29 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 574, Levels of Complexity 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 9. 9. Complexity
Complexity is related to the value of the unstated or the intentionally understated. Complexity comes out of tension and release.
What is complexity?
The first level of complexity is the theme. I discussed theme complexity yesterday.
The second level of complexity is the plot. What makes a complex plot? Many times reviewers will note that a book has unexpected plot twists or an unexpected climax. What they are talking about is the tension and release cycle of the scenes and the novel. I’ve mentioned before, tension and release is the basis of entertainment in a novel. Let’s think about a simple theme and a simple plot. Simple theme: boy falls in love with the girl next door. Simple plot based on this theme: the boy goes to school to become a farmer and the girl stays home to become a farmer’s wife. The boy and girl share letters and meet as often as possible. They marry and are happy ever after.
I didn’t tell you I would describe an entertaining plot—just a simple plot. Let’s look at a complex theme and plot. A more complex theme: a university professor falls in love with an odd girl who is a highly placed translator in the USSR with shaky connections to the West. The plot: the girl was gravely injured during the fighting in Berlin and brought into the USSR at the end of WWII. She was tortured during the war and can’t remember anything at all before her injuries. She begins to have dreams of the torture and wakes the apartment. The apartment commissar threatens to send her to a people’s asylum. Her sponsor brings her to a convent in Moscow to prevent her from being sent to the people’s asylum. The convent discovers the girl knows many languages in spite of her youth and uses her as a translator for the church. The NKVD takes an interest in her translating skills, and hires her from the church. Stalin takes an interest in the girl following a translation incident she resolves. Stalin puts the girl in charge of an NKVD office and gives her authority over USSR language programs. The girl comes to the University to learn Chinese to support the USSR. Her teacher is the professor. There is more.
This is part of the theme and plot from my novel Shadow of Darkness. It is a yet unpublished novel, and I didn’t give you the full complexity of the plot. I just listed a part to indicate what complexity in plot means. You can see in the very short and nondetailed plot synopsis, there is a lot going on in this novel. The interconnections between the girl, her past, her injuries, her skills, her culture, her languages, and her work display the complexity. You can see the character is very complex. Indeed all the characters are complex. I didn’t detail many of the character interactions, but you can see in the plot, potential mental illness, infirmity, trust, power, danger, etc. The plot isn’t convoluted, but you can see twists and unexpected events and results. They may be unexpected, but they are definitely not unreal or illogical. I mean by this, when they occur, the reader is astutely aware of the logic and inevitability of them in spite of their unpredictability at the beginning. Complexity of plot means the characters and the plot interact with deep, unspoken, and intentionally understated motives including real human drives and events. In the plot description, I didn’t give even a tenth of the large scene events that drive the novel. I’m not sure this fully conveys the concept of complexity, but I’ll try from a different standpoint next.
The third level of complexity is the integration of the tension and release into the climax and the revelation of the characters.
The fourth level of complexity is the integration of language into the tension and release of the scenes.
The fifth level of complexity is the integration of literature and culture into the tension and release of the scenes.