30 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 575, Plot 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? Plots should be very complex. One degree of complexity in a plot is the development of the plot in the revelation of the characters. So let’s start with a protagonist. Our protagonist is becoming insane in the plot of the novel. The plot should depict the slow but sure descent of the character into insanity. I have an even better example, and one you can see for yourself. You can read my novel, Aksinya, with commentary in my blog—see above for details.
Aksinya is all about a young woman who calls a demon. The novel is about Aksinya’s descent into temptation and sin. Each new temptation leads into deeper sin and another temptation. In this single level, the novel is deeply complex. At each point, the demon’s temptations seem simple and in some cases reasonable—the results are always negative. The complexity is the degree of interwoven events all leading to a single point—the climax. This is only one level of complexity in the novel. The second degree of complexity in any plot is the storylines.
In the case of Aksinya, one of the primary storylines is her temptation. This in itself is a whole level of complexity, but in addition and interwoven in that storyline are many other storylines. For example, Aksinya is tempted to take a lady-in-waiting, Natalya. Natalya presents an entirely different and new interwoven storyline. Natalya’s storyline is dependent on Aksinya’s and eventually, we see Aksinya’s temptation is interwoven with Natalya’s storyline. There are still other storylines. The demon tempts a teacher-nun, and he tempts a young man who becomes infatuated with Aksinya. Add to that the storylines of Aksinya’s Uncle and Aunt, the Archbishop, the Orthodox Archpriest and a priest in Aksinya’s ecclesia.
A plot is complex, first because the primary storyline is complex and second because the other storylines in it integrate perfectly with the primary storyline. Remember—never include anything extraneous—so no extraneous storylines. That means no non-integrated storylines are allowed.
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.