11 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x101, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Silent Witness
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)
Silent witness – 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)
Silent witness: here is my definition – Silent witness is the use of an intentional or unintentionally secretive evidence or person who observes an event to further a plot.
The classic event is a crime and the classic storyline is the threatened or implicated witness. I can’t think of a novel off hand, but you’ve seen examples in a hundred cheesy crime shows. It’s almost a modus in itself. I have used variations of the silent witness as a plot device, but I haven’t used it in a classic form. Specifically, I did use a version of silent witness a couple of times in Shadow of Darkness. Generally, in silent witness, the witness has knowledge of an event, but restrains from revealing their knowledge. In Shadow of Darkness, the protagonist begins to understand who she is and was, but she doesn’t reveal her enlightenment until the end of the novel—and not even then completely. There is another silent witness plot device going on at the same time.
Here is an example from Shadow of Darkness:
Bruce Lyons returned to his house in London with a large packet under his arm. Tilly and Marie rushed down the stairs. He received a big kiss from Tilly and a kiss on the cheek from Marie. He held up the manila colored package meaningfully.
“Is that the information?” Tilly asked.
“Might be,” Bruce answered. “I’d like a cigarette, to read the paper, and a Scotch whisky before I have to explain anything.”
“Very well,” Tilly gave him a look, “It’s just…we’ve waited so long.”
“Then a little longer won’t make any difference.”
They did wait until after dinner. At the table, after dessert, Bruce Lyons pulled out the packet again, “Are you ready to know the truth—or at least the best my operatives can tease out about this woman, Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova?”
“Yes, please,” mouthed Tilly and Marie together.
“Very well. Here it all is.” He pushed the dishes back and opened the package. There were many photographs and lots of printed material. “You don’t have to read it all. I have, and here is the synopsis.” He paused for a long time until Tilly and Marie both complained, “All right. Here it is. Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova was injured in Berlin during the war. She had extensive damage to her lungs, legs, and right arm. We understand the injury was caused by an antitank weapon during the last stages of the siege of Berlin.”
“Why was she in Berlin?” Marie looked up from the pictures on the table.
“The Soviet tale is that she was brought there by the Germans as a sex slave and escaped.”
“That may not be the whole story. They think she is Russian.”
“She speaks perfect Moscow Russian. We haven’t been able to piece anything together beyond that. A Jewish writer brought her to Moscow from Berlin. She lived with his family for a while. The Jew took her to a convent.”
“Our report doesn’t say. There are some indications of lasting injuries—perhaps mental.”
“Her paperwork is perfect.”
“What does that mean?”
“It meets all Soviet criteria. They think she is fully Soviet.”
“That is good for her?”
“Bad for our theory—if there were questions, that might be more indicative.”
“It might be possible to get perfect papers—right?”
“Possible, very difficult.”
“What else is there?”
“She started acting as a translator for His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.”
“The Orthodox Church?”
“The same. From there, the NKVD, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, and SMERSh, the Counterintelligence Directorate became interested in her translation skills. Apparently, she speaks languages perfectly with no accent and understands them like a native.”
“That would be Lumière.”
“The NKVD hired her and set up a special office for her called Embassy Relations. She was essentially a spy inside the embassies. A very good one according to the embassy staff we talked to. Somehow she gained Stalin’s attention. Pravda calls her Stalin’s Little Ptitsa.”
“What’s that mean?”
“His little bird. Stalin was also impressed by her skills. He made her his personal translator and put her in charge of a new directorate in the new MVD, the Special Directorate for International Understanding. Marvelous the names the Soviets give their agencies—isn’t it? She manages all the offices she previously controlled, all the Soviet translators, and the university language programs.” Bruce paused for a long moment, “Marie, I want you to think about this with me very carefully.”
“When you say that, I’m always afraid it means I will be very unhappy.”
“You may be, but contemplate this. Whether this person is Lumière or not, this woman has acquired power in the Soviet Union. She is a member of the Communist Party. She is the head of a Soviet directorate. She has the ear and the approval of Stalin. If it is Lumière, how difficult would it be to spirit her away?”
Marie looked down at the table, “Impossible.”
“If she wanted to leave, how difficult?”
“How much effect do you think this woman has on the Soviet Union and all the nations it works with?”
Marie looked up into his eyes, “I suspect she has a lot of effect.”
“She has connections with the Orthodox Church, the Jewish community, and the MVD. This woman is powerful and can act with incredible power. You can say nothing about this, but we know from the Americans, she helped get a very important Jewish manuscript out of the Soviet Union.”
Bruce pulled Marie close to him. Tilly put her arms around Marie’s shoulders. Bruce murmured to her, “Marie, even if we wanted to, I don’t think we could get her out alive. She might not want to leave. She might see the work she is doing as beneficial to many. It might be better to imagine she is not Lumière. To imagine she is just whom the Soviets believe her to be.”
Marie tried hard not to cry, “What about mother and father?”
Tilly pulled her closer, “For them, Lumière is dead. If we bring up this hope, this false hope, what do you think that would do to them? What has it done to you?”
“I loved her so much, Tilly.”
“I loved Lumière too. I loved her like a daughter. What do you think we should do?”
A few gentle sobs escaped Marie’s lips, “This is so hard for my heart, Aunt Tilly, but I know what we must do. We must keep this our secret. Mother must not know. Mother must not suppose. Lumière is dead for her and for father. She is dead, and she should remain in her grave. Anything else is too horrible to contemplate.”
Bruce quietly choked, “She might not even be Lumière.”
Marie glanced up at him and fell weeping into Bruce and Tilly’s arms. After a while, Tilly helped her up the stairs and into bed.
The silent witness is Marie. She has learned her sister is in the Soviet Union and not dead as everyone thought. She decides to keep this knowledge secret from her family and especially her mother. You can see the delicious entertainment value of this entire setup. The setup continues to the end of the novel where Marie’s sister’s existence is finally revealed. This revelation is the power of the silent witness, by the way. The silent witness always results (usually and should) in a scene where the witness spills their guts. That is perfect entertainment.
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