Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 A Very Good Year for Writing...

Best wishes to all my blog readers. I enjoy sharing what I learn about writing. I finished my new novel "Flesh, Bone, Clone" in 2013 it was a three year labor of love. I getting ready to start on my new novel and hope I can be done with it in 6 month's to a year.

Look for my Flesh, Bone, Clone ad's, video and print during 2014.

Good luck in 2014 much success in your writing or what ever else you pursue.


Ed Murphy

Below is a picture of Ernie, he was my buddy and pal, always by my side no matter what was going on in my life. I miss him sitting at my side all day. Someday I'm going to write a book about Ernie and his adventures. This picture always makes me smile.

Ed Murphy is the author of -

"Cure Complex" www.curecomplex.com

"Flesh, Bone, Clone" (Coming Soon) www.fleshboneclone.com

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Elements Of A Successful Story

If your novel or short story is going to work, it's going to need all the right components. Used without imagination or sensitivity, those elements may produce only formula fiction. But, like a good cook with the right materials and a good recipe, you can also create some pleasant surprises.

Many writers, like many good cooks, don't need to think consciously about what they're throwing in the pot. But as an apprentice you should probably think about how your story matches up with the following suggestions. They all have to do, essentially, with bringing your characters and readers from a state of ignorance to a state of awareness: Can our heroine find happiness as a journalist? We don't know, but we'll find out. Can our hero found a family dynasty in the Nevada wilderness? We don't know, but we'll find out.

In the opening...

Show us your main characters, or at least foreshadow them: We might see your heroine's mother getting married, for example. Or we might see a crime committed which will bring in your hero to investigate.

Show one or more characters under some kind of appropriate stress. For example, if the hero must perform well under enemy fire in the climax, show him being shot at in Chapter One--and performing badly. If the heroine must resist temptation at the end, show her (or someone else) succumbing to temptation in the beginning.

Show us who's the “good guy,” who's the “bad guy.” That is, in whom should we make an emotional investment? Whose side are we on? Even if the hero is morally repugnant (a hired killer, for example), he should display some trait or attitude we can admire and identify with. The villain can be likable but set on a course we must disapprove.

Show what's at stake. Editors and readers want to know this right away. (That's why the blurb on the jacket usually tells us: “Only one person can save the West/defend the Galactic Empire/defeat the vampires...”)What does the hero stand to gain or lose? What will follow if the villain wins?

Establish the setting--where and when the story takes place.
Establish the area of conflict . If the setting is the Nanaimo coal mines at the turn of the century, the area of conflict may be relations between miners and owners, or within a family of miners, or within a single miner's personality.

Foreshadow the ending. If the hero dies in a blizzard at the end, a few flakes of snow may fall in the first chapter.

Set the tone of the story: solemn or excited, humorous or tragic.

In the body of the story...

Tell your story in scenes, not in exposition. A scene contains a purpose, an obstacle or conflict, and a resolution that tells us something new about the characters and their circumstances.

Develop your characters through action and dialogue. Show us, don't tell us, what's going on and why (not He was loud and rude, but “Get outa my way, you jerk!” he bellowed.).

Include all the elements you need for your conclusion. If everything depends on killing the victim with a shotgun, show us the shotgun long before it goes off.
Give your characters adequate motivation for their actions and words. Drama is people doing amazing things for very good reasons. Melodrama is people doing amazing things for bad or nonexistent reasons.

Develop the plot as a series of increasingly serious problems. (The heroine escapes the villain in Chapter 5 by fleeing into the snowy mountains; now in Chapter 6 she risks death in an avalanche.) Establish suspense by making solution of the problems uncertain (How will the heroine escape the avalanche and avoid freezing to death in Chapter Seven?).

Make solutions of the problems appropriate to the characters (Good thing she took Outward Bound training in Chapter One).

In the conclusion...

Present a final, crucial conflict when everything gained so far is in danger and could be lost by a single word or deed: this is the climax, which reveals something to your readers (and perhaps to your characters) which has been implicit from the outset but not obvious or predictable.

Throughout the story...

Remember that nothing in a story happens at random . Why is the heroine's name Sophia? Why is she blind? Why is her dog a black Lab? The easy answer is that you're the God of your novel and that's the way you want things. But if you have a conscious reason for these elements, the story gains in interest because it carries more meaning: For example, “Sophia” means “wisdom” and the name can provide a cue to the reader.
Use image, metaphor and simile with a conscious purpose, not just because a phrase “sounds good.”

Maintain consistent style, tone, and point of view.

Know the conventions of the form you're working in, and break them only when you have a good reason to. For example, if it's conventional for the private eye to be an aggressive, hard-drinking single man, you're going to shake up the reader if your private eye is a yogurt-loving, shy mother of three school-age children. You'll shake up the reader even more if she goes around pistol-whipping people; as a private eye, her behavior will still depend on her personality and limitations.

Crawford Kilian
Communications Department
Capilano College
2055 Purcell Way
North Vancouver, BC Canada V7G 1H7
Usenet: Crawford_Kilian@mindlink.bc.ca

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Developing Efficient Work Habits for writing

Advice on Novel Writing by Crawford Kilian

Different writers face different advantages and drawbacks in forming good writing habits. The circumstances of your personal life may make it easy or hard to find writing time, but time itself is not the real issue--it's habit. Writing must be something you do regularly, like brushing your teeth. The writer who waits for inspiration will wait even longer for a complete, published novel.

Writing habits flourish best in routine, but the efficient writer also exploits opportunity.
Routine: Set aside some time every day when you can work undisturbed for an hour or two--first thing in the morning, during lunch, after dinner, whenever you can set aside other demands. Ideally, it's the same time of day. Your family and friends will soon build their routines around yours. With luck, they will resent your unscheduled appearances during your writing time, and will send you packing back to your desk.
Keep your writing equipment (paper, pens, software manuals, etc.) in your writing place, close at hand. Minimize distractions like interesting new magazines and books. Try to find a writing time when few people phone or visit. If a cup of coffee and some background music make you feel less lonely, by all means enjoy them.

Use household chores as thinking time: a chance to review what you've done so far and to consider where your writing should go next. Walking the dog or vacuuming the carpet can provide more ideas than you expect. This is really just “controlled daydreaming,” letting your mind freewheel in a particular direction: What the heroine should do in the next chapter, how the hero would respond to escaping a car bomb, how the villain developed his evil character. But the process doesn't seem to work if you just sit and stare at the wall. You need to be up and moving in some automatic pattern.

Don't lean on others for editorial advice and encouragement--least of all people you're emotionally involved with. Spouses, friends and roommates rarely have both editorial perceptiveness and the tact to express it without infuriating you or breaking your heart. Empty praise will get you nowhere; unconstructive criticism can destroy your novel in an instant.

Instead, be your own editor: set aside regular times to write yourself letters discussing your own work, articulating what's good and less good in it. In the process you'll easily solve problems that could otherwise grow into full-blown writer's block. On a computer, the letters can form a continuous journal, recording your reactions to the evolving work. Checking back to the first journal entries can help keep you on track--or dramatically show how far you've moved from your original concept.

Writing a letter to yourself is especially helpful if you're beginning to have anxieties about the story. Sometimes we try to suppress those anxieties, which only makes them worse. Anxiety turns to frustration and despair, and finally we abandon the whole project. If you can actually write down what bothers you about your heroine, or your plot, or whatever, the answer to the problem often suggests itself. The act of turning our chaotic thoughts into orderly sentences seems to lead to much quicker and more satisfying solutions.

In addition to these self-addressed letters, keep a daily log of your progress. Word processors with word-count functions are powerful encouragers. The log can give you a sense of accomplishment, especially on big projects, and can enable you to set realistic completion deadlines. For example, if you know you can write 500 words in an hour, and you write three hours a week, you can have a completed novel manuscript of 75,000 words in 50 weeks. If you write ten hours a week, the ms. will be complete in 15 weeks.

Compile a “project bible.” This is a list of facts, names, and so on that you expect to be using for constant reference. If you have some important research findings you plan to use, put them in the bible along with their sources. Include lists of characters' names (with descriptions, so their eyes don't change color), unusual words or spellings, etc. The best format for this bible may be a looseleaf binder you can carry with you. (A word of caution: If your bible gets too big to carry easily, you're defeating its purpose.)
Opportunity: If you decide you “can't write” unless you're seated at your Gigabyte II computer with Mozart on the stereo and no one else in the house, you're just making life harder for yourself. Your ordinary domestic routine will always contain “dead time”--periods when you're away from home (or at least away from your workplace) with no other task at hand. You might be waiting in a doctor's office, on a bus, or trapped in a large, dull meeting. Use that dead time constructively by carrying your notebook bible in which you can record at least a few lines of a rough draft. Or you might jot down some background notes about your project, or a self-editing idea that's just occurred to you. You can then use these when you're back at your desk producing finished text.

These are general habits that will help you at all stages of the novel-writing process. But you may also find that you need to understand those stages and adapt your habits to each of them. You may not do yourself any good if you plunge into the writing phase before you've worked out a decent outline. In my next blog posting we will take a look at the stages of the novel-writing process, and then consider some techniques to maximize your efficiency in each of them.

Crawford Kilian
Communications Department
Capilano College
2055 Purcell Way
North Vancouver, BC Canada V7G 1H7
Usenet: Crawford_Kilian@mindlink.bc.ca

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday-Inspired Writing Prompts

Here in the U.S., most people consider the holidays officially underway at Thanksgiving. From Thanksgiving weekend through the first day of the new year, people are busy celebrating every holiday from Winter Solstice and Hanukkah to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.
The holidays are a difficult time for many people. Those of us who have lost someone special in recent months or years tend to miss them most during this time. All the good cheer and festivities can be a sharp reminder of what’s missing from our lives.
That’s why it’s a good time of year for reflection. Instead of aching for those who are not here, let’s be filled with gratitude for the memories they left behind. Instead of obsessing over the goals we didn’t reach, mourning the jobs we lost, or sitting around wishing we had more, we can choose to embrace all of the positive things that the holiday season has to offer: good food, the company of friends and family, the spirit of giving, and the lights (I love the holiday lights!).

It’s not hard to find inspiration with all that’s happening. Today’s writing prompts honor the holidays and all that they represent.

Writing Prompts

Use these writing prompts to kick-start a writing session. There are no rules, so you can write anything you want, from a piece of fiction to a poem, an entry in your journal, or a post on your blog. Just pick a prompt that inspires you, and then sit down and start writing.
  1. If you are one of the many people who celebrate or honor a holiday at this time of year, think about what it means to you. Do you enjoy it? Why do you celebrate it? How does it shape or affect your life for the rest of the year?
  2. The setting is a festive party honoring the holiday of your choosing. But something unexpected happens, and the guests are all drawn into a drama, adventure, or mystery.
  3. Some of us don’t think much about the holidays other than the obligations they impose: presents, parties, appearances, and contributions. But holidays exist to remind us of the meaning of something — usually something significant. What does your favorite holiday represent? How did it become a holiday and why do so many people recognize it?
  4. If you are one of the many who are mourning the loss of someone dear, think about that person and the memories you have with them, especially your holiday memories. It’s hard to do, but there is joy in those memories and if you can embrace that joy (by writing about it), you may be able to honor your loved one’s life with comfort rather than sorrow.
  5. Although holidays have deeper meanings, we like to truss them up with a lot of decadence and nostalgia. All that food! All those presents! The folklore, the ornaments, and the lights! Oh what fun it is…
Which of these writing prompts did you choose? What did you write? Do you have any writing prompts to share? Leave a comment, and keep writing!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Way To Make The Power Of Gratitude Work For You

Article re-post from Writer's Relief.

A Way To Make The Power Of Gratitude Work For You

1. Say thank you. As a professional writer, you have worked hard to build publication credits. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing, and you’re no shirker when it comes to accepting constructive criticismand making revisions.
Your author website is up-to-date and professional, and you carefully market yourself through social media and other venues. You’ve endured months of waiting for editors and literary agents to respond to your queries, and you don’t let rejection get you down.
But have you said thank you?
If you have had the joy of having a poem, short story, or essay appear in a literary journal or magazine, take the time to send a note of thanks to the editor who published your piece. If you’ve published a novel, why not thank the cover designer who made your book “pop,” or the copyeditor who carefully went over every single word of your 350-page novel?
Despite our mothers’ admonitions, most people simply forget the power of expressing thanks to those who help us in our writing journey. But by doing so, people will remember you.
Not only will they remember you as a person, but you will stand out as a professional and considerate author. You’d be surprised how many people forget this simple courtesy and how much it’s appreciated. And who knows, that editor you so thoughtfully remembered may remember YOU the next time you submit a piece.
Even if you haven’t reached the point of having editors or cover designers to thank, there are other people who contribute to your writing journey: a special teacher or librarian. Maybe a particularly insightful member of your critique group who went above and beyond, or a parent who encouraged you every step of the way, no matter what.
It costs nothing to say thanks. And it feels great!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

10 Psychological States You've Never Heard Of... and When You Experienced Them

Great Background Info for Writing. - 10 Psychological States You've Never Heard Of... and When You Experienced Them 

Everybody knows what you mean when you say you're happy or sad. But what about all those emotional states you don't have words for? Here are ten feelings you may have had, but never knew how to explain.
1. Dysphoria
Often used to describe depression in psychological disorders, dysphoria is general state of sadness that includes restlessness, lack of energy, anxiety, and vague irritation. It is the opposite of euphoria, and is different from typical sadness because it often includes a kind of jumpiness and some anger. You have probably experienced it when coming down from a stimulant like chocolate, coffee, or something stronger. Or you may have felt it in response to a distressing situation, extreme boredom, or depression.
2. EnthrallmentPsychology professor W. Gerrod Parrott has broken down human emotions into subcategories, which themselves have their own subcategories. Most of the emotions he identifies, like joy and anger, are pretty recognizable. But one subset of joy, "enthrallment," you may not have heard of before. Unlike the perkier subcategories of joy like cheerfulness, zest, and relief, enthrallment is a state of intense rapture. It is not the same as love or lust. You might experience it when you see an incredible spectacle — a concert, a movie, a rocket taking off — that captures all your attention and elevates your mood to tremendous heights.
3. NormopathyPsychiatric theorist Christopher Bollas invented the idea of normopathy to describe people who are so focused on blending in and conforming to social norms that it becomes a kind of mania. A person who is normotic is often unhealthily fixated on having no personality at all, and only doing exactly what is expected by society. Extreme normopathy is punctuated by breaks from the norm, where normotic person cracks under the pressure of conforming and becomes violent or does something very dangerous. Many people experience mild normopathy at different times in their lives, especially when trying to fit into a new social situation, or when trying to hide behaviors they believe other people would condemn.
4. AbjectionThere are a few ways to define abjection, but French philosopher Julia Kristeva (literally) wrote the book on what it means to experience abjection. She suggests that every human goes through a period of abjection as tiny children when we first realize that our bodies are separate from our parents' bodies — this sense of separation causes a feeling of extreme horror we carry with us throughout our lives. That feeling of abjection gets re-activated when we experience events that, however briefly, cause us to question the boundaries of our sense of self. Often, abjection is what you are feeling when you witness or experience something so horrific that it causes you to throw up. A classic example is seeing a corpse, but abjection can also be caused by seeing shit or open wounds. These visions all remind us, at some level, that our selfhood is contained in what Star Trek aliens would call "ugly bags of mostly water." The only thing separating you from being a dead body is . . . almost nothing. When you feel the full weight of that sentence, or are confronted by its reality in the form of a corpse, your nausea is abjection.
5. SublimationIf you've ever taken a class where you learned about Sigmund Freud's theories about sex, you probably have heard of sublimation. Freud believed that human emotions were sort of like a steam engine, and sexual desire was the steam. If you blocked the steam from coming out of one valve, pressure would build up and force it out of another. Sublimation is the process of redirecting your steamy desires from having naughty sex, to doing something socially productive like writing an article about psychology or fixing the lawnmower or developing a software program. If you've ever gotten your frustrations out by building something, or gotten a weirdly intense pleasure from creating an art project, you're sublimating. Other psychiatrists have refined the idea of sublimation, however. Following French theorist Jacques Lacan, they say that sublimation doesn't have to mean converting sexual desire into another activity like building a house. It could just mean transferring sexual desire from one object to another — moving your affections from your boyfriend to your neighbor, for example.
6. Repetition compulsionAh, Freud. You gave us so many new feelings and psychological states to explore! The repetition compulsion is a bit more complicated than Freud's famous definition — "the desire to return to an earlier state of things." On the surface, a repetition compulsion is something you experience fairly often. It's the urge to do something again and again. Maybe you feel compelled to always order the same thing at your favorite restaurant, or always take the same route home, even though there are other yummy foods and other easy ways to get home. Maybe your repetition compulsion is a bit more sinister, and you always feel the urge to date people who treat you like crap, over and over, even though you know in advance it will turn out badly (just like the last ten times). Freud was fascinated by this sinister side of the repetition compulsion, which is why he ultimately decided that the cause of our urge to repeat was directly linked to what he called "the death drive," or the urge to cease existing. After all, he reasoned, the ultimate "earlier state of things" is a state of non-existence before we were born. With each repetition, we act out our desire to go back to a pre-living state. Maybe that's why so many people have the urge to repeat actions that are destructive, or unproductive.
7. Repressive desublimation
Political theorist Herbert Marcuse was a big fan of Freud and lived through the social upheavals of the 1960s. He wanted to explain how societies could go through periods of social liberation, like the countercultures and revolutions of the mid-twentieth century, and yet still remain under the (often strict) control of governments and corporations. How could the U.S. have gone through all those protests in the 60s but never actually overthrown the government? The answer, he decided, was a peculiar emotional state known as "repressive desublimation." Remember, Freud said sublimation is when you route your sexual energies into something non-sexual. But Marcuse lived during a time when people were very much routing their sexual energies into sex — it was the sexual liberation era, when free love reigned. People were desublimating. And yet they continued to be repressed by many other social strictures, coming from corporate life, the military, and the government. Marcuse suggested that desublimation can actually help to solidify repression. It acts as an escape valve for our desires so that we don't attempt to liberate ourselves from other social restrictions. A good example of repressive desublimation is the intense partying that takes place in college. Often, people in college do a lot of drinking, drugging and hooking up — while at the same time studying very hard and trying to get ready for jobs. Instead of questioning why we have to pay tons of money to engage in rote learning and get corporate jobs, we just obey the rules and have crazy drunken sex every weekend. Repressive desublimation!
8. Aporia
You know that feeling of crazy emptiness you get when you realize that something you believed isn't actually true? And then things feel even more weird when you realize that actually, the thing you believed might be true and might not — and you'll never really know? That's aporia. The term comes from ancient Greek, but is also beloved of post-structuralist theorists like Jacques Derrida and Gayatri Spivak. The reason modern theorists love the idea of aporia is that it helps to describe the feeling people have in a world of information overload, where you are often bombarded with contradictory messages that seem equally true.
9. Compersion
We've gotten into some pretty philosophical territory, so now it's time to return to some good, old-fashioned internet memes. The word compersion was popularized by people in online communites devoted to polyamory and open relationships, in order to describe the opposite of feeling jealous when your partner dates somebody else. Though a monogamous person would feel jealous seeing their partner kiss another person, a non-monogamous person could feel compersion, a sense of joy in seeing their partner happy with another person. But monogamous people can feel compersion, too, if we extend the definition out to mean any situation where you feel the opposite of jealous. If a friend wins an award you hoped to win, you can still feel compersion (though you might be a little jealous too).
10. Group feelings
Some psychologists argue that there are some feelings we can only have as members of a group — these are called intergroup and intragroup feelings. Often you notice them when they are in contradiction with your personal feelings. For example, many people feel intergroup pride and guilt for things that their countries have done, even if they weren't born when their countries did those things. Though you did not fight in a war, and are therefore not personally responsible for what happened, you share in an intergroup feeling of pride or guilt. Group feelings often cause painful contradictions. A person may have an intragroup feeling (from one group to another) that homosexuality is morally wrong. But that person may personally have homosexual feelings. Likewise, a person may have an intragroup feeling that certain races or religions are inferior to those of their group. And yet they may personally know very honorable, good people from those races and religions whom they consider friends. A group feeling can only come about through membership in a group, and isn't something that you would ever have on your own. But that doesn't mean group feelings are any less powerful than personal ones.
Image by Tom Wang/Shutterstock
This io9 flashback originally appeared in June 2011.

To Storyboard or Not.


“Storyboarding” usually means arranging a sequence of images for a film or commercial. But you can storyboard a novel also, and it can be a helpful way to organize the plot.

That's because we don't normally think plot. We have an idea for a story (immigrant boy founds family dynasty in Nevada wilderness) and a random assortment of mental images (encounter with a grizzly bear, wild ride to rescue son from kidnappers, gorgeous blonde swimming nude in icy stream, showdown with eastern gangsters wanting land for casino). How do we get from these fragments to a coherent plot?
Writing a letter to yourself may help, but first try this: Take a stack of 3x5 cards and jot down an image or scene on each one, just in the order the ideas occur to you. It might look something like this:
Jesse rides into town, confronts Caleb Black about his fraudulent mining-shares deal. Caleb denies everything, threatens to shoot Jesse if he talks about it.
When you have five or ten or twenty such cards, lay them out in the sequence you envisage for the story. You certainly don't have a card for each scene in the novel, but you have the scenes that your subconscious seems to want to deal with.

You also have numerous gaps. How do you get Jesse from his silver mine in Nevada to the deck of the Titanic? How does Caleb get in touch with the three hired killers from San Francisco? How does Jesse's grandson respond to the first offer from the gangster syndicate that wants to build a casino on the site of the old mine?

Now you turn your thoughts to just those gaps, and new ideas occur to you. That means more cards. Maybe some of the new ideas are better than the original ones, so some of the old cards go in the trash. New characters emerge to fulfill functions in the story. Your research into Nevada history suggests still more scenes which might go into this or that part of the novel; still more cards go into your growing deck.

The story may eventually end up as a series of flashbacks, but for now stick to straight chronological order. Maybe the whole story occurs during a three-hour siege of a secluded mansion; maybe it stretches across a century and a continent. Whatever the “real time” of your story, you may see that the cards clump naturally around certain periods of the plot and you see no need for events to fill in the gaps. That's fine; maybe you've found the natural divisions between chapters or sections of the story.

Keep asking yourself why. Why Nevada, why mining, why a gorgeous naked blonde? Don't keep a scene in your storyboard unless you can justify it as a way to dramatize a character's personality, to move the story ahead, to lend verisimilitude. If you absolutely must have a scene in which Jesse's true love Sophia goes skinnydipping in an icy creek and then nearly drowns, what good will the scene do for the story?

Once you have at least the main sequence of events clearly mapped out on your cards, you can begin to transfer them to a more manageable synopsis or outline. More about that in a later posting.

Crawford Kilian
Communications Department
Capilano College
2055 Purcell Way
North Vancouver, BC Canada V7G 1H7
Usenet: Crawford_Kilian@mindlink.bc.ca

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lay, Lady, Lay

This essay first appeared in print at The Writer's Lounge.

Lay, Lady, Lay

"Lay, lady, lay. Lay across my big brass bed." So sang Bob Dylan, and with those words condemned a generation of writers to confusion where "lay" and "lie" are concerned. I can't tell you how often I see the question come up in the various writing groups I belong to online and off. Sometimes the question is followed by a confident, "I'm pretty sure I know which one, but I just want to double-check." This is frequently followed by, "I was wrong!" and much forehead slapping.

However, this is one that I am very confident on (running for my McGraw Hill grammar reference schoolbook from the '60's and flipping to page 120). The biggest part of the confusion, as I see it, is that the simple past form of "lie" is "lay", and that throws our minds for a loop. We want simplicity in our language. Being a writer is hard enough without the present tense of one word doubling as the past tense for another. It borders on the downright rude. How can you find just the right word when it's running off and taking on new meanings? Let's sort it out.

Do you remember studying grammar in school? Remember learning the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Yes? No? Not sure? Here's a quick summing up: a transitive verb takes an object. For instance: I threw the ball. The word "I" is the subject of the verb and "ball" is the direct object; the thing being acted on. An intransitive verb does not require an object: I walked. Some verbs switch back and forth, but we're not going there today.

No, instead, we're going to have a refresher on tenses. I know you know them, but it never hurts to go over them again. The main tenses are present, past and future. These are the nice, simple ones: I am, I was, I will be. Then there are the perfect tenses: present perfect, past perfect and future perfect: I have been, I had been, I will have been. These are samples of the indicative mood, active voice, simple form. There is also the progressive form (I am driving), passive voice (I am driven) and imperative (Drive!) and subjunctive moods (if I drive), but we're not going there, either. Have a cup of tea and absorb this information dump. When you're ready, we'll move on.

To make all the tenses, we have to have all the parts of a verb: the present, past and past participle. It's okay, really. Take a deep breath and check them out.

Past Participle

Okay, you're all refreshed on transitive and intransitive and the tenses. Are you ready for what's next? Here we go: "Lie" is an INtransitive verb. I lie on the bed. You lie on the couch. He lies on the rug. They lie down. Notice that no one is doing anything to anything else. We're all just lying around. Past tense: I lay on the bed. You lay on the couch. He lay on the rug. They lay down. Past participle: I have lain on the bed. You have lain on the couch. He has lain on the rug. They have lain down. Again, no one has done anything to an object. We have lain around long enough. On to "lay".

"Lay" is a transitive verb, so it needs an object. I lay the keys on the table. You are laying the plates on the counter. He lays the rug on the floor. (Presumably before he lies down on it.) Past and past participle tenses: I laid the keys on the table. You laid the plates on the counter. He has laid the rug on the floor and is now lying on it.

See? It's really very simple. Just remember the three parts of the verbs and which one takes an object. Maybe Bob Dylan's song will help, after all. Cut this article out, lay it down where you can see it, then lie down and sing to yourself, "Lie, lady, lie. Lie across my big brass bed."

© 2000 C.E. Barrett

Friday, December 20, 2013

Writing powerful love scenes

By Vaness Hart
Writing about a couple making love can be hinted at, implied, or described in detail. How the writer chooses to handle love scenes is an individual decision. If you prefer the behind-closed-doors approach, fine. The principals for writing the love scene apply to all scenes because the behavior needs to be properly motivated. From The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict (©1996 Story Press):

  • A good sex scene is not always about good sex, but it is always an example of good writing.
  • A good sex scene should always connect to the larger concerns of the work.
  • The needs, impulses and histories of your characters should drive a sex scene.
  • The relationship your characters have to one another…should exert more influence on how you write their sexual encounter than should any anatomical details.
Good points, all. First, good writing. The pitfalls of writing a love scene include repetition and purple prose. There are only so many ways to describe the physical mechanics. It's a challenge to avoid overused phrases or flowery euphemisms for body parts.
EXERCISE #1: List 5 nouns used to identify the mouth. Then list 5 adjectives you'd use to modify a noun identifying the mouth. Finally, list 5 verbs describing the action of a mouth.

(There are many, but only two are romantic: lips and mouth. Although you should vary your words, stay true to your tone. She pressed her oral cavity against his isn't very romantic)

EXERCISE #2: Name 10 overused phrases or euphemisms for male and female anatomy. Don't think about this, just write whatever pops in your mind.
(These are words you should eliminate from your writing. If you're tired of reading them, others probably are, too.)

Next, it's not just the sex, stupid. A love scene should be about more than the moment. It can reflect the mood, the weather, the tension of the main plot, or the progress of the relationship. In a romantic suspense, the trouble or danger lurks just outside that bedroom door. In Cheryl Norman's Storms Of The Heart, David and Stephanie get sidetracked from their vigilance when they give in to their passion. Only the barking dog saves them when he alerts them that danger lurks outside their hideout.

Third, the sex must relate to the characters' personalities. Lisa Renee Jones, author of A Dangerous Attraction (©2003 Liquid Silver Books), says: "For example, a woman hiding behind sex from love might be aggressive while the guy tries to get her to make love not have sex. A timid woman who is coming out of her shell might hesitate and work up the nerve to act out what is in her mind."

An example in my own work is my novella, A Losing Proposition. (from Resolutions, ©2003 Liquid Silver Books) The first time the hero and heroine make love, it's a metaphor for their individual growth in self-esteem as a result of their weight management course. Their joining has to be as slow and cautious as their growing relationship. If your heroine is inexperienced and shy, she's not going to turn bold in the bedroom unless you motivate her sudden change in behavior.

Finally, the scene is about the characters' emotions and reactions to the intimacy. It's not an engineering job (insert Tab A into Slot B). Don't give the reader a rundown on every little touch; give the reader the character's reaction to every little touch.

Weak: He French-kissed her ear.

Better: His tongue brushed the delicate shell of her ear. He blew a light breath over the moist spot, and she shivered. How could she find the strength to resist him when his nearness alone drove her to distraction?
Flowery? Yes, but in the second example we know what's going on besides the mechanics. He's seducing her even though she tries to resist him. We can't get that from the first example.

Use internalization and dialogue to show what's going on in the hero and heroine's minds. In the above example: How could she find the strength to resist him when his nearness alone drove her to distraction?

Dialogue during love scenes reveals much about the relationship. In the movie MAJOR LEAGUE, Lyn and Jake start kissing while he's asking her about her upcoming wedding to another man. She tells him "this doesn't change anything," telling us and Jake that she's still attracted to Jake but intends to follow through on her plans. She then asks him if he really read Moby Dick. "Cover to cover, babe," which we all know means he read the comic book version. Still, in the midst of kissing and pulling off each other's clothes, Lyn quizzes him on the book. The cameras never show them nude and making love. That isn't the point of the scene. The point of the scene is Lyn is longing for Jake to be the guy she can marry, one who understands that books are her life.

To sum up, the objectives in writing a love scene should be the same as in writing any scene: move the plot, show character / relationship growth, etc.

If you're going to write the hot stuff, the erotica romance authors (from Liquid Silver books) I interviewed had these tips to pass along:

"Don't be afraid to be messy, funny, or real when writing love scenes. Sex is sweat, aching joints, and saliva exchanges. It's also avoiding the wet spot when it's all over." --Michele Bardsley, Cupid, Inc. (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books).

http://www.amatory-ink.co.uk/thesaurus/thesindex.htm and http://www.kissing.com/ are two websites used by Leigh Wyndfield, True Seeing (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books) for inspiration. Amatory-ink is a thesaurus for body parts.

"Listen to your characters. They'll tell you how they want to do it." --Jasmine Haynes, More Than A Night (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books)

"I love the build up, the anticipation, so I try to have lots of that. After that I just imagine what would feel good to me or my hubby." --Dee S. Knight, Cinderella Curse (© 2003 Liquid Silver Books)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Style: Checklist For Fiction Writers

As you begin to develop your outline, and then the actual text of your novel, you can save time and energy by making sure that your writing style requires virtually no copy editing. In the narrative:
  1. Do any sentences begin with the words “There” or “It”? They can almost certainly benefit from revision. (Compare: There were three gunmen who had sworn to kill him. It was hard to believe. or: Three gunmen had sworn to kill him. He couldn't believe it.)
  2. Are you using passive voice instead of active voice? (Compare: Is passive voice being used?) Put it in active voice!
  3. Are you repeating what you've already told your readers? Are you telegraphing your punches?
  4. Are you using trite phrases, cliches, or deliberately unusual words? You'd better have a very good reason for doing so.
  5. Are you terse? Or, alternatively, are you on the other hand expressing and communicating your thoughts and ideas with a perhaps excessive and abundant plethora of gratuitous and surplus verbiage, whose predictably foreseeable end results, needless to say, include as a component part a somewhat repetitious redundancy?
  6. Are you grammatically correct? Are spelling and punctuation correct? (This is not mere detail work, but basic craft. Learn standard English or forget about writing novels.)
  7. Is the prose fluent, varied in rhythm, and suitable in tone to the type of story you're telling?
  8. Are you as narrator intruding on the story through witticisms, editorializing, or self-consciously, inappropriately “fine” writing?
  9. In the dialogue:
  10. Are you punctuating dialogue correctly, so that you neither confuse nor distract your readers?
  11. Are your characters speaking naturally, as they would in reality, but more coherently?
  12. Does every speech advance the story, revealing something new about the plot or the characters? If not, what is its justification?
  13. Are your characters so distinct in their speech--in diction, rhythm, and mannerism--that you rarely need to add “he said” or “she said”?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Characteristics of Good Writing

By Melissa Donovan

So, what constitutes good writing? Opinions on the matter vary widely. There will be different traits that make good fiction versus good poetry or good nonfiction. However, we can cull together a general list of the characteristics of good writing (in no particular order):
  1. Clarity and focus: in good writing, everything makes sense and readers don’t get lost or have to reread passages to figure out what’s going on. Focused writing sticks with the plot or core idea without running off on too many tangents.
  2. Organization: a well organized piece of writing is not only clear, it’s presented in a way that is logical and aesthetically pleasing. You can tell non-linear stories or place your thesis at the end of an essay and get away with it as long as your scenes or ideas are well ordered.
  3. Ideas and themes: is the topic of your paper relevant? Does your story come complete with themes? Can the reader visualize your poem? For a piece of writing to be considered well crafted, it has to contain clearly identifiable ideas and themes.
  4. Voice: this is what sets you apart from all other writers. It’s your unique way of stringing words together, formulating ideas, and relating scenes or images to the reader. In any piece of writing, the voice should be consistent and identifiable.
  5. Language (word choice): we writers can never underestimate or fail to appreciate our most valuable tools: words. Good writing includes smart and appropriate word choices and well crafted sentences.
  6. Grammar and style: many writers would wish this one away, but for a piece of writing to be considered good (let alone great), it has to follow the rules of grammar (and break those rules only when there’s a good reason). Style is also important in ensuring that a piece of writing is clear and consistent. Make sure you keep a grammar book and style guide handy.
  7. Credibility or believability: nothing says bad writing like getting the facts wrong or misrepresenting oneself. In fiction, the story must be believable (even if it’s impossible), and in nonfiction, accurate research can make or break a writer.
  8. Thought-provoking or emotionally inspiring: perhaps the most important quality of good writing is how the reader responds to it. Does she come away with a fresh perspective and new ideas? Does he close the cover with tears in his eyes or a sense of victory? How readers react to your work will fully determine your success as a writer.
I want to add an honorable mention for originality. Everything has been done before, so originality is somewhat arbitrary. However, putting old ideas together in new ways and creating remixes of the best that literature has to offer is a skill worth developing.