3 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x93, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Supernatural
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)
Supernatural – 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)
Supernatural: here is my definition – Supernatural is the use of spiritual creatures, spiritual beings, and spiritual situations to further a plot.
This is my basic plot device. It usually isn’t the theme of my novels or the plot of my novels, but I use it as a means to construct and further the plot. A great example of this is found in School. I needed a means for Sorcha, my protagonist’s helper, to remain in the boarding school without anyone realizing she wasn’t an official student. I used a little supernatural trick. I developed the plot such that Sorcha is the child of a human and an Unseelie fae (Nightshade). Thus Sorcha can use fae glamour to change her appearance and to affect her teachers so they accept her as a student. It isn’t as simple as putting a spell on someone—it’s the use of trickery and suggestion. Still, the use of the supernatural isn’t the focus of the novel necessarily or the theme of the novel—it is simply a plot device that gets my student into the school. There is much more to this.
I like to use the supernatural plot device in many if not most of my novels. To a degree, I see it as a primary characteristic of my writing. I like to interject the supernatural as part of the natural in all of my writing. I don’t use this plot device in my science fiction.
Let me point out that vampires, werewolves, and other creatures like them are all the use of the supernatural. An author can use this as a plot device, a theme, or a plot in itself.
The first is from School:
Deirdre stared at the other girl. She sat in the last seat next to the window. It was the seat Deirdre always coveted. She sniffed—it was already taken. She cocked her head and squinted at the girl. Something seemed off about her. Deirdre scratched her cheek. There was something strange about the girl’s clothing, but Deirdre couldn’t tell exactly what. She squinted a little more. The sun reflected across the courtyard and burst through the windows. Deirdre caught both a whiff and a view. As the early morning sunlight cascaded across the windows, the clothing of the girl in the corner desk suddenly changed. At one moment, it appeared like the perfect uniform: pressed, dark blue, wrinkleless, tie tied exactly and correctly. The next moment, everything changed. The skirt appeared faded black and not blue. The sweater looked threadbare and washed-out. The shirt was entirely white and not pinstriped at all. The tie was tied perfectly, but it was black and not the color of any house.
Deirdre smelled it too. It was the sweet scent like honey in the comb. Like boiled down sunlight and dandelions. It could only be one thing, the scent of the power of the fae. She thought it smelled particularly like fae glamour. When the sunlight came back to normal brilliance, the girl’s uniform looked ordinary again. Deirdre knew some tricks she could use to cut through fae glamour, but she didn’t want to try them now. She examined the girl. She was short, perhaps as short as Deirdre. That was part of Deirdre’s problem—she was short and very conscious of it. The girl wasn’t well developed either—Deirdre was there too. The girl looked thin—almost as thin as Deirdre.
She moved her attention to the girl’s face. She was trying very hard to ignore Deirdre. Her hair looked very dark—as dark as Deirdre’s hair was light. The girl’s complexion was pale, as pale as Deirdre’s sickening strawberry light skin. Her face was heart-shaped with a slightly pointed chin and thin cheeks. Her dark hair fell long and loose. Deirdre’s hair was strawberry blond and also long. She had put it up in a tight French braid today. Deirdre couldn’t see the girl’s ears. It suddenly became important for her to examine them. She moved sidelong toward the back of the room and the girl.
When Deirdre came close, the girl shifted her seat closer to the window and she turned her head away. By then, other girls began entering the classroom. Deirdre didn’t take her focus off the girl, but she kept an eye on the others. No one came close to her…to them—that was good.
Deirdre sat in the chair next to the girl. She carefully scooted her chair slightly away from the girl—she understood this exactly about herself. She assumed others would also be uncomfortable with someone too close. She could barely stand to have her mother, father, brothers, or sisters hug her—she never wanted anyone too close to her. Deirdre checked her watch. It was an awesome pilot’s watch she got from her sister’s husband, Daniel when they sent her off to Wycombe Abbey. It wasn’t a girl’s watch at all—she loved it. She still a little time before class.
Deirdre turned her head down and slightly toward the girl, “Good morning. I’m new here. Are you?”
The girl didn’t turn her head. She seemed to make up her mind and hissed, “Read the atmosphere.”
Once an idea struck Deirdre, she never gave up, “I’m not used to being ignored. I’m trying to be pleasant. I’m new, and I’d like to make friends.”
The girl gripped the desk with white knuckles. She made a strange sound under her breath and said a couple of ancient Gaelic words.
Deirdre waved her hands under her nose, “There isn’t a problem with your glamour, sweet. It won’t work against me.”
The girl turned in shock toward Deirdre, “It won’t work?”
“Not at all. I’m immune.”
The girl stood with a panicked look on her face. Her clothing flickered for a moment then came back to its visible perfection. The bell rang, and a tall smiling woman wearing a severe blue skirt suit and a poufy blouse breezed into the room. The girl sat firmly back in her seat. Deirdre noticed her eyes were light grey, and her nose was slightly sharp like her chin. Deirdre wasn’t sure if the girl was very beautiful or just very unusual looking.
I love this—a little mystery, a little secret, some conflict, some humor, some discomfort. Each of these play in the scene and build the entertainment and excitement.
The second example comes from Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si:
In the morning, Mrs. Lyons and Essie ate breakfast and stepped directly out into the gardens. Essie carried a couple of picture books, her notebook, and a pencil. Mrs. Lyons brought the current novel she was reading. Mrs. Lyons read a story to Essie then set her to work copying letters.
In the late morning, Mrs. Lyons heard a car pull into her short drive and looked up in surprise. She noted the car drove all the way up to the front of her house. Essie looked up too. The bell sounded loud enough Mrs. Lyons heard it from the garden. She made an unhappy noise and stood, “Essie, stay here. I’m going to check the door. I’m not expecting any visitors today.”
Essie nodded and returned to her writing.
Mrs. Lyons stepped back through the guest parlor door and to the front of the house. She answered the door to find a rough looking man outside. A very old Triumph coupe stood in her drive. The man wore dirty farmer’s clothing, but Mrs. Lyons couldn’t tell if the dirt was honest and new or old and questionable. Mrs. Lyons asked, “May I help you?”
The man smiled, “I believe you can. You have one of my animals here—I’ve come to collect it.”
“One of your animals? Whatever can you mean?” At that moment, a scream rose from the garden. It sounded like Essie’s voice, and a cry like none Mrs. Lyons had ever heard from the throat of a human being. Mrs. Lyons slammed the front door and bolt locked it. She moved as quickly as she could to her bedroom. She picked up her cane and then the semi-automatic pistol from under her pillow. Then she moved to the guest parlor door as fast as her old legs would carry her.
When she threw open the door a young man held Essie fast by the arms. He dragged her forward, out of the garden. At the same time another young man beat her back and legs with a whip. The men dressed much like the older man who came to Mrs. Lyons’ door.
Mrs. Lyons yelled, “Let go of that girl, immediately.” The men laughed at her. They kept dragging and striking. With each blow, Essie cried out a horrible scream. Between each scream, she pronounced something under her breath, but each strike of the whip caused her to writhe and lose her words.
Mrs. Lyons stepped out of her house and brandished her cane. She jogged toward the men, and brought her cane down on the one with the whip. He whirled suddenly and held the whip up as though he meant to strike Mrs. Lyons. At that moment, the older man stepped around the corner of the house. The man with the whip suddenly ignored Mrs. Lyons. He turned immediately back to Essie and struck her again.
Mrs. Lyons’ face flushed with rage. She brought the cane down on the man’s back again—once, twice. The man turned toward her. The younger man who held Essie’s arms cried, “Don’t stop, for God’s sake don’t let it change. It’ll cut me to ribbons.”
The man who confronted Mrs. Lyons took a quick glance at the older man and then at Mrs. Lyons. He turned back toward Essie and struck her again. Mrs. Lyons hit the man again as solidly as she could, “I told you to stop hitting the girl.”
Essie kept screaming. Flecks of foam burst between her lips with each blow. The back of her dress turned red with stripes from the whip.
Mrs. Lyons’ voice rose a notch, “I order you to stop right now.”
The older man, called, “Don’t stop. If you value your lives, don’t you dare stop now.”
Mrs. Lyons turned to the older man, “Stop it this instant.”
“You don’t understand, Mrs. Lyons…”
“I understand that you are beating my ward…”
“It isn’t human, Mrs. Lyons, and it’s not your ward. It’s our responsibility.”
Mrs. Lyons glared at the man. She raised her cane and struck the younger man on the head this time. The man turned and grabbed Mrs. Lyons’ cane. He wrenched it out of Mrs. Lyons’s hand and threw it to the side. Then he turned to strike Essie again.
Mrs. Lyons brought up her pistol, “I told you to stop. If you strike that girl again, I shall shoot you.”
The older man yelled, “She’s got a gun.”
The man with the whip spun around and grasped the barrel of Mrs. Lyons’ pistol. Mrs. Lyons fired. The bullet struck the whip and passed through the man’s palm. The whip flew through the air. The struck man leapt back with a cry and a look of absolute surprise on his face. His hand began to stream blood.
The older man cried, “Grab the whip and use it—it’s our only hope.”
Mrs. Lyons shot the whip further down the path. She pointed her pistol at the man who held Essie, “Let the girl go, or I shall put a bullet in your brain.”
The man let go of Essie, and she fell back onto the ground. Essie writhed a moment. Whatever words she was trying to speak rushed out of her heart, mind, and mouth. She gave another scream, but this one sounded completely animal-like. She shook and writhed again.
The older man yelled, “Get back, all of you. It’s too late to stop it. It’s about to change.”
Mrs. Lyons roared, “Don’t move an inch. I will shoot anyone who harms this girl.”
The older man yelled, “It’s not a girl. Are you daft? It’ll kill you as quickly as it’ll kill us.”
Mrs. Lyons moved where she could see the men and still stand near Essie, “All I know is you were causing her enormous pain and suffering. I will not allow you to continue.”
The older man pointed, “It’s too late for any of that anyway. Look at it…”
Mrs. Lyons glanced down at her feet. Essie’s face and body were changing. Mrs. Lyons heard bone crack and sinew reverberate. She could barely stand to watch it. Essie didn’t shrink, but her hair grew to cover her entire body. Her face and arms and legs deformed and molded to something else entirely. Her shape changed from a young woman to an animal—a large black animal—a cat. When the change was complete, Essie twisted out of her clothing and paced warily near Mrs. Lyons. The cat stared at the men in a way Mrs. Lyons had never seen Essie stare at anything or anyone before.
Essie is the Aos Si. The Aos Si is a shape changing being. It is a girl or a witch who changes into a great black cat. This little supernatural plot device allows Essie to live in the world of humankind and the world of the fae. This builds entertainment in the novel.
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