28 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x118, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, War
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)
Fantasy Land (Time Travel, Space Travel)
End of the — (World, Culture, Society)
Augmented Human (Robot) (Society)
Mind Switching (Soul Switching)
War – Current discussion.
Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)
One way love
War: here is my definition – War is the use of a national or international armed conflict to further a plot.
I’ll give you that war includes civil war (conflict) and cold wars. War is probably the most powerful plot device imaginable. You can see from the numbers and types of novels that war is not just a theme or plot concept. It is not just a setting. War is a means to get a plot moving and to turn it in a new direction—thus a plot device.
Novels that use this plot device are legion: For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1984, The Spy Who came in from the Cold, The Ugly American, Ice Station Zebra, Memphis Bell, The Letter, and all. The list is not endless, but it is long. War is an abiding human situation that makes great writing. War isn’t entertaining in itself, but it exposes the best and the worst in humanity and makes powerful expressions of pathos possible. I forgot to mention some other novels: Dune, The Forgotten War, Starship Troopers, Space Cadet, The Forever War, and more. These are science fiction novels that use the war plot device.
I’ve used the war plot device in many if not all of my novels. Aegypt has backstory from World War One and relates the conflicts in Tunisia in 1926. Centurion concerns the Roman Empire’s constant war around its borders and in protecting and managing the groups and people within it. In The Second Mission, war is not in action, but many of the driving incidents are previous wars in Greece. My published science fiction novels are all about war—hot and cold. My two novels on contract are about the run up to World War Two and that war. In fact, the entire Ancient Light series is about the wars hot and cold of the Twentieth Century. Only in my Enchantment novels do I get away from the war plot device to some degree—however, since they are based in history, the war plot device either provides a basis or some background for the novels. War is a very powerful plot device—it is a key driver of human history and motivation. It provides a powerful entertainment and creative element boost to any writing.
Here is an example from Sister of Darkness:
“Mother!” out of breath, Robert rushed through the door and into the house.
Leora laid down her book, “Why are you home from school so early? Where are your sisters and brother?”
Leora sat up straighter, “Tell me.”
“The Germans have invaded France. The radio said they are coming through the low countries.”
“Why did the school send you home?”
“Father Degaré said he and the Sisters needed to spend the rest of the day in prayer.”
“That is right and very good. We should all spend today in prayer.”
Jacques followed by Marie and Lumière fell through the doorway.
“Mama!” Marie screamed, “Is Leila coming to get us?”
Leora pulled the girl to her and held her. She glanced around at her other children. Their eyes were wide and questioning, “Don’t be silly, Marie, she is not coming to get us. Whatever put that thought in your head?”
Marie glanced at Lumière.
Leora frowned and put her fingers over Marie’s lips, “And don’t say that name again—or I will tell your father.”
Marie ducked her head.
Jacques grasped Leora’s arm, “But why not, Mama? What is so important about her name?”
“Some names have power. Her name is one that has power in this world…” Leora paused a moment, “Just as my name has power in this world.”
Lumière stared at her, “Your name?”
“Yes. My name.”
“But why? How?”
“It is just like I call in the light. It is something no one else in the world can do. The Aton God gave this to me. It is a protection for you and for those who trust the Aton God.”
Robert stepped closer, “Lumière can call the light.”
Leora sucked in her breath, “Yes. I know. But that shouldn’t worry any of you.
Robert pursed his lips, ”You told us the Aton God is the God Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Jacob, Israel, and Christ. His name is a name of power?”
“Yes, but you must say it correctly. The name of God that is His name is יהוה.” The sound of the word reverberated in the room, and the children all stared around in alarm.
Lumière grasped Leora’s hand and shook it, “Mother, how do you know these things? How do you call the light? Why are we so different—all of us?”
Leora pulled Lumière closer to her. She kissed the girl’s forehead. Leora pursed her lips then tapped her teeth, “I am not sure your father will approve of me telling you. You have asked a reasonable but difficult question.” Leora settled Marie more easily on her knees. She motioned for the others to sit at her feet, “I will tell you, but you must never reveal to anyone what I say. You must swear to me. All our lives may depend on your silence.”
The children glanced around at each other then at Marie. Marie started to put her fingers in her mouth, but as a nine year old, suddenly thought better of that and dropped her hand to her lap, “I know what you are all thinking, and I promise not to say anything.”
“Marie, are you sure this is a promise you can keep? If not, I can tell you when you are ready.”
Marie’s face turned up in distress, “I promise. I swear I won’t tell.”
“Then listen carefully. Just to be certain, I will recite everything to you in Egyptian—ancient Egyptian, and I will place a ward on my words. You will understand them, but you will not be able to repeat them or what they mean except in the tongue you hear them.”
This novel should be published soon—I hope. Paul, Leora, and their children live and fight through World War Two. They are fighting spiritual battles as well as physical battles. War is a plot device, but it is also a setting element and a creative element.
Here’s another example from The End of Honor:
A full company of Huscarls stood at stiff attention on the edge of the Delta. Their commander, the former chief of the Palace guard stood by John at their head.
“Her ashes were cast here,” the Huscarl officer said with certainty, “The Imperial Marines removed Her body and head and brought them directly to the crematorium.”
“Perodus didn’t want a body left as an evidence to his tyranny,” Count Acier’s voice was cold.
“Continue,” John encouraged the officer.
“Perodus himself poured out her remains here. I accompanied the guards. The winds quickly scattered her ashes across the Delta.”
The officer’s voice trailed off into the wind. Except for the sound of it whipping through their uniforms, there was no sound.
Finally, John raised his head, “Bring forward the campaign flag of the Emperor’s Guard.”
The Commander motioned the guidon. At a slow and deliberate march, the guidon carried the heavy flag, decked in nearly 500 campaign ribbons. Beside the commander and John-Mark, the warrior halted and lowered the flag toward John-Mark.
“Here rests a woman of honor,” John’s voice grew in strength. “The Imperial Princess Lyral Neuterra died in her attempt to defend our Emperor Maricus. Her death is an example of our fealty and honor. This planet became her tomb. Henceforth, let the name Imperial Princess Lyral Neuterra be spoken in the lists of heroes of the Imperial Huscarls. Let her be remembered in the naming of the battle dead of the Huscarls. The First Company, first battalion, first brigade, first division, first corps, the Palace Guard shall honor her as a life unselfishly given in the defense of the Empire,” he paused. “I remember the Princess Lyral Neuterra.” John-Mark took a small rose-shaped gold pin and attached it to the flag. He kissed the pin and the flag.
“I remember the Princess Lyral Neuterra,” said the Commander and he kissed the pin.
“We remember the Princess Lyral Neuterra,” said the Huscarls as one.
“Present arms,” said John-Mark.
“Present… arms,” repeated the Commander loudly.
The guidon raised the flag and lowered it in salute. The Huscarls saluted the flag.
“Order… arms,” said the Commander.
“Dismiss your troops. Prepare to evacuate the Capitol, Commander.”
John-Mark gazed over the triangle of concrete for a few moments then he walked slowly back to their waiting armored vehicle. As he sat down, John continued the conversation he and Count Acier were embroiled in before they had reached this spot by the Palace, “Ian, how many Huscarls can we take off planet?”
“A thousand, perhaps,” the Count answered, “Five hundred if we take their families.”
“We will not leave their women and children,” John stated firmly.
“You will be left with no fighting force either way, 95 percent of the soldiers will be left on Arienth and in the Fringe.”
“That can’t be helped. The Intergalactic Combine will not carry any of our fighting men. They allied themselves with Perodus and will not be persuaded from that position,” said John shaking his head.
“The Combine does not support Perodus, they will just not support either the banned Houses or the Emperor.”
“We will take as many of the Huscarls and their families as we can. I want training troops and experienced soldiers, a large mix of officers and NCOs. We will train up a ground arm if we can’t take one with us.”
“Now we know why Perodus released the Huscarls. He doesn’t trust them and he believes they cannot leave Arienth to support us,” said Ian.
“None-the-less, all in all that was a small victory for him. Perodus flouts the Accords. The Landsritters will eventually have to confront him about that.”
“We need to get our ships out of orbit, the Imperial Fleet is due back within the week.”
“In two days we will leave. Pass that to the other Houses,” said John.
“They are ready. They would go now.”
“Send them to rally at Neuterra. Instruct,” John stopped himself, “request rather, they be ready with all their forces to fight.”
“Is that wise?” asked Ian.
“It is essential. You must convince them; only together can we face the Emperor.”
John continued, “I know Perodus possesses 35 capital ships. Ten he built in contravention to the Accords. He has potentially 21 Kingdoms in his train, that is 105 heavy ships. Some of the main support for Perodus ambitions will come from Count Rathenberg’s supporters. The chief of whom is Count Yedric. Yedric built five capital ships of his own.”
“In direct opposition to the Accords?”
“Yedric is an ambitious man. He was granted the Duchy of Neuterra so his ships are now legal by that technicality.”
“That makes a possible 145 capital ships along with up to five times that many smaller combat and support ships we might face. We have only 45 capital ships to oppose them.”
“I have had time to think on these things, and I have a plan that may well finish off the Emperor’s designs—and his forces.”
“Very good,” the Count sounded dubious, “ Then we meet on Neuterra.”
“We meet on Neuterra ready to defend ourselves and our holdings. I will join you at the appointed time, but I desire Duke Neuterra’s cruiser for a short detour.”
“You know it is yours.”
“I must also face Duke Neuterra.”
“He will have been told already; the courtiers left a week ago”
John covered his face, “For Lyral’s sake, treat him gently. He would have been my father.”
“I shall do so.”
“I must go now.”
“Where will you be?”
“I must assure the Huscarls and give them the message of the Emperor’s release.” Then with a sharpness in his voice, “Many may desire to pledge fealty to Perodus.”
Count Acier took his leave at the space port. From there the Hall of Accords was still visible, a red dipped spire reflecting the setting sun.
You can read The End of Honor for yourself. This point marks the beginning of a rebellion with Prince John-Mark at the lead.
I do have a few novels that do not use the war plot device. In any case—it is a worthwhile and a powerful plot device. It does produce great entertainment. I’ll repeat, the concept of war itself is not entertaining, but the human pathos—courage, cowardice, self-denial, and loss encompassed by the war plot device builds entertainment almost like no other plot device can.
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