27 May 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x56, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Backstory
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
Below is a list of plot devices. I’m less interested in a plot device than I am in a creative element that drives a plot device. In fact, some of these plot devices are not good for anyone’s writing. If we remember, the purpose of fiction writing is entertainment, we will perhaps begin to see how we can use these plot devices to entertain. If we focus on creative elements that drive plot devices, we can begin to see how to make our writing truly entertaining. I’ll leave the list and we’ll contemplate creative elements to produce these plot devices..
Backstory – Current discussion.
Deus ex machina (a machination, or act of god; lit. “god out of the machine”)
Flashback (or analeptic reference)
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Backstory: Here is one definition of backstory– Story that precedes events in the story being told—past events or background that add meaning to current circumstances. This is a terrible definition, but we’ll go with it for now.
Here is the importance of backstory—there always is backstory. You can’t have any novel or fiction story without backstory. Every character has a backstory. Every event and every action has a backstory. Every place has a backstory. The question is what backstory should the author present, and how? If we note, correctly, that every fiction novel is the revelation of the protagonist, we realize the backstory to present. The question then is how much and how? We know immediately that almost every piece of backstory related to the protagonist is acceptable backstory for the novel. The how much question is still in play. This then turns to the plot. The revelation of the protagonist is the measure, the plot is the limit. In other words, you don’t need any more revelation of the protagonist than required by the plot. Anything more is too much and anything less prevents the plot form unfolding as it should.
The answer to how much is easy (relatively) and limited by the protagonist and the plot. The answer of how is really the concept of the plot device. We will see how different plot devices allow the author to convey backstory. For now, let’s assume we use standard narrative and conversation. I’m not a fan of the omniscient voice in any mode. Let’s leave the backstory to conversation from the lips of the protagonist or others for now. Then what are the creative elements? Here’s the problem with backstory. The creative elements are those encapsulated in the backstory itself. This plot device doesn’t help us much in determining creative elements, but rather provides a setting for the creative elements. I conclude that backstory is not a plot device of much consequence—it just is a basis and a basic quality of any novel. The use of backstory is another matter. The question then is the expression of the backstory when and where.
We know there is backstory in every character. The backstory must relate to the protagonist or it is meaningless in the novel. The expression of the backstory comes from the plot in reference to the protagonist. In other words, to have a purpose in the novel, the only reason for the backstory should be to advance the plot. If it doesn’t advance the plot, don’t reveal it.
Here is the use of a creative element in regard to a backstory. The protagonist needs to be able to pick a lock to proceed the plot. The backstory is that the protagonist learned to pick locks because her sisters constantly locked her up. To use this backstory, provide a situation where the protagonist must use lock picking to escape from a sisterly trap. With thanks to Alan Bradley from the first Flavia de Luca novel. The creative elements here are: sisters, lock picking, and trap. You might add more if you wish. The presentation of the backstory in this case is made in the first person—the novels are written in the first person. There you have it, a great example and use of backstory in the resolution of a plot advancement. By the way, the author doesn’t use the lock picking skill as a climax plot advancing device, but lock picking is used to advance the plot none-the-less.
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