21 June 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x81, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Third Attempt
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)
Third attempt – 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)
Third attempt: here is my definition – during an action sequence, the character is attempting to complete an action. The character succeeds on the third attempt.
You can play this in many ways. The most simple is exactly as I describe it here. This is a true plot device. The creative elements are the action, the event, the success. This is one of the most common plot devices used by authors. I’ll note for you. Once is not enough. If the character succeeds on the first attempt, you need a specific reason for the success. It can’t be just skill, physical prowess, and all. There isn’t enough excitement in first attempt success. The same goes for second attempt success. The excitement (tension) is building a second attempt success is better than the first, but the writer should realize, the reader will expect a third attempt.
I don’t know why expectation of success comes in threes. In real life this isn’t necessarily true. In fictional life, this is literally a rule of law. That’s isn’t to say, you can’t or shouldn’t play with this. I do it intentionally, but I give very specific reasons for single or second success. Third attempt success seems so natural in the writing environment, I wondered why it isn’t known or taught. Look at the “official” list of plot devices, then look at my list of plot devices. I would argue that most of the “official” so called plot devices are not plot devices at all. They are simply plot characteristics and concepts. A plot characteristic or concept is something inherent to a plot. A plot device is a plot changer—it drives the plot. I can give you a great example of third attempt.
From Escape from Freedom:
Scott started a slow walk around the building. They found another door and some emergency exits. The emergency exits opened only from the inside, and the other door also possessed a cypher lock. Scott almost gave up, when he noticed the balcony above the second floor. It ran along the back side of the building and partially faced the runway and the open mountains and hills on the other side. It fronted a partial third floor that formed the top floor of the building. The walls contained no hand or foot holds—it looked almost entirely smooth.
Scott thought a moment. He remembered, cables and tools filled the workshop in the garage. He rushed back into the first garage. Inside the workroom, he found coils of synthetic rope and a large heavy wrench. He tied one end of the rope to the eye of the wrench. In moments, he stood outside at the lowest point of the balcony. Scott motioned Reb to the side, “I’m going to throw this up there…keep out of the way.”
Scott swung the wrench with the rope until he could launch it at the open balcony. He released it, and it smashed against the permacrete of the lip. He hadn’t thrown it far enough and it fell with a thud at his feet. He swung it completely around his head and let it go again. This time the wrench sailed over the balcony and landed with a heavy clank. Scott pulled it gently back toward himself and thought it caught. He pulled a little harder and it pitched over the lip and again planted itself in the ground at his feet. He tried a third time and swung it with more force around and around his head. The wrench flew well over the balcony, and they heard glass shatter on the other side. Scott pressed himself against the cold wall. If this place was alarmed they might get more attention than they bargained for. He crouched at the side of the building and listened closely for any sound or movement. He heard nothing. Reb moved closer to him. Scott asked, “Do you detect anything?”
She shook her head.
Scott tugged on the rope. About a foot came toward him, then it stopped. He took a deep breath and pulled harder. It didn’t move a millimeter. Scott grasped the rope a little higher and put most of his weight on it. It seemed to be set. He dangled with his full weight on the rope. It moved a little then jerked to a stop. He glanced at Reb, “I’m going up…”
I need to mention. If you move to a fourth attempt, that signals lack of success. The reader will likely run out of patience for any other attempts. You might as well give up and move the characters on. This is what I mean by changing things up. I don’t suggest you move beyond the third try for success, but you should halt the attempts at some point and move on. Have the characters regroup and try again.
To conclude, I don’t know why third attempt is a defined plot device—it just works. When characters need to accomplish something difficult, the concept of the third attempt makes even the very difficult seem obtainable. Use it, but change it up a little.
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