6 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x66, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, In Medias Res
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)
In medias res – Current discussion.
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Also from the link: A narrative work beginning in medias res (Classical Latin: [ɪn mɛdiaːs reːs], lit. “into the middle things”) opens in the midst of action (cf. ab ovo, ab initio). Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, either through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events.
I’m all into the In medias res. The In medias res is your friend and should be a part of your every initial scene. Indeed, always start in the middle of the action. This is why I wrote The End of Honor the way I did to place the reader into the In medias res for one of the most important and action oriented parts of the novel. I try to begin every novel this way. I’ve given you examples from the beginning of every one of my novels, you should be able to look back and see these examples and how they work.
There are varying degrees of In medias res but you don’t have to sweat it. For example, you can start with the action in the middle of a fight—that is a classical In medias res. You can begin with the beginning of an action scene. This is a little less direct. You can begin at the end of an action scene. Let me give you some examples from my writing. The first is a middle action In medias res. This is from my soon to be published novel Sister of Darkness.
Leora woke with a start. A heavy weight pressed against her chest, and she couldn’t breathe. She tried to scream, but a hand covered her mouth. Her eyes flashed open and widened—in the pitch darkness, her sister, Leila, straddled her. Leila’s eyes were ecstatic. Her mouth curled up in a feral smile. She held one hand over Leora’s mouth and with the other pinched her nose.
Leora heaved her body up. She pressed with her legs and tried to roll Leila off. She twisted her head to the side, and spotted Amisi, her servant, by the door crumpled in a heap across the threshold. A cloud of darkness seemed to rise from the spot where Amisi lay. Leora snapped her head back toward Leila. Her sight of Leila was also being swallowed in darkness. Leora suddenly realized no dark cloud came from Amisi; the darkness wasn’t filling her room—her vision was fading away, slowly, so slowly. She stared imploringly at her sister. Leila laughed harshly deep in her chest.
Within the darkness of her failing mind and body, Leora grasped for her last hope, she opened her mouth as wide as she could. Leila’s ruthlessly crushing fingers pressed into her mouth. With all her remaining strength, Leora bit down on Leila’s fingers. She tasted blood.
Enraptured in her zeal, confident in her success, Leila didn’t notice Leora’s response for one long moment; then with a howl, she ripped her fingers out of Leora’s mouth and leapt off the sleeping cot onto the tiled floor.
Leora took a long and strangled breath and rolled off her cot on the other side. She knelt on the cool tile and coughed and drew in deep revitalizing breaths. Leila knelt in a crouch on the other side of the cot and nursed her bloody fingers. After a moment, she moved threateningly toward Leora.
The sudden noise of running bare feet and soldier’s sandals stopped her. Leila stared across the cot, down at her sister, “I will have my way with you, sister. Darkness rules the light. It always has from the beginning of the world. If you won’t bow to me in the temple, you shall certainly bow to me everywhere else.” She spat at Leora and ran out of the single door to Leora’s small bedroom.
You are placed right in the middle of the action. This is the initial scene from the novel. A beginning of the action example follows. This is from Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si:
Mrs. Lyons, actually, Matilda Anne Robina Acland Hastings Lyons, who happened to once be married to Colonel Bruce Lyons, and who held onto the Mrs. and the Lyons as mementos although the man was long dead, heard a crash in her kitchen. She was a light sleeper anyway, but the crash rang loud enough to wake the dead. She reached under her pillow for the prototype Etan Arms AP-1 nine millimeter semi-automatic pistol she kept there. She examined the sleek weapon, a gift from her favorite adopted great grandchild, Leila, and returned it, with the safety still on, to its hiding spot.
She slipped out of the covers as quietly as a very old woman could and instead of her pistol, picked up the heavy cane beside her bed. She constantly carried it, not because she needed a cane, but because everyone expected her to carry one—she enjoyed the privilege and the recognition. Mrs. Lyons was very old, but not weak, demented, or non-mobile. She looked wrinkled and gray now, but didn’t care a lick about appearance anymore. She still looked thin and athletic—about as athletic as she always was, which wasn’t very, but she could move as well if not better than a woman half her age. So she imagined.
Mrs. Lyons pulled her dressing gown over her nightgown and hefted her cane. She didn’t turn on any lights. Her vision was still good, and her eyesight was already well adapted to the thick moonlight that shined outside her windows. She walked through her open doorway and down the hall toward the front of the house.
Her country house was small, much smaller than the places she inhabited as a child, a young woman, or a married woman. She was now a widow, and a small cottage in the country seemed to suit her. The hallway led to a classic branch. To the right, lay the foyer and front door. The foyer opened to a dining room on the left and a parlor to the right. To the left lay the servant’s quarters—none in use at the moment. In front of her ran a short hall to a phone closet and a water closet—an odd combination to be sure. To the right of that short extension, lay the dining room and to the left… the kitchen.
Mrs. Lyons heard another peculiar bump and then a thump from inside her kitchen—she strained to listen closer… or perhaps the sounds came from her pantry. She held up her cane like a baseball bat and peeked around the opening into the kitchen. She squinted in the darkness, but didn’t spot anything amiss.
She heard another thump. Slurping sounds and a slight growl followed it. Mrs. Lyons wondered at that. The constable had reported thefts of food and unusual break-ins across the shire, but they seemed wholly of human origin. This sounded…animal-like.
This is the middle of the action, but the beginning of a scene of the action. You aren’t thrown into the exact middle, but into the action. Here is an example of the end of the action. This is from Sorcha: Enchantment and the Curse:
Shiggaion Tash woke with a start. Her eyes flew open. Her mouth tasted vile and bitter like bile and chemicals. She tried to swallow the taste away, but her throat felt bone dry. Bright light shone all around her. She tried to raise her hand to cover her eyes, but her arms wouldn’t move. She tried her legs. They wouldn’t move either. She attempted to wrench her body around, but without any success. She could move her head—at least that part of her didn’t seem to be completely immobilized.
At first, the light appeared so bright, she couldn’t make out anything. Gradually, her eyes adjusted. That seemed to take longer than usual. She sniffed. Her nose felt stuffed up. Her mind couldn’t stop, never stopped evaluating. She put together everything she knew about drugs and anesthetics…and came up short. Cocaine and other amphetamines caused some of these symptoms, but they weren’t anesthetics—they were stimulants. What was the last thing she could remember?
The last event happened to be the hostage training exercise. At the time, she fumbled her pistol and accidentally shot one of the hostages…whoops. That would be another looming black mark on her ledger. In her own records that made eight now. Nine if you counted the accident during the Oxford laboratory lecture. That one wasn’t entirely her fault. She couldn’t review her classified records, so she didn’t know if they counted that one or not.
Ah, she remembered, right after she accidentally shot the hostage, she felt a sharp pain in her left buttocks. They weren’t using real bullets, only laser gunfire trackers. She sniffed and felt slightly miffed. They shouldn’t get their panties in a wad about a little accident like that. Well enough self-scrutiny—Shiggaion took a good look around.
This one is end of the action beginning of the scene. All of these examples plop the reader directly into the action. As I wrote, I suggest this plot device for every novel and every initial scene.
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