22 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 567, Pace and Sentence Length Q and A
Announcement: Ancient Light is delayed due to the economy. You can read more about it at http://www.ancientlight.com. Ancient Light includes the second edition of Aegypt plus Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness. I’ll keep you updated.
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 with http://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.
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.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my 26th novel, working title, Shape, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Escape from Freedom. Escape is my 25th novel.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I’m on my first editing run-through of Shape.
I’m an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action–in fact, to write any novel.
- Scene input (easy)
- Scene output (a little harder)
- Scene setting (basic stuff)
- Creativity (creative elements of the scene)
- Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
- Release (climax of creative elements)
I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:
- History extrapolation
- Technological extrapolation
- Intellectual extrapolation
Creativity is like an extrapolation of what has been. It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect). Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.
One of my blog readers posed these questions. I’ll use the next few weeks to answer them.
- Conflict/tension between characters
- Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)
- Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme
- Evolving vs static character
- Language and style
- Verbal, gesture, action
- Words employed
- Sentence length
- Type of grammar
- Field of reference or allusion
- Tone – how tone is created through diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.
- Mannerism suggest by speech
- Distinct manner of writing or speaking you employ, and why (like Pinter’s style includes gaps, silences, non-sequitors, and fragments while Chekhov’s includes ‘apparent’ inconclusiveness).
Moving on to 8. 8. Sentence length
Tension and release drives pacing which drives sentence length. Now, let’s look at a little different idea about sentence length in writing. One modern idea is that a sentence should never be longer or more verbose then necessary. On the surface, this sounds good, but I’m not enamored with this idea, although I do hold to it to a degree.
In my opinion, the entertainment of the writing is the highest goal. This means tension and release which drives strong pacing. The goal is entertainment and not terse or nonverbose sentences. If your goal in writing is a perfect expression of the English language, you really shouldn’t be writing fiction. On the other hand, too much verbosity and inattention to sentence construction (I don’t mean grammar, I mean length and types of construction) will ruin the pacing of the novel. More than that, such inattention will ruin the tension and release cycle. Without tension and release, you have bland (or worse) writing.
Now, back to the idea of paring sentences. I wrote before about words and grammar to reduce in your writing. The point is to take words that are mainly identity and flavorless such as was, were, and had, and replace them with stronger action words. In addition, was and were are indicators in many cases of the present participle (-ing), of indirect address (was done by), or indicative of identity (there were, it was). Cleaning up these types of grammar and sentence construction will reduce the length of the sentence and improve readability. So, from a simplistic standpoint, she was running, can easily become she ran. If the intended pacing is terse and short this is great. On the other hand, if the pacing should be drawn out for tension and release, she was running could become, she ran with easy grace. Suddenly, the pacing is extended and the obvious purpose is to slow the tension and release cycle. In many cases, the author will want to extend and delay release in the tension and release cycle as long as possible—this is accomplished through pacing.