12 February 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 952, Publishing, Protagonists, Example: Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse
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?
I wrote before, the Enchantment novels allowed me to explore plots and themes I couldn’t in my other novel series. The eighth novel in the Enchantment series is Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse. Sorcha asks a different question than the other Enchantment novels. Sorcha is still a novel with a redemption theme. The redemption is from culture as well as from a curse.
Shiggy is the protagonist of Sorcha, and Shiggy is twice cursed. She is first of all cursed because she is a person who can’t seem to ever do the right thing. She has been through about nine different military and intelligence types of training and flunked out of each of them. She flunked out spectacularly. She finally ends up in the hands of Sorcha. Sorcha is a completely unreasonable and strict person. Sorcha insists that Shiggy do everything exactly as she is instructed. Shiggy can only try her best—sometimes her best isn’t enough. Can you see that Shiggy is obviously or not so obviously a pathetic character? Here is her description:
Shiggaion Tash woke with a start. Her eyes flew open. Her mouth tasted vile and bitter like bile and chemicals. She tried to swallow the taste away, but her throat felt bone dry. Bright light shone all around her. She tried to raise her hand to cover her eyes, but her arms wouldn’t move. She tried her legs. They wouldn’t move either. She attempted to wrench her body around, but without any success. She could move her head—at least that part of her didn’t seem to be completely immobilized.
At first, the light appeared so bright, she couldn’t make out anything. Gradually, her eyes adjusted. That seemed to take longer than usual. She sniffed. Her nose felt stuffed up. Her mind couldn’t stop, never stopped evaluating. She put together everything she knew about drugs and anesthetics…and came up short. Cocaine and other amphetamines caused some of these symptoms, but they weren’t anesthetics—they were stimulants. What was the last thing she could remember?
The last event happened to be the hostage training exercise. At the time, she fumbled her pistol and accidentally shot one of the hostages…whoops. That would be another looming black mark on her ledger. In her own records that made eight now. Nine if you counted the accident during the Oxford laboratory lecture. That one wasn’t entirely her fault. She couldn’t review her classified records, so she didn’t know if they counted that one or not.
Ah, she remembered, right after she accidentally shot the hostage, she felt a sharp pain in her left buttocks. They weren’t using real bullets, only laser gunfire trackers. She sniffed and felt slightly miffed. They shouldn’t get their panties in a wad about a little accident like that. Well enough self-scrutiny—Shiggaion took a good look around.
She lay on a hard but padded surface. A thin sheet lay over her, and she felt naked underneath. That seemed slightly odd. As she gained awareness, she felt a stinging on her left buttocks. She cursed under her breath—they really didn’t have to knock her out for that slight infraction. No one told her the evaluators were wielding tranq guns.
Shiggaion realized something like straps immobilized her arms and legs, but she couldn’t see them even if she depressed her head as far as it would go. She lay in a very bright room. The walls looked metallic white and very clean. The room appeared smaller than she imagined at first. The ceiling seemed to rise to a normal height. The walls were close, but provided enough space to allow a couple of people to work around them. Two walls looked like they held doors—also metal. What was this place…a battleship? One wall appeared too shimmery to be metal, but it was the same color as the rest of the walls. Uh oh, Shiggaion knew what that meant—mirrored glass. That would be an observation area. Were they watching her? That made her feel uncomfortable, but then she really began to feel uncomfortable—she needed to go.
How long had she been out, and how long here? Where was here and why? Everything seemed a bit over the top for accidentally shooting a hostage. Admittedly, her classmates were becoming a little personal with their complaints and comments. Shiggaion couldn’t help it if she was clumsy and a little slow about some things—in other things she excelled…, but she still had to go and bad.
We see Shiggy initially as a pathetic character. She becomes more and more pathetic as she attempts to meet Sorcha’s requirements:
Sorcha grinned, “You recognize this folder.”
Shiggy didn’t look up, “Yes, ma’am.” The folder was at least ten times thicker than any other cadet in government training. The folder itself had been expanded with tape and cardboard at least three times. Shiggy muttered, “Why don’t they just use electronic forms? This is the Twenty-First Century.”
“That was a rhetorical question, but I heard it, and I will answer it. The reason is to keep these records away from our actual and potential enemies. An electronic form is convenient, but too easy to lose, hack, or abscond with. On the other hand, here is your complete record, and it is breathtaking.”
Shiggy looked up, “But…” She caught herself, “But…ma’am, why does that make me your slave?”
“Because dear Shiggy, no one else in the government would have you, and you are under a classified contract with the British Intelligence Service.” Sorcha opened the training folder and turned it around, “That is your signature, isn’t it?”
Shiggy didn’t need to look, “Yes…ma’am.” She continued quickly, “But, ma’am I didn’t imagine they would do this to me.”
“Look at this folder. You have been placed in training in seven branches of British Intelligence and one of the military. That alone gives you eighty years of accumulated service commitment…”
“But, Ma’am, I never graduated from any of them.”
Sorcha stared at Shiggy until she dropped her eyes.
Shiggy mumbled, “What about, Discharge as of Right?”
“DAOR? My dear, Shiggy, you are way past that point. Let’s review your record. Shall we?”
Shiggy didn’t look up.
Sorcha turned to the first section, “You attended some of the best British private schools in the country and matriculated from sixth form at the youthful age of fourteen. You graduated from Oxford with three degrees: chemistry, engineering, and astrophysics. Then went on to study for your master’s degree. You attained two and were on the track for a doctoral degree until the incident…”
“How could I know that producing radioactive substances was not allowed?”
Sorcha picked up her stick, and Shiggy cringed away. Her fingers on the table twitched, “…ma’am.”
Sorcha put down the stick, “I should really beat you for that statement, but I shall not…unless you say something as stupid as that again. How could you not know that making radioactive substances was forbidden—especially in a room full of students…your graduate students.”
Shiggy sniffled, “Ma’am. No one was hurt.”
“No one was immediately killed. The British government and Oxford University are ultimately responsible for your imbecilic behavior. It was radioactive, for goodness sakes.” Sorcha turned the divider to the next section, “Because Oxford and the entire UK university system blacklisted you, you applied to the Military Intelligence structure. That’s when you signed this delicious little contract which gives me ownership over your body and soul.”
Shiggy mumbled, “Ma’am, I never intended to be made a slave.”
“Well let’s see what else you’ve done to deserve my attention. You applied to Sandhurst and were accepted—I assume through affirmative action.”
“Ma’am, that’s not fair. I meet every criteria. I even excelled in the program…”
“You excelled until you shot the kneecap off your pistol training instructor.”
“But, ma’am that was an accident.”
“You are horribly accident prone, aren’t you Shiggy. Listen, from this moment forward, I don’t want to hear a single ‘but’ from you, and the word ‘accident’ drops permanently out of your vocabulary.”
The ash wand rose up and came down with a crack on Shiggy’s knuckles.
Shiggy screamed and pulled her hands back, but not quite off the table.
“Hands on the table Shiggy, or you’ll get another one. What did I just tell you?”
Shiggy sniffled, “Ma’am, I am not to use the word ‘but’ nor the word accident. That hurt.”
“It didn’t hurt nearly as much as losing your kneecap.” Sorcha smiled broadly, “You are supposed to be trainable. We’ll see if this little training sticks.” She turned to the next divider in the folder, “Sandhurst was done with you, so they suggested you move to the scientific laboratories in MI6. Whoever suggested that might just be a traitor. Within your first month in the laboratory, you sent an entire floor to hospital.”
Shiggy just looked at her feet.
“Good. No lip from you—I suspect you’d like to tell me that you didn’t know organophosphorus compounds were nerve gas.”
Shiggy shook her head, “Ma’am, I knew. Who could imagine they had any in the lab…”
“You ditz. I should give you another crack on the knuckles for that.”
“Ma’am, please don’t.”
And so on and son on…at the same time Shiggy is a Romantic character. She is Romantic because or her curse and because of her skills. The reason Sorcha is so interested in Shiggy is that although Shiggy is cursed, she is still extremely skilled. The extremely skilled part makes her Romantic, the cursed part makes her pathetic. This is also what makes the novel so fun. Shiggy’s struggles with Sorcha, with her assignment, and with love and romance make the novel very fun and entertaining. Additionally, the idea of a curse brings in a level of the supernatural that is also fun. The plot idea and theme idea of a cursed person being able to be redeemed is interesting in itself and also why this is an Enchantment novel.
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