Writing – part xx470 Writing a Novel, Another Protagonist and Telic Flaw

10 April 2021, Writing – part xx470 Writing a Novel, Another Protagonist and Telic Flaw

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

If we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to novelists:

1.     What is the plot?

2.     Why is my novel so short?

3.     Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?

4.     Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?

Let’s see where we are:

1.     What can you write about?  We need a protagonist from your experience. Not necessarily your past, but from what you know.

2.     We can start with a real person.

That last example was a great one.  I haven’t written about this protagonist and I likely won’t.  The problem with this protagonist is that the subject is most likely best tackled by a woman.  I could write it, but it really isn’t my tour de force. 

What is important to note is that the protagonist comes with her own telic flaw.  The telic flaw is a characteristic of the protagonist.  You don’t need to build a storyline or a plot line because they come with the protagonist.  Let’s try another example.

Let’s have a screw-up from British intelligence.  Since I worked in special operations and special missions, I can write about them.  Perhaps I need to explain this a little.  In my time, special missions was covert and special operations was overt.  Think of special missions as the sneaky secret operations you do where you don’t want anyone to guess what you are up to.  Thus, you have aircraft that are unmarked or marked with civilian registries and the pilots and crewmen are dressed like civilians.  In special operations, the aircraft are military aircraft and everyone can tell what they can do, but not necessarily what they are up to.  One is covert and the other overt.  In one case, you don’t want anyone to know you might be accomplishing a military operations.  In the other case, you don’t care, but you need special people and systems to accomplish the work.  Special operations and special missions both are fed by intelligence services.  One can be considered agents or operatives of the intelligence business, the other are military personnel accomplishing normal military type operations. 

I write about foreign intelligence operations because I can and they are similar to the operations I’m used to.  Since I don’t know anything about them directly, it’s okay.  So, I can write about intelligence operations.  I really shouldn’t write about American intelligence operations because that would get me in trouble.  The French and Brits are fair game. 

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up any of their secrets.  I’m just using the information I know to write entertaining stories. 

Let’s start with a British screw-up from the MI (Military Intelligence) structure.  The Brits aren’t keeping much of this secret.  They have an MI-6 agency.  There used to be MI-1 to MI-19.  MI-19 is the group I use all the time as what I call The Organization.  My screw-up is named Shiggaion Tash.  She happens to be a genius, but a genius with a problem.  She can’t take responsibility, and she continually makes mistakes that get her busted and moved from agency to agency.  She really is a smart girl, but she has a problem. 

This is Shiggy from my novel, Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse.  Shiggy is the protagonist.  Do you see Shiggy’s problem?  What a wonderful problem.  I loved writing about Shiggy because she came with such a wonderful problem.  I happened to mention her name because Shiggaion is a real name.  How would you like to have this name and force others to use it?  That is part of Shiggy’s problem. 

Shiggy and the other character I made up as an example both came with their own telic flaws.  These can be turned immediately into plotlines.  Perhaps we should look at this next.    

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx469 Writing a Novel, Protagonist and Telic Flaw

9 April 2021, Writing – part xx469 Writing a Novel, Protagonist and Telic Flaw

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

If we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to novelists:

1.     What is the plot?

2.     Why is my novel so short?

3.     Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?

4.     Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?

Let’s see where we are:

1.     What can you write about?  We need a protagonist from your experience. Not necessarily your past, but from what you know.

2.     We can start with a real person.

From my experience, we started with a subject I can write about—we have a military pilot in World War II who happens to be a woman.  She must hide her sex to be able to be a military pilot and to succeed as a military pilot.  This is the telic flaw of the novel.  If you notice, the protagonist came with their own telic flaw.  This is why I write all the time, a good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.

The telic flaw defines the plotline.  In this case, the plotline is for our female pilot to get into a military aircraft and succeed.  There is much more work to do with this protagonist, the setting, and the plots around the plotline.  If we had started with seeking a plot, I suspect we would still be looking for a plot.  Look back at the plot list above—they are too generic.  With a plotline, I can populate plots around it.  Here’s your examples.

First, the plotline is for our female military pilot to get into a military aircraft.  I already wrote that she can’t do this in the normal manner.  The trick is for the author to figure out some way for this to happen—that is a plot.  I’ll just throw out some ideas and see how they work and how we can populate plots, settings, and the protagonist. 

With the idea that she can’t follow the normal process of going to boot camp, going to Officer’s Training School, and then to pilot training, or going to boot camp, going to aviation cadet training, and then to pilot training, we need to figure out some other means to the end.  She has to acquire military training and experience and acquire flight training and experience.  The only ways I can see that happening is either she comes from a wealthy family and can afford flight training or she comes from a military World War I father and family who is an aviator.  I like number two the best.

Let’s say our protagonist is the daughter of a World War I aviator who happens to own an aircraft and does barnstorming.  She has been flying since she was a child and is an accomplished pilot, barnstormer, and wingwalker.  That gives her a strong Romantic appeal as a character. 

When World War II kicks off, she joins the Woman’s Air Corps and gets her basic military training, but during training she learns that only men, at the time, can be military pilots.  She wants to fight the enemy and save the free world.  Just serving as a WAC isn’t good enough for her. 

We already have a travel plot (to get to the training), an education or school plot (with the training), a betrayal plot (with learning she can’t achieve her goals in the WACs), an achievement plot (because she wants to be a military pilot), and finally a potential redemption plot (she needs to change something to succeed).  How can our female pilot succeed?  Let’s give her more characteristics.

Let’s say her father was an American in the French forces in World War I and learned to speak French.  There he also met and married our protagonist’s mother who was French.  Therefore, our protagonist knows French and perhaps a few other languages.  Let’s say she speaks perfect French and was sent over to England as a WAC to help with intelligence and interaction with the French forces in England.  France fell in 1940 and the French forces were fighting from Britain. 

We already have a great setting, plotline, and many plots to populate the plotline.  This is all coming from a protagonist.  Next, we can continue with the example or try another one.  

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx468 Writing a Novel, Building a Protagonist

8 April 2021, Writing – part xx468 Writing a Novel, Building a Protagonist

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

If we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to novelists:

1.     What is the plot?

2.     Why is my novel so short?

3.     Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?

4.     Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?

Let’s see where we are:

1.     What can you write about?  We need a protagonist from your experience. Not necessarily your past, but from what you know.

2.     We can start with a real person.

We’ll use this to begin.  Let’s start with an actual person.  Who is the most interesting person you know or remember?  Unless you are writing a biography, we don’t need an actual person.  We really don’t need a complete person, we just need someone who will be entertaining and interesting to write about.  The point is that I need a protagonist whom I can write about that I have the skills to write about.  For example, I don’t think I would try to write about a banker protagonist.  I don’t have any experience in banking.  Even if I discovered an interesting and entertaining banking protagonist, I don’t have the experience and skills to write about this type of protagonist.  On the other hand, I am well qualified to write about military officers, and especially pilot officers.

So, let’s start with a military pilot.  That’s simple and a great start.  If we are going to write about this kind of protagonist, we need to set him or her in time and space.  The best place to set a pilot officer is during war, but you might place him or her in peace time.  If you have a female military pilot, your setting will likely be placed in the modern era.  On the other hand, you might write a novel about a female pilot who snuck into the military pilot program.  The problem with this is the closeness of military pilots and accommodations during war and in the military.  Really, unless you are very familiar with the times and experiences, you probably can’t figure out an accurate or sufficient means for your protagonist to hide her sex.  On the other hand, if you figure out some tricky means, who’s to say it wouldn’t work.  You would need to move the time and place out of the current event horizon.  For example, you might write about a woman pilot in World War I or World War II who was hiding her sex from everyone around her.  This isn’t the kind of protagonist I’ve considered before.  I think I could write about her.

Let’s use her as an example.  Okay, we have a woman who has snuck into the pilot officer ranks.  Let’s use World War II for our setting.  The first problem is we need to figure out how she could get to the position.  This would be very difficult because of the closeness and the degree of training.  In other words, most people entered some type of military boot camp style training first.  It would be impossible to hide your sex in this type of training.  There is no privacy and many mass living situations.  For a woman to be able to achieve a pilot officer position in the regular military would require some means for her to infiltrate at the end of the process.  We need at storyline already.  This is the beginning of the telic flaw.  In fact, the telic flaw of this type of novel and protagonist would be for our female pilot officer to achieve success in her chosen profession and in her aircraft.

This is an achievement and could be a redemption plot.  We can already see we have a telic flaw.  That leads us directly to a plotline.  We’ll see where this leads us.

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx467 Writing a Novel, The Protagonist

7 April 2021, Writing – part xx467 Writing a Novel, The Protagonist

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

If we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to novelists:

1.     What is the plot?

2.     Why is my novel so short?

3.     Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?

4.     Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?

The solution to all the problems above is to begin with the protagonist.  You might reply, this is just a fool’s errand—it’s as difficult to develop a good protagonist as it is to develop a plotline?  For me it isn’t.  In fact, as I wrote, I was able to write quite a few novels by developing a plotline, but as I noted, this was painful.  I personally found it easier to develop a novel and a plot from a protagonist.  This is so easy for me, I can explain it to you.  Now, if this doesn’t work for you, you can always go back to the plotline and plot method. 

The big deal here is that most writers either assume or have been taught that you must start with the plot.  I’m telling you not only do you not need to start with the plot, but starting with the protagonist will always be easier and will solve the problems above.  Let’s see how we can do this.

I like to start with the way a protagonist looks.  This is the easiest means to begin, but it isn’t the only way to begin.  Usually, I get an idea for a protagonist by thinking about a situation or circumstance.  Basically, I’m talking about an initial scene.  If you remember, you should start a scene with the setting, you can see why the appearance of the protagonist can be an ignitor to the development of the protagonist.  Whatever way we start, we definitely need more than just a description.  We need to develop a person.  So let’s start there.  Our protagonist must be someone we can write about. 

What can you write about?  I am a military test pilot who worked in special missions and special operations as well as fighter operations, heavy tactical operations, flight test, and acquisition.  I also worked in military acquisition, headquarters, and with the Army.  I traveled to almost every nation in the world to do my work.  So, I could write about almost any of these subjects.  There are other things I might write about, that is more mundane stuff.  Anything where you have great experience is fodder for writing.  For example, I went to public school and to private universities.  I could write about either of these.  My children went to parochial and private schools—I could write about these.  I’ve completed a B.S., an M.S., and a Ph.D.—I could write about any of these.  I’ve been a child—I could write about children.  I have children—I could write about children.  I’ve studied, German, French, Anglo Saxon, and Ancient Greek—I could write about that, and about history in those areas.  My life and experiences provide me subjects and protagonists to write about.

Now, I don’t advise using a real person as a protagonist.  Unless you are using a historical figure, real people usually don’t make great protagonists, but you can take the best or worst from real people and make characters and especially a protagonist.

Let’s see where we are:

1.     What can you write about?  We need a protagonist from your experience. Not necessarily your past, but from what you know.

2.     We can start with a real person.

We’ll use this to begin, next.     

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx466 Writing a Novel, Telic Flaw and the Protagonist

6 April 2021, Writing – part xx466 Writing a Novel, Telic Flaw and the Protagonist

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

As I wrote, I like starting with the protagonist.  The protagonist begins with a telic flaw.  That doesn’t mean you just pick a protagonist from the street corner and write a novel about him or her.  The development of the protagonist is a work of art in itself.  I discovered this art when I was writing my fourth and fifth novels, but didn’t really strike me until about my eighth novel.  I was dithering around the idea, but I really didn’t put everything together until then.

Most specifically, while I was unconsciously developing the novel I was writing from the protagonist, I was focused on the plotline and missed the opportunities the protagonist gave me almost entirely.  At some point I had a revelation about how I was writing my novels. 

What is interesting is that about the same time, I found a publisher for many of my earlier works.  They liked the novels very much and published them.  I feel like my later novels are even better, but my publisher went out of business just when two novels written from the protagonist were on contract and about to be published.  So sad. 

In any case, once I discovered this better way to approach writing, I’ve significantly improved my novel output and my writing.  One of my prepublication readers says the writing lost some of its ethereal quality.  I think that might be good.  I was telling a lot more in my earlier works.  I think I have a stronger showing model for my writing.  In any case, I’m sensitive about adding in more unnecessary description, but as I’ve written over and over, most modern writing doesn’t have enough description. 

So how do we change our writing from plotline centric or plot centric to protagonist centric? That’s really what it is all about.  I was trying to develop an entire plotline around a protagonist.  What I discovered is that I need to develop a protagonist and the plotline will come with him or her.  That specifically means I develop the protagonist and not the plotline.  The plotline is then developed in the novel.

This is really what happens when you write from a plot centric model.  You are constantly grasping at the plot and trying to make everything fit together in the novel. Further, you are constantly trying to refine and develop the plot.  Remember I wrote that in the plot centric method of approaching a novel, you need to have a completed plot—well, no one does.  Every writer who approaches writing this way is always searching for the final plotline and until it is on paper, it is uncomplete.  On the other hand, although the protagonist might get a little more shaping through your writing, I’ve found my protagonists don’t change radically or much at all.  It’s like putting a touch of paint on the fabric on a painting to give it a little more highlight.

If we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to new novelists:

1.     What is the plot?

2.     Why is my novel so short?

3.     Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?

4.     Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?

The solution to all the problems above is to begin with the protagonist.  That’s what I will explain next, and we will add in the use of the plots we evaluated.           

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx465 Writing a Novel, Plots and the Telic Flaw

5 April 2021, Writing – part xx465 Writing a Novel, Plots and the Telic Flaw

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

If you look at all the plots available to us, this can be a good method to use developing a novel.  On the other hand, I like to start with the protagonist.  

I wrote that you can start with either the plot or the protagonist.  Yesterday, and for a long time, I’ve been looking at the plot and plotline.  This is how we are generally taught we should write a novel or a short story.  The conventional wisdom is that a writer gets this great idea for a plot, and then writes it.  That’s what I thought for a long time.  I got some great plot ideas, but something happened in the execution. 

The first problem was the plot itself.  The problem is actually discovering and developing an entire plot.  This is extremely difficult.  By evaluating plots, I’ve shown you how you can take a plotline and populate the plots around it, but you need a plotline.  I’ve found by experience that complete plotlines are very difficult to discover all on their own.  This is why two of my novels are historical and based on historical events that basically come with their own plotline.  As I wrote, if you have a plotline, the writing of the novel is pretty easy—except for three problems.

The first problem is the novel length.  Did you ever wonder why inexperienced and new authors novels are so short?  This isn’t a problem of the author, it’s a problem of starting with a plotline.  If you have a great plotline, the problem is that without side plots and other plots populating and driving the plotline, the novel becomes very short.  Writers are taught to not add anything extraneous to the plot or to the novel.  Well, that’s what you get with a great plotline and nothing clothing it.  The plotline runs out before the novel is really complete—sorry about that.

The second problem is complexity.  A plotline all on its own and without the clothing of other plots and ideas has very little complexity.  This is also a feature of new novelists and inexperienced novelists.  You can even see it in the early works of the great writers.  Their early works are missing complexity and interactions.  Sometimes reviewers write the characters lack depth.  This lack of complexity is due to writing on a direct plotline.  You can improve it by adding plots to the plotline, but that really isn’t the best solution. 

The last problem is writer’s block.  When writing to a plotline, it is so easy to get lost with no place to go.  If the plotline is indistinct, the problem is worse, and I can guarantee you, a singular plotline without the trappings is indistinct.  You might have an idea of what should happen, but the details are just missing and writing to a plotline is very difficult. 

So, what is the solution?  It’s simple.  The solution to all the problems above is to begin with the protagonist.  That’s what I will explain next, and we will add in the use of the plots we evaluated.   

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

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Writing – part xx464 Writing a Novel, Classic Plots Conclusions

4 April 2021, Writing – part xx464 Writing a Novel, Classic Plots Conclusions

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

I’m not a huge plot person.  What I mean by that is that I develop a protagonist.  Every protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I develop the plotline to resolve the telic flaw.  I write based on scenes.  The scenes happen to develop other plots around the plotline.  This is one means of writing a novel, and it’s the means I use.

There are other ways to write a novel.  The way we have been investigating is the evaluation of plots to provision a plotline.  Let’s consider this again. 

Really, there are only two ways to write a novel, and I’ve used both methods.  This is why I currently use the protagonist centric method.  When I first started writing, everything I had been taught and everything I knew from my schooling, reading, and education told me that novel writing was plot centric.  I needed a plot first and then developed everything around that plot. 

My first novel, A Season of Honor, was based on a classic plot question with a developed theme and plot.  You can see my notes in my secrets page for the novel.  The plotline of this novel was all about rediscovered love and a plot where the bad Emperor was trying to kill a potential threat to his power and throne.  That’s a cool plot, and the novel worked great and was eventually published, but what I didn’t learn yet was that the protagonist was the real focus of the novel.  He required a second novel which happened earlier in time, The End of Honor.  Further, another novel also based on a developed plotline cultivated a new protagonist, The Fox’s Honor.  After I’d written about six novels, something happened.

After about six novels, I had a revelation.  It wasn’t the plot at all—it was the protagonist.  My novel, Athelstan Cying, started with a protagonist, and that’s how I’ve been writing my novels ever since.  But, back to the method we are currently looking at.

To write from the development of the plotline, you need a plotline.  Where I would tell you then to develop your scenes based on the plotline, the pure plotline method requires you to apply plots to the plotline to develop the telic flaw resolution.  Eventually, you always have to get back to the protagonist and the telic flaw—it’s just one method starts with the plotline and the other starts with the protagonist. 

I’m sure we can incorporate the concept of plots in both methods, but let’s focus on the plotline method.  If I have a plotline, I also have a telic flaw.  The plots must be developed to resolve the telic flaw.  Let’s look at an example.  What about Treasure Island.  The telic flaw of the novel is to find the treasure.  This is what must be resolved.  You need to pick the plots to support the plotline and resolve the telic flaw. 

First, we need to get to the treasure—this requires a travel plot.  We are talking about the 1850s, so we are traveling by ship.  The plotline is about a treasure, this gives you a crime plot or in this case a pirate plot.  That’s where the treasure came from.  You could have chosen some other method, but ships and treasure means pirates.  We need to add some plots to give us entertainment.   How about a betrayal plot with a mutiny.  This means we need a way to be the pirates on board the treasure hunting ship.  I could go on, but we are getting to the point where we need characters and a protagonist.  You can see how we started with a plotline and then added plots.  As I wrote, you eventually get to the point where you must define the characters and the protagonist. 

If you look at all the plots available to us, this can be a good method to use developing a novel.  On the other hand, I like to start with the protagonist.  We’ll look at that next.        

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx463 Writing a Novel, The Item Plot

3 April 2021, Writing – part xx463 Writing a Novel, The Item Plot

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

We defined the overall types of plots.  Almost every novel falls under the redemption, revelation, and/or achievement plots.  A novel can contain all three of these overall plots.  I’ve also stated that all comedy plots can be called zero to hero.  This is still true.  I could have placed zero to hero as an overall plot, but I left it under the achievement overall plot.  What’s interesting is that in our evaluation of the classics, only 26% of their plots included a specific zero to hero plot.  Part of the reason is the movement of literature from the Victorian to the Romantic. 

We evaluated the “overall” plot types.  It’s time to look at more specific plot types.  The next is the item plot.  Here’s the list from the classics.

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

I’ll repeat my definition of the item plot:

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

The item plot is a plot based on some kind of article.  Believe it or not, this is a relatively new type of plot.  In the past, people rarely based plots on stuff, or when they did, the stuff was of great importance.  We see this in the first item plots.  Look at The Moonstone.  The moonstone is a jewel of great value, but also of great spiritual importance.  The implication is that it also has supernatural powers.  Supernatural powers attributed to gems is not a new idea.  Think of the Hope Diamond and other notorious jewels. 

These are real articles or item based plots.  We’ll look at those that aren’t but for now, notice how these items work.  First, they are real.  They are actual items or articles and not imaginary.  Second, they actually drive the plot because they exist.  The stealing or loss of the moonstone makes the mystery and the plotline possible.  This is an important point.  Third, they actually have importance as items or articles.  A better example of this is an article like a sword or a tool.  Such an item has a use and can be used.  As long as it is used for some or its obvious purpose in the novel, there is an article plots.  This is what makes the moonstone work in the article plot.  The moonstone itself has little to no purpose except as a bauble, but as a supernatural item it could and, in the novel, is attributed with powers.  A similar type of plot could be developed from a crown jewel.  The jewel itself has little purpose, but as a part of a crown that defines a king or emperor, the item might have true worth.  Why these three tests or characteristics?  The reason is the McGuffin.

A McGuffin is a very popular kind of article or item found in many movies and in some writing.  The McGuffin is an article that first of all might not actually be real.  The Maltese Falcon is just such an item.  Now, the Maltese Falcon happens to be a real Maltese Falcon, but in the novel, it is a fake and though it drives the plot, it isn’t the actual item and it doesn’t contain the supposed treasure.  The Maltese Falcon does actually drive the plot because it exists, kind of.

There are other types of McGuffins.   For example, there are McGuffins that never make it into the story and may not actually exist.  There are also McGuffins that exist, but have no purpose beyond their existence.  You can’t do anything with them.  Is all this important, not really.

The point is this, the article plot can be an excellent type of plot.  I use them all the time in my novels.  I find them very entertainment building.  They also fit well in my novels because I write in a reflected worldview.  It is nothing for me to stick in a historical cursed or a supernatural item that is incorporated in the plot.  As I noted, this can be very entertaining.  The most important thing, however, is to remember the problem of the McGuffin.  Oh, I didn’t mention the problem with these items.

The problem with the McGuffin is that if the object is not real or has no real purpose, then the excitement about it dies out pretty quickly.  It’s like a Christmas present to a child.  If the child is expecting a shiny new toy, and receives it.  Then the fun of the getting and of the season is completed.  On the other hand, if the item isn’t at all what was expected, like socks, or there is no present from Santa, the child will be disappointed.  This is what happens with McGuffins. 

I have to say, the first time I read the Maltese Falcon and found out there was no Maltese Falcon, I wasn’t devastated, but the entire story became a bit of a disappointment to me.  It was a great turn of the story in an early McGuffin, but it left the novel incomplete to me.  This is almost always true of McGuffins in literature.  The author holds out the expectation of a really fun and entertaining object only to take it away again.  This is why I don’t advise the use of McGuffins, but also realize, actual items or articles in a plot must have real purpose.

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

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Writing – part xx462 Writing a Novel, Setting Plots Conclusions

2 April 2021, Writing – part xx462 Writing a Novel, Setting Plots Conclusions

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

We defined the overall types of plots.  Almost every novel falls under the redemption, revelation, and/or achievement plots.  A novel can contain all three of these overall plots.  I’ve also stated that all comedy plots can be called zero to hero.  This is still true.  I could have placed zero to hero as an overall plot, but I left it under the achievement overall plot.  What’s interesting is that in our evaluation of the classics, only 26% of their plots included a specific zero to hero plot.  Part of the reason is the movement of literature from the Victorian to the Romantic. 

We evaluated the “overall” plot types.  It’s time to look at more specific plot types.  The next is the setting plot.  Here’s the list from the classics.

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

I’ll repeat my definition of the setting plot:

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

I think we can see the potential of the setting plot.  I’m of the opinion that every telic flaw must come, like its protagonist with its own setting and setting plot.  For example, Harry Potty, is a messiah protagonist who happens to be a wizard.  His telic flaw is the V-guy.  He comes as a child and the setting plot that comes with him is the school setting plot.  The presumption is one of learning and education so he can eventually defeat Voldermort.  The rest of the setting comes from his character—the wizarding world, the fact he is an orphan, that he is a British boy in Britain.  Really, Harry could be set in almost any other culture, but he can’t.  You know why, right?

Think about the young adult literature and novels being developed in the world.  If you like, you can imagine those in English, but you don’t need to.  I can assure you, the internationality of the novel marketplace makes works from many nations available to the world.  The problem today, like that in the past is the dominance of the English market for novels.  I’m not sure why this is.  It may have to do with the language itself or the culture, but you rarely find novels from other languages in the world’s marketplace.  When you do, they are usually quickly translated into English. 

Harry couldn’t or wouldn’t be a character set anywhere else.  Not even America would do for Harry—the magical nature of the British Isles make them perfect settings for the boy wizard and his wizarding world.  I do the same thing in my novels.

Although the other nations in Europe and the world have potential for reflected worldview settings and intelligence operations settings, I set most of my characters in Britain and as British.  I have used, France, Africa, Asia, Russia, and the USA for many of settings, but primarily Britain.  The reasons are based in my experience, and my knowledge.  I can’t write about American Intelligence operations because I know too much about them.  I can write about British and European intelligence operations because I know what they do, but I wasn’t directly involved.

In regards to the supernatural.  Although I have used international and other nations supernatural and reflected worldview ideas to populate and as settings in my novels, the British concept of the supernatural is pretty expansive and diverse.  Who ever heard of Russian or German fairies?  There is some small body of information and belief, but nothing like that found in Britain.

The Japanese have a great body of supernatural belief and ideas, funny that islands create these myths.  The Chinese have a great body of supernatural characters and ideas.  I’ve used them for settings and characters.  Still, the British body of myths and ideas about the past are well documented and reflected in their culture and history.  Japan is similar.  That’s why I have used both Japan and China, but most specifically, Britain for my settings.

A spy who is going to be involved in the supernatural can start with many settings, but from my experience, and from my reader’s experiences, there aren’t many places to set them.  For example, if you are going to set a spy or agent in an English novel, you immediately think of the CIA or MI-6.  You might think the KGB or Spetsnaz, but those are usually the bad guys in Western thought.  You might think the SS or other Nazi organizations, but they are the bad guys.  If you are going to produce a work in English about intelligence, your setting options are pretty much defined by your protagonist.  If your protagonist is going to be a counter-spy or a double agent, your options increase but that depends on your telic flaw.  Can you see how this works?

This is why I state, the protagonist comes with a telic flaw and telic flaw defines the setting.  This gives you are setting plot.  What I did was to dig all the setting plots (or most of them) from the classics.  The point is to then use them effectively in your novels.  

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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Writing – part xx461 Writing a Novel, Prison Plots

1 April 2021, Writing – part xx461 Writing a Novel, Prison Plots

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com.  Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through 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 beginning withhttp://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when 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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

  1. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
  3. Research as required
  4. Develop the initial setting
  5. Develop the characters
  6. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  7. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  8. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  9. Write the climax scene
  10. Write the falling action scene(s)
  11. Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.

Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Blue%2BRose%2BCover%2Bproposal.jpg


The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.

Here is the scene development outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. Write the kicker         

Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.

  1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
  2. Action point in the plot
  3. Buildup to an exciting scene
  4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas.

  1. Read novels.
  2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
  3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
  4. Study.
  5. Teach.
  6. Make the catharsis.
  7. Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  This moves us on to plots and initial scenes.  As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel.  The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme.  If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme.  I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.

So, we worked extensively on the protagonist.  I gave you many examples great, bad, and average.  Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples.  Here’s my plan.

  1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
  2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
  3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
  4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
  5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
  6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
  7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
  8. Plot examples from my novels.
  9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
  10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.

Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw.  I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels.  Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.


This is all about the telic flaw.  Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw.  They are the same telic flaw.  That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.


We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot.  We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting.  All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.


For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader.  This is both the measure and the goal.  As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens.  There is much more to this.

Here is the list of classics that everyone should read.  What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.

This is the plan.  Let’s look at each novel and try to pull out the plot types, the telic flaw, and the theme of the novel. The ultimate point is we can glean plot ideas and types to add to our list.  Part of this evaluation, we can try to identify the zero and the hero of the protagonist.  All this might help us define plots and perhaps help us to develop plots for our own novels.  This is kind of like looking at art as an artist and figuring out what makes a picture successful.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 We The Living – Ayn Rand

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Dune – Frank Herbert

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchel

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

37 The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu

38 The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne

39 The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 Dracula – Bram Stoker

43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

44 Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

51 What Katy Did – Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge

52 A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

53 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

56 Kim – Rudyard Kipling

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 Beowulf – Unknown

60 The Odyssey – Homer

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

64 The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe

69 The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes

73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri

74 Hans Brinker – Mary Mapes Dodge

75Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

83 The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

84 The Miser – George Elliot

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway

87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs

88 The Death of Socrates – Plato

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

96 Matilda – Roald Dahl

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White

102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper

103 The Black Book of Communism – Various

104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace

105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas

106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

107 The Histories – Herodotus

108 Lives – Plutarch

109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London

110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner

112 The Aeneid – Virgil

This is what I did.  I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel.  I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type.  This generally gives the plotline. 


Here’s the list of plots from the 112 classics in literature. 

1.      Redemption – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%  

2.      Detective or mystery – 56, 1e – 51%

3.      Messiah – 10 – 9%

4.      End of the World – 3 – 3%

5.      War – 20 – 18%

6.      Anti-war –2 – 2%

7.      Revenge or vengeance –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

8.      Revelation –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

9.      Zero to hero – 29 – 26%

10.  Romance –1ie, 41 – 37%

11.  Achievement – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

12.  Article – 1e, 46 – 42%

13.  Travel –1e, 62 – 56%

14.  Coming of age –1ei, 25 – 23%

15.  Progress of technology – 6 – 5%

16.  Discovery – 3ie, 57 – 54%

17.  Rejected love (rejection) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

18.  Miscommunication – 8 – 7%

19.  Love triangle – 14 – 12%

20.  Betrayal – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

21.  Totalitarian – 1e, 8 – 8%

22.  Blood will out or fate –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

23.  Psychological –1i, 45 – 41%

24.  Horror – 15 – 13%

25.  Magic – 8 – 7%

26.  Mistaken identity – 18 – 16%

27.  Money – 2e, 26 – 25%

28.  Spoiled child – 7 – 6%

29.  Children – 24 – 21%

30.  Historical – 19 – 17%

31.  Legal – 5 – 4%

32.  Adultery – 18 – 16%

33.  Illness – 1e, 19 – 18%

34.  School – 11 – 10%

35.  Self-discovery – 3i, 12 – 13%

36.  Guilt or Crime – 32 – 29%

37.  Anti-hero – 6 – 5%

38.  Immorality – 3i, 8 – 10%

39.  Proselytizing – 4 – 4%

40.  Satire – 10 – 9%

41.  Reason – 10, 1ie – 10%

42.  Escape – 1ie, 23 – 21%

43.  Knowledge or Skill – 26 – 23%

44.  Camaraderie – 19 – 17%

45.  Parallel – 4 – 4%

46.  Allegory – 10 – 9%

47.  Curse – 4 – 4%

48.  Insanity – 8 – 7%

49.  Fantasy world – 5 – 4%

50.  Mentor – 12 – 11%

51.  Prison – 2 – 2%

52.  Secrets – 21 – 19%

We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature.  The question is what can we do with it?  This is the first step in evaluating our results.  I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics. 

Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots.  This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature. 

In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics.  These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots.  When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them.  Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:

Redemption:  the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.

Revelation:  the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.

Achievement:  the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw. 

I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:

Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.

Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot. 

Quality(q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

Item(i) – These are plots based on an item.

All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five.  Let’s do that:

Overall (o)

1.     Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%

2.     Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%

3.     Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%

Achievement (a)

1.     Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%

2.     Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%

3.     Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%

4.     Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%

5.     Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%

6.     Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%

7.     Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%

8.     Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%

9.     Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%

10.  Legal (a) – 5 – 4%

11.  Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

12.  Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%

13.  Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%

14.  Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%

15.  Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%

16.  Escape (a)  – 1ie, 23 – 21%

17.  Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%

18.  Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%

Quality (q)

1.     Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%

2.     Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%

3.     Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%

4.     Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%

5.     Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%

6.     Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%

7.     Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%

8.     Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%

9.     Magic (q) – 8 – 7%

10.  Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%

11.  Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%

12.  Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%

13.  Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%

14.  Satire (q) – 10 – 9%

15.  Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%

16.  Curse (q) – 4 – 4%

17.  Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%

18.  Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

Item (i)

1.     Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%

We defined the overall types of plots.  Almost every novel falls under the redemption, revelation, and/or achievement plots.  A novel can contain all three of these overall plots.  I’ve also stated that all comedy plots can be called zero to hero.  This is still true.  I could have placed zero to hero as an overall plot, but I left it under the achievement overall plot.  What’s interesting is that in our evaluation of the classics, only 26% of their plots included a specific zero to hero plot.  Part of the reason is the movement of literature from the Victorian to the Romantic. 

We evaluated the “overall” plot types.  It’s time to look at more specific plot types.  The next is the setting plot.  Here’s the list from the classics.

Setting (s)

1.     End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%

2.     War (s) – 20 – 18%

3.     Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%

4.     Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%

5.     Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%

6.     Horror (s) – 15 – 13%

7.     Children (s) – 24 – 21%

8.     Historical (s) – 19 – 17%

9.     School (s) – 11 – 10%

10.  Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%

11.  Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%

12.  Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%

13.  Prison (s) – 2 – 2%

I’ll repeat my definition of the setting plot:

Setting(s) – These are plots based on a setting.

The prison setting plot would seem to be a more prevalent setting plot type.  You see it in The Scarlet LetterThe Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities.  It seems like a very useful type of setting plot, and I think it is.  What you don’t see is the ancillary novels with implied prison plots We the Living and 1984 where the entire society seems imprisoned.  You also don’t see the children’s circumstances like A Little Princess or Oliver Twist where their young lives seem imprisoned because they have no place else to go.  Yeah, I think the prison plot setting has longer legs than our investigation of the classics would lead us to believe.

I haven’t used the classic prison plot setting, but I have used the ancillary types.  The other problem with the prison plot setting is that it is not necessarily as entertaining as we might like.  The most common environment of the prison is criminal restraint, but in history criminal restraint isn’t the best or most effective use of the prison plot setting.

There is also military prisoners and political prisoners.  This is where the prison plot setting can be very effective.  Few care about criminals—they aren’t that entertaining either, but political or military prisoners are another thing altogether.  The potential, I hate to say, entertainment from these circumstances can be great.  Perhaps a better word to use is the paths developed through the political or military prison, can be very powerful.  If you notice, the classics don’t really include much concerning the international or national socialists.  This is very surprising.  You would think that a heap of Western literature, especially, would cover these places, ideologies, and people, but they don’t.  I think this is pretty much unplowed ground for modern authors.

I have used Vichy France, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Communist China in my writing.  I don’t have any bestsellers or classics in my novels, not yet.  But, there is much to be accomplished with the hellish cultures and societies of these nations.  We don’t see much literature simply because we haven’t seen much historical separation from the events.  As time passes, more historical fiction gets written about all kinds of periods in the past.  The problem is historical separation.  A historical fiction writer doesn’t see much in writing about yesterday, but rather a thousand or ten thousand yesterdays ago.  In other words, as time goes by, the writing becomes historical and more writers get interested in writing in that historical setting.  We already see this with World War Two and World War One, writers are setting their novels in these periods.  We’ve seen a few acknowledged classics from these times and places, but not as many set in the lair of the beast, so to speak.  The few like We the Living or 1984 are seen as odd one-offs when they really represent an entire potential genre of writing. 

I think the prison setting plot has not been used enough and that it has great potential.  I recommend using it.  I recommend setting novels in the history of the Twentieth Century.  There is a lot of material and setting available to the author in that century, plus it is likely the most written about and understood century in history.     

In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.     

Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw.  Then let’s provide it a wrapper.  The wrapper is the plot.             

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

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