Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x111, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Mind Switching (Soul Switching)

21 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x111, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Mind Switching (Soul Switching)

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)





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) – Current discussion.

Unreliable character

Incarceration (imprisonment)

Valuable item





Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)



One way love

Mind Switching (Soul Switching): here is my definition – Mind Switching (Soul Switching) is the use of physically, mentally, or spiritually exchanging brains, thoughts, or spirits (souls) from one creature to another to further a plot.

I’m not certain which author first used this plot device—it may have been Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Martian series. In any case, ERB had a mad scientist exchange the brains of his hero and heroine into ugly Martian beings. This was just the beginning. Most everyone is familiar with The Fly where the heads of a fly and a man are superimposed on the other’s body. Andrea Norton used various mental swap scenarios in her science fiction novels. There are quite a few other examples.

Let’s note that in the Western (Greek rational) worldview, you can swap the brains, thoughts, and spirits. The Greeks would have called this sarx, psuche, and pneuma. What do these exactly constitute? The sarx or physical is easy. Just as ERB did, you can theoretically exchange the brain or head with another creature or human. The psuche isn’t much more difficult. You can transfer the thoughts or thinking process from one being to another. This has been the focus of much of the current mind swap ideas in novels. How the trick is done is up to the author, but the end result is the thoughts and mental process of one inside or exchanged with the thoughts and mental process of another. The third concept or pneuma is a little more difficult. The pneuma is the idea of the soul. The Greeks believed this was the expression of free will and of the personality. What exactly is a soul swap is up to the author.

I haven’t used a brain swap in my writing. It’s an interesting idea. I have used the mental or psyonics field with a little of the thoughts swap in some of my writing. I have used the concept of a soul or spirit exchange in my science fiction.

Here is an example from my writing from Athelstan Cying.

The presence watched the men as they approached and boarded his ship. He saved them once and learned a skill of immense value. He saw them come to innocently desecrate his “tomb of millennia” and paid them little attention until one stood purposely before the sealed cabin doors. That’s when the presence first tried to warn the man.

The man opened the doors to the first and second cabins.

He realized the direction of the man’s search and attempted to turn him from his intentions. The man now stood before the door to the breached cabin.

“Stop!” the being shouted soundlessly into the stillness. “Stop!” he pleaded without effect. “Fool!” he screamed as the door opened and the white suited body swept into the cabin. The man tore through the remains of a friend, and was impaled on a dagger of plasteel that rimmed the breach in the hull; one gaping wound produced another.

The being moved instantly to the wounded man. He felt the man’s life as it slipped out of the body, and he struggled to call it back. He tried to hold on to the man’s soul. He tried to restart the dying body and recapture that breath of God’s devising. Unbidden, his consciousness merged with the dying man’s, and he felt the pain and then more than pain as Den’s soul slipped from his hold. He could do nothing to stop it. Den would no longer fight for his life or his body. His soul was gone and the only thing that was left was the castaway husk.

Then, with dread, the presence realized he was caught in the vacuum of the discarded body—a body that still desired life, but whose original master was gone. He became a person he never wished to be, a being he was not born to be. He was captured, a soul encased in a body that would not let him go. Resolved and as unrelenting to death as he had been for millennia, he struggled least he slip the way of this body’s previous tenant. With a will as powerful as the plasteel that pierced him, he recovered the body’s breath and then the heartbeat.

The contest was more than any, the man, Den, could have made himself. Slowly, the body responded, stabilized, fell from shock to unconsciousness, helpless but sustained and alive! He was safe for the moment—that is, if anyone would come help him. Resolutely, the powerful mind and soul kept guard over its new and fleshly prison.


Steven reached the breach in the ship just as Den’s vacsuit clad body rushed uncontrolled out of it and was impaled. The limbs thrashed for a moment, then became still.

Steven yelled over the suit radio, “Johan, Den’s hurt!”

“How bad?” Johan snapped back.

“Really bad,” Steven tried to keep the horror out of his voice as he picked his way through the shattered plasteel toward Den. Steven choked back nausea as he hurriedly scanned the biomonitors on the suit. The suit sealed along the edges of the plasteel, but the indicators showed no respiration, no heartbeat, and the composite monitor gave a report of severe shock. Den’s faceplate was entirely fogged over.

Suit’s malfunctioning, Steven whispered, “If the suit’s sealed, the faceplate shouldn’t be fogged—ever—unless…,” but he wouldn’t think of that possibility. Den would have to be… Then, for a moment, the fog cleared, and he caught sight of Den’s eyes through the ceriplast; at first, the eyes remained dull and wide open, but then, as if a fire were kindled behind them, they suddenly lit up. Den’s face took on an appearance like none Steven had seen there before, an aspect of maturity unsuited to the visage of his youth. Then the eyes closed and the mask fogged over again. When Steven looked back at the suit monitors, the body functions had become incredibly normal.

In this piece, the presence attempts to save Den Protania’s life. This being already saved the ship, Twilight Lamb from destruction and protected the crew. While attempting to save Den Protania, the being becomes trapped in Den’s body (mind) and replaces his soul. Thus we have the soul swap that drives the entire series of the Ghost Ship Chronicles. This is still a plot device—it happens to use a soul swap to propel the device and the plot.

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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