1 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x91, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Military
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)
Two way love
Three way love (love rival)
Celebrity (Rise to fame)
Rise to riches
Military (Device or Organization manipulation) – Current discussion.
School (Training) (Skill Development)
Fantasy Land (Time Travel, Space Travel)
End of the — (World, Culture, Society)
Augmented Human (Robot) (Society)
Mind Switching (Soul Switching)
Military (Device or Organization manipulation): here is my definition – military is the use of a military organization or military regulation to further a plot.
Thus, if you use a military unit in your works, you are likely using a military plot device. If you are using military actions, terminology, and organization, you are definitely using a military plot device. Therefore, an intelligence agency usually uses military actions, terminology, and organization—this is a military plot device. Police and firefighters also use military actions, terminology, and organization. Of course, if you use military organizations within your plot, you are usually using a military plot device. I write, usually, because, it is possible to mention or include military units in a plot, but not use the military plot device. Just to mention that the Queen’s Black Guard are at their stations or that they repelled a terrorist attack isn’t the use of the military plot device. On the other hand, if you actually relate the internal actions of the Black Guard in defending against terrorism, you are most likely using a military plot device.
I use it all the time. The reason is that I was a military officer. I worked in the AF and with the Army, Navy, Marines, and the forces of many other countries. I know exactly how military units and military people think. I know how they act and how they fight. It is easy for me to include the military plot device in my writing. I have some examples for you.
The first is from Aegypt. You can buy this novel and read it for yourself:
Paul signaled his men to remount. His horse l’Orage was skittish and danced back a step as Paul hauled his aching frame into the saddle. Her muscles rippled like silk under her black coat, and Paul touched her gently to soothe her. l’Orage had been his steed for nearly three years, almost half the time he had been in Tunisia.
He bought her from a Berber’s market on the coast. She was the most beautiful horse he had ever seen. Feral and full of fire, she was uncontrollable in the hands of her merchant owners and stood blindfolded and hobbled in the market horse pen. A demon in the guise of a horse, she was black as charcoal without a trace of lighter markings. Paul knew she was stolen the minute his eyes lit upon her. He paid in cash—francs, and few of those, because of her temperament.
When he entered the pen to claim her, Berbers, Arabs, and Tunisians lined the enclosure to watch the black fiend trample the foolish Lieutenant. Paul walked quietly up to her, and when the laughing merchant striped off the blindfold and hobbles, Paul spoke a single word. l’Orage calmed immediately and let him stroke her face. Contemptuously, he led her on a light field-lead out of the market-square.
The marketplace turned into a frenzy of babbling men, women, and children. The native peoples sidled out of Paul’s way as if he were himself a demon from the pit. At the edge of the market, to the amazement of the spectators, Paul leapt upon l’Orage bareback and rode off at a gallop. He laughed all the way back to the garrison.
l’Orage was a horse trained for war. She was an Arabian, bred and drilled to the battlefield. She was trained to kill and to the tactics of combat. She was a European’s horse. Paul could tell by her carriage and by the saddle scars on her flanks. Only one type of European warrior found his way into the wilds of Tunisia: l’Orage had to be a Frenchman’s horse. Paul guessed that, but his confirmation came when he first stood before her, wondering himself if she would strike him before he could speak. His single word was French, and with that single word, he knew—she answered to only one tongue—French. Not to the Tunisian or Berber or Arabic her previous masters unsuccessfully tried, only to French. In combat after combat, she proved herself to be, by far, one of the finest horses in the Legion stables.
l’Orage was nervous; she smelled the blood that stained Paul’s uniform as well as her own sweat covered flanks—relics of the battle they fought not many hours ago.
Paul chuckled without humor. The reaper had descended like a night demon. The sleeping bandits didn’t have a chance. Abdu Habad and his men would not soon again attack the villages in this district. After the slaughter of last night, it would take the bandit a good while to rebuild his band. That is, if Habad were not also dead along with more than half of his men.
Merde. If this job weren’t so horrible it would have its grim pleasures. Slicing the heads off of men like Abdu Habad was a great pleasure.
Automatically, the column of thirty Legionnaires formed behind Paul. They were dressed like him: combat khakis almost the same color as the sand, finished with the signature Legionnaire’s cap and its trailing cloth. Their clothing was stained from combat and sweat. Their hands were marked by powder burns and blood. Each man slung a true rifle, ready, over his right shoulder. There were no carbines in Paul’s command: the flat desert visibility allowed long accurate rifle shots, and yet, the weapons had to always be ready at hand because the dunes and mountains provided good cover to the bandits for ambush.
Without a word from the Lieutenant, Sergeant le Boehm nodded, and the flankers and pointmen immediately took their positions. The Sergeant himself rode on Paul’s left only a few paces back. The men also seemed to bunch toward their Lieutenant. Whether they did so for the little security he could afford or to provide for his own protection, Paul couldn’t tell—never could tell.
The hard rocky desert went on and on and was lost in the blurred horizon. Even now, in mirages and bright lines, waves of heat rose harshly upwards. Already, the lingering signs of the rainstorm had disappeared, and the ground cracked as the sun baked out what little moisture remained.
The sun treated a man the same way—it tore the water out of him. Paul had seen corpses uncovered by sandstorms. They were desiccated, like leather, ghastly. Not long after death, their bodies burst from the heat. The organs cast like limp balloons, dried into fantastic shapes, and the faces so clear you could read the terror of their last thoughts.
A similar horror had followed Paul Bolang from the battlefields of the Great War. Paul had seen much death since he entered the deserts of Tunisia. It sprang like the seeds of reaped wheat from the desert sands—the only thing that would grow—death and dying. Fortunately, he lost no men during this raid—so far, thank God. They had taken prizes: bandit’s gold, jewels, the products of villainy—and, the fetish of Abdu Habad. That would make an outstanding trophy for the officer’s mess. It was flecked with the blood of the bandit himself: the chief leapt up so suddenly when he felt Paul’s knife at his throat that the stroke did not slice deeply nor cleanly. The man was probably dead; he left enough of his blood as he vaulted onto a horse and escaped across the desert. Paul didn’t care. Abdu Habad had lost face, had run away from the Legionnaire Lieutenant. He was not worthy, in the eyes of his band of cutthroats, of even the respect of a woman.
Paul laughed, that was his simple plan: the bandits would be shamed. His Legionaries patiently killed all men who fought or remained in the camp and contemptuously allowed those who ran to escape. The word of the attack and the cowardly actions of the bandit chief would circulate from the lips of those who got away. In the eyes of the desert people, they were less than men, and they would likely never fight again. Their will was broken.
Paul laughed again. Another victory, another orchestrated defeat of the enemy, another cast of the dice. Sacré bleu, he had won again. The fire of battle still coursed like wine through his veins.
One of the key ideas in Aegypt is the French Foreign Legion. Pau Bolang is a Lieutenant and a member of the French Foreign Legion. The imagry and the ideas pervade this novel, as it does many of my novels.
The second example comes from Centurion. You can also buy this novel and read it:
“Your came here with your mother. You are a strong looking young man with a young man’s ambitions. You are a Roman citizen, or so I pronounce you. What do you wish from me?”
The words came out in a rush from Abenadar, “I wish to be a legionnaire.”
“You and every other young Roman in the Galil. Why should I choose you? Are you trained in the use of any weapons: the pila or the gladius?”
“What skills do you have which would make me need you?”
“What skills do you need?”
“A fair question. Burthus, what kinds of men do we still need in the III Gallica?”
The legionnaire to the left of the Primus answered him, “I am not sure Primus. Should I get the Cornicularius?”
“Yes call in Fonteius.”
The legionnaire saluted and left. In a few moments, a burly man in a short tunic and leggings followed him into the chamber.
“Yes, Primus,” said the Cornicularius while saluting.
“What skills do you still need, Fonteius?”
“Chiefly in the librarii, I need men who can translate and speak to the people of the Galil.”
“You,” the Primus pointed at Abenadar, “Abenadar, the Roman, can you speak the language of the Galil?”
“Yes Primus. I can speak it as well as anyone born here.”
“I know you can speak Latin; what other skills do you have?”
“I can write some Latin, and I know the language of the Greeks.”
“Better than your mother can read Latin, I hope. Will this one do, Fonteius?”
“Yes, Primus, this is just the kind of man I am looking for.”
“Very well Abenadar, consider your probatio to be at an end. I shall accept you as a librarius, but I have few immunii in this legion. You will answer to Fonteius as a librarius, but you shall fight for Centurion Capolinius in the Hastatus Posterior Century. Centurion Capolinius commands the sixth century of the tenth cohort. They are the last of the centuries in the accounting of this legion, but they call themselves the Lions. You will find with them an appropriate beginning. The Cornicularius Fonteius will instruct you and place you with your century. Follow his teaching and prove yourself a worthy Roman and you shall not be sent back to your mother’s house.”
“Thank you Primus.”
“Now, Abenadar, are you ready to take the sacramentum and accept the Emperor’s viaticum?”
“What are these, sir?”
The Primus laughed, “The oath and your first payment.”
Abenadar did not hesitate a moment, “Yes. I am ready.”
“Cornicularius, administer the oath!”
Fonteius took a standard from an honored position behind an altar in the corner of the chamber. The standard sported a golden Roman Eagle perched on the top of a pole. “Abenadar, place your hand on the Aquila of the III Gallica and repeat the sacramentum after me.”
Abenadar touched the golden bird and repeated after Fonteius, “I Abenadar, son of Abenadar Iustus from Natzeret a citizen of Rome swear to follow the consuls to the wars to which the Republic is called. I swear never to desert the Aquila nor do anything against any law prescribed by the consuls and the Republic. I will follow all orders of the consuls and of any official placed over me by them. I promise to always act on the behalf of the Republic, and I will not leave my post or responsibilities until I have served my full term. I swear never to shrink from death on behalf of the Roman State. These things I do swear by all that I hold sacred and honorable and present my own life as my bond.”
Fonteius slapped Abenadar on the back, “Welcome to the III Gallica boy. Ha, but we will make a man of you.”
The Primus took three gold aurei out of his pouch and motioned for Abenadar to come to him. The Primus handed Abenadar the coins, “I also welcome you, young Abenadar. If you have the strength and wisdom of your father, you will bring great honor to us. Go with the Cornicularius Fonteius and he will settle you in your new responsibilities.”
“Thank you, Primus,” Abenadar tried to salute like he had seen the others.
Fonteius led Abenadar out of the chamber by the side door that he entered.
Again the use of a military to convey history but also the plot of the novel. I just gave you snippets from these novels. They are mostly focused on the military from 1926 and from the first century. I recommend the military plot device if you can use it and know how to use it.
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