4 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x94, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Comeback
Happy B-Day USA.
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)
Comeback – 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)
Comeback: here is my definition – Comeback is the use of a monetary, popularity, competition, or intellectual return to success to further a plot.
You could just say comeback is a return to success. I’m trying to rack my memories to determine if I’ve used a comeback plot device before. The classic is Rocky, but there are many others. You have to first have failure to have a comeback. In fact, a comeback can be compared in some ways to a redemptive theme, but we aren’t talking purely about themes here. A comeback can be a theme or an actual plot. It can also be a plot device. I may have used a comeback plot device in Shadow of Darkness. In that novel, the protagonist goes from fully fit to horribly injured and recovers. The novel isn’t wholly about her recovery, so it is a plot device and not a plot or theme.
If you note, in the comeback plot device, you can first use a failure plot device then stage a comeback. You can also start with the character as failed. I’ll give you my example. First the failure, then part of the comeback.
This is from Shadow of Darkness:
The huge Russian tank guns blasted yellow red spurts of deadly fire at the building. Stone dust burst into the air at each shot. Lumière heard the screams of dying men. German machinegun fire blazed everywhere, and she was astounded neither of them had been hit. Then Oba went down. He didn’t make a sound, just jerked backwards and fell to his knees.
“It is nothing, mistress.”
“There is nowhere for us to go. Can you run?”
He stood up, “They will shoot you down, mistress. You run, I will draw their attention.”
“Oba, there are too many of them. We have nowhere to run. Nowhere to go.”
Oba didn’t say another word. He stood and began to run toward the line of Russian soldiers, then he yelled, “Mistress, run the other way, through the line of tanks.” At each word, Lumière saw a blast of blood and muscle burst from Oba’s body. She knew he would move until his body was cut to pieces—they could not kill him.
“No! Oba!” she screamed. Lumière removed a small tablet from her pocket. It was pure gold striped oddly with black lines. The tablet was about fifteen by ten centimeters and one centimeter thick. One side was marked with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and the portrait of a seated woman. Across the lips of the woman’s picture once was a frown, now it was neither a frown nor a smile. Her mouth was straight as though at any moment the lips might turn either way.
Lumière jumped up. She held the tablet in her hand and said a word. The word itself was encased in power. It rose up from her lips and seemed to swirl with sunshine. It was like a dust devil but formed of light and darkness instead of earth. The golden swirl rose up and expanded. It encased Oba and swept him along. It caught up the tanks and buffeted them mercilessly. Their guns stopped firing. The Russians who walked behind the tanks were bowled over. Their bodies buffeted and their weapons lost, but they were unharmed. When the golden light hit the Reichstag building, it washed over the stone and rushed through the windows. Each man it touched fell to the ground blinded and unmoving. The world became nearly silent in the wake of the thing the girl had created.
A German soldier took careful aim with an antitank weapon at the slim girl who stood between the Russian tanks and the Reichstag. He had many antitank Panzerfausts to fire at the Russian vehicles, and he expected to die today. What would the death of one girl mean to anyone? He knew he made the right choice of target when the swirling light exploded from her toward him. He aimed at her. The moment the light hit him, his finger squeezed the trigger. He was unable to hear the heavy thump as the round cleared the tube. His eyes were unseeing as the projectile rushed toward the now running teen. He could not know it struck a tree not ten feet away from her.
Lumière was not far from Oba. The way for their escape was now clear. They could make their way through the line of stunned men and tanks and head east—their original destination. But then a roaring filled her ears. Lumière felt herself lifted into the air. She felt the touch of super heated air on her back and the penetration of burning of metal into her legs and arm. Her last thought was excruciating pain. The tablet was pushed from her fingers, and she could not know where it went.
Lumière is wounded, perhaps killed in this piece of the scene. We find she is not killed, but rather rescued and protected.
The second example depicts some of her comeback in the novel:
The afternoons passed with Efim or Vasily reading to Sveta. Her voice became stronger as her injuries both internal and external healed, but she still had a raspy soft tone that barely rose above a whisper. She could not walk without a cane—her right leg was mangled at the calf just below her knee. Klava found her underclothing and a couple of dresses in the shops in Berlin. Vasily and Efim split the cost. By the end of May, Sveta could sit and stand and with enough time, dress herself. She made enormous progress in Russian. Unbelievable progress, even if Vasily was right and she hid half of what she knew. At that time, Vasily received orders to return to Moscow. He had not written much for publication in a while, and the war was winding down. The stories had become simple and similar, all about the civilian cleanup. The authorities would not publish the stories Vasily sent concerning the holocaust or Russian brutality to the Germans. These were subjects officially suppressed.
In June with little fanfare Vasily packed up his gear, said goodbye to his friends, and prepared to board a train with Sveta, headed toward Moscow. Klava and Efim saw them off at the military siding where they had access to a rare passenger car. Sveta was dressed in a plain brown dress that was a little too big for her. Klava had hemmed it as well as she could, but there was just too much fabric to make it fit well. In it, Sveta appeared younger than her real years. Klava gathered Sveta in her arms and kissed her cheeks, “Little Sveta. I will miss you. You are a good child and a sweet girl. Don’t let them take advantage of you in Moscow.” She half turned to Vasily, “You keep your eyes on her—just like you would your daughter, Vasily.”
Efim held Sveta at arms length and kissed her cheeks. He handed her a very thick book.
Sveta stared at the book with great desire. She held it out in front of her and spoke in her raspy whisper, “I can’t take your favorite copy of War and Peace, Uncle Efim.”
Efim mumbled, “Take it. The trip to Moscow is long and you will need something to read. It is my favorite book.”
Sveta put her arms around his neck and hugged him as hard as her weak arms could. Efim finally took one hand out of his pocket and patted her shoulder. He explained lamely, “You like to read so much.”
Klava came close to Vasily, “I won’t give these to the girl. You must explain everything to her during your trip.” She handed him a packet of papers, “I gave her the name Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.”
“That is your own patronymic and last name.”
“Don’t worry Vasily. I didn’t have to sign any of the papers. I got Colonel-General Berzarin to sign everything.” She blushed, “You needn’t ask how.”
“I wouldn’t, Klava.”
“I would do anything for Sveta, now. She is like my little sister. I wish I were going to Moscow with you. When I am released from service, I will come for her.” She turned very businesslike again, “In the packet are her traveling papers and her official documents. Make sure she understands everything. She may speak like she came from the university, but she is really like a child. Her mind has not completely recovered.”
“Thank you, Klava. You are a great friend,” Vasily shook her hand, and Klava kissed his cheek.
Efim half lifted Sveta onto the train and Vasily followed closely behind. At the step, Klava grasped Vasily’s hand, “Watch carefully over her, Vasily. Treat her like you would my sister or your daughter. I will seek her out if I am able, when I am able.”
Of course there is more, much more. The girl regains more and more strength. She gains power in the bosom of the Soviet beast. The comeback is from her injuries and beyond that to her rightful place in the world. I might have included this plot device in a couple of other novels, but as you note, my use is subtle—that’s the way I like to use this plot device.
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