Writing – part x222, Novel Form, Examples in Building Tension and Release

9 November 2017, Writing – part x222, Novel Form, Examples in Building Tension and Release

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.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of 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

I finished writing my 28th novel, working title, School, potential title Deirdre: Enchantment and the School. The theme statement is: 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.

Here is the cover proposal for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School.

Cover Proposal

The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I continued writing my 29th novel, working title Red Sonja. I finished my 28th novel, working title School. If you noticed, I started on number 28, but finished number 29 (in the starting sequence—it’s actually higher than that). I adjusted the numbering. I do keep everything clear in my records. I’ll be providing information on the marketing materials and editing.

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 29: 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.

This is the classical form for writing a successful 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 (protagonist, antagonist, and optionally the protagonist’s helper)
    4. Identify the telic flaw of the protagonist (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

The protagonist and the telic flaw are tied permanently together. The novel plot is completely dependent on the protagonist and the protagonist’s telic flaw. They are inseparable. This is likely the most critical concept about any normal (classical) form novel.

Here are the parts of a normal (classical) novel:

  1. The Initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
  2. The Rising action scenes
  3. The Climax scene
  4. The Falling action scene(s)
  5. The Dénouement scene

So, how do you write a rich and powerful initial scene? Let’s start from a theme statement. Here is an example from my latest novel:

The theme statement for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School is: 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.

Here is the scene development 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

If you have the characters (protagonist, protagonist’s helper, and antagonist), the initial setting, the telic flaw (from the protagonist), a plot idea, the theme action, then you are ready to write the initial scene. I would state that since you have a protagonist, the telic flaw, a plot idea, and the theme action, you have about everything—what you might be lacking is the tension and release cycle in your scenes.

Here is an example of developing or building tension and release in a scene. This example is from Shadow of Darkness an Ancient Light novel. This is part of the initial scene from the novel. What I want you to notice in this example is the use of stuff (setting elements turned into creative elements) used to create tension and release in the scene.

This scene begins as an action and description oriented scene that turns into conversation then back to action and description. In the beginning of the scene, the setting elements in the scene begin to become creative elements. The Reichstag building is one of the key setting elements. Russian tanks and infantry along with German infantry in the Reichstag building begin to build tension. In fact, everything that prevents Oba and Lumière from moving where they want and need to, become tension builders. Then you have the battle which Lumière and Oba are enveloped in—you can read the scene.

During the day, they heard the movement and voices of many troops and people. Now, the language usually indicated Russian troops although, once or twice, German soldier’s voices cut through the afternoon while they hid. Lumière and Oba had made little progress east from the Museum. Each night when they attempted to move through the lines of troops, they found themselves forced back. Unwillingly they moved closer and closer back toward the river Spree, and eventually, they were forced to parallel the river. Russian and German troops vied for both sides of the river. The night before, for the first time Lumière and Oba moved to the west of the Neues Museum. They tried to spend the day in a depression near Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, but near noon, the sound of advancing tanks forced them into the woods and gardens just south of the Reichstag building. Through their cover, Lumière could glimpse the Reichstag. It was a bombed out shell. Russian tanks and soldiers moved toward them from the south, and German soldiers waited inside the Reichstag. Lumière discerned the glint of the Germans’ weapons as they took aim at the Russian soldiers. All at once, the crack of rifle fire and the pinging of bullets cut through the warming day. Lumière and Oba burrowed deeper into the sparse brush.

In the early afternoon, the Russians decided to rush the German positions. Lumière noticed with dismay that she and Oba were right in the center, almost directly between the two forces. “Oba, what will we do?”

“I don’t know, mistress. My skills are those of sneaking and ambush. Our travels have brought us directly into this conflict, and now I don’t know what to do. We can’t fight either of them, and both will kill us.” He stared at her then spat at the ground, “They will both seek to defile you.”

“If they can. I am not a weakling. I can defend myself.” She looked up, “Whatever we do, we must go now. The Russians are on the move, and I, like you, fear their tanks and their guns will make no exception for us. To the west Oba. Go!”

The motors of the tanks, not a hundred meters away, revved and machinegun fire and high explosive shells flew over their heads.

“Keep your head down, Oba.”

“Yes mistress.”

The huge Russian tank guns blasted yellow red spurts of deadly fire at the building. Stone dust burst into the air at each shot. Lumière heard the screams of dying men. German machinegun fire blazed everywhere, and she was astounded neither of them had been hit. Then Oba went down. He didn’t make a sound, just jerked backwards and fell to his knees.


“It is nothing, mistress.”

“There is nowhere for us to go. Can you run?”

He stood up, “They will shoot you down, mistress. You run, I will draw their attention.”

“Oba, there are too many of them. We have nowhere to run. Nowhere to go.”

Oba didn’t say another word. He stood and began to run toward the line of Russian soldiers, then he yelled, “Mistress, run the other way, through the line of tanks.” At each word, Lumière saw a blast of blood and muscle burst from Oba’s body. She knew he would move until his body was cut to pieces—they could not kill him.

“No! Oba!” she screamed. Lumière removed a small tablet from her pocket. It was pure gold striped oddly with black lines. The tablet was about fifteen by ten centimeters and one centimeter thick. One side was marked with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and the portrait of a seated woman. Across the lips of the woman’s picture once was a frown, now it was neither a frown nor a smile. Her mouth was straight as though at any moment the lips might turn either way.

Lumière jumped up. She held the tablet in her hand and said a word. The word itself was encased in power. It rose up from her lips and seemed to swirl with sunshine. It was like a dust devil but formed of light and darkness instead of earth. The golden swirl rose up and expanded. It encased Oba and swept him along. It caught up the tanks and buffeted them mercilessly. Their guns stopped firing. The Russians who walked behind the tanks were bowled over. Their bodies buffeted and their weapons lost, but they were unharmed. When the golden light hit the Reichstag building, it washed over the stone and rushed through the windows. Each man it touched fell to the ground blinded and unmoving. The world became nearly silent in the wake of the thing the girl had created.

A German soldier took careful aim with an antitank weapon at the slim girl who stood between the Russian tanks and the Reichstag. He had many antitank Panzerfausts to fire at the Russian vehicles, and he expected to die today. What would the death of one girl mean to anyone? He knew he made the right choice of target when the swirling light exploded from her toward him. He aimed at her. The moment the light hit him, his finger squeezed the trigger. He was unable to hear the heavy thump as the round cleared the tube. His eyes were unseeing as the projectile rushed toward the now running teen. He could not know it struck a tree not ten feet away from her.

Things drive the tension and the release in this scene. The tanks, the tablet, the soldiers, Oba, Lumière, the terrain, the Reichstag building, the panzerfaust, the shell, each of these things build tension in different ways to reach the end of the scene. This scene really doesn’t have any extra added to it. Perhaps the details that drive the scene, or perhaps the panzerfaust. Each of these are historical and real (within the sense of history). Each of these items become required for the scene to complete itself. They are Chekov’s Guns, each required, and the scene dependent on each one.

I would call this scene sparse and self-dependent. It doesn’t require anything extra to help drive the entertainment or excitement. This isn’t true of all scenes. Most are more similar to the other scenes I showed you—they require entertainment and entertaining circumstances for strong tension and release development. I’ll try to dig up an example tomorrow.

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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