31 July 2017, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part x121, Creative Elements in Scenes, Plot Devices, Theater
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)
Theater – Current discussion.
One way love
Theater: here is my definition – Theater is the use of a classical arts to further a plot.
I should have titled this arts rather than theater, but I think you get the point. The use of theater as a plot device includes opera, ballet, plays, the circus, painting, writing, not to mention other classical art forms. This is not the use of crafts or other skills. The reason this does not include crafts or skills or modern nonclassical art forms is that the point of theater is to enable the author to reflect the art presentation in references, allegory, or analogy. In other words, theater allows the writer to use the art form presented as a form of figure of speech and analogy in the writing.
Theater is not used much or enough at all in the modern era. It is used very very well in classical literature, but most forms are literary. What can I use for examples? Almost any piece of writing prior to 1950 and many classical pieces of writing after that. Any work that references another piece of literature or art uses a theater plot device.
I want to expand this plot device for you. I use it extensively in my writing, but I like to use it in ways most authors never have. I like to have my characters go to plays, opera, ballets, and other art events. I like to have my characters admire art and read novels. The going to plays, opera, ballet, and other art events is specifically what I mean. I use the event as a spring board for my novel. I don’t necessarily use the work as an allegory, but I do provide connections.
I’ve used The Pirates of Penzance, The Magic Flute, The Nutcracker, Copellia, Frogs, Clouds and many other works in my novels. My characters addend these events and remark on them, reflect them. When you use these types of art work, you need to either synopsize or at least relate some of the details. Then you need to use the work in your writing. There must always be a purpose in the art—remember Chekov’s Gun.
Here is an example from Aksinya: Enchantment and the Deamon:
The landau drove them only a few blocks away to the Wien State Opera. The building was large and classical. It wasn’t as brightly lit as the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz. The gaslights flickered in the chill breeze. Ernst escorted Aksinya into the building. When they entered, Aksinya wobbled a little shakily on her feet. She held tightly to Ernst’s arm, and almost fell when she entered the enormous foyer. She almost lost her feet again near the center of the large entranceway. Aksinya whirled when she thought she spotted Asmodeus in the crowd, but immediately lost sight of him. Ernst clasped her arm tightly under his and kept her from falling. Natalya steadied her. She followed right behind Aksinya. Ernst took care of their coats. He led Aksinya to a box seat. She finally concluded that she was unsteady on her feet from the wine at supper, so she held even more tightly to Ernst’s arm so she wouldn’t stumble. Ernst seated her and then Natalya. He took the chair between them both.
As though the ballet master waited just for them, at that moment, the lights dimmed and the conductor walked across the stage and climbed into the orchestra pit. Aksinya leaned forward and held the side of the rail. She kept a tight grip on her flowers.
The music started. It was bright and melodic. Aksinya was entranced. Ernst propped his elbows on the top of the rail. His face was close to hers, “I didn’t tell you the ballet we are going to see. It is Coppellia and a comedic ballet.”
Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage, “A ballet that is a comedy. I didn’t know there was such a thing.”
“Ah, you Russians are so dower. I can’t remember a Russian comedy.”
“Do you think I am dower?”
“You are entirely too serious, but I find that engaging in you. I have never met a serious woman before.”
Aksinya’s eyes moved toward his face, “I would indeed like to be taken seriously. I am a serious woman.”
“Also a dangerous woman.”
“I don’t wish to be thought a dangerous woman.”
“But you are. That makes your seriousness necessary.”
“Or, I am just dower. What is this Coppellia about?”
Ernst turned his face toward hers. Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage and orchestra. He laughed, “It is a story about an old man, Dr. Coppellia, who tries to use magic to give life to a mechanical woman.”
“Does he succeed?”
“No. He believes he has, but in the end it is all a trick. At the conclusion, the young fool does marry the wonderful and smart heroine. A match between a serious girl and a frivolous boy.”
Aksinya mumbled, “I am like the old man. I have made a terrible thing.”
“You said, Countess?”
“Nothing. I said nothing…”
The curtain rose and the ballet began. Throughout, laughter from the audience punctuated the performance. Natalya and Ernst both chuckled under their breath. Aksinya didn’t laugh. She had never laughed in the theater. Her lips did turn up many times in a gentle smile.
During the very delightful ballet, Aksinya remembered the words of Fraulein Trauen. She took surreptitious glances to see where Ernst’s eyes dwelt. Every time she looked, his eyes were focused on her profile. She couldn’t help but blush. She wasn’t certain he ever glanced at the very beautiful ballerinas who danced on the stage.
At the intermission, a butler delivered caviar and Champaign to their box. Ernst served Aksinya, “Countess, would you rather have vodka?”
“I do like vodka, but Champaign with caviar is my favorite.” She inclined toward him, “Plus, I’m not sure how much vodka I should drink. The wine at dinner went a little to my head.”
Ernst refilled her glass. Natalya watched closely. She barely sipped at her still filled glass.
Aksinya watched the second Act with greater enjoyment. Ernst thought he heard a giggle from her a couple of times. Natalya frowned.
They returned home late. It wasn’t too late, but still late. Aksinya leaned sleepily against Natalya the entire trip back to the house. Aksinya could not stand without help. Natalya wouldn’t let Ernst sit next to Aksinya. When they exited the landau, Natalya did let him help her on one side while she held Aksinya on the other.
A little about the ballet—that informs your readers and your characters. The jokes are all related to the ballet. This is just fun.
Here’s another example from Aksinya: Enchantment and the Deamon:
They ate in the Red Room again. This time, Aksinya’s dress didn’t clash with the décor. After a wonderful dinner, Ernst’s landau delivered them to the Wien State Opera. The Die Zauberflöte held Aksinya enthralled. A faint scent of sulfur touched Aksinya’s nose for a single breath, but she didn’t see the demon. Although she had drunk a little too much at supper, her mind wasn’t fuzzy at all through the opera.
At the intermission, an attendant delivered Champagne and caviar to the box. Ernst served Aksinya and then Natalya. Aksinya thirstily drank her first glass of Champagne, “Ernst, is this another comedy?”
“It is all about marriage…”
“It is indeed about marriage and magic.”
“Yes, I couldn’t miss that part too. So who am I cast to be?”
Ernst poured Aksinya another glass of Champagne. Natalya frowned.
Aksinya raised her glass, “It’s all right Natalya. I’m thirsty and it matches the opera and my mood. So, who am I cast to be in this opera by Mozart?”
Ernst smiled, “Who do you wish to be?”
Aksinya took a deep breath, “I wish to be Pamina, the heroine, but I think I am The Queen of the Night.”
Ernst grinned, “If you are the Queen of the Night, then I must be the traitorous Monostatos.”
Aksinya raised her eyes to his, “You can’t be Monostatos—that role has already been cast.”
Ernst stared at her, “You aren’t kidding, are you?”
“I’m not kidding at all.”
He tried to take her hand in his, but she pulled it back at the last moment. Ernst’s appearance was very serious, “Then, I do have a rival in love?”
Aksinya giggled, “Only if I am truly the Queen of the Night.”
“I beg you not to play with my heart, Countess. I love you. I am serious…”
Aksinya sobered immediately, “I am also serious. If you wish to be my Tamino then you must find a way to transform me from the Queen of the Night to Pamina.”
Ernst grasped her hand, “Listen to me, Countess. I don’t intend to lose you to anyone in this world.”
Aksinya laughed. She couldn’t stop her laughter. It was slightly wild and uncontrolled. The other guests in the box seats next to and above and below them became silent. The audience close to them silenced. The conductor stepped across the stage and still Aksinya’s sweet laughter sang out in the suddenly quiet opera house.
Finally, Natalya put her arms around Aksinya. She whispered in her ear in Russian, “Please mistress, be quiet. You are embarrassing yourself.”
Aksinya immediately sobered. Her lips turned down. She appeared like she might cry but that lasted for only for only a moment. She turned her face to the side and pushed Natalya away.
The music started and the lights came down.
Aksinya held out her empty Champagne flute, “Ernst fill my glass and continue to fill it.”
Ernst poured the remainder of the bottle into Aksinya’s glass. He moved a little closer to her and whispered, “I’m terribly sorry. What did I say that so upset you?”
“It was nothing you said.”
“There had to be something.”
“Are you arguing with me, Herr von Taaffe.”
Ernst shut his mouth.
Aksinya sipped on her Champagne, “I will tell you this, Ernst von Taaffe. You have no idea what you desire from me or what you ask of me. You may never learn what you ask or the danger you run, but I will tell you this, nothing in this world competes against you. You have put yourself up against powers and evil that you can’t begin to imagine.”
Ernst stared directly into her eyes, “That may be so, Countess, but I swear I will overcome anything for you.”
Aksinya put her hand against his lips, “Do not swear anything in regard to me.” She turned back to the opera and held out her glass to be refilled.
In the end, Ernst had to carry Aksinya into her house. Sister Margarethe frowned at him the entire time. Ernst said nothing at all and after he placed Aksinya on her bed, he simply glanced around her room and quickly left. Sister Margarethe stepped after him to speak to him, but Natalya took her arm, “Sister, it was not his fault. He simply accommodated the Countess. She could not be reasoned with tonight.”
Again a light synopsis—enough to excite and intrigue the reader. The novel uses these plot devices to direct the novel and the plot. They are embedded in the novel and in the characters. There is more and more examples, but I won’t give them here. I love this plot device and I recommend its use. There are many more ways to use it.
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