Writing – part x282, Novel Form, More Traveling and Tension

8 January 2018, Writing – part x282, Novel Form, More Traveling and Tension

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. We are moving toward the climax of the novel and of the revelation of the protagonist.  Sveta and Aleksandr have decided to head towards Berlin.  At the time, there is no Berlin Wall that had to wait for JFK to botch it up with the Soviets.  The Soviets and the East German military and police still guard the borders and so does the other remaining allied nations: France, Britain, and the USA.

I continue with the travel up to Berlin.  These kinds of events in the Soviet era were common.  I forgot to remind you yesterday that the MVD is officially the border police (military) for the Soviet Union.  It was the most powerful organization in the USSR and controlled most of the military and the spy apparatus.

The use of foreign communist party troops was very common for the MVD—they were used as both spies and as military forces.  The German SPETZNAZ were just such a group and each of the Soviet satellites had a similar force.

Part of my enjoyment as an author is the research of travel both means and details for the trip.  I present those details in my writing.  This adds to the historical reality as well as documents for prosperity this information.

Here is the scene:        

The morning sun burst across the horizon when their train pulled into Borisov, but the train was delayed into Minsk proper.  They stayed on board and exited at the outer Minsk station.

 

Aleksandr bought the morning Pravda and Krasnaya Zvezda.  He was relieved to see nothing about the Special Directorate for International Understanding.  That didn’t mean the MVD wasn’t looking, only that the information had not been released to the propaganda organs yet.  Sveta had tea with milk and sugar, and bread with butter and jam.  Aleksandr backed to her table and whispered, “Warsaw.”

 

They purchased tickets separately and boarded the train.  At the border to Poland, MVD custom agents came on the train to check their papers and stamp their internal passports.  It was very early in the morning; the agents made a cursory check of Aleksandr’s false papers and stamped his internal passport.  They took much longer with Sveta, but Aleksandr could tell they were only flirting with a beautiful unaccompanied woman.  She acted as though she didn’t understand what they were saying.  They passed her papers back to her and left the car.  When the train started moving again, Aleksandr walked to the front of the car to use the water closet.  When he passed Sveta, he whispered, “Poznań.”

 

On the way back to his seat, Aleksandr glanced at her.  Sveta’s face was drawn and pale, but she gave a guarded smile to him.  They caught the train toPoznań, but they had to wait on a siding an hour outside of Warsaw for an inbound passenger express to pass.  At Poznań they boarded the train for their final destination, Potsdam in East Germany.

 

Aleksandr chose Potsdam because it was at the south and west of Berlinright at the edge of the American sector.  The city bordered the Havel, a large inland lake and a forested area.  Aleksandr determined that if they couldn’t just walk across the border into the American sector, they could sneak through the woods or swim across.  They didn’t have any problems until they reached Potsdam.  That is when Aleksandr suddenly realized they had descended into a hornet’s nest.  When the train entered the station, a large number of MVD agents, East German police, and soldiers lined it.  A protest was going on in the street.  Aleksandr couldn’t understand what they were saying, but Sveta came up behind him and spoke under her breath, “They are chanting slogans against the Soviet Union.  What will we do Sasha?”

 

He didn’t look at her, “We move slowly as though we have every right to be here.  Act normally.”

 

“I don’t know what normal is.”  She returned to her seat.

 

When the train stopped a couple of armed MVD men entered the car and announced in German and Russian, “Everyone stay seated.  We wish to check your papers and internal passports.”  They started at the front of the car and began to move toward the back.  When they reached Sveta, the officer took a single look at her internal passport, “This doesn’t have the necessary stamps for access to East Germany right now.  Step to the rear of the car and wait.” Aleksandr was likewise sent to the rear.  They weren’t the only ones.  The new stamps were so recent that about a third of the travelers did not possess them.

 

Aleksandr was sweating.  The MVD agents marched them out of the train and to a holding area within the station.  They were allowed to sit and smoke, but they were allowed no food or outside contacts.

 

Sveta entered into a conversation with the East German guards. Afterward, she came and sat on the other side of the bench opposite Aleksandr.  She spoke in quiet Chinese, “The Germans say on 17 June, the people of East Germany began this uprising, and it has continued for the last few days.  The new passport stamps were issued yesterday.  Berlin is the main area affected.”

 

“Sorry Svetochka, I chose exactly the wrong place to go.”

 

Sveta snorted.

 

“Where is Oba?”

 

“He waits for us and watches.  What will they do to us?”

 

“They will check our papers.  It depends on how well the documents can withstand scrutiny.  After that, they will likely check back in Moscow for our approval to travel…”

 

“Then we will be caught.”

 

“Yes, then we will be caught.”

 

“How far are we from the American sector?”

 

“Maybe four or five kilometers.”

 

“Can we run for it?”

 

“I can, but I won’t leave you, Svetochka.”

 

“Can we bribe them?  We have lots of roubles.”

 

“American dollars would be better, but we could try.”

 

The East German guards abruptly came to attention.  The MVD agents had returned.  In German and Russian, they called, “All of you back on the train.  Go on, get back on the train.”

 

Sveta asked the East German guards what was going on, but they had no idea.  The MVD agents waited until they were all back on the train.  They put them all in the same car at the back.  The car was almost full.  Aleksandr sat beside Sveta.  There was no reason to hide any association now; they were effectively captured.  An East German policeman was posted at either end of the car, but they didn’t seem very attentive.  One of the MVD agents stepped to the front and waved for their attention, “We don’t have the time or resources to check out any of your credentials here.  We are taking you all back to the city of, Frankfurt on der Oder, at the Polish border.  We’ll sort you out there.”

 

The passengers moaned.

 

“I am sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a state emergency.  Please remain on the train.”  He didn’t have to say that, the guards made that evident.

 

A Russian passenger near the front called out, “What about lunch and dinner?  You have kept us here all day.”

 

“The train will start moving soon.  You may eat at Frankfurt on der Oder.”

 

The group moaned again.  Frankfurt on der Oder was at least sixty kilometers back toward Poland.

 

A long time went by before the train started moving.  It began moving forwards.

 

Aleksandr excitedly pulled out his map, “Look at the train chart I bought in Warsaw.”

 

Sveta stared at it confused, “I don’t understand it. What does it tell you, Sashechka?”

 

“We are heading back to the west.  We turned entirely around when we crossed that large lake south of Potsdam.”  He traced their path on the chart, “We are heading toward Babelsberg.  The tracks enter the American sector, if they take us that far.”

 

“Why not go back the way we came?”

 

“Maybe the tracks are blocked by demonstrators, or they are concerned about attacks on the train or the tracks are damaged—who knows?  If they continue this direction, they will have to enter into the American sector to back down the tracks and head toward Poland.”

 

“What do we do?”

 

“Jump off the train.”

 

“The guards might shoot us.”

 

“Where is Oba, can you tell him to make a diversion for us?”

 

Sveta took a trembling breath, “I can try.”

 

“Where is he?”

 

“He is following after us.  When?  When shall we go?”

 

“We need to be at the rear of the car.  When I tell you, go to the water closet at the back of the car.  Stay there until I call for you.  I will go to the back after you.”

 

The afternoon sun just dropped toward the horizon, when they slowly passed the station at Babelsberg.  The train continued along at its slow pace. In a few minutes, it passed a fenced siding covered with warning signs. Aleksandr pushed her, “Now, Svetochka, go now.”

I chose this time and place because it fit exactly with my plot and the novel.  It is absolutely historically correct.  These events occurred exactly as I report them.  My characters are observers and, of course, they are additions to the time.  In any case, this all occurred in the aftermath of Stalin’s death.  Not much later Khrushchev will crush the revolts in these nations.  He was good at that.  At the moment, the Germans, Americans, French, and British are trying to hold their own.  There is no wall yet in Berlin, but there are stringent internal controls for those crossing from the east to the west—considerable risk too.

I showed you the point where they are making their plans.  I’m debating whether I should show you the climax of the novel.

I’ll give you more examples.

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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