Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x95, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Retrieval

5 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x95, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Retrieval

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.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select “production schedule,” you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.

The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:

  1. Don’t confuse your readers.
  2. Entertain your readers.
  3. Ground your readers in the writing.
  4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
  5. 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.

Cover Proposal

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 development:

  1. Scene input (easy)
  2. Scene output (a little harder)
  3. Scene setting (basic stuff)
  4. Creativity (creative elements of the scene: transition from input to output focused on the telic flaw resolution)
  5. Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
  6. 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:

  1. Design the initial scene
  2. Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
    1. Research as required
    2. Develop the initial setting
    3. Develop the characters
    4. Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
  3. Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  4. Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
  5. Write the climax scene
  6. Write the falling action scene(s)
  7. Write the dénouement scene

Here is the beginning of the scene development method from the outline:

  1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
  2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
  3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
  4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
  5. Write the release
  6. 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)



Frame story, or a story within a story

Framing device


In medias res

Narrative hook


Plot twist

Poetic justice

Predestination paradox


Red herring

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Story within a story (Hypodiegesis)

Ticking clock scenario

Chekhov’s gun

Unreliable narrator

Third attempt


Judicial Setting

Legal argument


Two way love

Three way love (love rival)


Celebrity (Rise to fame)

Rise to riches

Military (Device or Organization manipulation)

School (Training) (Skill Development)



Retrieval – Current discussion.


Impossible Crime

Human god



Silent witness

Secret king


Hidden skills

Fantasy Land (Time Travel, Space Travel)

End of the — (World, Culture, Society)

Resistance (Nonresistance)

Utopia (anti-utopia)


Augmented Human (Robot) (Society)

Mind Switching (Soul Switching)

Unreliable character

Incarceration (imprisonment)

Valuable item





Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)


Retrieval: here is my definition – Retrieval is the use of the need to find and return a person, place, or thing to further a plot.

Usually, a retrieval is made on a person or a thing, but I can see it with a place. You occasionally see in science fiction or normal fiction novels the return of a place or the return to a place. Note, you can also express the return of an idea or feeling. The retrieval of a person or thing are the more common uses of this plot device. I have used both in my novels.

The retrieval plot device is similar to a MacGuffin, but where a MacGuffin can be a meaningless item or unreal or unseen person or thing, a retrieval is always accomplished on an item or person who has some inherent value and is real in the context of the novel. For example, in Sister of Darkness, and Sister of Light, the retrieval is a human. In Sister of Darkness there is also the retrieval of an item of importance. Here is a piece from Sister of Light:

At the hottest point of the day, Leora sat out on the covered veranda of the cottage and read one of the books Paul’s parents had sent them. It was a difficult read in classical Greek, and the marginalia of the second hand scholar whom Madam Bolang bought the book from didn’t make the reading any easier. Leora thought his translations were not very accurate, and his scrawling notes certainly obscured some of the Greek letters. Leora was so absorbed, she didn’t notice the motorcar that turned at their gate and rumbled down the gravel and sand drive until it was almost in the yard. She jerked up her head and rose from her seat.

Out of the car stepped a tall man in a light summer suit. He wore a thin tie and a sweat marked shirt. He wiped his neck with his handkerchief before he walked up to her, “You are Leora Bolang?” The words though spoken gently came as a sneer.

Oui, and you?”

In his thin nasal voice, the man continued, “Who I am means little, but you may call me Monsieur Nefis.”

“Very well, Monsieur Nefis. What do you want?”

“I have instructions from your husband, Major Paul Bolang.”

“From Paul?”

“Yes, from Paul. May I come in?”

Warily, Leora gestured toward the door, “The children will be back soon. Please come in.”

Leora led Monsieur Nefis into the main room. She left the front door open, “For the children.” Leora pointed to a seat, “May I get you tea, a glass of water?”

“Nothing, thank you.”

Leora seated herself across from the man, “Where is Paul?”

“Ah, that I cannot tell you, but I have a message from him. He sent me to retrieve something very important to his work.”

“Yes, a book on hieroglyphics perhaps? What is his message?”

Monsieur Nefis’s brow creased, “A book of hieroglyphics?” He quickly continued, “Paul told me to tell you that all is well, and that he is still working on the project he was sent to complete.”

“Paul told you this. What is he working on?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“When will he return?”

“I cannot say. You must realize Madam Bolang, all this is very secret. That is why he needs something very desperately that he sent to you.”

“What did he send to me?”

“He sent a package, and he needs it to be returned to him immediately.”

“A package? I received no package.”

The man’s eyes narrowed, “I assure you that you did, Madam. I tracked it through the postal service to the Bolang estate in Paris. It then came to you. The postmaster in Hyères assured me that he gave it directly to your hands. He could not be mistaken. It was a heavy package and very unlike those you normally pick up at his office. This package had a foreign address and a military postmark.”

“I will not play these games with you.” Leora spat, “I know my husband, and I know he would not send you to deliver his message or to retrieve some imaginary package.”

“Madam, in that case, you will get out of my way, and I will search this house for the package I know is here.”

“You will do no such thing. I don’t know who sent you, but I can guess. You know what I can do to you.”

Monsieur Nefis smiled nervously, “We appear to be at a standoff. I could try to force you to give me the package.”

“You know you cannot force me.”

“Or I can use much more subtle means.”

“For example…?”

“Paul Bolang is a hero of the Legion Etrangere. What if it became common knowledge that he was involved in peculiar events at Fort Saint?”

“What peculiar events?” Leora’s throat tightened.

“What if there were proof that Paul Bolang deserted his command and allowed a murderer to freely roam the fort without taking any action to stop him.”

“None of this is true.”

“The records of a British archeologist, Mr. Lionel Audrey and a French official, Monsieur Claude Parrain tell an entirely different story. When they are supplemented by the notes of a certain Doctor Robert Flair, these allegations gain the strength of truth. Paul Bolang will go from national hero to a military criminal.”

“None of this is true,” Leora repeated.

“But it is true. There is more. The toast of Paris, the brilliant and brown wife of Paul Bolang, who is she really?”

Leora touched her neck.

“Monsieur Claude Parrain calls her a dirty desert whore whom Paul Bolang brought into Fort Saint and used to taunt the soldiers. He says she is an ignorant native—nothing more than an African slut.”

Angry tears filled Leora’s eyes, “None of this is true.”

“All of this is true, Leora Bolang, and you know it.”

“It is all a lie.”

“Ah, but what is truth, Madam? For Paris, it is what appears on the pages of Paris-Soir and Le Temps is it not?” His lips curled into a sneer. Everyone will know it unless you give me the package your husband sent you.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Very well. My mistress said you would be difficult to convince.” Monsieur Nefis stood. He laid a piece of paper on the small table between them. “If you change your mind, you may attempt to contact me by mail or telegram at this address. If you do not, don’t worry, I will eventually contact you again.” He paused a moment and glanced around as though his bluff had been called, “I will give you one more opportunity. If you do not give me the package now, in one month, you will see Paul Bolang’s name smeared in every newspaper in Paris.”

Leora stood, her fists clenched tightly. She raised one hand toward Monsieur Nefis face, “I could kill you with a single word.”

He began to sweet profusely, “My mistress told me that you might.” He shrugged as though nothing were amiss, “If I don’t return, my companions will send the information to the papers.”

“Dear God. Dear God. Give me any reason that I should not end your life right now?” Leora raised both hands and her finger began to trace a mark in the air. Her lips started to invoke a deadly incantation.

Lumière ran though the front door and grabbed Leroa’s hands, “Mother don’t!”

The rest of the children rushed into the room. Robert and Jacques stood before Monsieur Nefis with their fists on their hips. They pointed toward the door, “Monsieur, you must leave now.”

Marie dragged her bunny through the door and glared at Monsieur Nefis. She stuck two fingers into her mouth.

Monsieur Nefis ran from the cottage, and Leora collapsed on the small couch. The roar of the car’s engine and the loud crunch of gravel spilled through the open windows as the car spun out and rushed up the drive.

Leora put her arms around her children and held them close. They felt their mother’s tremors, and she washed their faces with her tears. She would say nothing to them—could say nothing. When the sun went down, the strength rushed completely out of her her. She still lay on the couch unmoving, finally asleep—exhausted. The children said their prayers beside her sleeping form and went to their own beds.

Here we have a touch of both the item and the person to be retrieved. The item is in the hands of Leroa. Paul is missing. I hope you can read this novel soon. It is supposed to be in publication, but has been delayed.

The second example is from Sister of Darkness:

Paul and Leora sat in a small holding room. Leora walked from side to side, she did not like being confined. She reminded Paul of a lioness in a cage. He read his paper. They had learned the inside and outside of “the Department” since Lumière’s abduction, and spent a lot of time inside it preparing for their anticipated mission. The details were classified and many, Paul thought, were as yet undetermined.

“The Department,” generally, was the system of military intelligence organizations in the British government. Major Lyon’s department was specifically MI19. MI19 was in charge of foreign languages, cultural infiltration, interrogations, and the odd assortment of special issues the other MIs could not handle. Almost all of its operations were coordinated through the brownstone building at Kensington Palace Gardens. Most precisely when a mission required entirely covert infiltration with personnel in plain view, MI19 provided the agents and the training required.

Major Lyons poked his head through the door, “Come on. We have it all together.”

They followed the Major through a guarded security doorway into a working vault. A long table filled the room. Paul and Leora sat down. Lyons closed and locked the door then turned to them, “This is where the rubber meets the road, as the Americans would say. We have our orders, and the mission is completely mapped out.” He pulled up a chair and opened a very thick envelope, “I don’t need to tell either of you, none of this can go beyond these walls. Our lives depend directly on the secrecy of this information.”

Paul and Leora nodded. Leora sighed, “If it means finding Lumière, I will do anything—and everything.”

“You both realize; it is impossible for us to search directly for Lumière. We don’t have enough field agents in the countries involved, and to tell you the truth, she, personally, is a very low priority for our operations.” He looked up, “There are many dying and abused children in the wake of this war. I can’t justify a mission just to recover her.”

Leora began to protest. Paul put his hand over hers.

Lyons smiled, “I can’t justify a mission for her rescue, but I can justify a mission that will get us eventually to Berlin—where we believe she is held captive. A mission that requires the two of you. This operation will not be the recovery of Lumière, but its outcome might well be her rescue. As long as you understand this, we can continue.”

Paul and Leora nodded. Leora didn’t seem too happy about the Major’s pronouncements, “I realized this in my heart. I hoped…”

Paul stared at Leora, “This may be the only way to get to her.”

Leora bowed her head, “I will do anything…”

“Good. Then listen carefully. I will outline the mission and give you your dossiers. You must memorize everything in them. You will be tested by our training operatives. When you meet their standards, we will be ready to proceed.

Paul and Leora’s daughter is the person who is the object of the retrieval. This novel should be available for you to read soon. In this novel, there is also the retrieval of an item. I like retrieval plot devices. I’ve used them in many of my novels. They aren’t MacGuffins. You can see Paul is a real person and so is Paul’s daughter. The item of the search in Sister of Darkness is in the hands of Paul’s daughter. The item must be retrieved, but is real and an item of real importance.

I recommend the retrieval plot device in any novel it can fit it properly. This is an excellent device for furthering a plot. You can see it engenders entertainment from the two examples I gave, and like I wrote, I’ve used it in other novels.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:








fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic


About L.D. Alford

L. D. Alford is a novelist whose writing explores with originality those cultures and societies we think we already know. His writing distinctively develops the connections between present events and history—he combines them with threads of reality that bring the past alive. L. D. Alford is familiar with technology and cultures—he is widely traveled and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Dayton, and is a graduate of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School. L. D. Alford is an author who combines intimate scientific and cultural knowledge into fiction worlds that breathe reality. He is the author of three historical fiction novels: Centurion, Aegypt, and The Second Mission, and three science fiction novels: The End of Honor, The Fox’s Honor, and A Season of Honor.
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