14 October 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 832, The Stage of the Novel, Setting the Stage
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.
How much setting is sufficient? Here is where I hope you have a great imagination. Think of a stage in a stage play. Some stages are stark with the audience providing most of the features through their imagination. A novel never has to be this way—reject it. On the other hand, I have rarely seen a stage set so perfectly that it looks exactly like the interior or exterior of a building (or anywhere). The only place you see this kind of detail is in a movie set. So here is the difference: in a stage play, the director cannot provide a perfect and complete stage setting—in a screenplay, the author and director assumes they can provide a perfect and complete setting. The author of a novel should realize she or he can never provide a complete setting.
The setting in a novel is never as complete as that in a movie. On the other hand, the author can give touch, smell, and taste as well as hearing and seeing. In setting the stage of the novel, the author needs to give enough setting (and other description) to make the setting real in the imagination of the reader. The extent between enough and too much is broad enough that most writers don’t need to worry about too much. Every author needs to worry about too little. Here is an example:
In the early morning light, Kathrin Calloway, also known as Ceridwen, the sovereign of the Celtic lands stood at the edge of the moor that held Dozmary Pool. Just behind her stood Tilly Lyons, Leila O’Dwyer, and Lumière Diakonov. Kathrin wore a dazzling white robe with a silver belt. A silver pot stood at her feet. Lumière wore a grey robe of a similar cut. Her belt was black, and she held a black tablet in her hand. Leila and Tilly wore white dresses. They seemed a bit too elegantly dressed for a jaunt on the moor. The automobile that carried them here parked well out of sight on the other side of a stand of trees. The land was rolling, the lowland moor near the center of Cornwall. Small stands of trees and brush dotted the terrain. Heather and thistle filled the place and lifted their scent into the late spring chill.
In this example from my unpublished novel, Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si, the framework of the world is evident in setting the stage. Look at the first sentence, this is complete to set the scene, but not sufficient. In the early morning light, Kathrin Calloway, also known as Ceridwen, the sovereign of the Celtic lands stood at the edge of the moor that held Dozmary Pool. These words paint the world (and character) in broad strokes. It gives the time, the place, and begins to describe the place. I know my readers need and want more than this—it appears at the end of the paragraph: The automobile that carried them here parked well out of sight on the other side of a stand of trees. The land was rolling, the lowland moor near the center of Cornwall. Small stands of trees and brush dotted the terrain. Heather and thistle filled the place and lifted their scent into the late spring chill. With this, I place more details as well as smells and feel. This is a sufficient setting to excite and build your reader’s imagination. More may be added in the scene itself.
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