14 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x74, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Quibble
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)
Quibble – Current discussion.
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Quibble: Here is a definition of a quibble from the link– In terms of fiction, a quibble is a plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Typically quibbles are used in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones.
I’m trying to think if I used this in any of my novels. I do like to produce judicial courts outside the norm, but I’m not sure I used the quibble before. The example of the quibble also from the link is William Shakespeare used a quibble in The Merchant of Venice. Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood, which is not physically possible.
I don’t know if the list of plot devices will give us the famous “judicial” plot device. The quibble is as good a time as any to write about it. You might not use a quibble, that’s a great plot device. You might just use a judicial setting and creative element. I consider this a plot device in itself. For example Perry Mason’s every show used this plot device. Not every novel or piece of literature will use this, so it is an independent plot device. Let me give some examples from my writing.
The first is from Aksinya: Enchantment and the Deamon. Aksinya is tried twice—once in an ecclesiastical trail and once in a civil trial. This is two chapter worth of writing. I’ll give you the peaks. Let’s see if there is any quibble in the bits:
Aksinya’s voice rang clearly, “I did use sorcery to save them. Those men were tempted by the demon. My demon is Asmodeus, the demon of lust and luxuria. It was his doing. He tempted those men and caused them to act as they did. As you can see, Herr Taaffe, the Lady Natalya, and Sister Margarethe are innocent. I can’t vouch for the innocence of Herr Mueller.”
Herr Mueller ran to the door and was let out.
The Archinquisitor tapped his paper, “The innocence of these three is still in question. I wish to question them. First, Herr Taaffe, did you know the Princess Aksinya was a sorceress?”
“Princess…?” He glanced at Aksinya, “I knew the Countess was a sorceress. Yes.”
Aksinya groaned, “You need not confess to such a thing. I will not lie, but I don’t wish them to lie on my account.”
The Archinquisitor grinned, “Herr Taaffe are you lying?”
“No, I knew she was a sorceress. That is why I sought her out.”
Aksinya collapsed in her chair, “I am guilty and not they.”
“We shall see. How about you, Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska. Did you know the Princess Aksinya was a sorceress?”
“Yes, I became her apprentice for that reason.”
Aksinya cried, “I tricked them. I forced them.”
“And you, Sister Margarethe?”
“I knew. She never harmed anyone. This I swear.”
“But you knew and never informed your Reverend Mother or your priest, the Abbot.”
“I never told them.”
“Because I love the Countess. I would do anything for her—to protect her.”
Aksinya let out a great cry.
Archinquisitor Gallo smacked his lips, “Herr von Taaffe, you affianced, the Princess Aksinya, yet you knew she was a sorceress.”
Aksinya yelled, “He never affianced me.”
The Archinquisitor wheeled toward her, “Why did you not?”
Natalya spoke quietly, “Because I seduced, Herr von Taaffe to protect her.”
Aksinya roared, “Shut up, Natalya. You…you. Please don’t do this. I already told you I am a sorceress. What do you gain by smearing my friends?”
The Archinquisitor smiled, “I think the guilt of all these individuals can be attributed to the Princess Aksinya. Therefore, I am ready to pronounce my verdict on all of them. This verdict shall stand unless revoked by Rome.” He paused for a moment then continued, “If I had the authority, I would ask that you,” he pointed at Aksinya, “be burned at the stake. I don’t have that power, therefore, I pronounce the Princess Aksinya guilty of necromancy and sorcery. She is not Catholic and therefore cannot be excommunicated. She shall be denied communion and succor from the Holy Catholic Church all her life long. She is a notorious sinner who has brought many to ruin. She will not be allowed in any building or property owned by this Church. She shall not be acknowledged by any leader of the Holy Catholic Church as nobility nor aristocracy. She is to be shunned by commoner and noble alike until her life ends. This edict with a similar recommendation shall be sent to the Orthodox Church and to all other official Christian bodies. They shall judge her themselves.”
Aksinya smiled and nodded.
“As to these others.”
Aksinya growled, “I accept your punishment. It is just. Do not judge these others. I renounce any association with them.”
The Archinquisitor chuckled, “They must answer for their own sins. It is not up to you to judge, little girl. Herr von Taaffe, you are allowed communion after proper repentance and penance to be determined by the Cardinal of Wien. You are accused and guilty of seduction and acquaintance with sorcery. Repent of this, and you shall be freely given the succor of your Holy Church. Equally, you, Sister Margarethe, are guilty of acquaintance with sorcery. You shall not be allowed to teach for the rest of your life. After proper repentance and penance, you shall be allowed to continue as a novice of your community until such time as your Reverend Mother and Abbot shall accept you into the Holy Orders again.” He took a deep breath, “You, Lady Natalya are a victim of this woman. Upon repentance and penance and if you are confirmed within our community, I allow you to join with our Holy Catholic Church.”
Aksinya’s lips turned slightly up. That quickly became a frown.
The Archinquisitor continued, “Reverend Mother Kluge, you allowed this sorceress to enter Sacré Coeur and bewitch your sisters and your students. You shall be reduced to a sister of your order and not hold the position of Reverend Mother again. The Abbot, Father Abend, is equally guilty of this sin and shall also be reduced to a priest without authority until properly elevated. I pronounce the school, Sacré Coeur, to be closed until a full accounting of the evil that was committed within it is determined and purged. It shall open again only under these conditions are met.”
The Reverend Mother gave a cry. The sisters around her held to her.
“The convent shall be under a full review and shall accept penance until the time the Cardinal of Wien shall lift that penance. No new novices shall be accepted nor sisters elevated until that time.”
Aksinya panted, “You already had planned all this before you heard anything, didn’t you?”
“You, little girl have nothing to say to me. You are meaningless now. You will soon face your accusers in another court, a court of secular law, and you should pray they are as lenient as I.”
Aksinya stood, “I accept the just punishment for my sins. I admit to them and confess them all to you.” She dropped to her knees, “I beg your pardon for any and all suffering I have caused. I have no excuse for my actions. I only wish I could take your suffering on myself. Forgive all these. Please, in the name of God, forgive them and only punish me.”
The Archinquisitor made a dismissive motion with his hand and signaled for the guards, “Your penance and pleas come much too late, little girl.”
No quibble there—it’s just a trial with a punishment from the inquisitors. Likewise, at Aksinya’s second trial, she is not loosed because of a quibble:
The doors behind the large desk opened and the judges stepped to their seats. The Bailiff stuck his staff against the ground, “Hear ye, hear ye, this Schöffengericht shall pronounce judgment in the name of Emperor Charles the first of Austria and the Republic of German Austria. May the justice of the Lord God Almighty reign in all the affairs of men.”
Judge Richter didn’t sit. He shuffled his papers for a moment, “Princess Aksinya Georgovna Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov also known as the Countess Golitsyna, the unanimous verdict of this Schöffengericht is that you are not guilty of any of the charges brought against you in this court.”
Aksinya stared at the Judges. She turned her head toward Father Dobrushin. Natalya beamed. Aksinya asked, “What does it mean? What is he saying? Am I not guilty?”
Father Dobrushin whispered, “You are not guilty.”
“But I am guilty of something and especially certain sins.”
“That’s not what this court was to determine.”
Aksinya obviously didn’t understand.
Natalya took Aksinya’s hand, “That is wonderful, Princess. You shall go free.”
Aksinya swallowed against a lump, “I shall never be free, but I am happy not to go to prison.”
The judge continued to speak.
Aksinya almost clapped her hands together, “Now he will tell me the truth about my guilt.”
Father Dobrushin shushed her.
Judge Richter stated, “Although, this Schöffengericht finds the Princess Aksinya not guilty, the State of Austria has received international letters concerning the Princess. Both of them request her return to Russia, one for political reasons and the other as extradition for criminal prosecution. The State of Austria has asked me to make a recommendation and a judgment based on the case at hand. Since this is not directly related to the charges, only to any potential sentencing, there is no reason for the prosecution to respond. Defense councilor would you like to make a statement in regard to these requests?”
Father Dobrushin stood, “Yes, Your Honor. I have reviewed both letters as well as the laws of the State of Austria as it applies to this circumstance. It is not in the Princess’ best interest to entertain either request from either Russian claim to authority. She desires to continue as an émigré in Austria and be allowed self-determination in all related issues. If the court will not grant her this freedom then she is willing to petition the State of Austria for asylum.”
Judge Richter wrote on the paper in front of him, “There will be no need for that, council. I am granted the authority to reject either or both requests as a recommendation of this court. It was only in the case of a guilty verdict that the Princess would be extradited to Russia without her consent. Therefore, by the authority of the State of Austria granted to me, I declare again that you are not guilty of any crime tried in this court and that you are immediately released to the custody of Father Dobrushin Sergeevich Lopuhin.
No quibbles, just jurisprudence. I have also used judicial situations in other Enchantment novels. I used it in Lilly: Enchantment and the Computer, in Warrior of Darkness, and to certain degrees in my Ghost Ship Chronicles. The judicial plot device is an excellent plot device for engaging in the pronouncement of guilt or the clearing of a character. Usually, I use it to exonerate my characters from a terrible charge. I think readers are very excited by this type of plot device. Just like Perry Mason, it can build entertainment and tension and release. You can overuse it—like Perry Mason, but it is a stalwart of many detective and crime shows.
If you use this plot device, you must be very careful of details. You don’t have to be perfect, but you must be close enough to fool your readers into believing you are an expert. For example, to write the judicial parts of Aksinya, I studied first the ecclesiastical trials of the Catholic Church and especially of the inquisition. I studied the Austrian legal system for the civil part of her trial. I believe my details are accurate enough to fool even Austrian readers. It is as accurate as a non- practitioner can make it.
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