20 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x80, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Unreliable Narrator
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)
Unreliable narrator – 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)
Unreliable narrator: Here is a definition of an unreliable narrator from the link– An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While unreliable narrators are almost by definition first-person narrators, arguments have been made for the existence of unreliable second- and third-person narrators, especially within the context of film and television.
Sometimes the narrator’s unreliability is made immediately evident. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to the character’s unreliability. A more dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story’s end. This twist ending forces readers to reconsider their point of view and experience of the story. In some cases the narrator’s unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving readers to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted.
In my world, all narrators are unreliable. Mostly because I don’t write with narrators. I have written a novel that started out in the first person, but that was just first person. In my opinion, no character should be assumed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Even if they give the appearance of telling the truth, there should always be obfuscation, lies, and mistakes—among other things.
If you first remember, show, don’t tell, then you will throw out any narrator.
Second, secrets. No one ever tells the whole truth in the real world, never. People always leave out facts, information, or just don’t tell the truth. Sometimes they right out lie. In novels all of this makes for a better story than an accurate narrator. I love to use the unreliable narrator. I’ll give some examples.
First, from School:
Deirdre laid back on the bed, “Why did they bully you?”
“My clothing looked like it came out of the trash bin. I never had a lunch. I studied all the time and made top grades. That all makes you a bully magnet.”
“That sucks.” Deirdre stared at her, “Your clothing still looks like it came out of the bin.”
“That’s because it did.” Sorcha scrunched her nose and continued, “I didn’t take the bullying or the beatings very well. The school said I started acting out. What they meant was, I didn’t let them bully me. I fought back. If they attacked me, I attacked back. If they hit, I hit. If they kicked, I kicked…”
“They expelled you?”
“They didn’t expel me—they sent me to a reformatory.”
Deirdre sat up, “They sent you to prison?”
“Assault and battery. She hit first—I just beat the crap out of her…plus a couple of her friends.” Sorcha smiled at the memory.
Deirdre put her hand on Sorcha’s, “That’s why I’m here at Wycombe. I’ve beat up a lot of girls and some boys too. They didn’t send me to prison.”
Sorcha lifted her lip, “You’re a rich toff and special. Girls like me get sent to the reformatory. Girls like you get to go to a good school.”
Deirdre made a thoughtful face.
Sorcha continued, “They sent me to HM Prison Aylesbury—that’s just up the road from here.”
“Why aren’t you there now?”
Sorcha smiled, “I escaped. They let me go to school there too, but I learned something much much more useful when I was in there. I learned to use the glamour. I knew all about it, but I didn’t imagine that I could use it. I used it inside Aylesbury, and I used it to escape Aylesbury.”
Sorcha isn’t telling the whole truth. She committed many more crimes than just assault and battery. You need to give her a break, but later, she does confess to those other crimes. As the Queen says, I don’t send girls to juvie just for one assault and battery. There is more, from School:
When the barre was complete, Mr. Petrovich went to his recorder/player and moved it ahead to a different piece of music. He stood straight in the center of them, “Ladies. Today you will have a great treat. One of my most accomplished students is in your class. I expect you didn’t know it. She would not tell you because she gave up a promising dance career for classical voice. I can never forgive her for that, so now that I discover she is my student again, I will make her help you and me. She is the Dangerous Diva sometimes known as D in the music world.” Mr. Petrovich turned to Deirdre and held out his hand.
Deirdre stepped to him with long elegant dancer’s stride.
Luna slitted her eyes.
Deirdre knew how this would go. She didn’t relax her body. She sighed inwardly, but she did roll her eyes as she put on a perfect dancer’s smile.
Mr. Petrovich touched her hand and then moved out of the way, “You see ladies. Ms. Calloway has a perfect stage presence and her technique is exquisite. Now, Ms. Calloway, you are familiar with this piece. Please demonstrate it to the best of your ability for these ladies.”
Deirdre has been keeping secrets too. She is accomplished in dance and singing. She didn’t tell anyone at school. She quit her dance then music career short—that, among other things is why she is known as the Dangerous Diva. When her skills come out, Deirdre must pay the piper. There are still more secrets and secrets being developed through the novel. I know this is about an unreliable narrator, but I don’t see much difference. If the storyline gives you false information to develop entertainment through tension and release, this is the same as an unreliable narrator.
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