6 February 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 582, Not the Real 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:
- Historical 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
Short digression: I’m in the Czech Republic on a short world tour. Flew into a couple of bases here–the Czechs are delightful people.
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 earlier.
The second level of complexity is the plot. What makes a complex plot? In addition to the interweaving of the storylines, the tension and release cycle of the plot itself is directly related to the climax. This leads to the third level of complexity.
The third level of complexity is the integration of the tension and release into the climax and the revelation of the characters. That leads to the individual scenes.
The fourth level of complexity is the integration of language into the tension and release of the scenes. Figures of speech are to writing what grammar is to language.
The world of the novel is not real. The real world is truly, absolutely, and cruelly complex. The world of the novel can only be a ghost of the real, but it must stand for the real. The world of the novel is developed in the mind of the reader. This is a highly critical concept. The author fails if the writing is too detailed or not detailed enough. Too detailed and the reader is bored and discards the parts undesired. Too simple and the reader doesn’t have enough details to build the world with her imagination.
A novel can never be too complex. Complexity is not detail. Complexity, as I’ve written, is not the details of the descriptions or necessarily the details of the world of the novel (details are important, just not as the total answer to complexity).
I’ve written before, as a guide, the author should use at least 300 words to describe characters and settings. I hate to put an upper limit on this, but I’d advise no more than 500 words at a time or at the top 1000 words. You can add description as necessary and as it fits the needs of the story, but too much is too much. Now most modern authors don’t use enough description at all. Most need to add description. However, if you read many of the early Victorian novels (including George Eliot and the Bronte Sisters) you will find a surfeit of description that leads the reader to wonder just when the story will finally begin. Thackeray is almost as bad.
We want complexity. We want integration of the tension and release elements. We want the tension and release development of the climax. Do not mistake obtuse or profligate writing for complexity—it is neither. Complexity means clarity. If the writing is not clear, it can’t be complex. Use all the writer’s tools to blend complexity into your writing. Again, if the writing is not clear as water in a quiet pool, the writing is not complex, it is simply confusing. Confusing can’t be entertaining. I repeat, confusing can’t be entertaining.
The fifth level of complexity is the integration of literature and culture into the tension and release of the scenes.