31 May 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x60, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Flashback
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”)
Flashback (or analeptic reference) – Current discussion.
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Flashback: Here is a definition of Flashback from the link– General term for altering time sequences, taking characters back to the beginning of the tale, for instance.
I think this is a terrible definition. I would suggest instead: a scene that occurs in the past, out of time sequence from the narrative time of the novel.
This means you write a scene that portrays the past in relation to the current time of the novel. My mentor really liked this plot device. I don’t like it at all. I see the utility of using a flashback, but I don’t think I’ve ever used it in my novels. I’ll take that back. The End of Honor begins with a huge flashback. That runs through most of the novel. Here is the example:
My name is Lyral. I am no longer alive. My life has flown like the cry of a tropical bird, a ragged call on the twilight of an Empire. The sound, like my memory, is quickly forgotten in the important matters of the times. Yet, in the important matter of my death, no one gave me a choice, and I did not want to die.
While my body lies in a pool of its own blood, the nobility of the Empire confer around it as though the passionate stain of red never touched their thoughts. Dear lord, my body still twitches—in tiny movements, my arms and legs send up a morbid benison to the Hall of Accords.
How ugly is my bruised face, stuck on a pole for each man to adulterate with his stare. But, they don’t stare. They don’t even look. My virgin body lies eternally silent. My once fine features are grasped in an angry death spasm. And neither my House nor my love is here to avenge me.
I beg to feel a single spark of emotion. My spirit, kneeling before my headless corpse cannot even cry. My spirit is emotionless and nearly without feelings, yet I find analysis easy. Death did not push away knowledge; it only made all knowledge horrible because I can no longer act on it!
Yet analysis is not difficult. I am numb, a spirit without emotion. The seeds of emotion exist, I know them, but I cannot feel them. They are no longer sensations. They are only perceptions, conceived but now foreign.
Although I sense the movement of human affairs around me, I am no longer concerned with human life and all its trivialities. Yet life—if I could, I would seize it again. But, like emotion, the physical has flown. I cannot remember the love and desire I felt for him, though, as I contemplate his end, I know a pang in my soul; let his death, dear God, be less savage than my own.
Death was so easy. I remember a sharp swift pain, but the feeling was diminished by anticipation. And I fought the loss of that treasure of God. As the mortal wound poured my life’s blood on the stone floor of the hall, I fought the loss of my life. For a moment, I was lost and dizzy. Then, I saw myself. At first, with horror: I thought I saw through the eyes of my sundered head. My body lay before me spattered with gore. As I stared at it in awful contemplation, my executioner—assassin, held aloft my head. I saw it clearly not less than a meter from where I knelt. With deadly certainty, I knew I was indeed past the point of life. My soul had escaped its mortal frame, and yet, I saw with undimmed eyes.
I viewed everything with a crystal clarity—better than I could in life. Shadows were no longer shadows to me, they opened as if filled with light. The depths of souls seemed to open to me. The men who watched my death became flames of spirit in my new eyes. Unknown to them, they cast off their true selves like the spectrum of a burning star: I could read them. I knew their petty fears and ways. I knew their thoughts. Some watched with horror, others self-righteously, still others fearfully. They were all open to me. I looked at myself and saw no flame. The flame had gone out and not an ember was left.
I was free. I was unfettered from any bond of my physical body. I rose up to the heights of the Hall of Accords and moved down below the floor. I slid forward and back through walls and windows. Yet life had been so dear, and I gained little joy from my newfound freedom. No joy, but no remorse either. My only thought was for the living.
I was sad my own life was forfeit—ended so early, my youthful longings unfulfilled, my dreams sundered in a sword’s keen slash.
I had dreams. I would have been a Princess. My rank was high and my Father and Mother groomed me for that role. I was to become the lady to a Prince of the Human Galactic Empire. I remember my parents with regret, but I remember them no more than I do my love. Life is too short that love should so early be cut off. At once, I knew the feeling that would be his despair, and for a moment, I felt the emotion grip my being. He loved me; indeed, he loves me.
I’m not a great fan of the flashback, but I did use a flashback in my published novel, The End of Honor. You can buy the novel and read it for yourself. What intrigues me more than the flashback is the creative elements that drove this flashback. The main reason for this flashback was to place the reader in the initial scene at an exciting and entertaining point that wouldn’t happen until the middle of the novel. I was following my own rules about the initial scene. I see this as an excellent reason for a flashback. A flashback allows you to move the initial scene to an exciting and entertaining part in the novel. I hope you see why this is important—the initial scene sells the novel. All the other scenes might be entertaining and exciting, but without a strong and entertaining initial scene, you will never sell a novel to a publisher or a reader. I also think this is the only reason for the flashback. My mentor liked the flashback to tell backstory. I like to use conversation to tell backstory, but we will get to that point in the near future.
For the moment, realize you have a very important tool to move and make your initial scene entertaining and exciting. You can also use the flashback for other purposes as well. I’m just not as much a fan.
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