18 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x78, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Ticking Clock Scenario
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)
Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)
Ticking clock scenario – Current discussion.
Two way love
Three way love (love rival)
Celebrity (Rise to fame)
Rise to riches
Military (Device or Organization manipulation)
School (Training) (Skill Development)
Fantasy Land (Time Travel, Space Travel)
End of the — (World, Culture, Society)
Augmented Human (Robot) (Society)
Mind Switching (Soul Switching)
The ticking clock scenario is a modern theme. I don’t know if in the past time was viewed differently or if no one could conceive of an event or plot where time was limited. In any case, modern thrillers have given birth to the ticking clock scenario. The most clichéd is the time bomb. The character must deactivate the bomb to save herself and others. This is almost a toss away plot device. It happens so often in movies and the boob tube, I want to gag.
There are many variances of this plot device. I have used it myself, but in a slightly different mechanism. I usually like to use events rather than time as the limiting threat. In other words, the characters must solve how to defuse, solve, or reconcile a problem before their enemy makes good on a threat. This is a form of the ticking clock scenario. The limit is time, but time tied to some other threat or event. I’ll see if I can get you reasonable examples. First, from Warrior of Darkness:
Klava sought out. She touched each bomb at once. The night air was warm and soothing. For once, it was not wet and chill. Klava liked the heat. She felt her power envelope the night. She reached out all at once and everywhere in that small space that was the King’s Den Pub. No one moved toward her and for that she was grateful and at once alarmed. But it was too late, there was nothing she could do about it now.
Just like the last time, if these bombs went off, the pub and all the surrounding buildings would be engulfed in flames. Klava reached out and touched the kas of many adults and children. She prayed the Dagda would protect them and give her success. To her both goals were the same. Inside the tavern and in the buildings all around she felt the living souls, and the number came to her like it always did. The number saved this time would be one hundred twelve. Klava shook her head. Only one hundred twelve. The number seemed low. She felt hundreds of souls around her. She knew their breathing kas. She couldn’t contemplate this now—she had no time.
A cheer rang out from the pub. The timers on the bombs clicked over. They were set as close together as Donald’s bombers could make them, but still the electric signals released at separate intervals. The fuses ignited at different speeds. Klava touched them each and knew them. She gathered the darkness and cast it out. One after another the bombs went off and Klava gathered the energy within her darkness. She pulled it to herself and into the tablet, but the force had to go somewhere. She couldn’t control exactly where, but she could turn it back to those who touched and made the bombs.
The power filled Klava. It always was like this. She couldn’t hold it for long. It would destroy her and rebound to its source. She hated the release, that meant deaths, but she trusted the Dagda’s justice more than she trusted herself. She let it go. It whisked from her. It roared from her. She heard a pop and a crackle from the building across the street. The first ones were cries of men. Then unmistakably, the cries of children, suddenly choked off by the fire and explosions that peppered the upper floors. Klava felt them. She knew them. They died. Little children died as the power of the bombs released within their bodies. It had happened before—a bomb maker’s child, but not like this, not this many. The building on the left immediately burst into flames.
Behind her, Klava heard a scream. It was Scáth. Before Klava could move, a soft pop and a small fire burned in the space between the cars. Klava screamed. Then she fell to the concrete and screamed again. The power went out of her, but she felt with each death, her own soul wrenched and battered and beaten. She felt more wretched than she ever had. She couldn’t get it out of her mind or her heart. They were dying. She made the wrong choice this time. This time, she should have let the bombs go off. This time she should have given Niul to death. This time her actions led to more deaths, not less. She tried to cry, but tears would not come. Already, exhausted, she could not get up. She could not move. She felt wrung out and dirty, so dirty. Her mind could not accept it. Her body was too weakened. “Scáth,” she cried, “Even Scáth. I destroyed you.” Klava collapsed completely to the oily concrete. She clasped her old rosary in her hand, “Dear God, I failed you this time. I’m sorry. Grant Niul the chance for success. Give him life. Protect our children…”
People ran everywhere. Donald’s cell members were all dead. He didn’t have to inspect the blazing building to know that. The entire structure was engulfed in flames. People jumped from the windows and threw their children out of the upper floors. Many of the children were already dead. Some of the mothers stayed and died. Others fell to their deaths. They died where their children had. Donald didn’t care. For all he knew, they were Anglicans and British sympathizers. He hated both. He and Éan Dia moved directly toward the place he had last seen the goddess. Just as the Éan Dia predicted, she collapsed very nicely after the bombs went off.
They found her between two cars. She lay on the ground in a puddle of her own vomit.
Éan Dia pointed with a very sharp looking finger, “Pitiful isn’t it. Have you ever seen a goddess, Donald? They usually don’t look like this.” He smiled. Éan Dia rolled Klava over with the tip of his boot. Klava’s face was bruised and she clutched a rosary.
Donald noted Éan Dia’s fingers seemed even more like talons.
“She looks terrible, but don’t have any pity on her. Now is the time to remove her from this world.”
Sirens began to go off far away from them in the city. Donald pointed with his pistol, “She’s praying the rosary. Is she Catholic?”
“Don’t get squeamish on me Donald. Catholic, Anglican. It doesn’t really matter, does it? They both worship the Dagda. You don’t worship the Dagda—do you Donald?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Éan Dia. I’m Catholic.”
“Just shoot her. You know that no Catholic would do what you have done. You don’t worship the Dagda, you worship the PIRA. That is your god, and all the killing is your sacrifice to your god. I will show you a better way. You should worship me. You should sacrifice this goddess to me.”
“Come on Donald. Put a bullet in her brain. That way she won’t feel the pain when I rip the limbs from her body.” Éan Dia’s fingers had completely become talons now. He reached forward. His arms seemed elongated. His legs were skinnier than Donald remembered.
Donald stared at Klava, “She’s pregnant too.”
“Then you get two lives for the effort of murdering one.”
Donald aimed his gun at Klava’s head. He began to squeeze the trigger.
In this novel, the threat is bombs, but the characters know the time and think they can disarm them. They are wrong. The bombs go off and many people are injured by them. This novel includes a ticking clock scenario, but as I mentioned, it is slightly different than that typical kind of set up. Second, from Valeska: Enchantment and the Vampire:
Leila wore a silver and black lace piece of art Scáth and Heidi chose for her. It looked fetching and very chic. The hat matched it, with an angular silver center and blossoms of lace at every point. The dress appeared slightly revealing, but strategic pieces of lace covered all of Leila’s salient parts. She didn’t realize how risqué the dress looked—Scáth and Heidi hadn’t let her see herself in it before they left the room. If Leila wondered at the stares she received, she didn’t make any remarks. It was the kind of dress Brigitta would have loved on Leila, and that’s saying a lot. The dress seemed alluring in more than one way. It looked regal and extremely beguiling. The beings Scáth and Heidi hoped to meet with Leila would be impressed for more than one reason—that was entirely the point. It was finished off with silver and black lace gloves. Scáth’s dress looked positively severe in comparison.
Leila sat primly, although not patiently, through the next five races. Scáth won and kept a close eye around them. After the last race, The Concerto Group Mare Only Standard Open NH Flat (Listed), they both stood. Bruce handed a note to Scáth along with their winnings. Scáth pulled Leila close and whispered, “I have a message for us to go to the post side of the course.”
Leila’s hands trembled. Scáth caught them, “Now is the time to act like the Lady of Darkness. They will detect any fear or reticence…”
Leila pulled her hands out of Scáth’s, “I will not fail.”
“Very good, Princess.”
Leila stood straight and gave Scáth a withering stare.
Scáth grinned, “That’s just it…”
Leila pulled off her long gloves and clasped them in one hand. She held her head high and left the stands at the race side and crossed the chopped up turf. If anyone noticed the Lady and her shadow walking across the course to the post, no one said anything to them.
They noted no one immediately when they arrived, but soon afterward, a very large man with heavy features and dark red hair approached them, “Ah, Ms. O’Dwyer, may I introduce myself. I am Mahon.”
Leila’s eyes flashed, “You are not to address me so informally, I am the Lady of Darkness, Mahon.”
Mahon bowed, “Yes, Lady of Darkness.”
Leila squeezed her gloves tightly, “Now, Mahon, where is my warrior and where is my tablet?”
“That, my Lady is what I am here to negotiate.”
“Very well. What do you want for them?”
“I wish for you to release my friends from the tablet.”
“Perhaps that can be arranged. I need the tablet first. Do you have it?”
“It is in safekeeping.”
“To make so great an undertaking, I require the tablet at night, and I must touch it.”
Mahon paused for a long moment before he replied, “Both can be arranged. We would rather have the deed done in the daylight.”
“Really? I would have thought you would want everything accomplished in the darkness. During the daylight, they will all be watching.”
“The anonymity of the crowd has its advantages, but my master is indeed most powerful in the darkness. I shall take your request into consideration…”
“You ask for a great doing from the Black Tablet and the Lady of Darkness, why do you imagine daylight will favor you?”
“Yes, I see.”
“Where shall I meet you?”
“You shall come alone.”
Leila raised her hand, “I shall bring my servants…”
“Who would that be?”
“My two handmaidens. They serve only me.”
Mahon pointed at Scáth, “This one, you mean…”
“And another like her.”
Mahon sized Scáth up and down, “She is a creature of the dead. She will be no match for us. I see no harm in bringing her. They must not interfere.”
“They serve me.”
“They perhaps cannot be killed, but they can be harmed. I warn you of this—you risk them, and you risk your warrior if you betray us. He is flesh like you and can be killed.”
Leila squinted at him, “You speak too much little god without any purpose.”
Mahon’s face turned red and his voice shook, “Insults will only make your trial harder.”
Scáth tugged at Leila’s arm.
Leila tensed, “You ask me to make a great doing for you. I simply wish my servants beside me to help—that is their purpose. You threaten me, but fear to hear the truth. I realize very well what you ask, and what the risks are to me and mine. This is something you wanted to emphasize, is it not?”
Mahon’s face calmed, “It is. We do threaten you and your warrior. Do not bring any others.”
“I will not. Who will attend you?”
“That is something I shall not reveal. Only know this, your life and the life of your warrior stand in the balance.”
Leila tapped her foot, “You speak too much. Where shall we meet?”
“At the place where once stood the bleachers at Valentine’s Brook.”
“What time will most suit the doing?”
Leila smiled, “Three hours after sunset, before the moon rises.”
Mahon bowed, “Very well, Lady of Darkness.”
“One moment. When will you release my warrior to me?”
“When my companions are free, then I will reveal his location to you.”
Leila snarled, “That does not seem to be a good bargain to me.”
“It is the best I can offer you at the moment.”
“Very well. We meet at Valentine’s Brook and the appointed time.”
Mahon glanced to either side. He smirked, “We shall be there.”
Scáth and Leila watched Mahon disappear into the crowd.
In this scene, there is a direct threat, and there is a time limit. The limit is set more by the time of day. Still this is a variation of the ticking clock scenario.
I had bombs in my first example—bombs and threats. In the second example, I had threats and not so much bombs. My conclusion, the ticking clock scenario is a great plot device and can be used by authors as well as screenwriters. I suggest you try to downplay the time component, but build the suspense component of this excellent plot device. That’s my technique. I find that pacing suffers with too much emphasis on time. I like my novels to be enveloped in time, but not necessarily dependent on time. Ticking clock is almost always dependent on time.
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