19 November 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 868, more Examples, Dinner and Tea Conversations, Developing Conversation on the Stage of the Novel
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:
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
All conversations follow a similar development and cycle of events. If an author is sensitive to this development and cycle, he can write more natural sounding (read realistic) conversation. The cycle of conversation moves like this: greetings, introductions, casual words, deeper words, ending. Let’s look at the ending.
I like dinner and tea conversations. No one is awake enough for a good breakfast conversation, and most lunches are relatively quick compared to dinner. You can bring things up at lunch, but everyone just looks around in embarrassment when you do. Lunch is definitely not the time for deep conversation, but dinner and tea are. Okay, I know most Americans and few British people take tea anymore, but those who do, especially ladies, do a lot of conversing at every level around tea. Tea is civilized and close—unless you are on a cruise ship, but that’s a completely different setting. I’ve never set a scene on a “cruise” ship. I have had my characters traverse the oceans on an ocean liner, but that isn’t the same as a “cruise” ship.
Here is another example of a beginning and an ending at tea. This is from my yet unpublished novel Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse. You can see all the parts I mentioned.
I realize that conversations are difficult to write—especially at the beginning. For those who are experts already, here is an example of how I write conversation. For those who are new to this, here is how I write conversation. I’ll annotate on the way through.
They stepped to the door and Sorcha gave the bell a pull. A tall butler opened the door. He bowed, “Good afternoon, Ms. Davis. You are expected.” [Greetings]
Sorcha handed him her coat, “Afternoon, Herbert. This is Ms. Shig.” [Introductions]
Herbert gave Shiggy a bow, “Good afternoon, Ms. Shig. Welcome to Rosewood House. Do you have a card?” [Cultured introductions]
“She’s with me Herbert. As you said, we are expected.”
“Come on, show us in. Hand him your coat, Shiggy.”
Shiggy gave her coat to the butler and they followed him down a wide foyer with family pictures on both sides. He led them to the back of the house to a set of French doors. Herbert opened the French doors. Inside, Shiggy could see a sunroom filled with all kinds of greenery. Some of the plants appeared to be blooming…many oddly out of season. Herbert put up his hand, “If you will please wait here, I’ll announce you.”
Sorcha ignored him and followed quietly just behind him. Shiggy followed Sorcha. Shiggy wasn’t certain Herbert knew they stepped directly behind him. They wound around planters and plants until a sitting area came in sight. An elderly woman sat in a large white rattan chair. Before her lay a rattan sofa and on either side smaller rattan chairs. In the center of everything sat a low tea table.
Before Hebert could say a word, Sorcha stepped forward and struck a pose, “Good afternoon Grandmother, I’ve brought my new assistant with me.” [Greeting and introduction]
Herbert turned and scowled at Sorcha.
Mrs. Calloway waved them forward and Herbert back, “Herbert, don’t let her intimidate you…any more than usual. Bring us our tea.” [Casual words and tea]
Herbert immediately regained his composure, “Yes, ma’am.”
Sorcha stepped toward Mrs. Calloway. Shiggy hurried right behind her. Mrs. Calloway had once been very pretty—perhaps bordering on beautiful. Her face still sported freckles and blazing green eyes. She had heart shaped lips in a heart shaped face. Her hair was red, and she was thin, perhaps too thin. She wasn’t very tall either. None of those characteristics seemed to affect her negatively. She spoke with a thick, but not improving Scottish brogue that made her a little difficult to understand. She always showed a slightly harried look that was backed by an overly brisk personality. And in spite of stereotypes, she did have a raging temper. It was a prideful secret that she kept it in check almost all of the time. When she let it out, it scared her and others. She didn’t let it out often, not unless it was absolutely necessary. She also looked in some ways very much like Sorcha.
Sorcha took Shiggy’s hand and pulled her to Mrs. Calloway, “Mrs. Calloway, I would like to present my new assistant, Ms. Shig.” [More introductions]
Mrs. Calloway stuck out her hand to Shiggy, “Ms. Shig, my foot.”
Shiggy trembled slightly as she took the old lady’s hand.
Mrs. Calloway smiled, “Ah, I understand completely, but I do like her original name. It is so strongly Celtic, how can I not like it?”
Sorcha flopped down on the sofa, “You surely don’t mean her given name.”
“Heavens no. Shiggy fits her well, just let her go by Shiggy Tash.”
Mrs. Calloway still held Shiggy in a viselike grip.
“But Grandmother, what about her cover. She’s dead. I don’t need her resurrected.”
Shiggy tried to pull her hand back.
“You already changed her numbers and everything else.”
“Yes, Grandmother, but I’d have to flush her out of the system entirely again.”
“She’s already dead—don’t sweat it, just fix it. I like Tash.” Mrs. Calloway turned her gaze toward Shiggy, “She is feisty isn’t she?”
“Yes, Grandmother, she is feisty and unusual by far.”
“I can tell that. Her mind is completely convoluted. I like it very much. She doesn’t ever stop thinking…ever.” [Moving into deep words here, but around Shiggy]
“Yes, Grandmother, that’s one of her problems.” [They are talking around Shiggy about Shiggy’s issues]
“I hope you don’t intend to train her out of that…”
“Never. It’s one of her many faults, but it’s really a wonderful fault.”
“Yes, it is.” Mrs. Calloway gently squeezed Shiggy’s hand, “I’m sorry, dear. We are talking around you. Please sit and we’ll have tea.” [Movement back to casual words]
Mrs. Calloway finally let go of Shiggy, and she slumped into the seat on the left. At that moment, Herbert pushed a tea cart into the room. Mrs. Calloway waved, “Come Herbert, we’re ready for tea.”
Shiggy gave a slightly haunted look.
Herbert served her tea. Shiggy didn’t say anything, so Herbert filled a plate for her with biscuits and sandwiches. Herbert finished serving everyone and departed.
Sorcha picked up her cup and saucer, “Shiggy drink your tea.”
Shiggy picked up her cup and took a sip.
Mrs. Calloway put her hand on Shiggy’s, “Ms. Tash, please relax. Have a pleasant tea with me.”
Shiggy sipped her tea, “How did you know my name was Tash?”
Mrs. Calloway gave her a very pleasant smile, “Sorcha briefed me.”
Mrs. Calloway sipped her tea, “Now let’s talk about Shiggy.” [Direct movement into deeper words]
“There is not much to talk about Shiggy.”
“Ah, but there is. I’ve not seen your folder, but I understand it is monumental.”
Shiggy glanced toward Sorcha, “I caused some problems before.”
“Indeed you did. Sorcha and I have been watching for someone like you for a long time. You are the Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Diarmuid of the love spot. He was a warrior who could not do right no matter what the circumstance. In the end, he could seduce any woman in the world, but not the one he wanted. Because of his curse, he lost the greatest things he had in his life—his love, his house, his dog.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Diarmuid was also one of the greatest warriors of his age. He was reputed to have killed over 3,400 fighters during a single battle and saved his sovereign lord and lady. Such a greatness is a power in the world.”
“But if he was such a screw-up… and cursed.”
“His successes overwhelmed his mistakes. Although his own life was not very well lived, he still lived a life of greatness. Diarmuid is a dark hero of the ancient age.”
“I don’t wish to be a dark anything.”
“Unfortunately, sweet Shiggy, you don’t have much choice in the matter. Your only hope is that you break the mold of fate by bowing your neck to the Dagda. You will still be a dark hero, but perhaps not an unsuccessful one in life.”
“Who or what is the Dagda?”
“I’m certain Sorcha told you, the Dagda is the Lord God Almighty.”
Shiggy grinned, “Are you about to hand me a tract?”
Mrs. Calloway’s face fell. She stared at Shiggy and raised her chin. Her neck turned red. Slowly, she controlled herself. She took a deep breath and sighed, “I’m am much better than I was a few years ago and a few generations ago. In an earlier age, you would not have lived a moment longer.”
Shiggy ducked her head.
Mrs. Calloway smoothed her skirts, “Shiggy, you are obviously progressively trained. It is time you learned about the real world. You have already met fallen angels, the undead, and…well, we’ll not say at this moment.”
“I have also met a dragon, ma’am.”
“Ah, yes, add a dragon to the list. My point is this, how can you joke about the Dagda when you have experienced these miracles?”
“I don’t understand how one equates with the other, ma’am.”
“My dear girl, if there are creatures such as fallen angels, dragons, and the undead, this presumes there must be a God and, in fact, the God. The supernatural means something exists beyond the physical world you perceive. This something is the Dagda. We trust in the Dagda and His Son. This is the point of everything in the world.”
“But it is all so preposterous, ma’am. That people would need a savior from their sin…”
“Shiggy, I can’t imagine a person who more than you needs such a savior.”
Shiggy stared at her feet, “Could there be such a savior like that for me?”
“I assure you there is. You needn’t believe me. You should continue to contemplate these things. I know you will—it is your character. Now, about you Sorcha.” [Transition from one target to another still in deep words.]
Sorcha frowned, “I didn’t think I was on the docket today.”
“You, dear, are always on the docket. That is your character. You went to Belfast House. Did you cause any problems for my dear George?”
“I was visiting Leila about a weapon and teasing Shiggy with Scáth and Heidi.”
“I hope you meant introducing Shiggy to Scáth and Heidi.”
“Of course I did Grandmother.”
“Why a weapon, and have you finally given up on George?”
Sorcha selected another small sandwich, “I gave up on George a long time ago, and every Diarmuid needs his Móralltach.”
Mrs. Calloway glared, “I want this to be very clear, Sorcha—do not make Leila or George upset in the slightest. I do not need her on my bad list, and Heidi can be patently dangerous.”
“I understand. Aren’t I allowed a little mischief every now and then?”
“Sorcha, so far you have not unduly irritated Leila, but she has been very patient and gentle about it. You are not a patient or gentle person. I’d like you to form an alliance with some unattached gentleman.”
Sorcha laid her head backward over the sofa, “Should I pick one up off the street?”
“James and I will attend Sveta and Daniel’s Christmas party this year. You have been invited. Dress nicely and bring a friend.”
“Yes, yes, Grandmother. I just haven’t found a man I really could like or trust.”
“George Mardling took you on a pity date more than ten years ago and you created an infatuation that has persisted longer than anyone could imagine. Just give it up. I need you to produce more great grandchildren for me before I die.”
Sorcha sat straight and wrinkled her nose, “Well, give up on that idea. I don’t intend to have any. Shiggy is enough of a brat for me right now.”
“I have something for Shiggy that should help her a lot.” Mrs. Calloway pressed her hands together, “Angel Trumpet, Angel Trumpet come to me.”
Almost immediately, something flitted from the far reaches of the room toward them. It moved very quickly. It stopped directly on the left side of Mrs. Calloway. It was a small woman with white wings and dressed completely in white gossamer. She was about the same size as Ashly, but her hair was blond and her eyes a blazing blue. Her skin looked nearly as pale as Ashly’s. The small woman curtsied very pleasantly to Mrs. Calloway, “You called, your Majesty.”
Mrs. Calloway smiled, “I did indeed call. I know I will need to ask your actual sovereign, but I would like you to swear your allegiance to Ms. Shiggy Tash for the purpose of warning her when her actions will breach the Dagda’s commandments.”
The small woman sounded slightly breathless, “You wish me to act as her conscious?”
“Precisely. Do you think you can do that?”
The small woman flitted toward Shiggy and looked her up and down, “She has problems knowing right from wrong?”
“Her judgement is also poor.”
The little woman plucked her lips, “I just might be able to do something with this one.”
Mrs. Calloway laughed, “That’s why I called you, sweet.”
Sorcha let out a big grin, “Another spy on Shiggy. Maybe Angel Trumpet can keep her in line, and I won’t have to beat her as much.”
Mrs. Calloway motioned for silence, “If you think you are up to it, Angel Trumpet, I’ll assign her to you.”
Shiggy sucked on her lips, “Don’t I get any say in this?”
Sorcha, Mrs. Calloway, and Angel Trumpet said at once, “No, of course not.”
Shiggy collapsed in a funk.
Sorcha remarked, “You know there might be some fireworks. Angel is disgustingly Seelie and everyone else at Sherwood House is Unseelie.”
Mrs. Calloway smiled, “I expect a little excitement. Angel is in charge of making Shiggy aware when she is about to do something wrong.”
Shiggy glanced sideways at Angel.
Mrs. Calloway smiled happily, “I’m so glad we could meet and work everything out. By the way, Shiggy, this is Ms. Angel Trumpet. I believe she likes to be called Angel. Angel Trumpet, this is Ms. Shiggy Tash. If you would please, Angel…”
Angel put her hand over her heart, “I, Angel Trumpet, shall warn Ms. Shiggy Tash when she is about to do something foolish or wrong. I will also act as her advisor and mentor. I do swear by the One and All.” The air filled with static electricity and Angel’s hair poofed out.
Shiggy remarked, “You didn’t have to say anything about advising or mentoring. I get plenty of that from Ms. Davis.”
Angel crossed her arms.
Mrs. Calloway, Sorcha, and Angel all looked smug. Shiggy felt trapped.
Mrs. Calloway clapped her hands, “This has been a most productive tea. Where’s your next visit Sorcha?”
“We’re heading back home. Don’t look so sad, Shiggy. Drink your tea.”
Mrs. Calloway raised her cup, “Here, here.” [This is not exactly a parting salutation, but it is a great way to close out a conversation. Let’s talk a little about this.]
Many times the scene ends before the conversation ends. In the above example, the end of the scene and the end of the conversation is shown, but that is not the end of the tea nor the complete end of the conversation. In real life, the characters would continue in light (or deep) conversation until the complete end of time, etc. Then they would get the butler and their coats and depart the premises. In the novel (and most any novel) you don’t need to report every incident, meal, word, bathroom break, drink, and etc. your characters take. Some things, events, words are not on the stage of the novel. It is not necessary for the author to include them. So don’t. The purpose of a novel and a scene is to entertain and nothing more. The purpose is not to tell every detail of the life of the protagonist—that’s just boring. Perhaps this is a subject we need to look at a little bit more in depth.
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