7 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x97, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Impossible Crime
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)
Impossible Crime – 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)
Impossible Crime: here is my definition – Impossible Crime is the use of a seemingly impossible circumstance to further a plot.
Impossible Crime has been used by many authors past and modern. I’m not sure if any ancient or way past authors used this plot device, but notice, it doesn’t have to be about crime. Crime just happens to be the main modus operandi of the impossible crime plot device. The typical situation and creative element is a crime that has been accomplished in a locked room or without physical evidence. The immediate solution is usually portrayed as supernatural, but the actual resolution is logical and reasonable. You don’t need a crime to use this plot device. Any time you set up a situation that appeared to be impossible, that is using an impossible crime plot device. You should also realize, you can’t resolve this one with a deus ex. Well, I’ll caveat that—you can actually use a supernatural device to resolve an impossible crime as long as it is properly foreshadowed, and fits the theme and overall plot. I wouldn’t recommend it, however. The point of the impossible crime is to display the creative and logical thinking of the detective or other character who resolves the impossible. For that reason, logic and reasoning should govern the solution or resolution of the impossible crime plot device.
Here is an example from Sister of Darkness:
Windsor Castle rose out the fog that overbore the land all around it. The view would have been picturesque if dark clouds did not blank out the sun and sky. Leora huddled in a corner of the motorcar. Paul, miserable, smoked and said little. Lyons watched the road ahead with intensity as though he could not bear to witness Paul and Leora’s misery. Their grief was palpable, and he could say nothing that might liven their thoughts or bring them hope. At the moment, there was little hope.
With infinite weariness, the three showed their credentials to the guard and shuffled into the King Henry the Eighth Gate. A lieutenant and his sergeant met them just past the gate. Almost overnight, the number of guards around and inside the castle grew significantly.
Leora put her cold and damp nose against Paul’s neck and whispered, “The guards won’t do any good. I think the tablet was taken by a being who could not act against the living. They have nothing to fear for the king or his family.”
“How do you know?”
“It is my sister, and it is her tablet. She only needed to know where it was to take it back. She cannot detect it otherwise.”
“That means spies in the castle.”
Leora was thoughtful, “That is true. Perhaps the guards do fulfill a purpose.”
The lieutenant led them to the Round Tower, the ancient keep of the castle. They entered at the ground floor, and he opened a gated stairway into the dungeon. The stairs circled downward into the depths under the heavy stone tower. At the darkness, Leora let out a quiet gasp and held tighter to Paul’s arm.
Solitary bulbs lit the darkness and rimmed the stone-lined staircase with insufficient light. At the bottom, the lieutenant opened a second heavier gate and let them into a stone chamber. He locked the gate behind them. At the other side of the chamber lay a vault door. The lieutenant stepped to the vault, and after a few moments the steel door opened with an unmistakable whoosh of pressure. Inside the vault were boxes on boxes stacked up to the ceiling. Many obviously held papers, but some were packing crates. Nothing of value was obvious or evident in the chamber.
The lieutenant pulled a key out of his pocket, “The tablet was locked in the most secure part of the vault.” He led them across the room to a plain steel door. The door had a single key hole on the left, a large wheel, and hinges on the right side. The lieutenant unlocked the steel door, turned the wheel, and pushed the door open. They slipped in one after the other following the officer.
The door was six inches thick with heavy steel pegs that fixed it into a steel frame set in the stone wall. The inner room was about ten feet by ten feet and made of steel instead of stone. The floor was stone blocks similar to those that formed the outer walls of the keep. The room was filled with a bric-a-brac of items both mundane and incredible. Few items were boxed, and if they were, the boxes themselves were part of their value. The lieutenant turned toward them, “The walls are as thick as the door. Six inches of destroyer grade steel on the ceiling and walls encased by at least twenty feet of stone and hundreds of yards of earth. The only entrance is the steel door and two small ventilation ports.” The officer pointed to either side of the room where six inch grill covered opening sent a small breeze from the surface to the deep room. “The tablet was here,” the lieutenant pointed to the top of a beautiful piece of furniture. “Nothing else was taken.”
“Has anyone touched anything?” Leora stared at the man.
“I have no idea, m’lady. We have had an influx of detectives, police, and observers, both military and civilian. I suspect every inch of this place has been investigated, searched, and touched,” he drew out the last word.
Leora stuck her tongue in her cheek. She stared accusingly at Major Lyons, “They shouldn’t have touched anything if they wanted my help.”
Lyons pulled out a cigarette, “Couldn’t be helped, Madam Bolang. You were the last called and not the first.” He shrugged, “They couldn’t find anything themselves, so they went to their last hope.”
The lieutenant spoke carefully, “Major, the King does not allow smoking in the vaults—too much risk, you know.”
“Right. Thank you lieutenant,” Lyons put the cigarette back into his silver case.
Leora stepped once around the room, “Since the area has been traipsed across by nearly everyone in the castle, my investigations are at risk. I will require privacy. Lieutenant, you may go.”
The lieutenant appeared shocked, “I’m not at liberty to allow you to remain here alone.”
Leora stalked toward the door, “Then tell King George, I cannot help him.”
“She certainly isn’t serious,” the lieutenant stared at Major Lyons then Paul, “Is she?”
Lyons smiled, “She is absolutely serious, and I suspect you should allow her to act as the King requires.”
By that time, Leora was outside of the vault.
The lieutenant chased after Leora. He reached for her as she started up the stairs, then thought better of the familiarity and instead called, “M’lady, please return, I shall allow you to investigate the vault alone, if that is what you need.”
Leora turned around and without looking at the officer, stalked back toward the inner vault. She pointed at a space at the outside of the main vault door, “You! Stand there.”
The lieutenant stood where she directed.
Leora continued into the vault. Lyons was chuckling. She glanced sidelong at him and frowned, “You may stay but only because of what you saw before.” Leora pushed the inner vault door closed. She twisted the inside wheel, but it wouldn’t move for her. Lyons turned the wheel and sealed them in.
Leora came to the center of the room and turned completely around slowly looking at everything within her sight. She pulled the golden tablet and scepter from the pockets of her coat. She touched her fingers to her chest, “Cover your eyes.” Leora tapped the scepter against the golden tablet. A blast of intense light filled the small space. It its aftermath, wisps of darkness like smoke lay near the floor. The darkness quickly retreated. It ran through the thin spaces between the stones of the floor. “Major Lyons, Paul, light me a cigarette.”
Lyons pulled out his case, “I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Then what is your purpose, other than causing the lieutenant personal consternation.”
Leora rolled her eyes, “Just light me a cigarette.” She glanced at Paul, “Are all British men so difficult. No wonder Tilly is discouraged.”
Neither Paul nor Major Lyons had any reasonable response to give.
Major Lyons handed Leora a lighted cigarette. She went to her knees and waved it around the floor. With a scowl, she gazed at Lyons then at Paul, “I want it to make smoke.”
Paul knelt beside her and took the cigarette, “He inhaled a puff and blew it out.”
“Good, blow it near the floor.”
Paul complied. The smoke was drawn between the stones like water absorbed by cobbles. Paul went to one knee, “What’s beneath the floor.”
Lyons shrugged, “No idea. I suspect there isn’t supposed to be anything.”
The impossible crime is that the Osiris Offering Formula (the tablet) has been stolen from the vault under Windsor Castle. Actually, the Offering Formula is a supernatural object, the thieves are supernatural creatures, and Leroa is a supernatural being. In any case, the resolution of the crime is not supernatural. This was my point before. The solution to the impossible crime should be a logical and reasonable one. This generates the most entertainment value and is really the purpose of the impossible crime. You really can have many reasons for using and fitting an impossible crime plot device in your writing. Ultimately, the reason is always entertainment, but that entertainment must fit into the plot. For example, in the scene above, the tablet is an important item in the plot of the novel. Its disappearance is important. Its recovery is part of the reason for the rest of the novel. Its existence is wholly the reason for the entire novel. Therefore, although the impossible crime plot device provides entertainment in a scene, it is completely connected in the plot of the novel. Likewise, showing off Leora’s skills and knowledge are important to the overall plot. This novel is on contract and is supposed to be published soon. I hope you read it when it becomes available.
fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic