30 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x120, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Crime
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)
Brotherhood (sisterhood) (camaraderie)
Crime – Current discussion.
One way love
Crime: here is my definition – Crime is the use of an illegal activity to further a plot.
Crime as a plot device has been around since the beginning of fiction—or almost. Let’s just say, you didn’t have to wait for The Moonstone. Crime was already there in some way or another. Look at Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, Kidnapped… in Pride and Prejudice the crimes of outright fraud and statutory rape are not crimes at all in those times. In spite of that, Ms. Bronte played them well as cultural and social crimes. Perhaps my definition should be immorality instead of illegality, but I’ll stand by illegality—immorality includes too much that even we would think isn’t crime. For example, in Ms. Bronte’s day, adultery would be a crime, but not statutory rape. On the other hand, today, adultery isn’t a crime, but statutory rape is. Filching a shilling in the Victorian Era might get you hanged. It’s barely a crime of note today. So for crime we need illegality of some type—I’ll go for cultural and social mores as well as actual statues.
So, to use this plot device (of crime), your protagonist can do it, have it done to them, or see (know) it was done. The point of crime as a plot device is to use the concept of crime, an illegal act, to further the plot.
I’ve used this all the time in my writing—in all three modes, and all degrees of meaning. The current novel I’m writing has a climax based in criminal activity. The protagonist’s helper is a criminal escapee. The protagonist has committed crimes but not been convicted or incarcerated. I think this provides delicious entertainment and creative elements.
Here is an example from School:
Sorcha trembled. She slowly regained her composure, “Because my mother abandoned me, the British Foundling System took over my welfare and put me in a foster home. Due to my appearance, that took a while. I lived in quite a few group homes until they finally found me a foster family.”
“I take it the whole foster experience sucked.”
“It sucked all right. They only cared about the money from the state. In the foundling homes, I could go to school. With a foster family, I could still go to school. That was the good part even though they beat me and locked up the ice box. They fed me the minimum and made me clean, cook, and take care of their younger children. I was lucky that was all they did. From what some of the other girls said… I wouldn’t have minded all that except after the beatings started and the kids began bullying me at school.”
Deirdre laid back on the bed, “Why’d they bully you?”
“My clothing looked like it came out of the trash bin. I never had a lunch. I studied all the time and made top grades. That all makes you a bully magnet.”
“That really sucks.” Deirdre stared at her, “Your clothing still looks like it came out of the bin.”
“That’s because it did.” Sorcha scrunched her nose and continued, “I didn’t take the bullying or the beatings very well. The school said I started acting out. What they meant was, I didn’t let them bully me. I fought back. If they attacked me, I attacked back. If they hit, I hit. If they kicked, I kicked…”
“They expelled you?”
“They didn’t expel me—they sent me to a reformatory.”
Deirdre sat up, “They sent you to prison?”
“Assault and battery. She hit first—I just beat the crap out of her…plus a couple of her friends.” Sorcha smiled at the memory.
Deirdre put her hand on Sorcha’s, “That’s why I’m here at Wycombe. I’ve beat up a lot of girls and some boys too, but they didn’t send me to prison.”
Sorcha lifted her lip, “You’re a rich toff and special. Girls like me get sent to the reformatory. Girls like you get to go to a good school.”
Deirdre made a thoughtful face.
Sorcha continued, “They sent me to HM Prison Aylesbury—that’s just up the road from here.”
“Why aren’t you there now?”
Sorcha smiled, “I escaped. They let me go to school there too, but I learned something much much more useful when I was in there. I learned to use the glamour. I knew all about it, but I didn’t imagine that I could use it. I used it inside Aylesbury, and I used it to escape Aylesbury.”
“How did you learn about using glamour?”
“It’s funny the kinds of people you find in prison, and it’s funny the kinds of creatures who are attracted to prisons. The Unseelie are everywhere around such places. They seem to enjoy the suffering and malignant thoughts of people held captive.”
“They’re like that all right.”
“There were also kids like me in Aylebury. All of them were abandoned. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t really that many of us, but many of them are in prison. I learned that most of them don’t have the knowledge or the power to use their skills, but some know the rudiments. From them, I gained the knowledge and learned I had the power. After I perfected the glamour, it was nothing to change my appearance and slip out of that place. I walked to High Wycombe and found a great spot to live here.”
“Like I’d tell you…”
“You don’t have to tell me. Go on…”
Sorcha ran her fingers through her hair, “I saw how much the girls learned and how much they taught here. I was well prepared from my previous schooling, all I had to do was to attend the classes and make them think I was just another student.”
“They didn’t call your name in class.”
“Not yet—you screwed up everything for me on the first day. Because of my last name, Weir, I almost always end up at the bottom of their list. I just go to the teacher and use a flash of glamour. I tell her they forgot to list me—because I was last, they accidentally dropped me off the roll. They always accept that, and because of the glamour, they believe me. They add me to the list, and then mostly ignore me for the rest of the year. I hand in my homework. I write my papers. I take the tests. I get my grades. I produce the results, and they forget about me because of the glamour. Eventually, I hope to graduate from this school. I’ll use my records and the diploma to go to university.”
Deirdre clapped, “That’s great. I think that’s fantastic. What a wonderful idea. I wish I’d thought of it. What’s the downside?”
Sorcha closed her fists, “The downside is when some stupid twit sees through your glamour, gets in your way, and prevents you from making the pitch on the first and best day.”
Deirdre scrunched her mouth to the side, “What do you mean the first and the best day.”
“You bink. On the first day of class, they don’t know you from Pete. Even if they think they remember you from the year before, they’re too embarrassed to make a mistake. The teachers are clueless. You can easily manipulate them in the beginning. It becomes harder as time goes on.”
Sorcha is an escapee from prison. She was incarcerated for assault and battery. She is now breaking all kinds of laws by illegally going to school at Wycombe Abbey. Deirdre is a girl who should have been sent to prison. If she was poor like Sorcha, she would have been. This is part of the basis for this novel—it provides a large part of the backstory.
Here’s another example from Sister of Darkness:
The evening was especially dark. Clouds covered the skies and the moon. A wind blew in from the coast that reminded them that winter was not long past. An anguished cry awakened Leora and Paul. It was a single sound of childish loss. A howl of fear and grief, “No…”
Paul leapt out of bed and pulled on his robe. Leora was only steps behind him. When he opened the door, Marie stood there already. Two fingers threatened to slip into her mouth and her threadbare rabbit was clutched by an ear in her fist. She stared wide-eyed, “Lumière is gone.”
Without a word, Paul ran to Lumière’s room. The windows were all opened and the door was gaping. The raw night blew through the openings and chilled Paul to the bone. He pulled up Lumière’s bed clothes and searched her room. Leora stood in the doorway. She held a rosary in her hand and mouthed a prayer, “Paul, she is not here. She is gone.”
Leora buried her face in her hands, “I don’t know. I can’t see her. She is not in the house. There are things in the night that block my sight.”
Paul leapt back through the door. The scream was loud enough, it had already awakened the house. Major Lyons stood in the hall followed closely by his driver, Lord Hastings, Goodberry, and a group of servants.
“What is wrong, Paul?” Lyons grabbed the sleeve of his robe.
“Lumière is gone. She has been taken—abducted. Leora says she is not in the house.”
Lyons gestured to his driver, “Come on we’ll scour the grounds.”
Lord Hastings stepped forward, “Do you need weapons?”
“We are armed already.”
“Then go to it man. Just watch out in the darkness that you don’t shoot each other.”
“And don’t go alone,” Leora stood in the doorway and clutched a piece of Lumière’s clothing.
“Quickly, men, go!” Lord Hastings pushed them toward the outside.
In groups of two, the men ran into the night and scoured the area around the house. They found nothing and no one. As soon as Lord Hastings could make a call on the telephone, they were joined by the constabulary of the closest village. In the morning, Major Lyons made a call and a company of soldiers showed up and began cordoning the fields.
Paul entered into his and Leora’s room tired and discouraged. When he came in, Tilly rose from her knees beside Leora and left. She gave him a piteous and, for Tilly, an attempted cheering look, as she passed.
Leora was on her knees before the window. Her face rested on the lounge and her hair stretched across and over the side. Trembling sobs shook her.
Paul went to his knees and lifted her up. She came into his arms. Her face was wet, her lashes strung with tears like dew. Paul held her close. She held him for a minute then a moan escaped her lips, “Paul, she is gone.” She shook her head violently, “I searched and searched for her. With the scepter and golden tablet, I touched her ka once or twice, but each time, it was masked from me.” Her voice rose in fear, “I traced her out of Britain. Paul, hold me, our child is gone. Our child is gone.”
“If Lumière is alive, we must get her back again. We know who has taken her, and we know where they are taking her.”
“And we know why,” Leora moaned, “She is a hostage to keep us from retrieving the Osiris Offering Formula. Paul, you understand, as well as I, we might be required to trade our daughter’s life for that cursed thing.”
“I should have destroyed it when I had the chance.”
“The question is what will we do now?”
Abruptly sober and tearless, Leora turned up her face, “We go to Windsor and seek the offering formula. Where we find it, we will find Lumière. Eventually, where we find Lumière, we will find my sister. There is no purpose in searching anywhere else in England for her. Tell everyone to stop looking for her here, help me comfort our children, and let us make our way to Windsor. That is the only way we will return her to our family and safety.”
I hope you have the chance to read this novels soon. It is on contract and should be published. In any case, Paul and Leora’s daughter is kidnapped and that propels a large portion of the second part of the novel. You won’t want to miss the first part either, but this great crime sets up the second part and the next novel. Crime is a wonderful and terrible plot device. It allows the author to directly control much of the circumstances and entertainment of the novel.
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