19 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x79, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Chekhov’s Gun
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)
Chekhov’s gun – 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)
Chekhov’s gun: Here is a definition of a Chekhov’s gun from the link– Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that every memorable element in a fictional story must be necessary and irreplaceable, and any that are not should be removed.
A Chekhov’s gun in my world is the same as a creative element. I’ll repeat the basics of a creative element. A setting element is any item, place, or character that is described as part of the setting. A setting element becomes a creative element when it interacts with a character. In my definition, every creative element is a Chekhov’s gun. This means that in my writing, I expect every creative element to be irreplaceable. From Chekhov’s own thoughts, he would say, if you place a gun on the wall as a decoration in the first act, you shoot it in the second act.
I won’t go this far in literature. In a play everything should be essential and vital. In literature, I always have setting elements that may or may not become creative elements, but I think every creative element is a Chekov’s gun. In other words, in my writing every item the character’s interact with become plot elements. To me creative elements are always plot elements. They exist to forward the plot revelation to the climax. This is a concept that can’t be easily demonstrated. I will try to find some for you.
First, from Valeska: Enchantment and the Vampire:
George identified the sound behind him at the street as the scuff of a boot on the cobblestones. Then he heard a click. George spun around to the street and backed toward the collection of garbage and not the dumpster with its hidden person. A green laser dot appeared on the left side of his chest. In front of him, he caught a very bright flare in his night vision scope. Directly after the flare came a thump. It took only an instant to process that a bullet had been fired at him. By then, it was too late. George felt something tear into his left chest. It pushed him half around, and he dropped to the damp ground. The bullet pierced him and he felt it tear through his skin. It broke a rib, and burned as it drilled a hole through his lung. He felt it break another rib and exit at his back. The pain was excruciating, but he was too shocked to make a sound. If he made any noise, it was a great exhalation of breath when his left lung collapsed.
George fell into the pile of garbage. The pain and burning was so intense, he didn’t notice if it hurt when he struck the ground. The man behind the dumpster moved—he didn’t say a word. The man who fired the shot didn’t say anything either. They just bolted and left him there…to die. He heard their rapid steps as they ran down the street. The sound slowly died out, and was gone. For a while, he perceived no sounds after that.
George knew he was dying. It wouldn’t do any good to cry out—too late now. He dragged his phone out of the pocket of his jacket and fumbled with it for a moment. He pressed the panic button. He sighed. They would be here in an hour maybe two. He tried to dial the local police, but the phone slipped from his suddenly slick hand and dropped to the cobblestones. He couldn’t gather the energy to pick it up again. The blood poured out of the bullet wound in his chest and he felt it bubbling out of the hole in his back. He pressed his hand against the wound in his chest and groaned—that hurt. It didn’t staunch the blood much, and he could do nothing to stop the flow of blood on the other side. He was amazed. In all the movies when people were shot, they moved around and chased the bad guys. He couldn’t do anything but lie there on the cold and wet ground.
He was dying.
A movement caught him by surprise. It came from the dark alleyway away from the street. A small person moved very quickly from the opening to stand right in front of him. It stopped suddenly and whimpered, then sat on its haunches. It squatted outside of his reach and watched him. Its face was thin and pale. The face barely showed in his night vision goggle. That in itself was surprising. It wore clothing that seemed exceedingly fine, but which was filthy and obviously damp, the remains of a girl’s party dress. The dress had once been white with red or pink ribbons, but now it was torn and bedraggled. The ribbons blended with the stains on the dress. The stains seemed to be long dried blood and not just the dirt of the streets.
The girl, it was a girl, stared at him with bright eyes tinged with silver. They appeared slightly dull in the night vision goggle. Her hair was black and matted. It reached almost to the cobbles of the alleyway where she squatted. Her face was finely etched and hard. She let her tongue slip out of her mouth. She licked her lips. Her tongue was slightly pointed, and George could swear her incisors were elongated and pointed like fangs.
She raised her eyes to his and spoke. It wasn’t Polish. She pronounced her words in high German with a strange lilt. Her voice was low and melodious, “You, mortal man, you are dying.”
George groaned, “I’m dying. Can you call the police with my phone?”
She eyed him strangely, “I don’t have a phone here—what good would it do?”
“My iPhone. It fell at my side.”
She shrugged, “I don’t know what that is. I wouldn’t be able to use it. You are dying.”
“I am dying. Can you help me?”
The girl stared at him, “You are dying. It’s a full moon—I’m starving.”
George laughed and immediately wished he hadn’t. He felt the blood bubble from the wound at his front and his back. His laugh cut off suddenly, “What did you plan to do—eat me?”
“I’d like to dine on your blood.”
He wanted to laugh again, but stifled it, “Are you a vampire?”
The girl drew her finger across the cobbles, “I’m a vampire, and I’m very hungry. It’s a full moon, and you interrupted my hunt.”
I’ll center on the phone as a creative element, plot element, and Chekhov’s gun. The phone eventually brings help to George. He uses it to alert his help—too late. The girl vampire doesn’t understand what it is. The element has legs for entertainment and for the completion of the scene. It comes into play later in the novel as well. It is a necessary part of the scene and provides a degree of entertainment as well as informing us about the modern knowledge of the girl.
Second, from Warrior of Darkness:
Rain sizzled across the broken concrete. The black skies drained dark cold drops and sprinkled frozen bits of ice. They touched Klava Diakonov’s skin and numbed her cheeks and fingers. A blast of lightning cascaded across the heavens. She could not see it with her eyes. Still, she wrapped her black scarf more tightly over her face and pulled her dirty black coat closer. In spite of that, the blaze of light touched her senses and blinded them for a moment.
The lightning outlined and illuminated her. She stood across from The Bishop’s Cross Pub in the grass at the base of a knoll. She was a slight woman with very black hair and dark skin. Her complexion was uniformly the color of coffee au lait. It was much darker than the Irish norm of Belfast. Her eyes were emerald and as deep as two still pools of water. They appeared almost Egyptian, or at least, like a tomb painting from that cursed British Museum. Klava was dressed entirely in black. And in her hand she held a small tablet of black metal that was covered with hieroglyphics and the depiction of a face. The face was hers and the tablet was hers.
Regardless of the downpour, Klava lifted up her cold wet hands. Water dripped down her sleeves and further chilled her. Her features tensed in concentration and strange words that were neither Irish Gaelic nor English escaped her lips.
Note that there are many setting elements, creative elements, plot elements, and Chekhov’s guns in these short paragraphs. I’ll focus on the black tablet. This creative element is definitely a Chekhov’s gun that plays a part through the entire novel. The black tablet is necessary to the scene and to the novel. This is indeed a plot element. It is, as I remarked, a Chekhov’s gun as well.
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