28 May 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x57, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Cliffhanger
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..
Cliffhanger – 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)
Cliffhanger: Here is one definition of cliffhanger– The narrative ends unresolved, to draw the audience back to a future episode for the resolution. This is a terrible definition. Here is a little better one crafted from the above. The tension in the scene in not resolved, a creative element of the scene is not resolved, the telic flaw of a novel is not resolved, or the dénouement adds a significant unresolved creative element, each for the purpose of exciting the imagination of the reader and getting them to read further in the novel or read the next novel (story, etc.).
I recommend that you always resolve the telic flaw and that you always resolve the tension in some way in every scene. I assure you, this will help promote your writing better than anything. Readers and publishers don’t like unresolved tension or an unresolved climax. The only people who can get away with this are trilogy writers. In most trilogies or similar type literature, the author completes the resolution of the relic flaw in the novel, but not the overall issue of the plot of the novel. For example, in the Harry Potty novels, each of the novels resolve the telic flaw for that novel, but not until the last does the problem of Big V get addressed.
Here’s how I like to see the concept of a cliffhanger used. I want to see the author resolve the tension in every scene to some degree. The author doesn’t have to resolve the creative elements entirely, but there should be a resolution of the tension. In the case of a cliffhanger, the usual expectation is that at the end of the scene, the protagonist is stuck hanging from the cliff and not yet rescued. For this example, the cliff and hanging are the creative elements. In this scene, what went on that led the protagonist to hang from the cliff at the end. Let’s put in a creative element of a bear and chasing. The protagonist went into a cabin, confronted a bear and the bear chased him to the cliff. The bear fell off the cliff, but our protagonist was able to hang onto a tree root. The tension buildup in the scene was the chase, the resolution of the tension was the bear falls off the cliff and the protagonist is left hanging. The scene ends with the protagonist still hanging. This is a true cliffhanger. The purpose is to keep up the excitement and the entertainment value of the scenes in the novel so the reader will be on the edge of her seat and want to continue reading.
I don’t like the other types of cliffhangers. I don’t recommend not resolving the telic flaw that is continuing the plot beyond the end of the novel. A novel is a novel because there is a telic flaw resolution. I really don’t like an incomplete dénouement where the author adds an incomplete plot or creative element. I think that is poor writing. I think I wrote to you that I am reading the Sabriel novels. The second Lireal doesn’t resolve the telic flaw. The last two novels (I’ll assume two) are one large novel. The publisher just broke them up into two. I understand this, but it is kind of irritating. If you have a best seller, you can get all kinds of special attention and produce incomplete works broken into fragments. The writing is reasonable and the plot is entertaining and exciting. The publisher just divided a very long novel into two likely for production and financial purposes.
So, back to the good use of a cliffhanger in a novel. The scenes are perfect places to do this. Here is an example from School:
At that moment there was a heavy ringing of the front bell. It went on and on until Herbert could get to the front door. They heard the door burst open and the tap of low heeled shoes with Herbert running right behind. The French doors crashed open and they heard the swish of clothing against plants. Luna Bolang came running into the room. She stopped suddenly, her eye twitched, she curtsied very deeply and came to one knee, “Your Majesty, I came immediately. I had no idea until French class that my students had run off.” She turned a very sour look at Deirdre then Sorcha, “I came the moment they were missed.”
Deirdre asked, “How did you know to find us here?”
Luna looked frazzled and angry, “I have my ways. Now come, get in the automobile and we’ll be back in time for fencing.”
Mrs. Calloway smiled, “Luna, they shall not be returning today. In fact, I think I’ll keep them for the holidays. Their term is almost finished.”
“It is finished, ma’am.”
“Then there is no reason for them not to stay here.”
Luna’s look said she thought there was plenty of reasons why they should not stay at Rosewood House. She curtsied very low again.
Herbert had come directly behind Luna. He recognized her at the door, now he didn’t know what to do with her.
Mrs. Calloway waved to him, “Herbert, bring tea for Ms. Bolang. We shall have a grand time together.”
Luna sat across from Deirdre and Sorcha, “I really need to get back to my classes.”
“I thought you said the term had ended.”
“It has, but these are the closing days and preparations for the next semester.”
“Don’t sweat it. I’ll have them make a call to Wycombe and all will be well. They have substitutes for that. I need you here right now.”
Luna took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and pursed her lips.
Herbert brought fresh tea, biscuits, and sandwiches. He poured for Luna and refreshed the other cups, then he disappeared again.
Mrs. Calloway laughed at Luna, “Luna, my daughter and her friend were sharing so much with me about their school life.”
Luna looked more distressed, “They didn’t.”
“They did, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Luna let out a great sigh of relief.
“Deirdre has won awards. She is fencing and shooting. I haven’t heard about her academic achievements yet, but I am wonderfully impressed by her progress. I understand she attended the Eton formal. Deirdre, dear, did you go with a young man?”
Deirdre wasn’t certain how much she should say, but she answered, “Mr. Chris MacLeod escorted me.”
“Luna, is he the son of our friend, the department head?”
“Yes, ma’am. He is.”
Mrs. Calloway’s lips curled up in a grand smile, “Even better. I suspect he will be home in London for the holidays. Perhaps we can invite them to tea or better for dinner. However, the most important thing is that tomorrow, at tea, Ms. Weir must plead her case before Elizabeth.”
Luna stared at her, “You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m not kidding at all. I’ve already made the arrangements.”
The arrangements are for Sorcha to plead her can for a pardon before Queen Elizabeth the Second at Buckingham palace. This is a mild cliffhanger. No one’s life is in danger. Someone’s future might be in danger. Many creative elements are brought up at the end of the scene—these lead to other scenes in the future. The output of the scene is this mild cliffhanger—going to petition the Queen. What I’m trying to express to you is that every scene needs an output that promises to introduce the next scene, or a scene down the way. The output from this scene becomes the input for the next. In this novel, the input for the next scene is preparation for tea with the queen. Every scene ending needs a kicker—see the scene method just above. The kicker for this scene is the cutesy statement from Mrs. Calloway at the end: “I’m not kidding at all. I’ve already made the arrangements.” This is the kicker. The cliffhanger is that they will actually go to the Queen to resolve the problem of Sorcha’s crime.
Every good scene, except the last, needs some king of cliffhanger, the output. Every good scene, including the last, needs a kicker. Keep this in mind.
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