30 September 2014, Writing Ideas – Vampire Novel, part 88, not showing Entertaining Characters, Developing Storyline Rising Action
Announcement: I received the proofs a few days ago and completed my notes on them within the three day deadline. The title of the series is Ancient Light and is based on my novel Aegypt. The next two novels will be Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness. They will be published individually and as a 3 in 1 book. The initial cover is already developed, and you can see it at http://www.ancientlight.com. I’ll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel, and on this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel–start with http://ldalford.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/daemon-installment-1-the-incantation/.
I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way. At this moment, I’m showing you the creative process I used to put together the novel.
Here are my four rules (plus one) of writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my new novel, Valeska, is: An agent of the organization becomes involved with a vampire girl during a mission, she becomes dependent on the agent, and she is redeemed.
Here is my proposed cover for Valeska. I decided on a white cover style.
You can see more at www.GoddessofDarkness.com.
The resolution in a novel is not about showing (or telling) everything. In fact, a wise author will not show or tell everything about a character. In many cases, the author might hint or provide some breadcrumbs, but too much information will only ruin a novel. Let me go back to an example I like to use about this very subject. This is from the initial scene of Children of Light and Darkness one of my Ancient Light Novels.
Kathrin McClellan tugged at her soggy blouse. She was already soaked, and the sun had barely crested the hills or the jungle treetops. The rain forest was heavy and green, bursting with vitality. Insects, birds, and larger animals already lifted up their repetitious calls with the rising sun. The aroma of the jungle was pervasive, and to Kathrin’s nose, everything, seemed thick and cloying. It was only made worse by the constant heat. Kathrin was not immune to the smells yet either—the fragrance and the heat. The air was so full of moisture each breath seemed like it tried to strangle her. She was reminded of the steam baths in Finland, but here, there was no opportunity to run out into the cold and dive into a freezing pool of water. There wasn’t any air conditioning here to escape for a little while from the oppressive grip of the heat, and the nighttime didn’t offer any relief either. At night, the place was dark and hot. Ugh, she hated it. It was so different from her native Scotland, and from her adopted land of England. Kathrin liked some of the food and the people. She liked to travel, and she enjoyed the experience, but she was just not used to the heat. James encouraged her and told her to keep at it. If they weren’t here on a job, she would have left a week ago. But it was a job. See the world, the recruiting posters said—well she had seen a lot of it, and this was about the only piece she didn’t like much at all.
James stepped out on the veranda, “Heat still bothering you, Kathrin?”
Kathrin didn’t say a word. She pursed her lips and clenched her jaw.
James turned around at the rail and leaned against it. He was tall and handsome, clean shaven. His hair was slightly tousled—always slightly tousled. It was brown and nondescript. His face, though handsome, was still nondescript. MI, Military Intelligence, liked their agents to look good, but not to draw too much attention. It was easier that way. James was strong and well trained. He always treated her like a lady, even when he didn’t have to and when she didn’t deserve it.
Kathrin knew she was pretty—perhaps bordering on beautiful. Her face was freckled and sported blazing green eyes. She had heart shaped lips in a heart shaped face. Her hair was red, and she was thin, perhaps too thin. She wasn’t very tall either. None of those characteristics ever seemed to affect her negatively. She spoke with a thick but improving Scottish brogue that made her a little difficult to understand at times. She knew she always showed a slightly harried look, and that was backed by an overly brisk personality. And true to the Gallic stereotype, she did possess a raging temper. It was a prideful secret that she kept it in check almost all of the time. When she let it out, it scared her. She didn’t let it out often, not at all since she had been working for the organization.
“The organization.” Now there was an enigma. It had been MI19, Military Intelligence section nineteen, during the big war, World War Two, but MI19 was officially defunct. It was just called “the organization” now. MI19 had originally been the language and interrogation services for British Military Intelligence. There was a big stink after the war about interrogation techniques, and to calm the public and foreign sensibilities, MI19 closed for a day and reopened the next as “the organization.” The focus of the organization today was language agents and operatives. It provided agents who could blend into the cultures and societies from which the British needed to gather information and intelligence. The organization now rarely conducted enemy agent interrogations—it did handle all defector and special intelligence interrogations. Sometimes it still accomplished enemy agent interrogations. All right, to be truthful, MI19 still did all the work it had during the big war, it just focused mainly on languages now—there weren’t that many enemies to interrogate. Kathrin ought to know, she was the head of the organization’s interrogation department. She was an operative and not an agent. She didn’t usually carry out field work, but her special skill and subtlety were supposed to be necessary here. During the big war, well before her time, her department included over half of the employees in the organization. She had just hired and trained a new interrogator so her department was now three strong. That’s the only reason they would think of sending her out to Burma on a mission with James Calloway.
James was an organizational share out to MI6. Military Intelligence section six was the British Secret Intelligence Service. James was a real agent. When he was a child, his family had lived in Burma as missionaries, and he had a fantastic ear for the language and the culture. Like so many of the agents who worked for the organization, he learned to speak his language in the streets as a child. He spoke the Burmese languages perfectly and knew almost every dialect in the nation. He also knew Mandarin Chinese, but he had not told Kathrin any of the other languages he spoke—she had no official “need to know,” and his language knowledge was somewhat classified.
Bruce Lyons was the director of the organization—Kathrin and James’ boss. For a long time, Mr. Lyons and the members of the organization thought he would be transferred and the organization subsumed under some other MI. Instead, as the British government scaled down their intelligence services, the organization had taken over many of the defunct MI groups. The organization supplied all the language trained agents to the rest of the MI system. That’s why James was a share.
For some reason, Bruce Lyons himself briefed them on their mission. The director usually didn’t do that, and the mission seemed simple. It had turned painful for more than one reason.
James checked his sidearm, “You still mad at me about last night?”
Kathrin’s eyes flashed at him. James tucked away his weapon and raised his hands.
All the fight drained out of her. She gazed out on the jungle, “It was my fault.”
“Then come on. It will only get hotter the longer we delay.”
Kathrin bared her teeth. She pulled her large hat around her ears and grimaced. She was slightly sunburned, and her ears and nose received the brunt—her ears, just where her hat rested on them. She followed James down the veranda and into the bursting sunlight. She sped up a little and caught up with him, “Where to today?”
“We tried the main sites all around the region.” He took a cautious glance around, “The reports and our leak said they were last seen in this general area. It mentioned a tomb and a temple—their usual modus operandi. We tried the obvious ones. I think we will get the lay of the land and seek locally for a while.”
“I haven’t thought that far. We’re way off our original plans, and we still have time, orders, and funding.”
Kathrin folded her arms across her chest and paced at his side.
This isn’t the entire scene. You can read the rest of this first chapter at my website. In this scene, we know something happened last night between James and Kathrin. Although the “what” is talked around by them later, I never tell you directly what happened. You can guess, but it is better for the novel to leave the exact events unsaid. I don’t even need to give the reader a flashback. All I need to do is leave you a few breadcrumbs, and you make up a whole scenario in your own mind. The “in your own mind” is precisely the point. I’m going to tell you something your writing coaches, teacher, professors never told you. This is it–don’t ever show or tell everything and don’t describe anything to perfection. I’ll let you in on this secret tomorrow.
I’ll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.