24 May 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x53, Creative Elements in Scenes, The Expected Plot and the Unexpected
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:
- Don’t confuse your readers.
- Entertain your readers.
- Ground your readers in the writing.
- Don’t show (or tell) everything.
- 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
I finished writing my 27th novel, working title, Claire, potential title Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse. This might need some tweaking. The theme statement is: Claire (Sorcha) Davis accepts Shiggy, a dangerous screw-up, into her Stela branch of the organization and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse.
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 also working on my 29th novel, working title School.
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: transition from input to output focused on the telic flaw resolution)
- 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.
For novel 28: 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.
For novel 29: Sorcha, the abandoned child of an Unseelie and a human, secretly attends Wycombe Abbey girls’ school where she meets the problem child Deirdre 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 the beginning of the scene development method from the outline:
- Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
- Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
- Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
- Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
- Write the release
- Write the kicker
Readers have very specific expectations for a plot and a novel. These expectations are related to the characters and especially the protagonist. A wise author plays with the expectations to provide the unexpected expected. I’m reading a pretty good young adult novel at the moment that was recommended by my daughters. It’s the Sabriel novels by Garth Nix. The author writes in a very typical young adult style, but he is very skilled at it. I’d say much better than many writers of the same genre or literature. His style is to provide extreme peril that is focused against the main characters—a peril so great there doesn’t seem to be any hope for success or life. He then extricates the characters with a predeveloped plot device. The expectation of the novel is the major characters will survive and even prosper, the unexpected is that they will survive. The model is made even more successful and beautiful from a writer’s standpoint because the means of survival and action are also reasonably well developed in the novel. I think this is a wonderful style for a young adult novel. What I don’t like is where the author leads this style and ultimately what it does to the characters.
The style leads to an end of world or at least an end of the kingdom and the dead take over the world theme. If you read here often, you know I’m not an advocate of any “end of the world” themes. It fits properly in these novels so I can’t complain too much about them, but when the theme is the end of the world, the characters involved need to be gods or superheroes to succeed—they are. One is a god of the dead—a properly humanized god of the dead and the others are amazing magicians. The use of magic and death magic are pretty tricky means to progress a novel of this type—I like it very much, but I don’t like what it does to the characters. These are highly romantic characters whose humanizing pathos is their lack of determination and/or self-esteem. This is typical in many modern young adult novels and comes directly out of our coddling culture, but I think you can see what the problem is with this model. The major characters are trying to find themselves. They have all the skills and abilities necessary to progress the plot and save the world, but they have to find themselves first. Kool poop for the young adults, but this isn’t adult fair and it isn’t a classical theme.
I like to use a more classical theme model for my writing and characters. It isn’t the end of the world. The peril may be great but it is real peril. The world is not about to end—did I write that already. The characters are romantic and skilled, but they are normal people who are growing and succeeding because of their own work and actions. The unexpected in my novels comes from the nature of the setting and the world not the expectation of survival. Let me put it a different way. I want you to expect my characters to live and enjoy some measure of success. The expectation is that they will survive, the unexpected is their success. Argh this is difficult to explain. For example, Oliver Twist, we expect that Oliver will be living still at the end of the novel. There is some degree of peril and some threats to life and limb, but the plot of the novel isn’t about peril or the end of the world. The ultimate question is just who is Oliver and what will ultimately be his end—in a positive manner.
Likewise, in School, the novel I’m currently writing. The characters are romantic. They are given assignments to complete, odd assignments like learn to fence, learn to shoot, make friends, meet boys, find out about other people, meet faeries, meet a goddess, learn about magic, and etc. There may be some peril, but the biggest problem for the characters is figuring out how to complete the assignments on time and properly. The expectation is that they will survive. The question is how they will complete their assignments. The fun part is how they do it and their success at it. At the same time, the theme and plot of the novel is about a girl who is surreptitiously attending a boarding school. The undergirding idea is this little issue and that issue plays decisively into every aspect of the novel. It isn’t the end of the world, but it could be the end of the world for one young woman. This is my idea of the unexpected in the expected plot.
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