10 October 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 828, The Stage of the Novel, Setting the Initial Scene
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, proposed title, Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.
I just started writing my 27th novel, working title, Claire, potential title Sorcha: Enchantment and the Trainee. This might need some tweaking. The theme statement is something like this: Claire (Sorcha) Davis accepts Shiggy, the dangerous screw-up, into her Stela branch of the organization and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si. Essie is my 26th novel.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I started writing my 28th novel, working title Red Sonja.
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)
How to begin a novel. Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea. I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement. Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement. Here is an initial cut.
Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.
Let’s go back to the beginning. I’ll use my newest novel as an example. It’s a historical novel, and you can see the theme statement just above. Let’s look at a novel from the standpoint of a stage play. A novel is not a stage play or a screenplay, but the author should approach some aspects of the novel from this vantage point.
The first step of any scene is the setting. Without the setting, there is no world for the novel to take place in. Without the setting, there is no place for the action or conversation or characters to move around in. You must have a setting or you have no novel.
For some reason, most modern authors don’t provide enough description in their settings. I’m not writing about the Victorian era of page after page of insipid description. I’m writing about enough description to properly set the world. The first question should be how much is enough? Zero is definitely not enough. Every setting, major character, and critical item needs at least 300 words of description when initially introduced. Every secondary setting, character, and item requires at least 100 words of description when initially introduced. This comes from Arlo Guthrie, Jr.’s Field Guide to Writing Fiction. This is an excellent book for the writer. Getting a copy can be difficult.
How much is too much description. Well…Victorian era style is just too much. The problem with too little is there is no world for the novel. Arlo Guthrie Jr.’s recommendations are an excellent starting point. The problem of too much means the author infringes on the imagination of the reader. The author can’t fully understand how much is too much, but a reader can. The reader needs room for their imagination to breathe. The author should write enough description to provide the framework and power of the world of the novel. Too much mutes the imagination and too little makes too sparse a world.
I think my novels are great examples of how to set a scene. Every novelist likely thinks this about their writing. In addition to Arlo Guthrie Jr., I also try to follow the example of Jack Vance in description. Jack Vance provides an almost perfect balance of description and lack of description to build his worlds. Since he writes mainly science fiction and fantasy, Jack Vance shows how to build complete imaginary worlds without too much or too little description.
I’ll try to provide you with some good examples from my works.
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