Writing – part x227, Novel Form, Building Emotional Tension and Release

14 November 2017, Writing – part x227, Novel Form, Building Emotional 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 Suda Bay, Crete.

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 emotional tension and release in a scene. This example is from Shadow of Darkness an Ancient Light novel. In this scene, Sveta has just begun to have flashback dreams of her incarceration under the NAZIs. She was held as a prisoner of Germany for almost three years. She lived in a dark hole in the ground under the Nues Museum and was allowed out only occasionally.

At the moment of her escape, Sveta was captured by the Russians and is now in Moscow. Vasily Grossman took her back to live with his family until Klava, a woman in the fifth shock army can come retrieve her.

This is an emotional scene (for the reader) that builds pity and fear. It builds fear more than pity. The suffering is already occurring and has already occurred. Sveta is miserable as is Vasily and his family. They can no longer protect Sveta. Perhaps no one can protect Sveta from the Soviet. Here is the scene:

Sveta woke like she had for the last few weeks, in Olga’s arms, being soothed by her rough voice. Katya looked on with pity.

Perhaps this dream was the worst. Sveta dreamed it and believed she had once lived it.

That morning Vasily took Sveta to the neighborhood commissar to answer the complaints of the neighbors in their apartment. She had informed Dov Cohen the day before. Dov didn’t say much in reply, but told her to come to work as soon as she could. They made their way to the most official looking building in the ten block area. They waited an hour for the commissar to show and another hour for their appointment. The commissar invited them into his office. He was fat with long sleek hair that was full of oil or cheap pomade. He wore a full suit and tie and was a member of the Communist Party. He sat behind his desk and read through his notes, “Vasily Grossman, I understand you have become a nuisance in your apartment building.”

“Comrade Florovsky, I ask you to let us have more time to work this out. This girl, Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova, is a Soviet citizen in our house. She was severely wounded in Berlin. Her cousin is a clerk in the Fifth Shock Army. We are watching her until her cousin can come for her.”

“Wounded in Berlin? Was she in the great patriotic army?”

“No, but she was rescued from the Germans.”

“Let me see her papers.”

Vasily hastily handed them to Florovsky.

The commissar flipped though the papers, “They all look in order. I understand, the girl wakes up your apartment building every night with hysterical cries.”

“Yes, but you must understand, she was a captive of the Germans for many years. They kept her in their prisons.”

“Is she a Jew?”

“No.”

“She was not a collaborator?”

“Her papers affirm that she was not.”

“Did she sustain a head injury?”

“No.”

“Where is her family in Moscow?”

“She did lose some of her memory.”

The commissar’s brow rose, “So she did sustain some kind of mental injury. In that case, for hers and others safety, I suggest she be incarcerated at a people’s asylum. That will provide for her care and take care of the disturbance in your building.”

Sveta spoke in her rough whisper, “But comrade, I have a job. I can work. I just have dreams, terrible dreams about the war. Please don’t make me leave my friends.”

He looked down his nose at her as though he didn’t expect her to be able to speak at all, “Your voice is odd, but you don’t sound insane or even disturbed.” He pushed back his chair, “Dear girl, some things can’t be helped. Right now, I don’t have any room in the people’s asylum assigned to your block. If there are no other disturbances, I will not put in the paperwork, but if there are any more problems, the case is outside my hands. I will be required to apply for a position for you at our assigned people’s asylum.” He handed the papers back to Vasily, “Is that clear?”

Sveta’s voice was dry, “Yes, comrade.”

Vasily echoed her, “Yes.”

If you look closely at this scene—no one shows much emotion. The horror of this scene is the threat to send Sveta to a People’s Asylum. This is explained in more detail in the novel, but basically a people’s asylum is a place Soviet citizens are sent for conditioning. It is basically a reeducation camp. Both the mentally insane, the gently unproductive, and the nonbelligerent lazy or opposed were sent there—usually permanently. This is a terrible place to go and the threat is both real and horrible.

The impersonal way the people’s commissar states this horrible threat makes it worse. The suffering turns to fear. Who wouldn’t be fearful of being sent away from your family to a special camp for reprobates and the insane? The lack of emotion in Vasily and Sveta indicate the very little emotion indicated in the scene; however, the scene is filled with fear development and emotion for the reader. The characters show little to no emotion, but the scene is filled with emotion. This is exactly what I want you to see and understand about writing for powerful tension and release.

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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