Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 568, Tension and Sentence Length Q and A

23 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 568, Tension 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.

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.
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 FreedomEscape is my 25th novel.

 Escape Cover proposal sm
Cover Proposal

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 development:

  1. Scene input (easy)
  2. Scene output (a little harder)
  3. Scene setting (basic stuff)
  4. Creativity (creative elements of the scene)
  5. Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
  6. Release (climax of creative elements)

I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:

  1. History extrapolation
  2. Technological extrapolation
  3. 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.

  1. Conflict/tension between characters
  2. Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)
  3. Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme
  4. Evolving vs static character
  5. Language and style
  6. Verbal, gesture, action
  7. Words employed
  8. Sentence length
  9. Complexity
  10. Type of grammar
  11. Diction
  12. Field of reference or allusion
  13. 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.
  14. Mannerism suggest by speech
  15. Style
  16. 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

Sentence length is directly related to pacing which is a product or should support the tension and release cycle of the novel. I will give you an example:

Ms. Clemens cried out, “Superb. That was excellent.” For a long time she didn’t stop clapping and neither did Essie’s impromptu audience. Finally, Ms. Clemens shouted, “What is your next piece. Play the next one, please, Essie.”

Essie jumped a little. The chapel quieted. More students and teachers entered quickly and quietly. No one ever remembered getting this kind of concert before the beginning of the semester and in the middle of the day.

Essie arranged the stops. She checked the instrument. Then with a solemn and slow movement, she raised her hands and closed her eyes. She began to play an organ arrangement of Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets. If the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue was rousing and earth shattering, Jupiter began with strong gentleness and grew and grew and grew until the organ under Essie’s hands and feet created a roaring music of the spheres. Jupiter rose majestically and profoundly at the hands of Essie. Many sat with their mouths open and their hearts wildly beating. The music seemed to cut through their bodies and touch their souls.

When the last note died out, a cheer arouse from the growing crowd. The clapping continued until someone shouted, “More.” And another caught up the call, “Encore.” The entire chapel audience began to yell, “Encore, encore.”

Ms. Clemens climbed slowly up to where Essie sat at the organ. She knelt beside her. Sweat covered Essie’s brow. Her hands shook slightly. Sunlight ringed her dark hair. Ms. Clemens smiled and touched Essie’s shoulder, “If it is not too much to ask, could you play another piece? I know you were only required to prepare two pieces of a specified length, but…” she pointed out at the expectant crowd in the chapel, “It seems you have attracted the attention of other music lovers. Perhaps you have a longer one you could play.”

Essie nodded. She moved the stops and checked the manometer. She raised her hands and Ms. Clemens quickly returned to her place. The chapel quieted almost at once and the dulcet, mellow tones of the organ portion of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 suddenly rose from Essie’s fingers and feet. The music sounded sublime. Although the piece was longer than the others, no one moved. No one dared breathe while Essie made the world stop for a moment with her music. As the last great runs of the piece hung in the bright air of the chapel everyone rose out of their seats. The final notes filled the place, and Essie raised her hands with her eyes still closed. In the quiet trembled a tense moment of silence, then everyone began to cheer. They clapped wildly.

Essie turned slightly toward them—amazement filled her face. This seemed so different from the quiet and sedate worshipers of Saint Michael’s and All Angels Church.

Ms. Clemens moved up to her. She stood below Essie in the choir, “Essie, stand and give a bow.”

Essie stared at her, “I should bow?”

Ms. Clemens clapped. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve, “Yes, a bow. And more than one if you wish.”

Perhaps few could see the short girl who slipped off the organ bench and stood at the side of the organ to give her first bow to an audience of any kind.

After a few moments, the cheering and the clapping slowed, then stopped. The crowd waited expectantly for more.

Ms. Clemens turned around with her face in a pucker. She whirled back to Essie, “Essie, do you have more you can play?”

Essie cocked her head and shrugged, “Much more.” She started to return to the organ bench.

Mrs. Lyons stepped up beside Ms. Clemens, “That is quite enough. She’ll wear herself out.”

In this piece, Essie is being tested for a scholarship in music to a girl’s school. She already played the Bach piece (the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor). The buildup in tension is Essie playing the music. The release is the impromptu audience’s response. Note, the pacing in the descriptions of the music. Look at this:

Essie arranged the stops. She checked the instrument. Then with a solemn and slow movement, she raised her hands and closed her eyes. She began to play an organ arrangement of Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets. If the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue was rousing and earth shattering, Jupiter began with strong gentleness and grew and grew and grew until the organ under Essie’s hands and feet created a roaring music of the spheres. Jupiter rose majestically and profoundly at the hands of Essie. Many sat with their mouths open and their hearts wildly beating. The music seemed to cut through their bodies and touch their souls.

For Essie’s actions, the pacing is short and terse with short sentences. This is buildup. When the music begins, the description becomes long complex sentences. This is building the tension with pacing. When the music stops, the release is like this:

When the last note died out, a cheer arouse from the growing crowd. The clapping continued until someone shouted, “More.” And another caught up the call, “Encore.” The entire chapel audience began to yell, “Encore, encore.”

Short sentences tight pacing. If you review the entire example, you will see how the pacing is tight with mainly short sentences in the release and long pacing during the music portions. In addition, this long pacing is letting the reader know the length of the music. Pacing and sentence length is also used to show the elapse of time. A writer should not write: a week passed. Neither should they write: she played a piano solo. Weeks denote time and a piano solo is too powerful a description to give a simple: she played a piano solo. Pacing demands the author give words and description to provide tension and release—or at least give an impression of time.

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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About L.D. Alford

L. D. Alford is a novelist whose writing explores with originality those cultures and societies we think we already know. His writing distinctively develops the connections between present events and history—he combines them with threads of reality that bring the past alive. L. D. Alford is familiar with technology and cultures—he is widely traveled and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Dayton, and is a graduate of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School. L. D. Alford is an author who combines intimate scientific and cultural knowledge into fiction worlds that breathe reality. He is the author of three historical fiction novels: Centurion, Aegypt, and The Second Mission, and three science fiction novels: The End of Honor, The Fox’s Honor, and A Season of Honor.
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