14 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x104, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Hidden Skills
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)
Hidden skills – 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)
Hidden Skills: here is my definition – Hidden skills is the use of a special and unknown or unrevealed capabilities learned or discovered to further a plot.
Harry Potty is a series of novels that uses hidden skills as a plot device. The first novel has the most obvious use of this plot device. That is unfortunate, because the author just suddenly reveals that Harry can use magic. We don’t get to see any real development of this, it just happens. That isn’t the power of the use of hidden skills.
Hidden skills becomes super powerful as a plot device when the protagonist slowly and incrementally discovers his or her skill. For example, the protagonist in a highly charged situation discovers the ability to make a magical flame (or any magic). The protagonist has a sudden realization of the ability. The protagonist from that point on seeks to improve and use the skill that was discovered. You can use this model with every kind of skill. With hidden skills, it doesn’t have to be about magic or super mental or other special skills.
For example, in School, the novel I’m writing at the moment, Deirdre, my protagonist, is an accomplished singer, dancer, and artist. She has incredible skills, but she is hiding them until about the middle of the novel. The reason she is hiding them comes directly out of her problems and her banishment to Wycombe. I might as well give you an example.
Here is an example from School:
Deirdre and Chris MacLeod continued to dance until the orchestra took their first break. Just as Chris predicted, Mr. MacLeod stepped deliberately to where Deirdre and Chris stood. Kathrin Calloway and Mrs. MacLeod followed close behind him. He gave a slight bow, “Ms. Calloway, I freely admit, I asked you to our Christmas revelry with ulterior motives.”
Deirdre’s eyes widened. Older men had never bowed to her, and she wasn’t sure how to take ulterior motives.
Mr. MacLeod continued, “I understand you are a professional musician. Your mother assured me concerning your usual contract rates. I would like to hire you to sing some Christmas songs at our fete. I understand you have a wonderful program already prepared. In fact, I gave the music to our orchestra yesterday and they assured me they could play to your very exacting standards.”
Deirdre began to respond, but Mr. MacLeod raised his finger, “The second reason I asked you here is to test your metal, so to speak. Chris has had so many wonderful things to say about you, I must say, I was unconvinced. Until I heard you sing the Messiah, I would have said he was exaggerating. As a matter of fact, at this point, I wonder exactly what you see in my son.”
Chris cried out, “Father.”
“Oh, sorry. I’m joking. A bit of British humor there, and I’m Scottish. I’m very proud of my son, but he is still fifteen and still not entirely used to the potential limelight of a woman of your caliber and upbringing. Please sing for us. That in itself would be very pleasant.”
Deirdre cleared her throat to respond. Her mind was moving as fast as usual. She smiled very pleasantly, “Mr. MacLeod, could I offer a Christmas medley as a gift to your family?”
Mrs. Calloway cut her off with a firm gesture, “One moment. I wish to speak to Deirdre privately.”
Mr. MacLeod stepped to the side. Chris reluctantly moved with him.
Deirdre clenched her fists. She squinted and raised her lip, “What is it mother?”
Mrs. Calloway came very close and put her arms around Deirdre. She whispered, “Luna told me I should slap you every time you do that. This time I shan’t.”
“You know what that means, don’t you dear?”
“It means you are treating me like an adult.”
“Excellent. Now, here is what you must consider. Your costs at school have been rather high this semester.”
“That’s because I have been taking care of my best friend.”
“I understand that too. Luna told me—well, she did after our little meeting with the Queen. I wondered how such a frugal girl could rack up such high expenses.”
“Are they really that high?”
“No, but I wish to place some adult pressure on you. So far, you have had most everything you could ever want or need. As I said, you are a frugal girl, but an adult must consider the costs of friendship and life.”
Deirdre choked, “You want me to give up on Sorcha—you’ll take care of her needs, won’t you?”
“My sweet Deirdre, I want you to face the consequences of your actions. They are wonderful, but they are yours alone. I love that you have taken care of Sorcha and Eliana.”
“Luna narked on me.”
“Yes she did, and I’m very proud. However…”
Deirdre steeled herself.
“However, I would like you to pick up the tab for your friends. You may take care of them as much as you desire, but with your funds. A little singing at your normal rates will go a long way this semester. In fact, the pay you received from Father Malloy will further bolster that your little fund.”
“I was going to give it all back to Father Malloy for the widow’s and orphan’s relief fund.”
“Sorcha and Eliana both are missing parents—they are orphans. Which one do you wish to support, those unseen or your friends.”
Deirdre smiled, “Mother, perhaps I never listened quite as well as I should to you, but you are forcing me to sing…”
“I’m not forcing you to do anything. I’m simply pointing out realities to you and giving you a choice.”
“I see. You must not let Sorcha or Elaina know.”
“Never. This is our private understanding. Plus, my sweet, you want independence. I can’t give you any greater independence.” She started to pull back, but then hugged Deirdre closer, “One more thing. I like this Chris MacLeod very much. He is a gentleman and has a wonderful future.” She did pull back and stared in Deirdre’s eyes with a half-smile, “Don’t take that to be a license or permission. Do you understand me?”
“Your ball, in your court.”
Deirdre sighed, but she didn’t mean much by it. She stepped toward Mr. MacLeod with Mrs. Calloway at her side. She nodded to the gentleman, “Mr. MacLeod, I accept your terms. My standard rates. I do wish to warn you. The press is here and that might cause undo attention to your family and mine.”
Mr. MacLeod tried not to smile to broadly, “Your mother explained everything to me. I accept your conditions and understand the circumstances.”
Deirdre shrugged, “When would you like me to sing?”
“Do you need any preparation?”
“I need to speak to the conductor and the orchestra.”
“Very well. They are on their break.” He glanced at his watch, “They should be returning in a couple of minutes.” He sounded almost military, “You may brief them as you desire. I shall announce you, myself.” He began to turn, then swiveled back to her, “One thing. Do you need a mic or other equipment?”
“My mother likely told you, I don’t need a mic for this room or this size of an orchestra. I was the only singer not miced during the Messiah performance.”
Deirdre was a professional child performer. She was known in the musical community and to her fans as D. She was later called the Dangerous Diva by the press. The point is that she hid her skill from everyone. At this moment is her coming out, so to speak.
I love to use hidden skills. I’ve used it in quite a few of my novels. I recommend it as a plot device in your novels—if you have a place for it. Hidden skills is a powerful plot device for entertainment, and that’s the point. The main reason I use these plot devices is because they are entertaining to me. If they are entertaining to me, I assume they are entertaining to others. We can see, Harry Potty is well accepted as an entertaining story and idea, the use of hidden skills as a plot device adds to the entertainment factor. You can also see how better use of hidden skills might have improved the novels.
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