2 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x92, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, School
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)
School (Training) (Skill Development) – Current discussion.
Fantasy Land (Time Travel, Space Travel)
End of the — (World, Culture, Society)
Augmented Human (Robot) (Society)
Mind Switching (Soul Switching)
Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)
School (Training) (Skill Development): here is my definition – School is the use of an educational, training, or organized skill development to further a plot.
I love to use this type of plot device. I’ve written a couple of novels with girl’s boarding schools. I’ve also written about military training at Sandhurst. One of my favorite novels that uses a school plot device is Starship Troopers. If you notice Starship Troopers proves that school or training is a plot device—it isn’t a novel about school or training per se. It is a novel about the war against the bugs (aliens) as well as the coming of age of the protagonist. In fact, the coming of age or maturity of the protagonist is the theme of the novel. The war against the bugs is the plot line (plot) or the storyline of the novel. There are some technical differences between a storyline and a plot, but I won’t go into those here.
Starship Troopers uses the military plot device and the training plot device to build the plot of the novel. Notice, you have two plot devices right there. A further plot device is war, and I need to add that to our list. Another, is brotherhood or camaraderie. Each of these plot devices further the plot, but aren’t the entire plot.
What makes a school plot device? Notice, I listed training and skill development as well as school. Anytime you use an organized training situation to further your plot, that is school. I’ll go further, I have used a college setting and the school plot device in many of my novels. Here is how they are different. A school can be a setting for many reasons. It becomes a plot device if the author uses the concept of the school (training) to further the plot. Thus, just having a school as a setting isn’t a plot device, having your protagonist teach or learn or go to classes and interact in the learning is a plot device. Here are some examples.
The first is from Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si:
Essie and Mrs. Lyons arrived at Twiston Davies House early Saturday morning on the last day of August. Their driver wrestled Essie’s new steamer trunk from the boot of the Bentley and dragged it to the front of TD House—Twiston Davies House. Mrs. Lyons and Essie followed closely behind. Before they could open the building’s door, a woman exited. She displayed a bright smile and wore an apron and work dress. Her face appeared gently wrinkled and her hair was grey. She only gave a slight glance at Essie’s trunk, and immediately turned her attention to Mrs. Lyons and Essie, “Good morning, I’m Mrs. Morris the housemistress.”
Mrs. Lyons stepped forward, “I’m Mrs. Lyons and this is Essie Lyons.”
“We’ve been expecting you. We don’t get many transfers during this semester.” She turned a longer look at Essie’s trunk, “You didn’t bring much—are we expecting a shipment…?”
Mrs. Lyons glanced at the trunk, “No this is all.”
Essie pressed the front of her dress, “I also have a keyboard.”
“Ah, yes, you are the new music student. I hope you have a pair of headphones. We usually don’t allow playing of instruments in TD House.”
Essie looked confused.
Mrs. Lyons brow rose, “I should have thought of that. We’ll purchase some right away.”
Mrs. Morris smiled a little broader, “That’s good. We attempt to maintain a quiet environment for studies.”
Mrs. Morris waved for them to follow her through the door. They entered and Mrs. Morris held open the first door on the left. They entered a small office, “This is the TD House office. Mademoiselle Froment is the Assistant Housemistress. She and I keep office during normal school hours every day. You can also reach us at any time on our pagers and cellphones. Now, I need you, Mrs. Lyons to sign for the room and the key. I also have a packet for you and a booklet with the TD House instructions and school rules. You and Essie must sign them both. I’ve written our phone and pager numbers in the front of your booklet. I’ll answer any of your questions now, and if you need any help later on, just call.” Mrs. Morris laid the documents in question on the desk.
Mrs. Lyons looked over the papers, “Essie doesn’t have a cell phone—should she get one?”
Mrs. Morris cocked her head, “We have phones in the rooms, but they only provide local calling without a card or collect. You can purchase phone cards in the school shop.”
“Ah, I see.”
Mrs. Lyons studied the paperwork, “It says a computer or laptop is recommended.”
“Recommended, but not required. The library has computers and our study areas also have them available.”
Mrs. Lyons signed the boarding forms. Essie printed her name on the school and boarding house rules.
Mrs. Morris stared at Essie’s block handwriting for a long moment. She filed the form in a desk drawer, “Let me guide you to your room.”
Mrs. Lyons paused, “Allow me to tell our driver to follow with the trunk.”
Mrs. Morris motioned to them and exited the office. She opened the front door and instructed the driver to the service lift. Then she moved quickly to the front stairs, “Usually, the girls in the 10th year share a room, but due to Essie’s late entry and your request, we’ve placed her in one of the 11th year rooms. That will give her a little more space and allow her to integrate with her class and house…perhaps a bit less quickly. She has been assigned a buddy in house Prosser—that will be Essie’s assigned house in the school. Her house buddy lives in TD. I’ll introduce you to her later.” Mrs. Morris led them up the stairs. The halls looked wide and modern although the building on the outside appeared old and a classic design like all the main school buildings.
The driver met them on the first floor.
Mrs. Morris led them to a corner room. Mrs. Lyons handed Essie her key. The door seemed to spring open at her touch before she inserted the key.
Mrs. Morris’ smile slipped a little, “The door was supposed to be locked.”
Mrs. Lyons tendered Essie a little glance. She took the key and put it into the lock, “Essie isn’t very familiar with keys. She showed Essie how to lock and unlock the door, “You should do it this way, Essie.”
Mrs. Morris watched closely, showing a little less of a smile. She pushed open the door.
The room lay at a bright corner of the TD House. It held a lightly colored oak bed, desk, and a dresser. The windows looked out to the open quadrangle between the buildings of the three boarding houses. The room appeared clean, and white muslin curtains covered the windows.
Mrs. Morris stepped in and opened the curtains. The skies were partly cloudy, but bright sunlight filled the place.
Just a short piece of a scene to show the use of a boarding school. There is so much more in this novel—I hope it is published at some time so you can all read it. The school I use is real and some of the names are real. This provides a level of reality to the writing.
The second example comes from Centurion. You can buy this novel and read it:
Tero led Abenadar toward this group.
“Hey, Nico,” said Tero, “here is a new man for you to train.”
Nico was the giant. He was as broad and tall as one of the huge doors leading into the camp. His name in Latin meant battering ram, and Abenadar never learned if ‘Nico’ was a nickname or really his own. Like all of the veterans, Nico’s face and arms were covered with scars, and though his armor was complete, it showed signs of frequent repair. He carried a baton similar to the vitis of the centurions, but without decorations. This, Abenadar learned, was a training baton.
“So, who is this,” said Nico in a voice as large as he was.
“I am Abenadar of Natzeret.”
“Are we now taking men from the Galil?” said Nico.
“I am a citizen of Rome.”
“All men are the same here,” said Nico, “What matters is not where you come from, but how well you learn to be a legionnaire.”
“That is why I’m here,” said Abenadar.
Tero slapped Abenadar on the back, “I like this man already, Nico. Train him well.” He turned and walked back toward the front of the camp.
Nico said, “Good. Abenadar. Join the group. I was just explaining the march. Today, like every day, we march. Put on your shields,” said Nico.
All the men except Abenadar had taken off their shields. They now used the long strap to loop them over their backs.
“We march, but first we need some fuel to march on. Follow me, and we’ll see if any breakfast is left for starving Romans—even one from Natzeret.” Nico led them to the front of the camp. The men followed closely behind Nico. As they walked, they pulled their bowls and drinking cups from their packs. Abenadar copied them. He ended up at the end of a long line that curved around the barracks toward the officium. Because they were trainees and not full legionnaires, they had to wait for all the other men before they could eat.
The line moved quickly. When Abenadar finally stepped around to the front of the barracks, the single line became four separate queues that passed before large iron cooking pots. The first pot in each queue steamed from a fire below it. As Abenadar stepped to the front of the line, a cook dished thick wheat gruel called cibaria into his bowl. The cook filled his bowl almost to the top, and added a large slash of olive oil to it from an amphora. From the second large pot, a kitchen slave filled Abenadar’s cup with a thin mixture of water and beer that was almost entirely water. As soon as he had his food, Abenadar paused and looked around. Nico and the trainees sat on the ground near the quaestorium. Abenadar joined them there.
A short piece that begins Abenadar’s training in the Legion. In this novel, you get to see all of the training of a legionnaire for better or worse. I wanted to show people today how a legionnaire really trained and became a legionnaire. You can read how in this novel. In fact, this may be the only historically accurate novel that describes the legionnaire’s training during the first century. This is the use of school or training as a plot device. I should relate that Centurion is not just about the training of a legionnaire. That is only a small fraction of the novel.
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