Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nothing to see here

9.                  Please don’t have something important happen in the first scene or chapter.

Writing gurus call what happens in the first scene or chapter various things, but before I get into the top seven points more completely, I want to explore a common misunderstanding associated with point 1. Writing experts suggest starting a novel in the middle of the action, in medias res [latin].
Some writers think this means that something is left out, like the who, what, where, when, why and how. But grounding your scene and starting in a crucial situation are not mutually exclusive. Of critical importance in retaining an editor or agent is in not making a usual mistake with in medias res. That is, dropping the reader into the middle of a life as usual moment. This is quite often followed by more of the same in following chapters until the writer realizes nothing much is happening and then adds a problem. Nope, this will not get you published. Seriously, if you really want to be published or even read by more than a couple people, don’t ever in medias res your manuscript into day to day events. Don’t worry about important information about your world or even building your world. This should be handled as flashbacks or back-story…and not usually, in any length, in the first chapter or scene.
As an example, let’s look at the beginning of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Natural Born Charmer.
It wasn’t everyday a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of the road, not even in Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world. “Son of a…” Dean slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her.
The beaver marched right past…
I get a lot out of this number one best seller’s start. He’s rich and bored. He likes women. The beaver intrigues him. This book will be fun, which is (often) a conscious promise to the reader from the author.
This first scene, as it develops, shows you what you need to know about the book and these two characters to want to continue reading.
This scene starter is also called the cute meet or meet cute. A cute meet is an unusual scene which often thrusts the hero and heroine into each other’s lives often in a humorous way.
We have in medias rex, and the cute meet. Writing experts expect the first scene to include one or a combination of the following:
1.      In medias res.
2.      A cute meet.
3.      A story question or story hook, also known as a story problem.
4.      An external, internal or both event that changes the life of a character or characters and induces the character or group to make a journey or quest. Also called the inciting incident.
5.      A promise to the reader.
6.      Readers bonding with your characters. A writing craft issue, of which there are many more. These craft secrets that agents, editors and good writers know will be summarized and explained in a later chapter. For now, regarding bonding, I’d recommend Save the Cat! by Snyder. Basically, the writer needs to show the humanity of the character when confronted by a small or large dilemma that challenges her beliefs, abilities or understanding of the world.
7.      Foreshadowing.
There are exceptions to beginning a novel using a combination of the big 7 above. But not if you want an agent or editor to call you. Oops, I forgot, this is a book on how not to get published. So do none of the above 7 points. The exceptions, if you must know, so that you can buck convention and write your own way can be found in Hooked by Edgerton on pages 96-117. It will be a cool day in hell… Remember the agencies and publishers are flooded with submissions. They establish rules for their interns to follow so that the massive pile up of paper or mostly these days, emails can be avoided.
The book Hooked exceptions are:
1.      The calm before the storm opening.
2.      The fish-out-of-water opening.
3.      The essential context opening.
4.      The frame story opening.
To be fair, if you meet face-to-face with an editor or agent and you explain why you chose one of the four above, you’d have a better chance. But remember they then, in-turn, have to tell their reader (intern) to allow for the technique.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Writers are loners (and their own worse enemy).

How not to get published, point 5.
Please do not join writers’ groups or go to conferences
When you want work done around your home many ask their friends for recommendations. It’s who you know. People do business with people they know. The same goes for writing.

They call it the slush pile for a reason. Slush has a negative connotation, as if you were wading through melting snow. Imagine wading all day long. You’d lose your feet. As said before, agents and editors and the people they hire to read are inundated. Perhaps they dread the slush. It’s a job.

You can get lucky. My first book, a unique story about wolves and men, before there were dogs, immediately got an agent. She was stymied with the editors she tried to get on board, perhaps because they didn’t know me or take the time to know me. My agent, who wasn’t that into her agency, I found out later, wasn’t good enough to qualify as the friend that recommends a home repair person.

It was at this point, I all alone, realized I needed help. First, I joined critique groups. I might have been a tad too sensitive to criticism. No worries, this is a common condition if you are a loner or that ivory tower genius. That helped me grow and become receptive to other people's ideas and suggestions, but still no bites, by qualified agents or editors. Then I joined a writing organization (RWA) and went to their monthly meetings and then conferences. Soon I was interviewing with agents and editors in person and they nearly always asked for my work. This increased my chances for success. Accepted or not you will often receive feedback that will help you improve. By the way, I was a male romance writer at the time, so sometimes I received doses of reverse discrimination. Basically, “you’re a male, why are you writing romance?” I just grew stronger.

My point is email off your query as a stranger and your chance of an agent or editor asking for more are somewhere between 1::100 to 1::1000. Meet people and your chances of their asking for material are better than 80%. I base this percentage on interviews with other writers at the same meetings or conferences. These odds are stunning.

The problem with joining things and flying to conferences, for many of us, is money. I get that. Do what you can. Critiques groups are cheap or free. Finding other writers to swap manuscripts with can be a tad more expensive if you join national organizations which could cost around $100. By surfing the net you may share with other writers typically for free.

Here’s a sample of useful sites:

If you are a recluse or loner or you can't get out, at least connect online and let people know your situation. You'll find kindred spirits.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

How not to get published, point 2.

1.      Please do blast a copy of your query.

There are companies that promote the query blaster, perhaps because fools and their money are often separated. A query is generally an email in which you ask an agent or editor to consider your work for publication. People teach courses on how to write them. There are writing books on the subject. To sum up, these pedagogical sources recommend three paragraphs plus a sample of your work. The short paragraphs are often in this order:

1.      Introduce yourself with short relevant resume .

2.      Describe your story.

3.      Write why you chose the agency, agent or editor and based on the books they represent why you are a good fit.

All this should fit on one printable page, minus the writing sample, which should be attached. Some books or teachers add to write using your author’s voice or style. That’s tough.

All this is well and good as a starting point. Let’s call it your generic baseline. Then you take this well crafted package and email it to 100 companies. Some suggest that you drop the part about how you are a good fit with so-and-so and the books they represent so that you can get that work out there in front of as many eyes as possible in as short a time.

You are wasting your money on a number of counts.

1.      You must do research on the agent and agency, editor and publisher to discover if you are a good fit and to personalize your query.

2.      Doing said research, you will discover that my soup kitchen analogy from Point 1. does not hold. Each agency agent publisher and editor have ways they want to see your material and they say so. It is your job to dig into persons, or companys’ web sites to discover this. If there is a difference between agent and agency or editor and publisher follow the agent or editor, because if you get past them, you’ll get your chance.

3.      These professionals are daily assaulted by creative usage of the English language. They need order and rules to speed up the process.

The agent or editor then assign, just as said in point 1., their interns to read all submissions and instantly reject any that don’t conform to the rules they published for the prospective author to follow.

Sorry, you have just been caste out into the cold. You’ve received your 100 rejections and you can now go about with your badge of honor telling every writer you know how you tried, am ready to quit. They’ll tell you to keep going and you might.

I have tried to tell multiple friends about this pitfall at conferences, meeting and critique groups, often to no avail. With limited persuasive time I had to move on and hope they’d consider my point.  One reason why people don’t listen to this obvious point is that they can’t do research on the computer. They’ll say things like Hemmingway did it his way. Hemmingway was a professional journalist with many contacts and those contacts told him what they wanted.

Besides the agent, agency, editor and publisher web sites you need to find these people. Ideally, you’ll meet them at a conference and you’ll like them and they you. This is way better than showing up as a stranger in their email in-basket. Barring this try sites like:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Not To Get Published

I have temporarily run out of things to say about the male point of view but I don't want to go dark. Therefore I'm going to write about something closely related that I'm passionate about, good writing. Besides, many of my readers have written to me and when they do the questions are often about the mechanics of writing.

Some people think that if you write with the talent of Ernest Hemingway or J. K. Rowling the world will beat a path to your door. You have the talent. You know it, but why all the rejections?
That’s because the gate-keepers all work out of the same kitchen. Imagine the number of manuscripts agents and editors receive every day. These people can’t even read 1/10th of what they receive. What do they all do? They hire college kids, or interns if you prefer, and give them rules to follow. Don’t we as employers do the same thing? The newbie is, by definition, someone to be trained. One of the rules is to stop reading immediately if anyone of the following shows up. Shows up quickly, I might add, because the writer’s style betrays, especially in the first five pages. Most agents and editors never get past page five.
Here are the top 10 rules agents and editors use to cut down the perceived crap they receive. There are no exceptions, unless you know somebody. But, remember this, good writing is good writing. Break the rules at your own risk. Remember the buck doesn’t stop with that someone you know.
In no particular order, because any one of these leads to an immediate stop-reading-and-send-the-polite-rejection letter.

1.                        !
Use the exclam at great risk of bodily harm! The editor will send out a 90 pound girl with pimples to beat you up! If your words cannot convey the meaning of the sentence you have automatically failed! Next! Exclamation points are closely matched by shouting! That is USING ALL CAPS!
The exclam looks like a baton with which you lead an imaginary band! The rule at the office is that the ! is a crutch! If you see one of these onerous beings in the first five pages put the pages into hazardous waste and move on, you have 205 more submissions to read before coffee break!
If you’re getting a little irritated by my ending every sentence with an !, then consider their feelings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is an exclamation, anyway? Webster’s College Dictionary writes: 1. The act of exclaiming; outcry; loud complaint or protest, 2. An interjection. The definition of exlaim adds: to cry out or speak suddenly and vehemently, as in surprise, strong emotion, or protest. The problem with the symbol ! is that it is not a word, so the reader won’t know what you mean unless you describe whether it’s a cry out, showing surprise, speaking suddenly, showing protest, loud complaint or just loud. There’s only one way to impart the reader what variation of ! you are using. I.e. use precise words. If you use precise words than why use the symbol? You see how a reader might get confused? It is hard to show what the character means but it is necessary to become a great writer. Therefore, editors and agents have condemned the exclam.
The exclam is a substitute for good writing! If ever you feel compelled to put one on a page, ask yourself why! Could you strengthen that verb! Could you rewrite that sentence to impart meaning! Is it obvious what you are saying! Do you trust the reader to get it! Throw all your crutches away and eliminate fear! Write really good stuff!
Reference material: Renni Browne & Dave King in Self-editing for Fiction Writers say “…stylistic devices that make a writer look insecure… Exclamation points are visually distracting… trying desperately to infuse your dialogue or narration with an excitement it lacks.” They suggest using them only to show moments when the character is physically shouting or doing the mental equivalent! Don’t go there, especially in the first five pages! Since the reader will not have read a book on writing they still won’t know for sure what you are writing!

On separate point, last week I sat with my Filipina wife, her sister and her Puerto Rican husband. We watched Enchanted Christmas on Hallmark. Bravo to Hallmark. This is the first time I have seen other than whites as leads. (except for a gorgeous half-Japanese girl  heroine I saw once). The hero was Hispanic and heroine was half Hispanic. The story was great. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Trait Assimilation

It’s well known that characters change during a story. They’re going somewhere, conquering worlds, falling in love. Often a novelist forgets that people rub off on each other. It’s human nature. Sometimes, people pick up speech patterns, sometimes they try new things. The hero and heroine educate each other. They introduce each other to their worlds. They become one. Like an old married couple or identical twins, they finish each other’s sentences. The possibilities are endless. In that, lies some of what is fun in writing.

This might seem trivial or difficult to show in words, but that’s what the reader expects. They want to see characters as real as you can write them.

The last scene in Some Like It Hot, 1959 (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kiss Me Crazy

Kissing lowers blood pressure 3.5%.
Is this true? I read it in a mystery novel, of all places. I searched on Bing and stopped when I read Dr. Fahad Basheer’s article published 1/7/2016. Basically, although the 3.5% wasn’t mentioned, this was all I needed. He writes: The kiss is a measure of a person’s feelings, of his or her love or attraction to another. A truly meaningful kiss can also act as a powerful mood booster, instilling a sense of confidence and heightened self-esteem in both parties. The strength of a kiss lies in the power it has to cause the release of serotonin and oxytocin peptides in our bodies.
Here’s a summary of his 10 points:
1. Relieves physical pain.
2. Lowers blood pressure.
3. Improves the health of our heart.
4. Boost immunity & help with allergies.
5. Improves oral hygiene.
6. Improves mood & decreases stress.
7. Relieves menstrual cramps. [This reminds me of the old chestnut: Not now, I have a headache.]
8. Relieves headaches & migraine. [My same thought as above here.]
9. Improves the tone of facial muscles.
10. Burns calories.
For those who want to read the entire artcile or the reasons behind the ten points go to:
As for writing, consider having fun with this in dialogue. Understand that a make-out session is beneficial for more than teenagers. Kissing can be an end to itself.
What the doctor did not write but implied: Kissing leads to sex. But kissing is so intimate, it is sex.

If you want a kiss, suggest the benefits, LOL. ...And get close.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

First love is a forever love

In last night’s Hallmark movie premier of Love Struck CafĂ©, one of the characters claimed that a first love is a forever love. This thought is to be considered while writing YA (young Adult) or Middle Grade. It may also show up in an adult romance as backstory, as in the movie. And well done, indeed.

Points for the statement:
1. Hormones are at their highest in life, making everything about love and bonding so intense, the hero and heroine can’t get enough of each other. Every moment is treasured and looked forward to with abandon.
2. Experiencing anything for the first time becomes an indelible marker for life.
3. The process of engaging in new ways of living and doing things, breaking old habits (things of a child), makes for unforgettable memories.
Points against:
1. The kids don’t know what they’re feeling (puppy love).
2. The kids confuse passion or sexual excitement for love.
3. The kids are naturally more egotistical and may not have empathy enough to really know each other.
Personally, although the points against have their lure, the first three for love being forever fit better with scientific studies on the subject.
No matter the portrayal, the writer needs to seriously consider these ideas in developing a romance for any age. At least, the story will have depth.
In the Hallmark movie, in backstory we see the youngerr versions wrestling with going off the college. The hero breaks up, without explanation, in order to not hold back his heroine. Many of us have been there and done that or have heard of such break-ups. BTW, her heart was broken, she blamed him, but oddly he never questioned his decision or at least it wasn't shown.

Perfect by Ed Sheeran, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Job versus romance

Job versus romance
Some traditional writers see a HEA (happily ever after) as a chance for the heroine to leave her job behind and become a mother and housewife. Although this is a legitimate choice, and every one has the right to choose, it minimizes conflict. Consider also, that God gave us talents and wants us to maximize them, if the mother has time, LOL. This applies to stay at home dads, as well.
In most modern romances, the hero and heroine struggle with career and each other. They want the best for their partner. They want to support the other without reservation, no matter the choice. Through the difficulties of the story and character arcs they show this capacity. The conflict enriches the story.
All I’m saying is consider these dynamics. Would you consider it a good choice if a M.D. heroine gives up helping the sick and dying to solely raise a family?? Probably not. A traditional writer would likely not choose this background for the heroine.
Giving back to others, aside from family, is love, just like romance. Ain’t we writing about love?

Sade, Feel No Pain, 1992

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Kiss Me in the Snow

Kiss Me in the Snow
I read this romantic comedy by Rich Amooi (funny name) on my vacation. I loved it. Rich and his lovely wife, who is also an author, recently joined RWASD.
It reads like a Hallmark movie. His subtle turns of plot and fresh dialogue was a distinct treat. The funny here is not in whether Rich is a comedic genius or not, he underplays the humor in any given situation. No, he tells a story in which both hero and heroine (plus a secondary romance) are at odds in all ways, always, right through the black moment.
Some of my readers have expressed concern about writing comedy and I thought of them, often as I read through the story. If you can put your protagonists through challenging situations in which people are not getting knocked off you write with natural humor. The heroine starts by making a list of “A list” dramatic actresses she wants to bump off, but she’s just expressing her frustration about only being an action (top-grossing) heroine. Her loving sister makes a suggestion of a get away over the Christmas holidays. Each swear off men and the plot roles on from there.
Note: I remember fondly our Mary Leo’s wonderful Harlequin Flipsides, like Stick Shift. By the way, both titles are naturally funny and it is hard to say why, because perhaps it’s just me and my search for double entendre in everything. Dear Mary and Rich, tell me it ain’t so.
If you just stick to the basics of getting your hero and heroine into embarrassing or challenging situations and up the stakes, as in every other novel, you’re there.
For another thing, get a cover artist who works in this genre.

Just follow the road map laid out by Aristotle and people will laugh their asses off.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Alpha hero goes on a date

Here’s a man able to meet life and death challenges with the cool and quickness of a James Bond, but frets and obsesses over a date. Note: there is a natural humor to this, but it so human. Many men and women go into a fit of histrionics when preparing for a date. They’ll try on different outfits. Brush their hair and then brush it again, sure that one loose strand will lead to rejection. He’ll cut himself shaving. Ruined! They’ll practice things to say, etc.
You might think I’m talking about a metro-sexual guy. Nope. Here’s a chance to inject a touch of flaw, excitement, show him as human, as interested. It is, after all, a life and death situation. Humans need love to survive, to be fully human. No less so, the alpha hero. Just don’t expect him to be in command of himself at home preparing, or maybe on the date. He’ll put his life on the line, but when it comes to making life happen (well, not usually on a first date) he’s a klutz (or somewhere in between James Bond and Barney Fife). He could appear normal, but inside he’s a tangle of insecurities. Or perhaps his stage fright disappears as he gains confidence and takes in the beauty that sits across from him. He’s a lucky man.
Al Jolson sings, About a Quarter to Nine, written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, published in 1935. In this video he dances with his wife, Ruby Keeler, in the 1935 musical, Go Into Your Dance.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Elementary: Supply and Demand 101

Supply and demand can be applied to romance. It’s true that there is approximately the same number of men and women in the world thanks to the magic of the laws of nature. It is also true that long term profitability business models seek balance between buyers and sellers. Men and women, IMO, seek balance when they hunt for a mate. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say the entire planet has ten womern and ten men not yet pared off and they’re having a party. They may fight over the same person, but it is more likely they’ll consider their own strengths and weaknesses plus that of their group of ten. Take it a step further and they’ll consider the group and individual needs of all twenty. It’s not perfect. People make mistakes. The intent, for those thoughtful enough, is to consider, perhaps at an elemental level, the survival of the species.
This is why I say: Something else is going on here. Some will reach the gut conclusion that one person in the other group was made for them. They’ll both know it when they look into each other’s eyes or have some other interaction. The other eighteen back off, recognizing this new force of nature.
What part mysticism plays in the laws of nature no one knows. You can call it, fate or they were meant for each other, or use the word soul mate. It may be a biological directive, the finger of God. Who knows. I guess I’m saying that if you are writing a normal as opposed to a paranormal romance don’t forget to sprinkle a little uncertainty into the love equation. God (or nature) knows. We don’t (too well).
Examples of how you handled this are much appreciated.
I’ll give an example from one of my stories. In the story, the heroine is in a bar and walks over to a complete stranger and plants a kiss on him (that they’ll never forget). She walks away.

As Time Goes By, from Casablanca, 1942 Song by Dooley Wilson

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thighs Fall Apart

Not to my none RWA readers: apparently, last week, I, in informing my RWASD chapter misspelled "Things." What followed was a ground swell of support for today's blog. True, this isn't quite the male POV although as a Catholic boy I can say that the girls shoes did interest me, or rather the character they reflected.

Thighs Fall Apart is the long awaited sequel to The Girl with the Patent Leather Shoes, the world wide best seller. Tan Tric has done it again.
For those who have not read The Girl with the Patent Leather Shoes it is about the struggle of a teenaged Catholic girl who is taught that the proper birth control, approved by the Pope himself, is to take 1 aspirin, place it between your legs and hold it there. We follow her teen years as she struggles with sexuality and her only viable outlet, exhibitionism.
In the sequel, Thighs Fall Apart, the young adult heroine leads an athletic life and is forever dropping her aspirin, especially around the football team. She discovers that there is more to life than the reflection off her shoes. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has ever had a headache.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Entropy and other related thoughts:

I’ve talked about this before in a different way. Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe is a good fictional handbook on how things go wrong from conflicts in society, ones-self and outside influences.
For the hero of a romance, things should go wrong when he fails to focus on the heroine. First there’s doubt by the heroine, then there’s her friends and family who chime in. It seems no one lives in a vacuum and because we are social beings we can’t and often shouldn’t ignore the outside influence. However, this sort of problem adds tension to the plot. Will she fight for him? Will he find his way back to his focus on her?
I call it a “lay down” when the heroine ignores the warning signs. The HEA will occur. Unfortunately, many romances read this way.
Once upon a time, there was the perfect bachelor (on The Bachelor). Ben proposed to one of the most gorgeous women I have seen, Lauren. He kept putting off the wedding date. Lauren, so in love, did not push hard enough for changen or did she issue an ultimatum. ( I believe therapy was tried.) Anyway, she eventually left him and now has a boyfriend. Of course, she’d get a boyfriend as true as I breathe.
Contrast this to the latest couple on The Bachelorette. Rachel wants a winter wedding and what do you think her fiancĂ© said? “Whatever the woman wants she will get.” We’ll see. Some have said of Bryan that he wasn’t her best choice, that he won’t be true. I say he’s light years ahead of “the perfect bachelor.” Maybe Ben is a bachelor.

Rachel and Bryan's interview on Access Hollywood. August 2017.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Pearl of Great Value

A Pearl of Great Value
Alternate title: Take out the trash
Is it only fantasy to have the hero decide to change his life and dedicate himself to the heroine? No, it happens, perhaps not too frequently.
How does it happen? Start with the hero wanting to make her happy always and in all ways, because he’s crazy about her and top over teakettle in love. To do this, he needs room or time in his life. So he must take out the trash. Trash, in this instance, are those minimal, useless or harmful habits that eat up time. Suppose the hero is into video gaming to a fault.
We know of many married men who don’t like suggestions from their spouses about what to do around the house. But, for the hero of our story he relishes the opportunity to please her. He’d rather literally take out the trash than play Counter-Strike.
It’s not just about chores.
The hero can learn about her likes and try to like them too.
He’ll then learn to share her joy.
The hero might even learn to have fruitful conversations.
He might even watch a Hallmark with her, etc.
He’ll look for every opportunity to make her feel loved.
In the parable of A Pearl of Great Value (likened to Heaven) the person finding the pearl sells everything he owns to possess it. For us men a woman is the closest we’ll get to heaven on Earth.

All or Nothing at All, 2104, Switchfoot.

Sunday, July 23, 2017



Their arms rapped around each other, their bodies a perfect fit, her head on his chest. He wondered why he was so lucky. He peered down to see her eyes looking into his. A little out of focus, maybe dreamy. She was content if this was the right word. Did she love him? She had never said so.
He had first seen her in a crowd of hundreds,  maybe fifteen years before and was struck by her pull on his body, mind, spirit. Never before had he felt such a momentous tug. But he couldn’t get to her that day. The only thought he remembered, and it was as if someone was whispering to him, “someday she will be your wife.” He didn’t know her name, never saw her again until five years ago when they met at a local Brooklyn coffee house.
They developed an easy friendship. He marveled at the way she acted. Zany, sweet, challenging, laughing at his lame jokes, big eyed enthusiasm for life and for him. But friends they remained until today.
He was certain she felt the same tug on her soul, that she loved him as much as he did her. Today, he had decided, would be the day he’d find a way to get to the truth without disturbing their friendship. He decided to hug her a bit more intimately and longer than ever before.
So far she liked it. He took a chance and kissed her forehead. No pull back. Yes. Now all he needed was the courage to say it, but she interrupted him. With the same dreamy eyed look on her lovely face, she said in a completely relaxed voice, and you got to know this girl doesn’t relax much. She said, “so this is love.”

Til Then, the Mills Brothers, 1944

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Great American Pragmatist

Before I start, you may, while reading this think I’m talking about a non-fictional person. In the front pages of many novels before the story starts, the author or editor says something like, any resemblance to someone real is purely coincidental. Just to have fun I’ll say deliberately coincidental
Is your character a pragmatist or idealist? Pay attention to the core values of your hero/heroine and other characters because it goes to what motivates them. Infusing philosophy helps tell a valued story. How strongly does your character hold these beliefs or lack thereof?
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition popularized in the United States around 1870. For those philo geeks, there is also the closely related Utilitarianism. Nobody claims to be a Utilitarian because it’s too hard to spell or pronounce.
Put simply: what is useful is good and what is pragmatic is good. They seem interchangeable but there is a subtle difference. Pragmatism is a more active philosophy. They choose to do something that will reap benefits for them. A utilitarian chooses something to take up or take because it is useful to them. Somebody else may have already done the work. Stealing said work is often done by the Prag/Uti character, if they think they can get away with it. If they think… Both philosophies are egocentric.
These philosophies may seem glorious statements of what made our Country great but they are at odds with the Constitution. All men are created equal if it is useful or works to the character. Many religions condemn these philosophies, calling them false gods. The struggle for the character’s soul is a human condition that transcends national boundaries.
Every day the character makes useful or pragmatic decisions. Is it better for health to eat more because it tastes good or should there be more strictness about cholesterol or sugar? Does a character go to a wedding 2500 miles away, spend the money, or focus on work and make money needed to survive or live more comfortably? Innocuous actions creep up on them when it comes time to make a really important decision that may involve moral values. The problem moral steadfastness starts with habituation. It’s hard to change and so they choose to make a moral mistake hardly noticing that they have become the Great American Pragmatist.
Some characters observe the world and see that those who grab the gusto or perhaps bend the rules to suit them (pragmatism at its core) get ahead in life. They make money. Some take it a step further and get pleasure out of besting another human being. Substitute screwing for besting here, if you like.
American politics and business are the most obvious places to go for examples of American pragmatism. Many of our leaders cherish and fully understand the constitution because they live their lives by core values in which they treat each human being fairly. All men are brothers, right?
Write it.
Your character can demonstrate his/her core beliefs through habitual action, willfully wrought or not. They also can grow or change. One often needs an arc for this, LOL. The heroine sets out to tame her man, as an example.
In pragmatic politics and business or life in general not constantly confronting, reflecting on the moral value of habits, can land the character(s) in jail or worse.

Fifty Shades of Grey, Promo for movie

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Romantic Suspense

Once in a while I take highlights from a book on writing. I needed to understand romantic suspense (and pure mystery) better so I bought Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron. Related to the late great screenwriter Nora Ephron. Taking romantic suspense one step further will ground the rom suspense in the genre's basics.
Much of below can apply to pure romance. Why? Ask Aristotle.

Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel

“In order to become sort of good at it you have to be willing to be bad at it for a long time.” David Owen
At the heart of a mystery novel is at least one puzzle, if not several.
I should have seen that coming. (Reader)
Often the mystery examines serious themes and social issues.
Suppose, what if, and why anchor a well articulated premise.
Readers need to care about what happens to the compelling protagonist before the book opens and what’s going to happen to the protagonist after the book ends (if there’s a follow on).
Develop your protagonist’s dark past. (The dark past can be used to motivate in the present and it raises the stakes.)
Authenticity is key. Therefore research (passive and participatory).
Background, strengths and weaknesses, talents and skills.
Demeanor while under stress.
Names that fit. Sam Spade (hard nosed). Nick and Nora Charles (highbrow).
The crime and the victim’s secrets. The revelation of such twists the plot & propels the story forward.
Make the crime matter to the protagonist.
The villain. “...making my readers feel sorry for my psychopaths...” Ruth Rendell
Making the crime fit the villain.
Innocent suspects. “Everybody has something to conceal.” Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
Making innocent suspects look guilty. (Overly eager to answer questions, motive, etc.)
The supporting cast: sidekick, opposites attract.
The adversary: is not the villain. He drives the protagonist nuts.
The web of characters with competing goals.
Start with the setting (grounding): It’s been said that a vivid setting is like another main character and sometimes it is. WHEN WHERE CONTEXT. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.
Plot is developed using the three act play.
Dramatic opening: Out-of-whack event (element of mystery to it) (cute meet in rom com), causes unanswered question,
The Plot twist is the most basic ingredient in a mystery.
In the end, climactic scene, fraught with mortal danger, hero and villain duke it out. This scene contains the payoff for the novel. Afterwards is the coda, a contemplative session in which lose ends are explained. The ending needs to be plausible, surprising and satisfying.
Two weeks ago I wrote about humor in romance and thought of how most of us not being natural comedic geniuses, would have difficulty writing comedy into the scene. Here's a concrete example of how to improve: Recall a funny remark by a friend and see if it applies or can apply to something in the scene. Another trick is to spot an illogical way of doing something (we all do dumb things, maybe just following the unquestioning crowd) in which the other character calls it out in some way.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trouble in paradise

Trouble in paradise
The roses are fake but the marriages are real. So goes the ying-yang way the producers approach The Bachelor franchise on ABC. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise are all highly rated. But ABC is in trouble. Recently in the filming of Paradise, two contestants engaged in a public sex act (about a half minute of cunnilingus) which disturbed two producers enough that they complained to Warner Brothers. The parent corporation started an investigation and found themselves guilty, not the contestants, although the bawdy couple got the boot. ABC rebooted and started filming anew.
ABC started a bit of soul searching and decided they were shocked that lots of drinking and raw public sex was going on in paradise. Unlike Casablanca, the rules for Paradise changed, presumably, forever. Now the contestants can have no more than two drinks per hour. That seems ridiculous to the naked eye. But before you cry foul remember how some of us approach the open bar at weddings. The drink max and unspecified new sexual conduct rules apparently have made their way into the old contract. For those who root for sexual hook-ups, don’t worry, there’s plenty of time in the sack where the cameras don’t linger. Let your imagination go as wild as the contestants. As one producer said, “it’s not like I work for a church.”
These producers had tried to create drama by offering unlimited drinks, less sleep, long soul searching interviews, Draculian contracts that say ABC can use anything of a personal nature and that they may be inaccurate in their portrayal of the contestants.
We do the same thing to our characters. We put them in stressful situations which elicit tears, change, fights, battles (of good versus evil) and resolution.
My problem is not with the sex, oh lordy. I want to know why these two contestants were singled out when others have done far more intimate on camera. Somehow I don’t think this is a black white thing. I certainly hope not.
Here’s 2 excerpts from an interview with one of the two booted contestants conducted by E! News.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sixth Sense

There are five senses, right? Sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Fiction writers are constantly being told to use your senses. Good authors do when it organically fits the scene. But in romance fiction we need one more sense.
I’m not talking about anything paranormal, other-worldly, unexplained, ghostly, sci-fi, horror or fanciful. That’s a discussion for another time. I’m talking about the sense of humor. Okay, I know it’s not a sense, although the way some psychologists describe it, you’d think otherwise.
So why then, humor? If you’ve ever read various studies of what a mate wants in his/her opposite, a sense of humor ranks at or near the top. It often tops looks! Lightheartedness usually sustains a relationship (along with empathy, love, commitment). We write romance and yet one novel after another forgets to inject humor by either or both the heroine and hero. Sad.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a comedian or study humor, memorize jokes or construct clever phrases. Draw on your experiences at the least. Ain’t there always a cut-up in the crowd. Someone who found irony in something? Some joke during sex? Analogies will do nicely. Double entendres are easy. Deliberately taking the alternative and wrong meaning from something a person said. Just being witty.
Don’t overdo it, especially if you aren’t a Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Robin Williams...
Consider a romance novel without humor. Would you ask yourself why the hell they got together? Would their life in the castle be as dreary as the cold damp walls?
When Harry Met Sally, 1989, the “I’ll have what she’s having, scene.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy to announce

I'm happy to announce that I won the San Diego Book Award on June 10th 2017 for Autumn Breeze as best published general romance for this year.

I expect to be back to blogging next Sunday and every Sunday thereafter.

Thanks for your support.

RW Richard aka Bob Richard

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Some men are dogs

She’s smart, accomplished, pretty, empathetic, loving, 31 and serious about getting married, an attorney and black. She’s the bachelorette on ABC’s hit show. I say black with a bravo for ABC which broke the color barrier in 2017 on this show. Whoopee. When did Jackie Robinson play ball? It’s about time. I can’t say the same for Hallmark romances, but don’t get me started.
Sometimes people watch the show to figure out who she’ll pick (she’s engaged to the mystery gentleman). Some watch to figure out who will be the next bachelor. Even though early in the show, I have a prediction. I predict Copper will be the next Bachelor. Copper is Rachel’s dog and better looking than some of the men. She doesn’t go anywhere without him which gives Copper a leg up. Some of the men are bad dogs, like DeMario. Bad dog. We’ll have to see if Rachel can find another faithful companion, best friend. Someone who gives her unconditional love. None of them can kiss like Copper. Picture that.
Here’s a peek at Rachel and some of the men on the Ellen Degeneres Show. (2017):

Pop quiz:

On the Hallmark premier of Destination Wedding, June 3, 2107 was the wedding sequence at the end?
A. Secretly planned by friends and family of the hero and heroine.
B. The second of two ceremonies.
C. A scene from a later time (then the one planned for the heroine's sister).
D. The only wedding that happened.

Monday, May 29, 2017

I Just Know

All For Love
Did you ever hear a friend say, “I just know (about him).”? This sometimes works in life but not in romance novels. At least not after chapter one. It works in life because of the amazing complexity of love. I just know she’s for me because I’m a subconscious competent. Conscious competents are in the process of learning how to love. They make mistakes. A conscious incompetent recognizes he’s a screw up and wants to change, maybe. Am unconscious incompetent has not a clue. This person should seriously consider joining an order (and learn to love humanity).
Perhaps you sat your friend down and pried loose some concrete examples to support her feelings. Maybe a light went on. Maybe the light was there already in the glean of her eyes.
In honor of Memorial Day, on Saturday, Hallmark premiered, All For Love. The heroine writes romance. The hero is a retired Navy SEAL. Although this story had it’s flaws, I enjoyed it. Especially the way the writer/heroine portrayed A-list authors who take umbrage at suggestions about the way their hero and heroine manage to overcome obstacles.
If you watch this one, I’d like to hear whether these two make a good pair. The writer of the movie certainly proceeded with care to show the whys that made the wows.
Does the type of love a Navy SEAL lives everyday make him/her a good mate? God bless our men and women in uniform and all those who came before. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tooting your own horn

Tooting your own horn

Whenever we correspond with our teammates at RWA San Diego it is considered and ruled that we not hawk our books. However, good news, is an exception.
The 2017 San Diego Book Awards finalists were just announced.
My dear friend, Regan Walker, finaled for Historical (novel length) Fiction with To Tame The Wind. A story I was privileged enough to get an advance read of and fortunate enough to have read. Reading each others’ work at the chapter is another way of growing. Believe it or not there’s always something to critique. The only work of fiction I could not critique was titled and written as: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Ernest Hemingway, the minimalist, is attributed with this gem.
Robert W Richard, that’s me, is a finalist with my entry in general romance, Autumn Breeze, for the SDBA. I have the many suggestions and critiques of my fellow authors to thank for the polishing of this story.
Regan and I have something very much in common about our works. We sweated every word. We loved our stories with abandon from the moment of creation to it’s birth (which was more than nine months in my case). Herein lies the tiny lesson for today’s blog. Don’t write for the sake of writing. Write the story that burns your soul.
Whoever wrote this review is a better writer than moi:
A complex, emotionally gripping and compelling book.
This is the best kind of novel. The kind that weaves honest, factual contemporary history (9/11 and its aftermath), into the fabric of a compelling love story. Plus a lot of intrigue and adventure. So you end up learning a lot, and getting an appreciation of actual history, while enjoying a heartfelt love story at the same time.
The Autumn of the title is a teenage girl. She's forced by circumstances to find new parents. In doing so, she gets involved with some pretty fascinating characters (well developed by the author), and some dangerous situations. But not just danger: love and romance too. The author doesn't pull any punches about the dark side of life: a terrorist is after her, and the suspense at times is intense.
One thing I like a lot about Autumn Breeze is that it doesn't take the low road that so many other novels take these days in knocking intellectuality. There is an appreciation of intellect here. Also of heroism, spirituality, and true love. Which makes it awfully hard to categorize the novel. You can't pigeonhole it because it tackles (and succeeds on) so many levels: suspense, personal interaction and loyalty, appreciation of family, romantic love, gritty adventure. And if that isn't enough (!), it's also a love story to New York.
But a word of warning: if you're looking for a lightweight, frivolous book, this isn't for you. It is complex, and intricately plotted in a way that makes you wonder how the author ever managed to weave all the threads so seamlessly into such an enjoyable book. But he does.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The female gaze

What She Sees (The female gaze)
This post is inspired by an article in the LA Times, May 7, 2017 written by Meredith Blake. The character was seeing a blur where the man’s groin was. Blake. She’s finishes her opening story with, “I wanted the audience to see what she would be seeing.”
Generalizing women see differently than men. There are plenty of women who love the visual side of life. Be they photographers, artists, directors... There are men who are introspective.
Most men assess a female stranger in terms of their looks. Most women see that, for sure, but tend to see meaning to a possible relationship. Hence the blur as their minds go inward into the world of creation. It’s a woman’s job to decide the future of the human race. It’s the man’s job to insure it happens.
The lA Times writer, Meredith Blake, goes on to say, “...a growing number of shows are turning women into the subject of the action rather than the object of desire.” Of course, the Times writer is also stating the preferences of women in the audience as to what they prefer to see on the screen. I believe, whether male or female we want to feel—not merely see.
Here’s where I part from the article, not in spirit, but in intent.
Writing a scene through the “eyes” of a woman must be different than through the eyes of a man. But, how to do it? It’s easy to say he notices her perfect curves, lovely face and wants her. It’s harder to say she notices his body, face etc. and wonders about what kind of man he is. That’s code for will I be heartbroken and/or miserable after night one of their dual fantasy of making love. [I had never felt that way. With me, what was most important was the possible union and let the rest take care of itself.]
Do you need to write that her vision of him blurs while she considers the consequneces? Your choice. The richness in writing comes from varying as long as it fits the arc and the true nature of the character.
It is alright to write male domination into a scene because it will only make your readers invest in and root for the heroine as she sheds her shackles and teaches a lesson.
The Times article concludes with, “—use narration, direct address and subjective fantasy sequences to convey the heroine’s unfiltered point of view directly to the (TV or movie) audience.”
I’ll let Dusty Springfield chastise women for doin’ what they do around men that get them nowhere near his heart. Of course that’s just griss for our mill.
Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Dusty Springfield 1964. I strongly recommend the artwork in this video, in that it pictorially evokes what might become words while writing the heroine’s pov.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

First dates

Is your dialogue stale?
Do you worry that you are so far removed from today’s dating scene that you’ll get it wrong. Do you lurk in bars hoping your ears are good enough and that you don’t give yourself away?
Forget it.
It is so critical that you get the beginning of your hero and heroine’s arc right. Right?
Tune into NBC’s new show First Dates (Friday nights).
The show advertises “Everything they say and do is entirely up to them.”
For the sceptic of “reality shows” maybe knowing that Ellen Degeneres is the exec producer might ease your concerns.
Of course people do strange things when on camera or do they? Do they simply get comfortable or into the idea of meeting someone? You decide.
Is this show Earthshaking? No. But far the student of the written word, it can be useful if you give it a chance.
Ellen Degeneres talks about her show:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Let's Dance

Let’s Dance
Last week I wrote about heroines or heroes who sing. This week is much easier. Let’s dance. For some reason authors write much more romance prose about dancing as incidental and as part of their characters’ lives than about songbirds. Oddly, the prose flows more easily when it is about movement than about words. Words, the only tool we have. Enough of that.
I won’t bare you with quotes from my dance references. Anybody who has read Autumn Breeze knows the joy with which I had written about dancing.
Dancing Queen, Abba, 1976

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Girl Who Sang too much

I have never read a romance novel nor any other novel in which the hero or heroine were singing their way through the day. Probably because it is damn well difficult to get any thing other than the poetry and perhaps the mood of the song across to the reader. Also because most of us have not experienced the zany singer in our families, nor are we reinforced on TV or at the movies that it is doable or shown how to do it.
Only in musicals and they rarely sing their way through the entire day. Besides, musicals are separated from the other genres because human beings find breaking into song as unusual. All the better reason to attempt it.
Imagine the spirit of a person who loves to sing. She’s typically not a professional but her voice is sweet. Does he or she sing to escape reality? Does she become the lyrics? What kind of heart has she?
All this is grist for a novel. Will the reader identify? You bet. Human nature in all its beautiful manifestations is easily understood.
I suppose a story about a professional singer would need the author to dig in, but I haven’t read these either nor have we grown up in this environment. For those who have been blessed to be part of a musical family, think about it. Even a short story or novella would be greatly appreciated.

If anybody knows of such a novel, please inform me, I'd like to read it.

Singin’ In The Rain, Gene Kelly, 1952
BTW, anybody ever dance with their vacuum cleaner or broom?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Kiss

Prostitutes will say to their johns, “No kisses.” If they explain, it goes something like it is too intimate. Apparently kisses are more intimate than making love, and not just for prostitutes.
I have read too many romances that go something like this:
They met in Macy’s. Between intimate apparel and men’s socks, he jammed his tongue down her throat. Later when they went on their first date. They exchanged tongues. Now that’s progress. Later when they are an item, their tongues wrestled and the all important spit was exchanged.
Give me a break.
Kisses can have arcs too and different meanings.
There’s the polite, how-are-you kiss on the cheek. No not that cheek, although that would be funny.
There’s the short peck on the lips, saying later or love ya, but I have to go to Macy’s and meet someone else who likes French kissing.
There’s what the kids do, suck face. What the hell is that?
There’s the tender, loving, lingering kiss, lips slightly parted as if to invite more French kissing. Ain’t necessarily so. Sweetness is such a tremendous and total reward and coincidentally, a turn on. The couple need nothing more. They say “I’m crazy about you” with their lips.
Do vary your lip reading.
The Kiss, 1896 was one of the first films ever shown commercially to the public. The film is around 18 seconds long, and depicts a re-enactment of the kiss between May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of the stage musical, The Widow Jones.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Ninety Percent Solution

Beauty said to Beast on their twentieth anniversary, “When I first met you, you were a beast. Now, you’re a monster.”
There are many studies on this issue. I’ll use the most inflammatory. 90% of couples don’t like each other, because I want to make a point about writing romance.
In a romance novel, both hero and heroine must be precocious enough to figure out why this won’t happen to them. Why? Because your audience wants that happily ever after to really be happily ever after and even after that. The characters both need moments in their arc to say, act or think why they want to marry each other.
We know physical attraction or chemistry isn’t enough, because time changes the body.
We know similar interests isn’t enough, because people grow or change.
IMO, your hero and heroine most also be so decvoted to the idea of service. “I want to make Susie happy and it will be my life’s goal to make her feel special every day of her life.” What can I do for her next? What can I say to her next? It’s my belief that you have to dig deeply to find out what makes them feel that way. Qwhat in their background and nature makes them commit to their mate as if a zealot. Thoughts? La Vie en Rose.
The hero and heroine just get that they are as perfect for each other as could possibly be. They thank God or the universe for they’re great fortune.
La Vie en Rose, Edith Pief, 1946.;_ylt=A2KIo9jh6M5YZCkAU9P7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBzYmZpbnA0BHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDMjU-?p=la+vie+en+rose+edith+piaf&vid=56a4a1946e2a77757394b38c84768336&

English lyrics by Mack David

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose
I thought that love was just a word
They sang about in songs I heard
It took your kisses to reveal
That I was wrong, and love is real
Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Frank talk from a southern lady

"I would love to spend this time with you, so I definitely accept… so easily said, but I need to remind you of two things," Raven said, leading into confession number two. "One, I've only been with one person, I want you to keep that in your mind. The second thing is that my last boyfriend, my ex that I was intimate with, never made me orgasm."
A 25 year old Arkansas woman reveals to her prospective husband on national TV that she has never had an orgasm before. Not kidding. You can’t make this stuff (dialogue) up. Well, you can, you’re a writer, but would you want to? Do the words seem contrived? Are southern women way different than the way most people see them? Are we, as writers, missing things because of our own habits and education, both of which are too often frozen in a time warp. I don’t know, but I can give you two insights.
1. ABC’s The Bachelor tells their contestants that if they say something inappropriate they will be bleeped (so be yourself). This may have emboldened Raven to speak from her heart. The problem for Raven (if she thinks it's a problem) is that ABC decides what’s bleeped.
2. Raven might have been getting back at her ex-boyfriend. She seems like an intelligent, funny, frank and sweet gal. So, no I don’t think so. You decide.
Our characters are memorable because of the way they act, say and think, so reality check aside, how much does our readers yearn to turn the page?
Watch and listen, it may be a orgasmic idea. Writing hit novels is like achieving an...over and over again.
Below are two videos in which she reveals her secrets.

Confession 1: Raven professes her first time love.

Confession 2: Raven reveals a very private secret to Nick.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

La La Land

La La Land

When I say this is one of the best movies ever, it just means I’m not ready to let go of Casablanca. Oddly, both have the same theme.

For the purists in the crowd I hear it’s not a romance, i.e. possessing a happily-ever-odesafter. Yet both movies are the most romantic odes you’ll ever see.

La La Land is the perfect title.

Los Angeles: 4

La La, crazy, fantastic (as in fantasy), destroyer of dreams, you ain’t going to get what you want, baby: 4

Creative types from all over the world descend on LA hoping to land it big. Their chances are slim. They end up serving tables, not a bad living. They end up falling in love and herein lies the conflict at the base of both movies. In Casablanca, this love doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. And where our hero and heroine can’t go, we can. In fact, a book follow up showed Rick and Ilsa getting together (As Time Goes By written by Michael Walsh, 1999 published by Warner Brothers).

In La La Land, our hero and heroine of tremendous talent confront the problems between choosing each other and the success the talents God gave them deserve.

We writers often talk about the interior struggle. What’s in the hearts of our heroes and heroines? Rick and Ilsa & Mia and Sebastian very much love each other and they always will. Very much is an understatement. Their hearts rend at the same time two smiles appears. This conflict fills us as readers, watchers with a twisted joy. Humans have a rich fantasy life and who’s to say if their innermost dreams can’t come true.

For romance writers: See this damn movie or don’t talk to me anymore. And then talk to me of true love.


Trailer for La La Land, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Shape of You

Good by half

This is about writing, it always is, but first an observation that will lead into the subject.

I’m in Church this morning and the priest is talking about all the hatred we have seen since the election. He mentioned violence but that doesn’t tip his hand. There are always at least two sides to the story. You can protest an administration (negative) or stand up for someone’s diminished rights (positive). Alternatively, you could want change and hopefully for the better. We all want change for the better, assuming the status quo needs tweaking.

Yesterday, James Scott Bell spoke at our RWASD meeting. He sold a skinny book about writing your book from the middle (Write Your Novel From the Middle). Skinny, because the beginning and ending were missing, LOL. I thoroughly enjoyed his insights and bought the book.

He said in the middle of a three act structure should lie a look in the mirror moment (not necessarily literally) in which the main character reflects on who he is. He knows if he doesn’t change in some way he will die, either physically or by losing everything he values. This can send the journey and the character in a negative or positive direction. This reflection need not have a statement of resolve, but the reader should see that the character either is considering— consciously or subconsciously— change. Stay tuned. Perhaps he’ll make it.

Primarily, Professor Bell didn’t use romance examples. He didn’t just present comedies. However, I say writing is writing, that in every novel tragedy strikes in one form or another. It is best to know the three act structure as presented by Aristotle, thoroughly. The clown can fall on his ass in a comedy and who will kiss his boo-boo? Could Professor Bell tailor his examples to the audience he’s speaking to? Sure, if he has the time, but I say a liberal arts education or in this case, an education, which compares and contrasts genres and types of writing, is more valuable because it opens your eyes.  It may give you new tools or a fresh take. I see that all story writing is the same. The protagonist is on an internal and/or external journey in which he and/or his environment changes.

Some of my colleagues said that everybody already knew this technique. I didn’t, but then I thought through my novels. All of them had a mirror moment. Some colleagues I talked to had a complete revelation from his lecture. They were going back to the drawing board to do something…Like take a mirror moment out of act 1, for instance.

All this reminded me of a psychology lecture on human proficiency.

Your character is:

1. An unconscious incompetent,

2. Conscious incompetent,

3. Conscious competent,

4. Unconscious competent (the best). A good example of this would a basketball superstar. You’d really have to pin him down for him to lay out all the steps (of the mind and body) he’d have to go through to make that 3 point play. Or, consider Tom Brady leading his team back against impossible odds. How’d he do it? He’s an unconscious (super) competent.

I would add that if the unconscious competent paused to reflect he would recall the steps he took automatically and know them as the building blocks of success.

Whether you are on the top of your game as a writer or someone struggling to become better it is always good to step outside your comfort zone.


Ed Sheeran, in Shape of You, 2016, chooses a mirror moment for both the hero and the heroine. Will both want more than just enjoying each other’s body? The hero hopes for more but we don’t know if they will become a couple. The heroine wants sex, but we don’t know if she’ll change under a man’s love.