The Fictorians

Archive for the ‘Frank Morin’ Category

I Would Do Anything for Love…

27 February 2015 | 1 Comment » | Kristin Luna

 

But I won’t do that. You know what I’m talkin’ about, Meatloaf.

 

Instead, we did all of this:

Victoria Morris Threaded the Tapestry

Gregory D. Little Subverted the Meet Cute

Ace Jordan did the Science of Love to Explain the Murky Middle

Mary reminded us that All You Need is Love

Joshua Essoe gave us advice about Writing Sex ScenesIn two posts!

Clancy showed us the Flip Side: Bad Girls and Anti-Heroes and Why the Guys Love them

Travis Heermann Examined and Bound

Kim May Pleasured us with Pain

Stephan McLeroy no longer Struggles to Define Love

Leigh Galbreath Drew us in with Dysfunctional Relations

Tracy Mangum gave us a master class in Love in Screenplays

Jace Killian showed us the Try and Fail in Love

Matt Jones made Ignorant Secret Troubled Love to us

Tracy Mangum followed up with Sex in Screenplays

Lisa Mangum reminded us that First Comes Like

Frank Morin pushed A Life of Passion

Colette advised us to Let Love Simmer

And RJ Terrell wrote On Love

 

Sure, this month is over, but we know you’ll be back. If you fall we will catch you, and we’ll be waiting. Time after time.

 

A Life of Passion

24 February 2015 | No Comments » | Frank Morin

Life of PassionWho do you love?

What do you love?

Everyone needs a little passion.

The interesting people in story, and in life, are those who embrace what they love with passion. It might be a spouse, family, work, or hobbies. We love people who are excited about what they do or who they are. We respond to passion. Easy example is when people tell us about a recent book or movie that we haven’t read or seen yet.

If they say, “It was all right.” No matter what our previous anticipation level might have been, it now falls a notch.

What if they say, “It was awesome! I’m going to camp out at the movie theater right now and wait until it opens tomorrow so I can see it again”? We can’t help but absorb a little of that passion. It’s contagious and exhilarating.

People do need to find balance in their life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still feel passion for each component that makes up who they are and what they do. They just can’t let that passion lead to excess and stupid decisions.

One of the most tragic things we see in literature and in life are people who won’t follow their passion. They won’t ask the girl on a date, won’t apply for their dream job, won’t take a chance and LIVE their lives. Thankfully, this character flaw is seen most often only at the beginning of a story to highlight a hero’s dramatic character arc.

A great example is Walter Mitty in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Here’s a guy who has buried his passionsWalter Mitty so deep, he has to escape life in lengthy ‘zoned out’ moments where he dreams of doing great things. He has shackled himself to a boring job and refused to live, even though he dreams of it. The story is beautifully told, includes breathtaking scenery, and excellent music as Walter begins to break out of the repressed life he’s lived for so long and embarks on an amazing adventure that changes everything. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

In real life, it can be hard sometimes to chase our dreams, to live passionately. Are we Walter Middy before or after the moment where he decides to live?

How many times do we hear someone say, “I’d love to do that!” Only to then banish the thought and turn away. If it’s not illegal or immoral or likely to prove fatal, maybe they should reconsider.

Are you holding back, suppressing your passion?

Fear of failure is often the cause. Sure, we might fail, but at least fail while trying. Failure is a way to learn so much, but society has made failure taboo. The problem is, life is full of failures. Why not fail while doing something we’re passionate about instead of failing at life because we lack the courage to try? Here’s what a few famous people had to say about failure:

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” (Michael Jordan)

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” (Bill Gates)

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (Thomas Edison)

We don’t like stories of cowards, of those too repressed or afraid or timid to live. Usually in stories, cowards are either killed or, if they’re a main character, their initial cowardice is overcome as they rise to become a hero. There’s a good reason for that. Readers don’t buy stories that lack progression.

Not surprisingly, it was hard to find great examples of characters terminally afraid to live their lives, afraid to embrace their passions.

One example that came to mind for me is Pierre Gringoire, the struggling playwright in The Hunchback of Notre Dame who is saved by Esmeralda, but lacks the courage to do anything productive. He is about as completely useless a character as any I’ve ever read. I’ve hated him since I was first forced to read this dark, depressing book as a kid. Pierre refuses to fight for the beautiful woman who saved his life, refuses to fight for anything useful, and eventually slips away from all conflict, taking along Esmeralda’s pet goat, Djali, the only creature who seems capable of dealing with his pitiful life.

So be Walter, not Pierre, and embrace your passions.

What are you waiting for?

Working the Humor Scale

16 January 2015 | 1 Comment » | Frank Morin

BobOne aspect of character that can be hard to pin down is: How funny should they be?

Most of us aren’t comedy writers. We write fantasy or science fiction or horror or (input genre), but that doesn’t mean humor doesn’t have a place in our stories.

People draw upon their sense of humor in real life, even in dire circumstances. It helps relieve tension and to cope. We don’t need to become the next Terry Pratchett, but sometimes a little humor is the best way to deal with the difficult situations we’re bound to drop our characters into.

Everyone loves a sense of humor. Does our character have one?

Humor has a scale, just like all the other attributes we’re defining for our characters, just as important as their fighting skills, how much they love their mother, and whether they respond to small animals by wanting to pet them or to eat them. We just don’t think about it that way as often.

So I’ve designed a Humor Scale to demonstrate the types of humor we can assign to our characters.

  • Slapstick (10) – Pure comedy. Take some ibuprofen because your stomach’s going to hurt from laughing so hard.
  • Comic Relief (8) – Usually not your main protagonist. These are the side-kicks that we love to laugh at.
  • Deadpan/dry (7) – They say funny things, but in a serious way.
  • Comedy Villains (7) – They’re bad guys, but they make us laugh instead of scaring us.
  • Wisecrack (6) – Always have a comeback, a great one-liner, no matter how dire the situation.
  • Sassy (5) – Cheeky, and full of spirit. Often get into trouble as a result.
  • Snark (4) – Sarcastic, snide.
  • Gallows humor (3) – The more dangerous one’s job, the more refined their gallows humor. Think of the group of crucified criminals in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian singing, “Always look on the bright side of life.”
  • No humor (0) – These are often your serious villains who burned all humor out of their system.
  • Comedic villain (0) – They’re the bad guy, but they think evil is funny. Their sick humor either demonstrates a lack of understanding of the gravity of what they’re doing, or proves they’re insane.

Here’s the Humor Scale in graph form, with examples to illustrate each category.

Humor Scale

 

We can apply the various categories in all kinds of situations. Some examples include:

  • Jokes. These can be woven in just about anywhere.
  • Situational humor. The entire scene is inherently funny (your super-buff warrior hero is stuck in a cupcake bake-off against the evil overlord)
  • Dialogue. Great place for wisecracks, snark, sass, and gallows humor.
  • A funny outlook on life. Either irreverent, bizarre, or just a little bit off. Any of these can produce humorous situations and dialogue. Something funny, and yet totally in character.
  • And of course, slapstick lies in a realm all its own. This is pure comedy. Some characters just have to fall down and break things wherever they go.

In all of these instances, there are commonalities. Surprise is the secret to humor, and usually there’s some kind of set-up, then the punch-line that adds the surprise, the twist, generating the laugh.

Humor often pushes things to the extreme. Think the intro to Captain Jack Sparrow. Standing atop the mast of his ship is a great epic image. Then comes the comedic twist when we learn it’s really a small boat and he’s standing atop the mast because the ship is sinking out from under him.

So let’s talk specific application.

When I first started writing, I included only a little humor in my stories. Even the first drafts of my YA fantasy story, Set in Stone, remained too serious. With some self reflection and encouragement from family, I decided the story needed humor to work. So I rewrote 80% of the novel, making dramatic changes to the plot structure and how I approached it. I ratcheted up the humor while still maintaining an epic feel to the story. It was my first foray into humor-laden fantasy, and response from beta readers is overwhelmingly positive. The novel will be released this spring.

With my urban fantasy novels, I toned down the humor, but I’ve been experimenting with sliding characters along the humor scale, depending on which effect I’m looking for.

It’s not as hard as I first feared. Humor isn’t the story. It’s just another layer, and you can shift characters along the humor scale pretty easily once you determine what effect you’re looking for.

In a recent editing pass over an epic fantasy novel, I decided to shift the protagonist a couple of notches up the scale. So I mixed in a little snark and dry humor, which helped him come across as more experienced, more resilient, and less emotional. The story as a whole is unchanged, but his outlook on life, and his responses to some of the crazy events he’s experiencing works so much better.

Luke SkywalkerIn essence, I shifted him away from the Luke Skywalker end of the scale and more toward Han Solo. Luke is young, idealistic, and inexperienced while Han is tough, world-wise, and irreverent. They’re both heroes, but they approach life and trials differently. I applied a little of Han’s unflappable attitude and great one-liners.

In The Empire Strikes Back, after losing his hand and learning the evil overlord of the universe was his father, Luke’s response always seemed more whiny than heroic:

“Nooooooo! I’ll never rule the universe with you.”

My character had reacted more like that. Now he could now respond more like Han Solo who, after being tortured, just said, “I feel terrible.”

Or who snapped, “Never tell me the odds,” when flying into an asteroid belt.Han Solo

Or, when Leia confessed she loved him just prior to his getting frozen in carbonite, he glibly replied, “I know.”

Another example of the effect of the Humor Scale decision is comparing Battlestar Galactica to Firefly. Both have spaceships, fighting, life-and-death situations but, where Firefly is enhanced by the humor woven into it – making it a cowboys in space adventure – Battlestar Galactica was left very straight-laced – a little too much so in my opinion.

So play with this layer. After writing your story and making sure all the other elements are in place, check where each character falls on the Humor Scale, and where that takes your story as a whole. Then decide if that’s where you want it. Perhaps poll some early readers and discuss if the story would benefit from either more or less humor.

Tweak accordingly, and have fun with it.

* * * *

Here are a few humor-related links you might be interested in:

Scott Adam’s Dilbert blog, where he talks about writing humor.

The Writer’s Dig by Brian Klems – Another good blog post, with links to other articles.

Tabloid Reporter to the Stars – This is a short story recommended to me as an example of one that successfully added humor. I haven’t read it yet, but plan to.

Love it. Do it.

25 December 2014 | 1 Comment » | Frank Morin

Do What you loveMerry Christmas!

This is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas and everything it stands for. It is a time of good cheer, family, and giving, regardless of religious belief. I am religious, so I celebrate that part too.

It struck me this week that Santa represents one of the best examples of someone making a crazy career choice and turning it into a successful, long-term enterprise. Many people regard writers in the same not-quite-connected-to-reality category as Santa Clause. And when we first start out, it can be hard to see past the detractors and the naysayers and keep pursuing a passion that has absolutely no promise of producing any financial return.

I’m a perfect case in point. I’ve been writing for almost ten years, and my expense-to-income ratio so far is so lopsided, it’s laughable. And yet here I am, still writing.

I love it.

I love stories. I love consuming them in every form, and I love creating them. Not only do I love to write, but I’ve set ever-challenging goals to drive myself along this writing path. It may be a long road, but it’s a road I’m happy to travel.

I’m not the only one who believes that working at what we love is the best possible work choice.

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Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.

~Ray Bradbury

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There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.

~Wayne Dyer

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If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.

~Billy Joel

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2014 was a banner year for me. I set extremely high goals, and succeeded at many of them. But what really made the year was that I managed to work more hours writing than I did at my consulting job. I’ve been working toward this milestone for years, but I reached it almost without noticing. I was so busy writing and doing, that I didn’t pause to reflect until I had already made the shift in my schedule.

The purely pragmatic side of me admits to nervousness as I allow my consulting business to trend downward to make more room in my life for writing. My computer work is still how I pay the bills and support my family, and it’s a job I really enjoy. However, I LOVE storytelling. Despite long success in computer-related fields, I made the choice to move toward writing as a full-time career. It’s taken a very long time to get to this point, but to me it’s worth the effort.

Loving this work means I Work at it. This year, I completed three new novels (I set the goal to complete four), along with a lot of other work, including a frantic juggling act preparing novels for a fast-approaching publishing blitz.

2015 will be even bigger. Eight novels published in eight months is the goal, and I’m doing everything in my power to reach it.

I love writing.

So I’ll work harder at this job than any other.

Do what you love. Commit to it and let nothing stop you or convince you that you can’t.

It may take a while, but the time’s going to pass anyway. Why not use it working toward a goal that means something to you?

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