Writing – part x224, Novel Form, still Another Example of Building Tension and Release

11 November 2017, Writing – part x224, Novel Form, still 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

I’m writing from Goose Bay, Canada.

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. The power in this scene is not what is said, but rather in what is not said. This is what I would like you to look for.

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. She survived and is healing. Vasily Grossman who is a real person in history, and a person I have tried to describe and reflect as realistically as possible has become Lumière’s mentor and guardian. He is taking her back to Moscow at the end of the war (WWII).

Look carefully at the setting elements that are turned into creative elements and how they build tension and entertainment in the scene. Apart from the characters, the first is the passenger car. The second is the dress. The third is the book, a gift from Efim. Efim is based on a real person in history. For that matter, Klava is based on a real person in history. The next is the papers. Notice especially what is left unsaid concerning the papers. There are unspoken points about Efim’s book and the dress. I don’t point these out to the reader, because the reader can figure it all out for him or herself. The unsaid points are just as important as those directly expressed. There is more, but read the example.

In June with little fanfare Vasily packed up his gear, said goodbye to his friends, and prepared to board a train with Sveta, headed toward Moscow. Klava and Efim saw them off at the military siding where they had access to a rare passenger car. Sveta was dressed in a plain brown dress that was a little too big for her. Klava had hemmed it as well as she could, but there was just too much fabric to make it fit well. In it, Sveta appeared younger than her real years. Klava gathered Sveta in her arms and kissed her cheeks, “Little Sveta. I will miss you. You are a good child and a sweet girl. Don’t let them take advantage of you in Moscow.” She half turned to Vasily, “You keep your eyes on her—just like you would your daughter, Vasily.”

Efim held Sveta at arms length and kissed her cheeks. He handed her a very thick book.

Sveta stared at the book with great desire. She held it out in front of her and spoke in her raspy whisper, “I can’t take your favorite copy of War and Peace, Uncle Efim.”

Efim mumbled, “Take it. The trip to Moscow is long and you will need something to read. It is my favorite book.”

Sveta put her arms around his neck and hugged him as hard as her weak arms could. Efim finally took one hand out of his pocket and patted her shoulder. He explained lamely, “You like to read so much.”

Klava came close to Vasily, “I won’t give these to the girl. You must explain everything to her during your trip.” She handed him a packet of papers, “I gave her the name Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.”

“That is your own patronymic and last name.”

“Don’t worry Vasily. I didn’t have to sign any of the papers. I got Colonel-General Berzarin to sign everything.” She blushed, “You needn’t ask how.”

“I wouldn’t, Klava.”

“I would do anything for Sveta, now. She is like my little sister. I wish I were going to Moscow with you. When I am released from service, I will come for her.” She turned very businesslike again, “In the packet are her traveling papers and her official documents. Make sure she understands everything. She may speak like she came from the university, but she is really like a child. Her mind has not completely recovered.”

“Thank you, Klava. You are a great friend,” Vasily shook her hand, and Klava kissed his cheek.

Efim half lifted Sveta onto the train and Vasily followed closely behind. At the step, Klava grasped Vasily’s hand, “Watch carefully over her, Vasily. Treat her like you would my sister or your daughter. I will seek her out if I am able, when I am able.”

Vasily nodded.

The train car was almost empty. The train service had just recently been restarted, and the Soviet machine was too slow to start pulling general soldiers back using this method. There was also some worry about the Americans and other Allies at the borders of captured Soviet territory. The Politburo was additionally concerned about the condition and internal security of the Soviet Union. The Soviet troops would stay in place for all these reasons.

Sveta moved slowly. The conductor stopped in front of her, and she turned her head slightly back toward Vasily.

Vasily pulled out his papers and hers with their travel vouchers, “I have her papers also.”

The conductor moved to the side and allowed Sveta to pass. She continued forward leaning on her cane and wheezing at each step.

Sveta found a seat at the back. When the conductor was content with their authorization, Vasily threw their bags on a seat and sat across from her. She stared around the train car and took in everything before she settled into the seat as comfortably as she could and opened the thick book Efim had given her. When she came across his note to her, she smiled with delight. By then the train was already moving, and the military siding was long out of sight.

When they were well away Vasily spoke to her, “Sveta, did you make Klava think you were not right in your mind?”

Sveta did not reply.

“Sweet Sveta, I understand why you would. I think I am beginning to understand something about you.”

She glanced up with apprehension.

“You do not need to fear me, Sveta. This I promise you.”

Sveta smoothed her dress and focused again on her new book.

“Are you ready to tell me what was happening in the world when I first found you?”

Sveta violently shook her head.

“I will ask you again. This, I promise you.”

Sveta stared out the window.

“This is something you are afraid to discuss. I wonder why and hope my curiosity is one day satisfied. But I will not burden you with this again for a while. There are other things much closer I must burden you with now.”

Sveta raised her eyes again in apprehension.

“Yes you should worry. I have papers here for you. Klava took a lot of risk to put them together. She loves you—you have that affect on people, and I’m not sure why. Your name is Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.”

Sveta smiled at that.

“You like the name. It has a ring to it.”

“The papers say you are fifteen. You are an orphan from Moscow…”

Sveta leaned forward, “May I read them.”

Vasily had to listen closely to hear her soft voice over the noise of the train. He handed the packet to her.

“You must be careful with your papers. You must not lose them. Klava has done a fantastic job. These may be almost impossible to reconstruct. I have no way of knowing who you really are. I can’t believe you are a simple waif whose mind is slightly addled.” Vasily spoke gently to take the sting out of his words.

Sveta glanced up at him and cocked her head.

“You understand me well. I know you are hiding your past. I think I know why. In this time and this day, no one will think the worse of you. I think you are a well educated child of a wealthy family from France. I think a German leader took a fancy to your beauty and your intelligence. He abused you and stole your childhood. You do not want to return to France. I understand why. You do not want to stay in Germany. That should be obvious. I befriended you, and you will take your chances with me, Uncle Vasily. You have papers and in the Soviet Union, that gives you status and if not power, then the ability to live.

“I need to tell you about me and what to expect in Moscow. We have a lot of time. I will start at the beginning. My first wife was Anna Petrovna Matsuk. I called her Galya. We have a daughter Ekaterina, who is fifteen just like you. She is called Katya, and I think she will love you. Unfortunately I was not a very attentive father or husband and Anna Petrovna left me.

“My common law wife is now Olga Mikhailovna Guber. I adopted her two boys, Fyodor, my little Fedya and Misha. Misha did not survive the war,” Vasily stared out the window. “Olga will be the problem. She is not naturally jealous, but she will not know how to take you. I don’t wish arguments with her on the eve of victory and homecoming.”

Almost a whisper, “Why don’t you leave me here?”

Vasily shook his head, “At this point I could not leave you unprotected any more than I could leave my daughter alone. Do not ask me nor expect me to cause you that pain. A little suffering for Olga and me will be small recompense for your safety.”

“Why would you care about me, Uncle Vasily?”

He sat back and settled into his seat, “That is a very good question. I have thought about it for a long while. The first reason is the simplest. You are somehow a remarkable being who appeared to take the world into your control.” He ignored Sveta’s pained expression. “I don’t believe in anything supernatural anymore, and yet, you gave me a sudden reason to believe. I can’t quite understand it. Second, you are likely the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t desire you, but you are like a painting, excruciatingly beautiful and necessary to observe daily. Third, you are remarkably intelligent. I have met many intelligent people. Most want you to know just how bright they are. You can’t get away from them and their intellectual preening. You, on the other hand, try to hide your native abilities and knowledge. You made Klava think you were slightly deficient. Efim thinks you are an idiot savant. That is the only way he can explain your absorption of the Russian language. I know you have a marvelous intellect. You hide it well—too well. Fourth, somehow you make people love you.” Sveta blushed. “How this can be, I do not know. My mother once told me that old people and children had the power, if they desired it, to make people love them. She taught me French, by the way. You made Klava love you. You made Efim love you. You have made me love you. Why and how? I can’t readily fathom.”

Sveta stared at Vasily for only a moment more. Without a word, she returned to the book Efim had given her.

Vasily smiled down his nose at her. Under his breath, so he could not be heard above the noise of the train he said, “The right thing. You do the right thing every time. How can that be?”

Items and conversation drive this scene. The unsaid becomes a very powerful part of the expression and entertainment. I ask the readers to become participants in understanding the things that can’t and that should not be said. This is a very powerful method of scene development. I like to imagine that much of what my scenes are about are not spoken. I want to allow my readers to build their own conclusions based on what I have revealed to them and what they know from history.

History is an abiding point of this and all of my novels. I interject a part into real history that wasn’t there, but could have been there. I use history to drag you into a suspension of disbelief concerning all the other things I want to reveal to you. To me, this is reflective and powerful. I love to present scenes like this. I love to build ah ha moments for my readers.

I also want to point out Vasily’s observations about Lumière at the end of the scene. This is my chosen method of the revelation of my characters’ thoughts. I don’t want to show you their mind or what they are thinking—I want them to have the opportunity to reveal their thoughts in conversation, just like in real life. You can’t know anyone’s mind, and they might be lying to you. You can’t read minds, so why do we have mind readers in novels?

Vasily’s reflection to Lumière about her is a classic and wonderful technique and reveals much in the context of the scene that the reader has somewhat surmised and guessed—Vasily’s reflection just cements the ideas and knowledge. This contrast of spoken and unspoken is a powerful tool in scene development.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:

http://www.ancientlight.com/

http://www.aegyptnovel.com/

http://www.centurionnovel.com

http://www.thesecondmission.com/

http://www.theendofhonor.com/

http://www.thefoxshonor.com

http://www.aseasonofhonor.com

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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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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