7 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 916, Publishing, Examples from 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.
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
Would you like to write a novel that a publisher will consider? Would you like to write a novel that is published? How about one that sells? The initial paragraphs should set the scene, begin with action, and introduce the protagonist. Hemingway’s, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath both demonstrate correct use of the initial scene or at least the first paragraphs show a grasp of how to excite the reader with desire to read the novel. Let’s gather more evidence. One of my favorite authors is Ayn Rand. Let’s see how a couple of her novels fare. First, her most popular and the longest legitimate novel in the English language Atlas Shrugged:
“Who is John Galt?”
The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum’s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still—as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him.
“Why did you say that?” asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense.
The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky.
“Why does it bother you?” he asked.
“It doesn’t,” snapped Eddie Willers.
He reached hastily into his pocket. The bum had stopped him and asked for a dime, then had gone on talking, as if to kill that moment and postpone the problem of the next. Pleas for dimes were so frequent in the streets these days that it was not necessary to listen to explanations, and he had no desire to hear the details of this bum’s particular despair.
This is again the way to write the beginning of a novel. The author begins with action, begins the setting of the stage (world) of the novel, and introduces the theme, in this case. I like to see a novel introduce the protagonist and protagonist’s helper or antagonist. In this case, we get the unseen protagonist of the novel, John Galt, and an antagonist of a type. Eddie Willers represents the concept of the antagonist in the novel. This is a good beginning—I would have advised the novelist to start a little differently, but this is a good beginning. It excites the imagination of the reader and immediately begins the suspension of reality. It jumps into the action and world of the novel. Let’s look at my favorite Ayn Rand novel, We the Living:
Petrograd smelt of carbolic acid.
I couldn’t download the entire couple of paragraphs, and I’m too lazy to copy them from amazon. Take a look at the beginning of this novel. It is nearly perfect. This is Ayn Rand’s first novel. It is one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century—perhaps the greatest. The first couple of paragraphs introduce the setting and the protagonist, Kira Argounova. The action begins with a train ride into the city. The novel starts with a richness of description that is missing in many 20th Century writers. It is clearly and coolly written with tense and well designed words and phrases—this from a second language English speaker and writer. If native speakers could only write this well. If you haven’t, you should read this novel. What makes it different than Hemingway or Steinbeck is that both Hemingway and Steinbeck were elites on the cusp compared to an escapee of the Soviet Union, Ayn Rand. The woebegone naiveté of Hemingway and the simplistic socialism of Steinbeck can’t touch the semi-autobiography of suffering from the heart of the collective. That’s what makes Ayn Rand’s novel a masterpiece. I’ll see if I can get the first couple of paragraphs from the greatest 20th Century author, Ray Bradbury next.
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