30 May 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x59, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Eucatastrophe
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 up the list and we’ll contemplate creative elements to produce these plot devices.
Deus ex machina (a machination, or act of god; lit. “god out of the machine”)
Eucatastrophe – Current discussion.
Flashback (or analeptic reference)
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Eucatastrophe: Here is a definition of Eucatastrophe from the link– Coined by J. R. R. Tolkien, a climactic event through which the protagonist appears to be facing a catastrophic change. However, this change does not materialize and the protagonist finds himself as the benefactor of such a climactic event; contrast peripety/peripateia.
Eucatastrophe comes from the prefix eu, meaning good, and catastrophe. Therefore, a eucatastrophe is a good catastrophe. Literally, it is a catastrophe that results in something good. The example from Tolkien also from the link is this event:
At the end of The Lord of the Rings, Gollum forcibly takes away the Ring from Frodo, suggesting that Sauron would eventually take over Middle Earth. However, Gollum celebrates too eagerly and clumsily falls into the lava, whereby the ring is destroyed and with it Sauron’s power. In a way, Gollum does what Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring intended to do through the whole plot of the trilogy, which was to throw the ring into the lake of fire in the heart of Mount Doom.
I’m not sure if I’ve used a eucatastrophe before in my writing. I think this might qualify. This example is from my published novel, The Fox’s Honor. You can get and read the entire novel yourself. Here is the part that introduces the eucatastrophe.
“I cannot,” said the Baron quietly, “I promised our father and myself that I would do my best to protect our House. How can I do that off this planet? Can you expect me to leave you in the hands of a population that will tear my little sister to shreds? Or, that I will trust you to the machinations of this man, Devon Rathenberg.” He walked back to his desk.
Frustrated and thinking, Tamar put her face in her hands. Beside her, Devon glanced at his crono. They all felt a strong vibration through the stone floor. George Falkeep turned around and stared. When a second heavier tremor rolled through the palace, Devon reached out to Tamar to keep her from falling. The Baron stumbled, but when the rumbling passed, he regained his balance.
One of Falkeep’s aids rushed into the hall. His lips were white and he spoke with agitation, “The city is under attack.”
“Not entirely,” stated Devon, “Your troops are safe. But you will find many of the planet’s nobility and your forces without a place to live. You will also discover, the Army and Navy of Gran Stern in the process of aiding my people to take the Houses noblesse. They are also supplying my people with food and shelter.”
The Baron’s eyes widened, a look of anger convulsed his features. He took a menacing step toward Devon and stopped. Tamar stared at Devon. Her eyes appeared as shocked as the Baron’s. Frightened, she said, “Devon, I warned you not to make the attack until after we convinced my brother.”
“Another example of his true loyalty,” yelled George as he rushed unexpectedly toward Devon. George’s baton caught Devon on the side of his face. Devon did not expect the attack. He fell heavily, and struck his head on the stone floor with a crack.”
“Do you think you can take this planet so easily away from me, Count Rathenberg?” the Baron sneered as he pulled out his snub pistol. “I think you cannot. The whole of the Navy of Gran Stern could not force my men off this rock, and I and they have a certain entitlement to it.”
Tamar was dazed; their attack was not to come until after George left. Now Devon was at the mercy of her brother. She stepped toward Devon’s prone figure.
When she caught sight of George’s gun, Tamar screamed, “No!” She fell across Devon and shielded him from the Baron, “No!” The tinge of hysteria in his sister’s voice drove the rage from George. He slowly returned the gun to his holster.
Tamar knelt over Devon’s still form, “No, no, no,” she groaned, “This is not how it was to be.” A tear threatened to fall from her eyes, but in her anger, she forced her emotions under control. Thank God, she could see Devon still breathed. As a small pool of bright blood tinged the floor beneath his head, she was suddenly afraid to touch him, afraid that to move him would cause more damage. The blood welled from the side of his face. Gently, Tamar took her handkerchief and held it against the gash on his skull.
Behind her, George said, “Arrest the Count Rathenberg. He is a traitor to our House.”
In this novel, all appears lost as Devon Rathenberg is injured. This eucatastrophe results eventually in Baron Falkeep’s surrender to Devon Rathenberg and his forces. It’s not quite as dramatic a eucatastrophe as in Tolkien where the world of Middle Earth stands in the balance. In the case of Devon Rathenberg, it is the lives of his subjects. Do I need remind you? The world is not at risk of ending tomorrow. Generally, even at the worst, humans work things out and through. On the other hand, the loss of friends, people, family are real tragedies that happen all the time. The eucatastrophe seems to be a good plot device to me. Let’s see if we can discover creative elements within it.
The first creative element I notice is conflict. Pretty generic, but there it is you need a conflict. The second is a catastrophe. Since the meaning is a good catastrophe, you need at least a catastrophe. From the catastrophe, you require a good result. You might gather that a good result is a resolution to the conflict. All of these are creative element features from Tolkien and my novel, The Fox’s Honor.
I like this plot device. Now that I know about it, I might use it again. I used it in The Fox’s Honor without understanding it was a specific type of plot device. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t write from plot devices or using the idea of a plot device. I write starting with creative elements and not with plot device. If the creative elements happen to match with a plot device, all the better. In any case, I’ll continue to look at plot devices and try to attach them to creative elements. I think this is the best way to look at developing entertainment in a novel as well as scenes.
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