Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x75, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Red Herring

15 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x75, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Red Herring

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:

  1. Don’t confuse your readers.
  2. Entertain your readers.
  3. Ground your readers in the writing.
  4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
  5. 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.

Cover Proposal

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 development:

  1. Scene input (easy)
  2. Scene output (a little harder)
  3. Scene setting (basic stuff)
  4. Creativity (creative elements of the scene: transition from input to output focused on the telic flaw resolution)
  5. Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
  6. 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:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
    1. Research as required
    2. Develop the initial setting
    3. Develop the characters
    4. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  3. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  4. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  5. Write the climax scene
  6. Write the falling action scene(s)
  7. Write the dénouement scene

Here is the beginning of the scene development method from the outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. 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)



Frame story, or a story within a story

Framing device


In medias res

Narrative hook


Plot twist

Poetic justice

Predestination paradox


Red herringCurrent discussion.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)

Ticking clock scenario

Chekhov’s gun

Unreliable narrator

Third attempt


Judicial Setting

Red herring: Here is a definition of a red herring from the link– A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue.  It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion. A red herring might be intentionally used, such as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g. in politics), or it could be inadvertently used during argumentation.

Everyone should like red herrings as a plot device. These can be simple or very complex. The example of the red herring also from the link: for example, in mystery fiction, an innocent party may be purposefully cast as highly suspicious through emphasis or descriptive techniques to divert attention from the true guilty party.

By the way, the word argumentation is stupid, but that’s okay, you get the point. The definition is reasonable and not too bad. A red herring is best used when it leads your readers to the wrong conclusion. This is the mark of a properly used red herring. A poor red herring is one that doesn’t lead your readers to the wrong conclusion.

You can obviously tie red herrings directly to creative elements. The creative elements for red herrings are usually reflective or mirror elements. For example, in a mystery, the real murderer is described or recognized by certain creative elements—a red herring creative element might look like the real murderer’s creative elements, but different in some way.  For example, the murderer’s hair was black, but his eyes were blue–the suspect’s hair is black, but his eyes are green.  The murderer wear’s blue contact lenses.

I like to use red herrings as a plot device and not as “the” plot device. For example, in Warrior of Darkness, one of my Ancient Light novels, the protagonist gives the impression of being a “bad girl.” Klava smokes, drinks, dresses in old black clothing without underwear, lives in a tenement flat, and works at night. The appearance of her life and activities is meant to mislead the readers about her personality and virtue. She isn’t at all the person she appears to be. The reasons for her activities and life have more to do with her goals and her being. I’ll give you an example from the revelation scene. This isn’t the climax. It is simply the revelation of her “red herrings.”

Niul was very agitated when he picked up Klava at the Lyon’s house the next Sunday. Instead of heading directly for Westminster, he turned off into Saint James Park and stopped the car.

Klava’s voice trembled, “What’s wrong Niul?”

“You and I need to speak about something.”

Klava covered her face with her hands, “What other sins have caught up with me?”

Niul stepped out of the car and went to her side. He opened the door and put out his hand, “No sins just something I need to know.”

Scáth scowled as she slid out of the car, “What else do you need to know about her, Mr. O’Dwyer? You’ve already taken an unfair share.”

Niul clasped Klava’s hand. She did not stop trembling. Niul led her down the walk. The day was dreary with early fog and cloudy skies. Scáth trailed them at a pace behind. Niul took Klava’s hand in both of his. He caressed it and took a deep breath, “Klava are you blind?”

Scáth’s voice was tense, “Does she act blind?”

“Yes, in many ways, she does.”

Scáth nearly spat, “Mistress, you don’t have to tell him.”

Klava smiled. She still trembled, “No, Scáth, I must tell him. He has a right to ask. It is one of my defects that is not readily apparent.” Klava pulled up short. She turned Niul to face her. Her deep emerald eyes sought his and were slightly off queue. They stared obviously unfocused at his cheek.”

“You are blind.”

“Who told you?”

“The Dean of the department mentioned that you were the most accomplished student he ever taught, and related his astonishment that you couldn’t see. You are blind.”

“Yes I am. I have been blind since I was a child. Is this a defect that makes me unacceptable to you?”

“No it doesn’t at all. It just makes me more ashamed, and me, more unacceptable.”

“More ashamed, Niul O’Dwyer. How could that make you more ashamed?”

“I took advantage of a blind girl. A person who was handicapped. What kind of monster does that make me?”

Scáth laughed, “One much worse than I.”

Klava put her arms around him, “I don’t think it makes much difference. We all are handicapped in some way. Most of us just don’t acknowledge our deficiencies, or we exaggerate things that are not deficiencies to hide our true faults—like sin.”

“But you are blind.”

Klava sighed, “And that makes you want to turn away from me?”

“No it makes me want to protect you even more.”

“You pity me?”

“Yes. I do pity you.”

“That is not a foundation on which to build affection.”

“Nah, there you are very wrong, Klava. If love is a commitment, then a person who loves must commit to everything for the one he loves. Pity is a feeling that makes me want to never let you be away from me—I’d gladly be your eyes. As it is, I’m not sure how you manage as well as you do.”

“I manage because I see through the black tablet.”

“A black tablet, what is that?”

“The black tablet. My black tablet.”

“Still, what is that, Lamb?”

Klava opened her purse and took out the tablet. Niul reached for it. Klava jerked it away from him, “Don’t touch it.”

“Why’s that?”

“If you touch it, it will take your ka. It will pull your ka into the tablet.”

“Why can you touch it?”

Scáth sneered, “Duh! She’s the goddess who controls it.”

Niul moved his head to get a better look at the tablet, “It bears your face. What can it do? Is it the source of your power?”

Klava held the tablet close to her, “The Dagda is the source of my power. The tablet allows me to manipulate the forces of the world and the kas of men. With it, I can control darkness and use darkness.”

“And it allows you to see?”

“I can’t see real colors. Everything is like black and gold to me. They are all shades of black and gold. It is very lovely to my sight, but there is no color.”

“Is that why you only wear black?”

She blushed, “Yes, every other color makes me appear underclothed. The tablet allows me to see in a region that is near infrared. My body shows through anything but black. Grays, in my sight, are scandalous, but usually not too overexposed.” Klava tossed her head, “I also dress this way to irritate my mothers—both of them. I like to remind them that I am not my sister, and I am not like them. I am who I am, and who the Dagda has made me to be.”

“And what you eat?”

“Dark foods appear unappealing to me. White ones are like gold. They are radiant.”

“What you drink?”

“I can’t see light liquids very well in a glass or cup. I make a mess. I can manage drinks that are black—I have come to enjoy them very much.”

“You usually wear dark glasses during the day. What about liking the night and darkness?”

“In daylight everything appears too bright to me. I can’t see details. At night and in darkness everything is clear.” She shrugged, “I can see much better.”

Niul laughed, “Here, they all think you have a character flaw, and you simply are trying to live life on your own terms.”

“Niul this is a secret. It is my secret. Scáth knows it, but few others. I told you because you guessed and you asked. No one else has ever cared enough to ask.”

“The smoking?”

Klava laughed, “That is just a bad habit. I am not pure as you think.”

Niul clasped her to his chest. He put his face in her thick hair, “Please, Klava, it is justice when you remind me of what I did to you, but it only makes me sad. If there is any lack of purity in you, that was my doing. You are perfect. You are precious…”

“I am neither, and I didn’t mean to remind you.”

“But you should, all the time.”

He reluctantly released her. Klava didn’t step back. She reached up to his eyes and wiped them with her fingertips. “If we hurry, Niul, we can make Communion.”

In this scene, Klava reveals to Niul about herself. These traits were really red herrings that hid her actual issues. She used her habits to hide them.

I recommend using red herrings all the time. They are a wonderful plot device. They use creative elements, many times creative elements based on mirroring and reflection.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:








fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic


About L.D. Alford

L. D. Alford is a novelist whose writing explores with originality those cultures and societies we think we already know. His writing distinctively develops the connections between present events and history—he combines them with threads of reality that bring the past alive. L. D. Alford is familiar with technology and cultures—he is widely traveled and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Dayton, and is a graduate of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School. L. D. Alford is an author who combines intimate scientific and cultural knowledge into fiction worlds that breathe reality. He is the author of three historical fiction novels: Centurion, Aegypt, and The Second Mission, and three science fiction novels: The End of Honor, The Fox’s Honor, and A Season of Honor.
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