Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x114, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Valuable item

24 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x114, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Valuable item

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)

Unreliable character

Incarceration (imprisonment)

Valuable item – Current discussion.





Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)



One way love

Valuable item: here is my definition – Valuable item is the use of something of worth to further a plot.

This is not a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is not necessarily real or of real value. This plot device is an object, person, or idea of real value. The Holy Grail is an object of real value. A snipe is not. The use of a something or someone of value as a plot device is very common. As the comparison with the MacGuffin notes, this plot device has become more popular in the modern era and has become, in many cases, a MacGuffin.

Novels that used the valuable item plot device are many. Treasure Island has a pirate’s treasure. The Black Arrow has a lady. Kidnapped has an heir and an estate. The Little Princess uses a doll and a fantasy creation. Many other novels use a valuable item as a plot device, but the novel isn’t focused around the item or person.

I use the valuable item plot device often in my writing. I also use valuable people in various ways. Most of my writing isn’t focused around the valuable thing or person, but that’s why it is a plot device. It provides a creative element and entertainment in the novel. Here is directly how the interjection of a valuable item or person provides a creative element just through its introduction.

Here is an example from my novel Sister of Darkness.

Lumière stood just inside the door. She bent her face in her hands and sobbed silently. Shudders racked her thin body. Leora stood by her side. Then she put her arms around Lumière. The girl stepped back and turned her face.

“What’s wrong, Lumière?”

Lumière’s mouth moved, but she didn’t say anything.

“What’s wrong? Why won’t you speak?” Leora tried to take her in her arms.

Lumière stepped back.

“Please, Lumière, tell me what you are thinking.”

Major Lyon’s ears perked up.

Leora grasped Lumière’s arms and pulled her closer. Lumie’re resisted, “Please, no, Mama.”

“But why?”

Lumière put her face in her elbow, “Because, Mama, I did this to Papa. I did it.”

Leora pulled Lumière into her arms, “How could you do this, my love?”

Lumière buried her head in her mother’s breast. There was a sudden blaze of light and Lumière fell back. Her eyes opened wide, the tears blasted out of them. “Mama?” fear overtook any other emotion.

Major Lyons stepped forward, “What’s going on?”

“Stand back, Lyons. This is my field, and if you value your life, you will keep clear.” Leora turned back to Lumière, “What did you do?”

“Mama, please,” Lumière held out her arms. Then she placed them at her side, “I cannot make the sign anymore. I cannot call in the light.”

Leora gingerly took Lumière’s arm and pulled her closer, but not too close, “What did you do?”

“I tried to help, Papa. I saw him. He and his men. They were surrounded by Leila’s servants. They were trying to capture him. I thought they were going to kill him. So I did it.”

“What did you do? Leora shook Lumière’s thin arms.

Slowly, ashamed, Lumière removed the small stained book bag from her back. She opened it and pulled out a wrapped rectangular block. With the block in one hand, she pulled away the cloth covering to reveal a small black metal tablet.

Leora stared and threw out her hands as if to ward the thing off, “The Osiris Offering Formula!”

Lyons took a step closer, “That’s the thing Paul found. That is what we were looking for all that time.”

“This is the thing my sister wants.” Leora’s mouth was dry, “Lumière how did you get this, and what did you do with it?”

“It called me. From my dreams I heard its call, and I found it on the top of the chimney. When I first touched it I knew it was powerful.” Lumière’s words went on as though she held them ready for a confession for a long time, “I could sense the power in it, and in my dreams I could use it.”

“That was my sister speaking to you.”

Lumière shook her head, “When I held it in my hand I could hear exactly how to use it. I saw across the world. I saw their souls, the thing you call the ka.”

“How long…how long have you had it?”

“Just before the dreams began, and not very long before the Major came to take us away from our house. It worked even better in Britain than at Hyères. It loves the dark and darkness as much as you love the light. With it, I saw Father’s ka, and I knew he needed my help. He would have died,” the tears ripped through her voice.

“What did you do?”

“I was so afraid. I touched the tablet and sealed their kas. Then I touched it again and made Leila’s servants’ kas depart. Mama, what did I do?” Lumière held her head in her hands.

Leora grabbed Lumière’s arms, “Why didn’t you unseal their kas again?”

“I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t find them. What should I do?” She sounded more like a lost child than a young woman almost fifteen.

“First, put the tablet down.”

Lumie’re placed the black thing on the floor. She could almost not take her fingers off of it. She caressed it gently.

“Lumière! Leave the thing and come to me.”

The girl regretfully let her fingers trail off of the block, and she took a step toward her mother. Leora caught her in her arms and held her. She could feel the Ra pendent warm against her breast, but it didn’t force Lumière away again.

Lumière’s voice was still full of tears, and she could not take her eyes off the black tablet.

Leora glanced up, “Major Lyons back away from the tablet.”

The Major put up his hands and stepped back.

“Lumière, I want you to do something very difficult. You must listen to me and not to anyone else. Not anyone here or any thought in your mind. I will hold on to you, and I will tell you exactly what to do.”

This fun novel is supposed to be published soon. We hope sooner than later. In any case, the Osiris Offering Formula is an item of value and power. This item causes Lumière to be kidnapped. It causes her parents to go into Germany to search for her, and other reasons. In any case, this very valuable and powerful item provides a plot device for this novel.

Also from Sister of Darkness here is an example of another valuable item plot device. The focus of the novel isn’t necessarily these items although they do provide much of the reasons from the character’s actions. In any case, the items are valuable because they are powerful. They provide a plot device because they are creative elements that are used to further the plot.

After Mr. Fletcher departed, Leora retreated to her boudoir and opened the double-sealed envelope. The paper was a strange parchment with a wax seal, but the writing was modern.

Buckingham Palace

London, England

6 July 1941

Dear Madam

Making your acquaintance at my Foreign Service Ball was a distinct pleasure. My advisors informed me you would need certain items you left for safe keeping at the British Museum. They are yours again. The package attached to this letter contains them. If it is at all possible, when you are finished with them, please feel free to place them in the care of the museum again. I am grateful for your aid in these troubled times, and remain your servant and beneficiary.


King George

The royal seal and titles filled the rest of the length of the parchment.

When Mr. Fletcher returned, he carried a steel box and a key. Fletcher reluctantly handed Leora the box and the key, and it was all she could do to get him out of her suite. He obviously wanted to see what was in the box. As Leora shooed him out of the door, he called, “Perhaps I should give you a guard for the items?”

“Perhaps you should, Mr. Fletcher. Now, would you leave me alone so I can be about the King’s business?”

That declaration made the large man’s feet move just a little faster.

In her own room, Leora could barely make her hands stop trembling and open the box. She thought much on this. With these items, she could possibly reach Paul. With them, she might see more of the future. She might be able to discover what was bothering Lumière.

Carefully, gently, she opened the box and removed the meticulous packing. Leora pulled aside the last protective bit of paper. There in the bottom, an anachronism of ancientness swathed in a modern wrapping laid a scepter and a tablet of beaten gold. The scepter was made of a white metal unblemished by the ages. At its top sat a large crystal in a plain setting. The tablet was small, only about ten by fifteen centimeters and a centimeter thick. On its surface, hieroglyphics rose like the images of the sun and a figure. The figure was clearly an image of Leora.

Leora smiled—already her ka was reaching out. She took hold of the tablet, it fell into her hand as though it were made for no other. She grasped the scepter. The invisible ridges on its handle fitted her hand exactly. She lifted them up. She reached out and out and out. Then she touched the tablet with the scepter. A bright light flowed through the room. A sound like a low gong reverberated across the chamber. She reached out and sought for Paul, sought to know what actions she should take, sought to know what troubled her daughter… and failed. Paul was not there, the future was closed to her, and so was Lumière, all Leora could see was darkness. A darkness like the closed inside of a small space. Her seeking was fruitless. Her search was in vain. If the children noted her red eyes that evening, they made no comment. Lady Jacqueline certainly did. Following supper, she invited Leora alone to her room for coffee.

Behind closed doors, Jacqueline began in French, “Leora, you were distressed this evening. You barely touched your supper, and you would not smile while the children shared their small adventures.   Marie was trying so hard to get Mary to pronounce her French correctly, and I think she will eventually succeed.”

Leora splashed a fake smile across her face and took a deep breath, but she could not look Jacqueline in the eyes, “I am sorry. I was not a good guest tonight.”

“I hear the tears in your voice. What has put you in such a state? Was it the package Fletcher delivered today?”

“Jacqueline, tears fill me everyday because Paul is missing, and I cannot gain the information the King sent me here to determine.”

“What can I do to help?”

“You have already. You are a good and kind friend. That is the most important help I need right now.”

“This is all so mysterious. Is it dangerous?”

“Not right now. I should not have said anything. I spoke too candidly, perhaps.”

Jacqueline smiled, “I hope you are in better spirits by the end of the week. King Farouk is giving one of his high dinners to impress us with his civility. At the same time, he will be trying to wheedle every ounce of information he can from us and our staff. He is a kleptomaniac, you know. You must not take anything with you—anything you do not care to lose. When you dance with him, watch your pearls and guard your diamonds—better yet, don’t wear anything real.”

“Should I be concerned about his unwanted attentions?”

“Not any more than you usually would. Queen Farida keeps the eye of a hawk on him, so while she is around, you have little to fear. Still, you must be in a more amused frame, or I will be at risk of losing my social position.”

Leora grinned, “I will do my best to cheer up.” Leora stood and kissed Jacqueline’s cheek, “You are kind to me and my family. I will not appear at a crown event with a frown.”

The valuable items are truly valuable. They would be valuable and important as archeological items, but they are also items of power in their own right. The motif and style of this novel makes the use of a valuable item plot device (actually more than one) very easy.

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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