1 December 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 880, Novel Development, Characters and Character Arcs
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.
These are the steps I use to write a novel:
- Design the initial scene
- Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
- Research as required
- Develop the initial setting
- Develop the characters
- Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
- Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
- Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
- Write the climax scene
- Write the falling action scene(s)
- Write the dénouement scene
Here is my list of ways an author might add extraneous writing to a novel. Let’s look at the second.
- Material not relevant to the climax or plot.
- Characters or character arcs not relevant to the climax or plot.
- Side stories.
- Information not relevant to the climax, setting, or plot.
- Excessive storylines.
- Lack of a sufficient telic flaw.
- Incorrect protagonist.
In some types of literature, it is not uncommon to find extraneous characters or character arcs. A character arc is a storyline. An extraneous character arc is a storyline that doesn’t support the revelation of the protagonist, the telic flaw, or the climax. It is also possible for an author to include a character or characters who are extraneous. Let’s start with that. There is no problem with introducing and even describing characters who are only peripheral to the protagonist, the telic flaw, or the climax. Just don’t get into a habit of it. Legitimate places you might find peripheral characters are during the introduction of a room full of strangers or family members. For strangers, I just don’t introduce unless they are historically relevant, but I do families. Note, that action based characters who forward the plot in any way are not peripheral. For example, the server at a restaurant or the greeter. These are necessary to the plot or storyline movement. You don’t necessarily need to introduce or describe them, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt.
Truly peripheral characters are those who don’t further the plot or legitimate storyline, but are connected to the protagonist in some way. As I mentioned, I usually introduce family members at appropriate gatherings. There is a specific purpose in this. Otherwise, peripheral characters are simply setting elements. This is the distinction and the point. When characters act as setting elements, they exist on the stage of the novel—they might move around, they might converse (usually not), but they can’t affect the storyline or plot except in the context of the setting (the stage). On the other hand, once these characters begin to interact with the protagonist, the protagonist’s helper, or the antagonist, they become creative elements in the novel. A character who becomes a creative element must further the plot, protagonist revelation, or the climax or they shouldn’t be included in your novel. Examples of these types of characters are aborted protagonist’s helpers. For example, you introduce a secretary to the protagonist, and they interact strongly in an early scene, but then the protagonist acts alone thereafter. In this case, the author should either write the character more strongly in the novel, make the early interaction less, or get rid of the character altogether. I’ll get more into this.
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