Writing – part x284, Novel Form, Climax and Tension

10 January 2018, Writing – part x284, Novel Form, Climax 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.  I decided to show you the climax of the novel.  There are many examples of the use of tension development and then release.  This also shows extended release and how the overall climax provides a release for the novel.

Yesterday was the climax.  The protagonist didn’t die, so it was the climax of a comedy.  In the climax, Sveta escaped the Soviet Union.  She and Oba are back to where they started at the beginning of the novel.  I didn’t give you the entire novel, but major portions of it.

My point was to show you how to use tension and release in a novel format.  This scene concludes the climax and begins the falling action.

Here is the scene:        

Sveta held the wrist of Aleksandr’s ka in her hand.  He was naked and beautiful—so was she.  His ka felt heavy.  So much heavier than anyone’s ka she had ever brought here—except her father’s.  She felt warm.  How could she blush here?  She immediately imagined herself at the bottom of the well. She almost threw Aleksandr’s ka in the dark still water.  She immersed his ka and held it under the surface.  She knew in that moment, he was not dead. She was not too late.  Sveta lifted his ka from the water and released it.  It flew up away from her and she snapped open her eyes.

 

Sveta was surrounded by men who held electric torches and rifles.  The weapons were all pointed at her and Aleksandr.  She raised her blood soaked hands.  Aleksandr’s chest rose and fell steadily in front of her.  Tears streaked down her face and made tracks in the blood there.

 

The American Sergeant spit to the side and ordered, “Get up.”

 

Sveta was half hysterical.  She returned in perfect American English, “I can’t stand.  My friend is hurt.”

 

“Are you American?”

 

“Help us please.”

 

“Where did the other one go—the big one?”

 

“I…I don’t know.”

 

“Corporal, take two squads into the forest and see if you can find him.” More gently, the Sergeant called over his shoulder, “Billy, get the medic.  We may need a bag for this one.  Bring a stretcher too.”

 

The Sergeant moved Aleksandr’s body slightly so Sveta could get up, but she wouldn’t leave his side.  The Sergeant pointed his sidearm at her.  She just shook her head and cried, “No.”

 

The medic came quickly.  He felt for Aleksandr’s pulse and listened to his breathing.  He probed Aleksandr’s chest and felt his arms and legs, “Sarge, he’s A-Okay.”

 

“A-Okay?  I just saw the blasted East Germans put about a hundred bullets into this guy, and you tell me he’s A-Okay.  Look at all the blood.”

 

The medic shrugged.

 

The Sergeant cursed and yelled, “Get’em on the stretcher and forget the bag.”  He gave a hand to Sveta.  She could barely stand, “Are you all right, lady?”

 

“Just let me stay next to him, please, Sergeant.”  Sveta grasped one edge of the stretcher and held on tightly.  They made their way slowly toward a Jeep at the checkpoint.  The East Germans were gone and the train was moving off in the distance.  They loaded the stretcher on the back of the jeep and sat Sveta in the front passenger’s seat.  The Sergeant put a guard on them and went into the checkpoint.  Sveta could vaguely hear him speaking to someone on the phone.  After ten minutes, he came back out.  He spoke to the guards, “Since they are both in one piece, the Lieutenant is coming to get them with his car.  I’m going to see if we caught the big guy yet.  Keep a sharp eye on them.”

 

The Lieutenant didn’t come.  A Major and a man in a suit arrived at the checkpoint in a big American automobile.  They stepped out of the motorcar, and the guards saluted the Major, “Where’s your Sergeant?”

 

“Searching for the third escapee, sir.”

 

“I’ll take these two off your hands.  Let’s see’em.”

 

The guard shined his flashlight on Sveta and Aleksandr.  The Major gave a strong intake of breath, “Are they wounded?  They look a mess.”

 

“The medic said they were both all right to travel.  The man is unconscious.”

 

“Help me put him in the car.  Have you checked them for weapons?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

The seat in the back was large with club seating.  The Major directed the soldiers to seat Aleksandr and Sveta facing forward.  Sveta pulled Aleksandr’s head against her shoulder and steadied him with her body.  The Major and the suited man sat facing them.  The Major told the driver, “Back to headquarters.”

 

As they started to move, the Major patted his sidearm, “Don’t try anything foolish.”

 

His eyes widened when Sveta returned, “We aren’t armed.  We want to ask for asylum.  We are Russian defectors.”

 

The Major pulled out a cigarette, “Look lady, since Stalin died and the East Germans started to riot, everyone is trying to defect.  You’ll be lucky to get a hearing.”

 

Sveta stared out the window.  She had not imagined the Americans might not let them stay, “If you return us to Russia, they will kill us.”

 

“Stalin killed a million of your people without a tear, and half you defectors helped him do it.  I don’t give a rat’s ass about what they might do to you.  You’re probably a spy anyway.  You speak good English—too good. Why’s that?”

 

“I’m Svetlana Evgenyevna Kopylova.”

 

The man in the suit sat up straight, “Hot damn.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Hot damn.  Do you know who this is?”

 

“Haven’t a clue.”

 

“She’s Stalin’s Little Ptitsa.”

 

“Stalin’s who?”

 

“She’s Stalin’s Little Bird.”

 

“A Russian whore?”

 

“No, Major, the head of an MVD directorate.  This is about the highest level defection we’ve ever seen.  Maybe she can stay.”

 

When they arrived at the headquarters, the Major helped them get Aleksandr out of the car and onto a stretcher.  Sveta limped painfully to the door until the agent in the suit gave her his arm.

 

Bunches of entertaining tension development is found in this scene.  At the beginning, Sveta heals Aleksandr and gets an eyeful.  This is how the tablet always works, and Aleksandr didn’t get a peek—oh well.

The confusion of the American troops over Oba’s escape and Aleksandr’s health are both fun.  The stereotypical sergeant—they all are, is fun.  The reaction of the Major and the, well, whoever he is—are also entertaining. Their reactions are all taken from historical sources.  When Stalin died, many tried to escape the Soviet sphere.  Many were found to be just as evil as their master.  Some provided great intel.  Some were sent back—most in trade for our captured spies.  The Americans realize there are great reasons for Soviets to escape—one of them is as a spy.

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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