16 October 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 834, The Stage of the Novel, Secrets
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.
In setting the stage of the novel follow my rules for writing 4a above:
Don’t show (or tell) everything.
4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
Let’s talk a little about secrets. I don’t know where the idea came about that normal novels don’t have secrets. All novels are the revelation of secrets. The reason for this is that every novel is the revelation first of the characters and second of the plot. The characters and the plot are unknown by the readers at the beginning of the novel. The author reveals the characters—that’s what a novel is all about. Because the characters are revealed, the protagonist’s life in the novel and telic flaw is revealed. This revelation of life and telic flaw is the plot.
A novel is first entertaining, second a revelation of the characters, and third a revelation of the plot. The revelation of the characters and the plot are supposed to be the entertaining parts. This is why with great novels, readers say, “I loved the characters.” With mediocre novels, a reader might say, “I enjoyed the plot, or the ending was unexpected.” What else is a reader going to say when they don’t like the characters much? When I read a novel, I want to love the characters. Even if the plot and theme is a little stinky. If the characters are great—the novel is great.
You want an example? I had a chance to do some intensive reading to clear out my pile. I wanted light reading so I picked up some YA novels I was interested in. The first was the Maximum Ride novels. These are novels about children who were modified with animal DNA to have animal and superhuman characteristics. In the case of Maximum Ride (a girl) and her flock, they are avian humans. The character of Maximum Ride is wonderful. She is a pathetic character who is a leader. Remember, female, young, not helpless but persecuted are great pathetic characters. The characters are rich and raw plus fun. The plot, not so much. So much deus ex machina I can barely stand it. They win the lottery every time. Plus, when they need a new skill, they magically have a new skill. The plot is puke, but the characters are wonderful. The author keeps up this pouty smart-mouthed dialog with the girl Maximum that is really creative and interesting. So, in these novels, you have great characters and pretty terrible plots. On the other hand, I also read Richard Riordan’s YA novels about Egyptian god-kids. The characters are okay, but the plot isn’t too bad. Still a bunch of deus ex machina and a stupid end of the world theme. Really, how many times must the world be at the brink before someone begins to write about people and not the end of the world? The characters are pretty weak and whimpy, but the plot turns and the tension and release in the novel drives it well.
These are typical YA novels today. The writing isn’t great, but the storylines and characters are fantastic to okay. They show what an author can do with strength in carefully revealed characters and plot.
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