6 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x96, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Taboo
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)
Taboo – 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)
Taboo: here is my definition – Taboo is the use of a restriction to further a plot.
Taboo is usually not a legal restriction—it is usually a cultural or a social restriction. Thus, many Victorian novels use the taboo plot device. A taboo restriction is a restriction that can be infringed by a protagonist or a protagonist’s helper either intentionally or accidentally. For example in Pride and Prejudice, various characters with and without their own knowledge infringe on cultural mores (taboos). These trespasses of cultural norms result in all kinds of trouble and problems. As I noted, in some cases, the infringements are intentional, however, in most it is unintentional. Japanese and Oriental cultures experience similar cultural taboos and issues. In general, in cultures where direct communication is not allowed or discouraged, you have a ripe environment for a taboo plot device.
You can also bring in a taboo plot device through admonitions, restrictions, or illicit events. An admonition could be when a parent, teacher, or priest warns a person, child, or student concerning some type of restricted behavior or activity. A restriction is when a person of authority pronounces a specific control on another. An illicit event is when a character is breaking a cultural but not necessarily a legal restriction—an affair for example.
I have used taboo in many of my novels. Most specifically, I’ll give you an example from School.
Christmas day fetched everyone to the table and the parlor. Mr. Calloway took a rare day off, but his pager remained always on. A fire filled the fireplace in the formal parlor and the family parlor. Sorcha received some gifts from the Calloways and from Deirdre. She didn’t have any to give, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. After lunch, Mrs. Calloway invited Deirdre and Sorcha into her sunroom. The day was cold, but the sunroom always felt warm.
Mrs. Calloway served tea. It was a little early for a proper tea, but tea was always proper for the kinds of conversations Mrs. Calloway liked to indulge in. She picked up her teacup, “Deirdre, I’m very happy with you this Christmas.”
Deirdre acknowledged the compliment, but didn’t say anything.
“I’m also very pleased with you Sorcha. We have a few things we need to discuss.”
Deirdre mumbled, “Thought so.”
“You should know so. The first is this. From Sorcha, I expect a first again this semester.”
“You both will face a slight trial when you return. I know Sorcha has an appointment with Ms. Goodland, the headmistress. I want Deirdre at this meeting.”
Deirdre looked to the side, “What if she tries to exclude me.”
“She may. You will be there. Luna can help.”
“The discussion will be about Sorcha’s attendance at Wycombe. This has been worked out as necessary. You two will not say anything untoward, and you, Deirdre will ensure Ms. Goodland understands the situation. Nothing needs be said about the how. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, ma’am. I understand, but I’m not sure how we can push through.”
“Consider this a Luna elective. You are to not let anything out about the how Sorcha hid in the school for three years. She was just there.”
Deirdre groused, “We’ll try.”
“I know you will. I’d rather you not say anything about our meeting with the Queen. You may explain about Sorcha being a student under scholarship, just don’t say where it comes from. Ms. Goodland has been briefed as necessary. I believe the Archbishop’s office told her. Now about a few other things. Why are you two sharing a bed?”
Deirdre frowned, “I only have a single in my room at school. I let her share it with me. We’re kind of used to it.”
“I’m not saying you can’t. I understand now, but Ms. Goodland is supposed to work out the details for Sorcha’s accommodation.”
“May we still share a room? Plus, if they know she has been in my single all semester, they’ll discover everything.”
“That’s one of my questions. Exactly how did Sorcha remain hidden in Wycombe for three years without anyone finding her out?”
Sorcha piped up, “I’d rather not say.”
“Dear child, I know you are the product of an Unseelie fae and a human man. Did you use fae glamour?”
Sorcha hung her head, “Yes.”
“Good keep it up, but try not to use it without cause. Practice is good, but we don’t need to unduly excite the unbelieving or the uninitiated.”
Sorcha stared at her wide-eyed, “You know about the glamour?”
“Of course I do. I guessed that Deirdre saw through it. That’s what brought you together. Luna has kept me apprised.”
Deirdre made a face, “I knew there was more.”
“Of course there’s more. I don’t want any hanky-panky with the MacLeod’s or the Fletcher’s son. A little knoddling is acceptable, but you are ladies. I don’t want any difficulties with them or you know what…”
“You know what?”
“Sweet girls, you are becoming wonderful women. I don’t need the scandal or the ire of the MacLeods or the Fletchers. They are as concerned as I about illicit and too early connections.”
“You mean like Sveta? Or like you?”
“That’s exactly what I mean. The yoke of the Dagda is easy, but temptations are easy too. Finally, I need to tell this to Sorcha particularly. Our family is involved with British intelligence. You don’t need to know how or what, I just hold out to you that your skills are exactly what we will need in the future.”
Sorcha asked, “Does this have anything to do with Luna being the Steward of Wycombe.”
Mrs. Calloway sat bolt upright, “How did you know that?”
Deirdre remarked, “I bet it has to do with Aife too.”
Mrs. Calloway’s eyes bore in on theirs, “How did you find this out and how much do you know?”
Deirdre grumped, “You need to ask Luna. It was her electives.”
Mrs. Calloway wiped her palms together, “What’s done is done. You know more than I like and more than I expected.”
Sorcha asked, “What does this have to do with British intelligence?”
“Ah, connections. Yes. I’ll tell you only because you know so much already. We don’t use just normal intelligence forces to protect Britain. We also occasionally have the need to counter and confound supernatural forces in Britain. That’s why I said, your skills, Sorcha are sorely needed by us. Luna’s job is to instruct you to learn how to use your skills and to mold you into women who are useful to the Realm.”
Sorcha sucked on her lip, “How much does the Queen know about this?”
“Everything, my dear. Everything.”
Deirdre asked, “What if I want to go to Cranwell and Sorcha with me?”
“I could always use people with the skills, both military and aviation, they teach at Cranwell. I also need agents who can sing and travel without restrictions.”
Deirdre sat up, “Do you really? I’m not sure I want that as an occupation.”
“Not an occupation my sweet, a cover.”
“I’m still not so keen.”
“Learn everything you can at Wycombe. Fill your quiver with skills. Become the women I need in society and in the Organization and we shall see what you can achieve. Your boyfriends are reaching for this kind of service.”
Sorcha remarked, “I’m not so sure I have a boyfriend yet. Does that mean Tim wants to work in intel?”
“Why don’t you ask him? I know his family. I know he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. These are good things for young men to aspire to. They also need the support of and they need to support good women who understand and operate in the business. It’s the family business, after all. Plus Deirdre, I don’t have any other children with your current skills. Do you understand this?”
Mrs. Calloway rolled her eyes, “As long as it’s reasonably clear to you. Now go upstairs. Let Sorcha choose your clothing. Dress in a fitting way to greet your young men. Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to speak with their parents tonight.”
They finished their tea and Sorcha and Deirdre went upstairs to see what was left in Deirdre’s closet that wasn’t dungarees or hand me down boy’s clothing.
The restrictions placed by Mrs. Calloway on Sorcha and Deirdre are the use of the taboo plot device. Now, I know you will note that it is really only a taboo if it somehow plays in the rest of the plot. This is true. The girls could hold to the restriction or break the rules. In any case, if the rules come into play in either self-restricting or in some other way affecting their behavior, then you have a taboo. As I wrote, if the girls resist temptation and control themselves, that in itself invokes the taboo—it also can add great fun, danger, excitement, and intrigue to the novel.
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