11 October 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 829, The Stage of the Novel, more 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.
Most modern authors do not provide enough description so I won’t complain about any author who describes too much. However, it is definitely possible to include too much description. The problem with too much description is that it can provide too much information to the reader and that can short circuit the reader’s imagination.
How much is too much? I wrote that 300 words is a good number for most descriptions. Perhaps 500 words is a reasonable top end, but with finesse an author might build a 1000 word description that is usable. But why write such a needless and long description? The trick of description is to provide enough to create the images in the mind of the reader—anything longer than that is unnecessary. For example, I can write about a chair:
The yellow upholstered chair.
This is sufficient to describe the chair. You might add:
The yellow upholstered wingback chair.
This is a different type of chair. This is sufficient.
The yellow upholstered wingback chair with twin high backs.
Is this repetitious or just confusing. You might add:
The yellow upholstered wingback chair had a dull sheen.
Really, any more than this is becoming a bit too much—it’s just a chair. If there are more characteristics you need to describe, then go ahead, but realize that enough for the reader to picture the item (in this case a chair) you mean is sufficient. You don’t need any more than this. I’ll say it again—most modern writers don’t give enough description. Most modern writers don’t give you a chair. You gotta set the stage. Without a world for your characters to move in you don’t have a novel. When your characters sit, tell me about the chair they are sitting in. Let me see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, hear it. I mean, as necessary.
The yellow upholstered wingback chair had a dull sheen and smelt of elderberries.
This is what I am trying to give you. Write enough description to build a picture for your reader. Too much is too much. Too little is a crime.
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