Writing – part x223, Novel Form, Another Example of Building Tension and Release

10 November 2017, Writing – part x223, Novel Form, Another Example of 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 an early scene, but not the initial scene. I want you to contrast this scene with the one from yesterday. Yesterday’s scene was sparse without any added creative elements (setting elements turned into tension creating elements). In this example, I want you to notice the use of stuff (setting elements turned into creative elements) used to create tension and release in the scene.

The girl in this scene is Lumière. She was wounded while she was trying to escape the Germans and the Russians during the battle for the Reichstag building. She would have escaped too—except a German soldier decided to fire an anti-tank weapon at her. She was gravely wounded. At this point in the novel, the point of view (POV) is Vasily who is based on a real person—a war correspondent assigned to the Russian Army. Vasily and Efim are both Soviet Russian Jews. Vasily is the future writer of the Black Book which documents the Fascists’ actions in the Holocaust against the Jews and others. This is just the historical setting. I should also mention, this scene takes place in the spring of 1945 just as the war (WWII) is winding down.

Efim drove up to the Fifth Shock Army headquarters. When the jeep halted, Vasily grabbed the girl in his arms and started toward the house where the correspondents stayed. He stopped and turned part way around, “Get the clerk Klava Kopylova.”

“Why her, Vasily? She’s practically the General’s PPZh, his campaign wife.”

Vasily started off again, “Just get her, Efim. She will be able to help.” Vasily took the gasping girl to the open main room and laid her on his cot. She was still bleeding. For the first time since he had taken her off the battlefield, she opened her eyes with some intelligence in them and stared up at him. Pain filled her gaze. Her lips trembled and blood leaked down the side of her face.

At her look Vasily bit his lip. He mopped at the blood with his handkerchief. He tied her bandages a little tighter. The girl began to gasp harder and pant. Vasily stroked her cheek, “Death won’t be much longer now, child.”

The headquarters clerk Klava ran into the room. She was a tall busty woman with an angular face and blond hair. She put her hand over her mouth, “What did you do, Vasily?”

“I could not let her die out in the dirt.”

“Is she dying?”

Vasily swallowed past a lump, “I think she is.”

“You can’t leave her here. Bring her into my room. There is an extra cot.”

Vasily picked up the girl and followed Klava.

They didn’t have to pass through the headquarters to get to Klava’s room. Klava pointed to the extra cot, “Why didn’t you take her to the field hospital?”

“I did.”

Klava stared expectantly at him.

“They wanted me to leave her with the dying soldiers.”

“Couldn’t do it? Is she a friend of yours?” Klava pulled off the girl’s shirt and began pulling off her pants. Vasily backed to the front of the room and turned away toward them.

“I…we saw her take a hit on the battlefield in front of the Reichstag. When I saw her, I couldn’t leave her to die there.”

“She is beautiful. No underthings. She’s likely a German orphan. That or a whore. If she isn’t, she’ll be soon enough—with the Fifth Shock Army around.”

“Klava after Treblinka, I couldn’t stand to see another of my people…”

“If you thought she was a Jew…she’s wearing a rosary.”

Vasily turned part way around. He turned back again, “Could she be a gypsy?”

“Her hair is too clean, and gypsy women don’t wear men’s clothing.”

“People will do anything to hide from the Nazi’s.”

“…and the Russian Army.”

“How do her wounds look?”

“Come help me turn her over. Come on Vasily. She’s like your daughter. Give me a hand.”

Vasily came over reluctantly. The girl was beautiful. At least what you could see under the blood and the bruising. She was not obviously wounded on the front of her body. He helped Klava turn the girl over. A chunk was carved out of her bloody right leg and shrapnel wounds peppered the back of the other leg and her buttocks. Her right arm had shrapnel cuts all over it. Klava and he began washing and bandaging her wounds. Klava looked up from her work, “You know, this won’t do her any good.”

“Why not?”

“If by the grace of God she survives, the shrapnel will kill her from the inside out. I’ve seen it lots of times.”

“Efim thinks she won’t survive anyway.”

“Her breathing isn’t as labored as it was. She doesn’t seem to have any punctures through her chest or lungs. I washed her entire back, and I can’t see any wound there.”

“Is it possible to bleed from your lungs and survive?”

“She isn’t bleeding much now. What she needs is a doctor.”

Vasily ran his fingers through his hair, “Do you have any idea where I can find one, Klava?”

“A German doctor, maybe. You might trade him bread or meat.”

“Do you mind if I leave her here with you.”

“Yes, I do, but you may leave her here anyway. When she dies, you must remove her body right away.”

“Can you stay with her until I get back?”

“No. I’m on shift now. I need to get back to work.”

“Can Efim stay with her?”

“If he will.”

“Just give me a moment. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Klava stared disdainfully at her bloody hands, “Very well, Vasily. Hurry.”

Vasily found Efim. He was waiting impatiently outside the headquarters, “Vasily, is she dead yet?”

“No, not yet. I need to go find a German doctor to treat her. You must stay with her while I go.”

Efim raised his hands, “I can’t stay with her. Her gasping was driving me crazy. I’m a father, I can’t stand to hear that.”

“You must, while I find the doctor.”

“I’ll find the doctor. I promise. You stay with the girl.” Efim ran off in the direction of their jeep, “I’ll look.”

“Don’t disappoint me, Efim.”

Vasily returned to Klava’s room where the girl now lay partially on her left side with a sheet and a woolen blanket covering her. Klava gave Vasily a single pained look, and the girl a longer one filled with compassion. She left the room.

In this example, distinct items create tension and release. The first is the girl, Lumière. She gives every appearance of dying. She is not really a person in this scene. She is a human being, but more than that, she is a helpless dying girl. She can’t really communicate. Her suffering is a direct pity building event. If you notice, she doesn’t show much emotion—she can’t. The others around her show all kinds of emotion. This is what I wrote about before in developing pity in your readers. There isn’t a whole lot of emotion being shown directly in the scene, but this scene drives extensive pity in the reader.

The extra cot in Klava’s room is another thing that drives tension—this gives mainly release, a place to put the girl. The girl’s clothing is another tension driver—Klava undresses her. The lack of underclothing becomes a tension and release developer—it allows the speculation about who the girl is. Vasily is unwilling to look at the naked girl, at first, then he helps after Klava reminds him, she is like his daughter. The naked girl drives tension and then release.

The Rosary also drives tension and release. Vasily and Efrim thought Lumière was Jewish, because of her complexion and hair. Klava notes, the girl is wearing a Rosary, this drives speculation and some more tension in the scene—will Vasily abandon the girl when he finds out she isn’t Jewish?

The most important thing to note is although many of these points are basic to the history and events, the “things” (setting elements turned into creative elements) used to drive the entertainment (tension and release) in the scene are what are important here. Each of the revealed elements drive this tension and release. Each of the revealed items drive the entertainment in the scene. The entertainment comes directly out of the tension and release. None of the items are necessary, but the scene turns each of them into Chekov’s Guns, each necessary for the scene. For example, the Rosary is an element from Lumière’s past and an item that is part of her being and character. It’s mention is necessary in context, but the tension it develops is palpable and powerful. Likewise, the lack of underclothing and the undressing. The observation of Lumière’s wounds. These are necessary in the context of the writing, but more so for the tension they develop in the scene.

I’ll mention the last tension development in the scene just to move on. Vasily, Klava, and Efrim all think the girl will die. This is the way of war—they all have seen it. There is hope, but little hope. Klava treated the girl and casually goes back to her post. There is still a touch of emotion, hidden emotion, in her advise to get a doctor. This is expressed more than once by Efrim and Klava—is she dead yet? They all expect the girl to die. They are all touched by her desire to live. This drives tension for the reader (pity) and in the scene.

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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