas are used when the absence of a pause can cause confusion.
For the ghosts that haunted the chateau, moving the chairs around in the dining room was exhausting work.
8. Commas are used to set off participle phrases that modify some part of the independent clause.
The Vampire Court adjourned, having successfully defeated the bill that would have taxed imported medical blood.
Doing it WRONG
1. DON’T use a comma to separate two independent clauses WITHOUT a coordinating conjunction. Doing this makes a “comma splice.”
WRONG: The number of vampires dropped by 3 percent, the werewolf population rate stayed constant.
a. Instead of a Comma, try using a semicolon(;):
The number of vampires dropped by 3 percent; the werewolf population rate stayed constant.
b. Instead of a Comma, try using a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, so…,) with a comma BEFORE it:
The number of vampires dropped by 3 percent, but the werewolf population rate stayed constant.
2. DON’T use a comma to introduce a subordinate clause. (Putting a comma before the word “because” is one of the biggest offenders.)
The vampire princess decided to visit the protest site because she needed a first hand report.
The vampire princess decided to visit the protest site (subordinate clause — > because she needed a first hand report.
But…! If the subordinate clause is being used to introduce the sentence, a comma does go at the end of the introductory phrase.
Because she needed a firsthand report, the vampire princess decided to visit the protest site.
3. DON’T use a comma to separate a noun or pronoun from its reflexive (myself, himself, herself).
The werewolf king himself will discipline the pack.
4. DON’T use a comma between a word and a phrase to create a “false series.”
Example of a confusing False Series:
The archeologists discovered seven bodies, six medieval knights, and one court jester.
(WOW! That’s a lot of bodies!)
In proper perspective using an m-dash:
The archeologists discovered seven bodies — six medieval knights, and one court jester.
5. DON’T use a comma IN FRONT of a partial quotation.
The candidate for court wizard charged that the incumbent was “a charlatan of the lowest order.”
BUT…! If the quotation is a full sentence, you DO use a comma –- in front of it:
The incumbent for court wizard asked, “How would you like to spend the rest of your existence as a leaky pot?”
Exercises: Where do the following sentences need commas?
(This ISN’T an assignment, you are Not expected to turn in your answers!)
1. Teratology the study of deformities derives its name from the Greek word for monster.
2. Hearing the wolf howl caused Zach to look up in anticipation and delight.
3. Gothic music has a distinctly European sound yet it has often received more attention in Tokyo than in Paris.
4. All roads may lead to Rome but the vampire and his designated victim got hopelessly lost trying to drive there from Naples.
5. Dracula Tower one of the finest examples of soaring art deco yet gothic architecture in America is located in New York New York.
6. The most hard working of all the haunts in the chateau she despaired when others received substantially higher praise.
7. You know I can’t tolerate such behavior Vladimir.
8. Exhausted and penniless the vampire stared at the brightly lit interior imagining a warm fire a bed with clean white linens and a willing Reubenesque victim wearing nothing but handcuffs and a smile.
9. It was a charming older home whose medieval decor enhanced its gothic character.
A note on:
— Interior Monologues
Whether you are considering adding a lengthy monologue to a story, or intend the monologue to be the story itself where the focus of the entire story is on one character’s thoughts and feelings with very little action — from my observations and experimentation, the readers either love them or hate them. There’s no in-between.
However, it is notable that the internal monologue stories that are sought out most frequently tend to focus on a profound emotion of some kind: grief, loneliness, heartache… Usually by either those seeking to deal with such an emotion, as a kind of therapy, or by those that have never felt such emotions. (Strong emotional stories are extremely popular among young adults.)
In both cases, not only does the reader seek to submerge themselves in these profound emotions, they are also looking for a solution, a way back out from under these feelings.
In other words, one shouldn’t try to tackle something like this unless one already has a solution to the story problem in mind. (You really don’t want the hate mail that will come when the readers are left hanging.)
I’m an escapist by nature, so I fall into the other category — those that can only handle interior monologues in extremely tiny doses. I prefer my emotional deep thoughts mixed in with the character doing something; an action scene flavored by internal narration, rather than a whole story told in monologue form.
Being older, I’ve actually had to deal with these sorts of emotions; death, grief, heartache, loss… on a far too personal basis, so dwelling on them (reading long emotional passages,) isn’t something I’m comfortable with.
Interestingly enough, the scanlated Japanese novellas that I’ve been reading seem to be almost solid immersions into emotion with action sprinkled in to give it a sense of motion — even if the motion is merely circular.
However, one should take into account that scanlations are extremely subjective. They’re chosen for their appeal to the English-reading folks scanlating the story, so there’s no way to tell of this is a common Japanese style, or merely a sign of the scanlators’ preferences.
When deciding whether or not your monologue is appropriate for what you are writing, consider your target Reading Audience.
If you’re writing a story steeped in emotional upswings such as a Romance, lengthy monologues steeped in strong emotions will probably fit right in. However, if you’re writing something with lots of action such as an Adventure, you just might want to consider sprinkling bits of light action among your passages of deep thought to keep it from dragging down the pace you’ve already set for your story.
Let’s start this lecture with a HUGE secret:
— There are Three Essential Characters in every story:
> Adversary – The one causing all the trouble.
> Proponent – The one trying to keep things the way they are.
> Ally – The close companion of one or the other caught in the middle.
In other words, you can tell any story with ONLY these Three Characters; perhaps not with any real detail, but you could still do the entire basic plotline.
And each essential character is governed by one of three SPECIFIC aspects, or Drives:
> MOTIVE - Driven by a REASON to Make something happen, such as Revenge.
> ACTION - Driven by the need to ACT, normally because if they don’t they die, but an incentive such as a Reward or Prize works too.
> EMOTION - Driven by emotional impulse to REACT; out of love, out of honor, out of guilt…
There may be any number of side characters, but in traditional Adventures and Romances of every stripe (erotic or not,) the main conflict is always a triangle of these complimentary opposite drives. Just to make things Truly confusing, the Hero, the Ally, and the Villain can be any one of them!
In ‘Leon – the Professional’, Leon is a very Action-driven professional assassin Ally who is pestered into taking in his Motive-driven and Adversarial Heroine who was looking for a safe haven from a very Emotionally-driven and impulsive Proponent Villain cop.
In ‘Tomb Raider’ Lara Croft is an Action-driven Proponent Heroine with Emotionally-driven impulsive Allies and Adversarial paramours that are usually, if not always, Motive-driven.
In ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’, the Sheriff of Nottingham plays the impulsive Emotionally-Driven Proponent Villain to Robin Hood’s Motive-driven Adversarial Hero. Maid Marian is an Action-driven Ally Heroine.
In ‘The Crow’, Eric Draven is the very Adversarial and Motive-driven Hero who goes after the Action-driven Proponent Villain trying to keep his little kingdom of crime under control. The little girl Nell, is Eric’s impulsive Emotionally-driven Ally Heroine, who gets caught in the cross-fire, like any other side-kick.
Why does a character’s ‘Drive’ matter?
— A Dual-Natured character possesses TWO DRIVES, one for each side of their nature.
Man against Himself
When a character is at war against his inner-nature, you treat both his likable nature, and his unlikable nature, as separate drives (Motive / Action / Emotion,) separate URGES that are darn near separate entities.
> Outer Man – Emotionally Driven to Protect
> Inner Beast – Motive Driven to Destroy
Additionally, the other two main characters should Frame, or bring attention to this drive and/or personality split.
> Hero = Divided character
> Ally / Lover = Represents everything the character DESIRES, (and likes about themselves.)
> Villain = Represents everything the character HATES, (and despises about themselves.)
Duality = Main Conflict
In a story where a character’s opposing nature (inner-man verses inner-beast,) is heavily pronounced, the character and his battle with his inner nature overpowers the story, and in fact BECOMES the story.
There’s nothing you can do about it either because regardless of what you may have intended to write, once you split your main character’s nature in Two, your character’s “duality” becomes the story’s Core Issue = the PREMISE. Resolving that “duality,” that division in their nature becomes the story’s main conflict.
If you don’t, if you leave your character hanging, your readers will LOATHE you.
Hint: The Character assumes the third drive (Action / Motive / Emotion — the one they Don’t have,) to resolve their split! The idea behind it is: Balance.
The CURE — or not?
What about a fight to find a “cure”, for the duel-natured character, like for a werewolf?”
The BIG Secret!
— A “Dual Nature” in Fiction is symbolic of a Psychological issue – not a Physical issue.
Every monster you can think of is in actuality, a symbol of a human Issue from the dark side of the psyche.
> Ghosts = Memories that ‘haunt’
> Vampires = Manipulative Male Sexuality
> Witches =Manipulative Female Sexuality
> Sorcerers & Scientists = Control – either loss of, or overwhelming
> Werewolves = Passions that Consume
> Faeries = Inability to fit in with the society. This is why Urban Faeries tend to have a ‘punk’ look to them.
> Monsters in general = Destruction
(What? So, I read a lot of Carl Jung, Wilhelm Riche, Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary…)
One does Not CURE a Psychological Issue.
One learns to ADJUST to it.
It is a Proven Fact: There is No Medical Cure for Psychological Issues. Drugs do NOT make psychological issues go away, they merely SUPPRESS their symptoms — and only temporarily. After enough time, no matter how powerful, ALL Drugs wear off.
There is only ONE satisfactory Answer to a split in Nature / Personality: Acceptance and INTEGRATION. Ahem, Accepting that both sides are valid and important and learning to Adapt to its quirks.
The only other option is madness and death.
In FICTION, the search for a Cure for a dual-natured character (such as a werewolf,) is a symbolic delay tactic; something the character does to Run Away from his ISSUE rather than face it.
A character’s “Dual Nature” should be written as two Necessary halves, that need to come together to defeat the bad guy. In fact the two halves of a personality split MUST integrate if you are to have a happy and satisfying ending.
A CURE should be used precisely in the same fashion as a drugs are used for psychological issues: as a Delay Tactic to Avoid the Issue by Suppressing the Issue. In fact, the application of a Cure should be used as symbolic proof of the character’s FAILURE to face and deal with their personal Issue.
Failure and the CURE: Van Helsing
In the movie “Van Helsing” the Premise: “Man vs. Monster” demanded that the answer be “self control”.
Gabriel was changed into a werewolf, psychological symbol of a complete lack of control over one’s temper, (and everything Gabriel suppressed within himself.) He went from Action-Driven hero (paid to do what he does) to Emotion-Driven monster (I am so pissed off…!) which gave him the strength and determination necessary to defeat the Motive-Driven vampire.
Logically, (plot-wise,) Gabriel should have gained self-control over his second nature (becoming Motive-driven to control himself — attaining he third drive) and thus remained a werewolf, albeit able to transform at will; gaining the prize of Controlled Fury — and the girl.
However, after his battle, he was unable to come to terms with his “emotional” nature. He failed to gain self-control of his Temper, and Killed his Heroine, symbol of everything he Could have had – unconditional acceptance and love. She forgave him, (as a ghost) but that did not change the fact that he had Failed to accept himself.
The movie’s writers had no intention of killing off his character, so a remorseful suicidal cliff-dive was right out. Instead, Gabriel was cured. However, this “cure” is a blatant flag that Gabriel will have to face this same issue again, in a later story.
Just to keep things rounded…
Man against Nature
The Old man & the Sea
A “man against nature” tale, is in fact a “man against himself” story. The Nature elements, that the character is in opposition with, are (or Should Be) symbolic representations of the Opposing Drives within the character.
In ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Hemingway…
> Proponent — Old Man, Motive driven to fish. (He needs the money.)
> Adversary — Ocean / Weather, Unpredictable and dangerous. This is the symbol of the man’s opposing drive of Action. Fishing takes inaction and patience — something in old man doesn’t possess a lot of.
> Ally — Shark, this is the Symbol of the old man’s impulsive Emotional drive to Survive. This is the drive he must adopt to survive the story.
Man against Man
When you have only two characters: Proponent, and Adversary, you give each character an opposing Primary Drive and additionally, opposite aspects of the SAME second drive as a Sub-drive.
The first one to adopt the Third Drive (the one they DON’T have,) Wins!
In the movie “Ravenous“…
Proponent – Captain Boyd
> Main drive: Emotion Driven “Why is this Happening to me?”
> Sub-drive: Action Driven in the aspect of Refusal to Act.
Adversary – Calhoun
> Main drive: Motive Driven “I will Make something Happen.”
> Sub-drive: Action Driven in the aspect of Determined to Act.
Circumstances force the “Boyd” to adopt the Third drive of MOTIVE (acquiring Purpose,) while the “Villain” refuses to change to his third drive of EMOTION (to acquire Compassion,) and remains Motive-driven.
The Villain’s Inability to Change is why the Villain LOSES to the Hero.
Does this sound a little too planned out?
— It should because it’s Supposed to be. Another name for it is: PLOTTING. :)
Reality is full of Random events, however…
Fiction MUST make Sense.
Classic Plotting Patterns
From: “Elements of a Tragedy”
1. The reversal of the protagonist’s fortune is brought on by a personal flaw.
2. The eventual recognition by the protagonist of this tragic flaw
3. The resulting moral consequences of their actions.
1. Glorious Hero does something he really shouldn’t do, and everything falls apart on him.
2. Not-so-glorious Hero scrambles to fix it, and realizes that it’s his own damned fault.
3. Hero crashes and burns. (He dies, she dies, everybody dies…)
Look familiar? It should. This is where the traditional Acts: One, Two, and Three, come from. However, most modern plot-lines have a Fourth Act:
4. Burned hero fixes Himself and ends up fixing the problem in the process.
Aristotle in a Nutshell:
1. Hero Rises.
2. Hero smacks into his own Ego.
3. Hero Crashes and Burns.
4. Hero rises again - and Kicks Butt!
The Shakspearean Plotline
From Freytag’s Plotting Pyramid
In 1863, Gustav Freytag, a German playwright and critic, developed a diagrammatic outline for the Three Act Tragedy in his book “Technik des Dramas”, known as Freytag’s Plotting Pyramid. According to him, all of Shakespeare’s tragedies have six distinct structural elements:
1. EXPOSITION: The mood and conditions existing at the beginning of the play.
2. EXCITING FORCE: The initial incident.
3. RISING ACTION: The series of events that complicate matters.
4. CLIMAX: A crucial event where the tragic hero begins his downward spiral.
5. FALLING ACTION: Advances and declines in the various forces acting upon the main character.
6. CATASTROPHE: The consequences of the hero’s actions.
Freytag (Shakespeare) Translated:
1. EXPOSITION: Once upon a time there was a moderately Decent Guy…
2. EXCITING FORCE: Decent Guy runs into trouble, and pisses the wrong people off.
3. RISING ACTION: While trying to fix things, Decent Guy does things that are not-so decent.
4. CLIMAX: Everything totally falls apart on Decent Guy. He panics and does the one thing he really shouldn’t do.
5. FALLING ACTION: Decent Guy suddenly realizes just how badly he messed things up and scrambles to fix it — but it’s too late!
6. CATASTROPHE: With a stiff upper lip, and a really long speech, he dies, she dies, everybody dies. (Othello / Hamlet / Romeo Juliet / MacBeth…)
Alternate Shakespearian Ending!
6. HAPPY ENDING: With a stiff upper lip, and a really long speech, he’s forgiven, she’s forgiven, everybody’s forgiven. (Midsummer Night’s Dream / Much Ado About Nothing…)
The Mythic plotline:
This is the pattern that most Walt Disney movies follow and Star Wars uses.
Act One - Chosen
• Humble Beginnings
• Destiny Comes Knocking
• Shoved into Adventure
• Sagely Advice ~ Paramours & Sidekicks
• Leaving the Known World behind
Act Two - Challenge
• Challenges, Friends & Foes
• Dragon at the Crossroads
• Into the Labyrinth
• Temptation & Betrayal
Act Three - Crisis
• Anger ~ Despair ~ Sacrifice
• Inheritance / Blessing / Curse
• Treasure & Celebration
• Escape / Expelled from the Labyrinth
Act Four - Climax
• The Hunter becomes the Hunted
• Rescue & Loss of Paramour / Side-kick
• Dragon at the Crossroads to Home
• Death / ReBirth
• Delivery of Treasure & Just Rewards
The Fairy Tale Plotline
From 1001 unabridged Fairy Tales
Once Upon a Time:
• An impossible Oath/Promise
• Attacked /Abandoned – Lost
• Suspicious Rescue – Cornered
• Promise is partially broken
• Dangerous Revelation
• Deception / Betrayal / Debt
Into The Wilderness
• Quest / Leaving the known world behind
• Troubles & Battles
• Saves/ Saved by — a suspicious stranger
• A dubious Gift/Revelation (Hero’s trademark)
• An Impossible Task – Refused
• Unexpected Destruction /Emotional Loss
• No choice, but Impossible Task
• Arrival at the Stronghold
• Traps & Tests
• The Villain Enraged – Dire Consequences
• Promise Kept - scarred/marked/changed
• Impossible task completed
• Greater threat revealed
• Daring Escape / Rescue
• Pursued & Cornered
• Climactic Confrontation
• Hero uses gift (Hero’s trademark)
• Demise of Villain / Evil Land
Homecoming - The Unrecognized Hero
• Unfounded claims to hero’s accomplishments
• Challenge & Confrontation
• Hero uses gift (Hero’s trademark)
• Villain is exposed & punished
• Hero gains new rank/appearance
• Two possible futures: the Villain’s wealth/position, or the Hero’s Heart’s desire
Looks a lot like the Mythic Structure doesn’t it? It should. Fairy Tales are in fact old pagan myths that were adjusted to suit cultural changes.
Interestingly enough, only the really old tales in their original forms, (not doctored to make them suitable for children,) follow the entire pattern. (The Goose Girl, Donkeyskin, East of the Sun-West of the Moon, the Grimms’ Snow White, Jack & the Beanstalk, Vasalisa the Wise, Mother Holle, Wild Swans…) The modern (sanitized,) tales skip whole sections.
The Romance Plotline
From 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 Erotica Plotline:
From 1001 smut magazines and smut story sites.
In Erotica the basic plot is always the same: “They NEED to have sex - and they’ll do anything to have it!” However, there are many Genre Variations:
• Romantic Erotica: “I love you! Let’s f*ck!”
• Glam Erotica: “One was rich, the other was famous — they f*cked.”
• Mystery Erotica: “Oh my god! Someone’s been f*cked!”
• Crime Erotica: “They’ll never stop me from f*cking them!”
• Suspense Erotica: “Oh no! Am I going to be f*cked?”
• Humor / Satire Erotica: “You call that f*cking?”
• Sci-Fi Erotica: “They f*cked where no one has f*cked before!”
• Horror Erotica: “Oh my God! It’s f*cking me!”
• Fantasy Erotica: “They f*cked — and it was Magic!”
• Paranormal Erotica: “What the hell am I f*cking?”
• Fetish Erotica: “Mmmm-mmm f*ck! Mmm-mmmm!” (Ball gag.)
• Literary Erotica: “They came together in a glorious explosion of glittering climax. The roses painted on the battered wallpaper of their silent room watched them in the approaching twilight, a reminder of how fragile pleasure is.”
Honestly, an Erotica plot really IS that simple.
The easiest way to plot an Erotica Story is to decide on what you want for your climactic sex scene, then build a story and characters around it to make it VITAL for that scene to happen. You couldn’t possibly write anything Other than Erotica.
The fastest way to write a story is by knowing what you want to write BEFORE you start writing. Plotting is also the easiest way to keep from writing yourself into a corner or getting lost in the details.
Look at Plotting as being a Map of the route you plan to take. Once you know where you are going, getting there is just a matter of staying pointed in the right direction. This doesn’t mean you can’t take off-roads or stop to look at the scenery, it just means that you won’t get lost while taking those scenic bypasses.
A Deus Ex Machina is when the Hero doesn’t find the solution to the story’s problem. The solution is handed to them, or taken care of, by someone or something far more powerful.
From TV Tropes:
A Deus Ex Machina is an outside force that solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in an extremely unlikely (and, usually, anticlimactic) way. If the secret documents are in Russian, one of the spies suddenly reveals that they learned the language. If the writers have just lost funding, a millionaire suddenly arrives, announces an interest in their movie, and offers all the finances they need to make it. If The Hero is dangling at the edge of a cliff with a villain stepping on his fingers, a flying robot suddenly appears to save him.
The term is Latin for god out of the machine, and has its origins in Greek theater. It refers to situations in which a crane (machine) was used to lower actors or statues playing a god or gods (deus) onto the stage to set things right. It has since come to be used as a general term for any event in which a seemingly fatal plot twist is resolved by an event never foreshadowed or set up.
Good Deus Ex Machina only happen when they’ve been set up to happen all along and were simply overlooked—which means they’re not really Deus Ex Machina…
—They’re actually a Chekhov’s Gun.
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
- Playwright Anton Chekhov (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)
Thornton Reed: “Take this, Dag.”
Dr. Rick Dagless M.D.: “What is it?”
Thornton Reed: “Something that might come in handy.”
- Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, “Scotch Mist”
“Honestly, what kind of situation would require the use of a pair of fake arms and a remote-controlled wheelchair? Only, I imagine, a completely ludicrous one!”
- Father Ted
At the beginning of the horror flick, the sheriff says he’s gonna cruise by later that night to keep an eye on the troubled teen watching over the huge creepy mansion—because said teen is known for painting Graffiti.
Back in the big empty house, the radio and the TV blast out “Crazed Killer on the Loose in our area! Be on the look out…! News at Eleven.”
Creeped out, the kid calls a few of his friends over to keep him company.
His friends try to get him drunk enough to graffiti the house.
Eventually, the kid decides, “Why the hell not?”
Right at that moment the monster strikes! It terrorizes the troubled teen and kills off his friends. Blood! Guts! Mayhem! Screaming…!
Finally, the monster corners the kid on the roof with no place else to go.
Out of nowhere, a police helicopter shows up to rescue the kid.
— Deus Ex Machina?
The copter door swings open and it’s the sheriff. He wasn’t just keeping an eye on the kid, he was also watching out for the crazed killer that had been all over the news for days.
— NOT a Deus Ex Machina — a Chekhov’s Gun! This was set up to happen from the beginning. However, this works even better if….
Before the kid can get up on the copter, the monster finds a way to drag the helicopter down from the sky.
With the judicious use of a can of spray paint and a lighter, the monster’s eyeballs are fried goo. The kid makes his escape straight into the REST of the cops heading up the road.
The cops shoot down the crazed killer and the kid goes on National Television saying how Graffiti saved his life. The End
An example of a Chekhov’s Gun that LOOKS like a Deus Ex Machina can be found in the closing scene to Final Fantasy VII where the heroes tried everything to save the world, but failed. Suddenly, the world saved itself using the Life-stream—the power that had been the focus of the story’s main problem since the story’s opening. This Deus Ex Machina power had been there from the very beginning, yet had been overlooked making it in fact, a Chekhov’s Gun.
However, an even better ending came with Dirge of Cerberus, where one of the least understood characters in the Final Fantasy VII cast proved to have had a monumental power sleeping inside him all along—that was again, overlooked.
Getting it on Paper…
If you really want to use a Chekhov’s Gun, it helps to think of a story as a Circle. It should End where it Began with the main problem at the beginning of the story being the last problem solved. This means you need to have the Solution to that main problem present at the beginning of the story—preferably in the opening scene, but discounted, or not thought of as anything special.
By the way, most Fairy Tales and Fables tend to have a Circular plot pattern — ending where they began.
How much do I plan out for one of my novels…?
— I detail everything. Seriously. 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.
How do I do that…?
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 four years they were in High School (if it existed,) and check out what books, songs, plays, 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 thing 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 too? 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. 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 story that took place in Early-Industrial Japan. Then 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’t—you weren’t.) In short, it was waaaaaaaaay, too much work to thread my little story in the middle of that mess.
Then there’s the WORLD.
If I’m using this world, it’s simply a matter of taking notes on the mundane details of whatever location I plan to use, but if I’m writing a fantasy, or sci-fi…?
How many hours in a day, days in a week, or a month…? (Is there a moon on this planet—or two?) How long is a year? Then comes, an Education system, a medical system, a money system, inventions, and/or magic system, what occupations are available…etc. Also needed is a political system and history for that country or set of countries for that last 200 years—or more.
For ALL the gory details on making your own world from scratch, I suggest:
It’s HUGE but it quite literally covers Everything.
Next is GENRE SPECIFIC Research.
If I’m doing a Sci-Fi or SteamPunk, I do Invention and Science research.
— It always pays to know what actually existed during a certain time period. Did you know that the earliest computer was designed in 1837? It was called The Difference Engine and it ran without electricity. It was gear-driven. Sadly, because of the expense to make it—each gear had to be precision made—only a small model was built of it back then. A full-sized working Engine was finally built in 1991; more than a little after it’s time. Could you imagine how different the world would have been if it had come into use back in the 1800’s?
It also pays to know what current science says is possible in the future. Did you know that a form of anti-gravity already exists? I normally find major inspiration during these research sessions.
If I’m doing a Paranormal or Fantasy story, I do Mythology, Magic and Paranormal research.
— Since I’ve got quite a home library on these subjects, this is just a matter of pulling a book from a shelf.
For those of you who don’t have a ready personal library, there are a million and one sites all over the ‘net on ghosts, demons, angels, and just about every mythological creature out there. There are almost as many sites on magic too: Wicca, Satanism, Shamanism, Shintoism, Buddhism… You name it, it’s out there only a Google search away.
After all that is done, I take one last look at my plot outline then set it aside and begin to write. 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.