12 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x72, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Poetic Justice
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)
Poetic justice – Current discussion.
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
The link goes on to state that the last prepositional phrase: by an ironic twist of fate related to the character’s own conduct, is a characteristic of modern literature. I think I’ll disagree on that point. The concept of virtue ultimately rewarded or vice punished is somewhat a modern theme (plot device). Oops, I wrote it. The idea of virtue ultimately rewarded and/or vice punished is a Hebraic and Christian theme (not plot device) that would be somewhat foreign to the non-Christianized Greeks. The Greeks of the ancient world (prior to 500 BC) would not have agreed. They would have said fate rules, as a theme. This would have been their ultimate theme concept. On the other hand, as the Greeks moved into the concept of the Mysterium, they would have begun to accept virtue rewarded and vice punished. In the post-Christian period, this was the abiding theme in Western culture. It was not a plot device, it was a theme. This theme happened to be the overall and major theme of most Western literature and art. This major theme concept continued well into the modern era.
To make this a plot device, we need to apply the modern prepositional phrase: by an ironic twist of fate related to the character’s own conduct. The example that plopped into my mind was the evil villain about to cast the hero off the cliff, loses his balance and falls himself.
From my perspective, I’m all in on the virtue and vice theme—this is a classic. I, like many authors, like to change it up a little. That is produce characters who appear to have vices, but ultimately are virtues. For example, the girl who thinks she is ugly. The boy who is terrible at sports but super intelligent. Or the girl who is great at sports, but backward in studies. Ah, and there it is. This theme and this plot device don’t have to be just about virtue and vice. The author can define the virtue or the vice. For example, in Harry Potty, the virtue is being able to accomplish effective magic—not necessarily virtuous or good magic, but effective magic.
You can see many authors fall into this theme and plot device. I’ll tell you this, I’m not so keen on using this. If it works out for a novel, I’ll use it. So far, I can’t remember using it in 29 novels. I don’t think I’ve used it yet. I might. I’m not so keen because it feels too much like a deus ex to me. I think you might be able to make the irony very strong and the conduct believable. I won’t throw out this as a plot device. I just warn you to use it very carefully. When the protagonist defeats the antagonist not by fate, but by his or her own actions—that is reasonable and produces the sympathetic and sufficient climax. When fate (deus ex) plays a hand, the reader is left with a bit of a bad taste.
Poetic justice can be a powerful tool as a theme. As a plot device, it might be a problem. I think it has potential, just be careful.
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