Writing – part x315, Novel Form, Example of Scene Release

10 February 2018, Writing – part x315, Novel Form, Example of Scene 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 in Bahrain today writing from the Marriot.

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.

The release part of the scene development cycle is similar to a punchline.  This is the point at which the tension of the scene is released.  The complete tension is never released until the climax of the novel, but the tension of the scene is released to some degree at this point.

Yesterday, I described the concept of a scene with the tension and release.  Today, the best I can do is give you the scene.  I’ve shown you this scene before.  I think it is a great example of many different writing techniques and concepts.  Primarily, I’m looking at the release, but don’t neglect to look at the tension development.

This scene is from my yet unpublished novel, Valeska: Enchantment and the Vampire.

At 1900 on Friday, 12 December George and Heidi stood in front of the Lyons House.  Two rather new looking stone lions sat at either side of the very large oak door.  The house the door fronted looked large and beautiful.  Its facing was stone and brick in the emperor style.  It appeared very old.  George wore a suit and an inexpensive Christmas tie.  Heidi wore a very frilly white dress with red and green panels on the skirt and the top.  She wore a jaunty beret made of the same white lace, red, and green material as the dress.  It was a warm enough evening that they didn’t require their coats.  The ground was wet, but the rain stopped earlier in the afternoon.

A young looking butler opened the door to them, “Good evening.  I’m Harold, the butler.  May I announce you?”

George proffered his invitation, “George Mardling and my niece Heidi Mardling.”

The butler smiled, “The receiving line just ended.  Please follow me.”

They stepped through the door, and the butler closed it after them.  Harold stepped ahead of them.  Heidi whispered to George, “Did you time our arrival to intentionally miss the receiving line?”

George grinned behind his hand, “I don’t have to give up all my trade secrets to you, do I?”

The butler led them down the hallway off the foyer.  It opened into a classical large ballroom with twin staircases at the back.  Dark and ancient wood paneled the interior.  The rugs were Turkish and slightly ragged.  Heidi cocked her head, “A very wealthy and old family.”

George smiled back, “Perhaps.”

The room was not crowded with people, but at least fifteen couples stood in the space.  Buffet tables filled with food and drink were stationed under the stairs.  A quartet at the left side played Christmas music intermixed with classics.  Harold, the butler, led Heidi and George toward a handsome middle-aged couple at the side.  The man was medium height and shorter than George.  His hair was light brown and his features were fine but nondescript.  He possessed a very pleasant face with a few wrinkles–most seemed to grace his eyes and lips as though he was used to smiling.

The woman looked slight, petite and exquisitely beautiful.  Her skin was the color of cappuccino.  Her hair was black, long, and silky.  Her eyes seemed more appropriate on an Egyptian tomb painting and were large and brown and exotic.  She possessed an almost timeless appearance, but slight wrinkles marked her eyes and lips in almost the same measure as the man—as though they had known many of the same joys and sorrows.

The butler stepped to the side, “Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Long, may I present Mr. George Mardling and his niece Ms. Heidi Mardling.”

Mrs. Long immediately stepped forward and put her hand out to Heidi.  She maintained a very bright smile on her face.  She took Heidi’s hand in hers and her eyes went wide.  Heidi instantly released Mrs. Long’s hand.  Mrs. Long became breathless.  She stammered a little, “Good evening.  I’m Sveta Long.”  [Tension]

Heidi made a deep curtsy, “Thank you very much, Mrs. Long for inviting us to your party.”

Sveta reached out to Heidi again.  Heidi stepped back, but Sveta connected with Heidi’s shoulder.  Sveta froze, and her head came up.  She frowned and stammered again, “You’re very welcome.  Make yourself comfortable in our home,” but her face clearly said exactly the opposite. [Tension]

Heidi glanced in Sveta’s eyes, then quickly turned her head away, “What I really need is a glass of sweet wine.” [Release]

Sveta looked as if she was about to say something, but she lowered her head and stepped back.

Heidi sighed.

Daniel’s lips twitched, “I’m not sure what is going on, exactly.”  He grabbed George’s hand and shook it, “Good to see you back in England, George.”

George forced a smile, “I’m glad to be back.  I’m looking for a new assignment as soon as possible.” [Tension]

Daniel clapped George on the shoulder, “I really hoped to keep you here in London for a while.  I have some new recruits and training for you to supervise.”

George grimaced, “Sounds long term.  I guess we’ll make do.”


“Heidi and I.”

Daniel frowned and put his head back, “Don’t tell me you are sharing your flat with this young woman.” [Tension]

Heidi blinked, “I am happy to have a place to stay while I’m visiting in London.”

Sveta stepped forward, “No, you should stay here.  As I understand, the single flats the organization is assigning now are barely suitable for one—I can’t imagine a young woman having to put up with such close quarters…”  [Tension]

Heidi glared at Sveta, “I would feel completely out of place anywhere else.”

Sveta glared back, “I insist.” [Tension]

“I equally insist and respectfully decline—Mr. Mardling is my guardian in London.  It would be unthinkable for me to stay anywhere else.”

Sveta narrowed her eyes at Heidi and Heidi squinted back at Sveta. [Tension]

Daniel stepped between them, “Sveta, dear, I’m certain I can assign George a larger flat.” [Release]

Sveta let out her breath.  She visibly calmed, “Yes… I’m sure we can work things out.  Are you certain, Heidi, you don’t want to spend your time here until we can get George a larger place.” [Release]

Heidi didn’t back down.  She made a slicing motion with her hand, “I will not.” [Tension]

Sveta forced a smile, “Very well.  But, I do think you are a bit young to drink wine.” [Release and Tension]

At that moment, a maid carrying a platter of filled wine glasses walked by.  Heidi gracefully plucked a glass off the platter.  She downed the whole glass in a swallow and turned Sveta a deep frown, “I do not like dry white wines.  Do you have something more acceptable to my palate?” [Release and Tension]

Sveta’s eyes bulged.  She took a step toward Heidi and appeared like she was about to leap.  Heidi crouched slightly. [Tension]

Daniel grasped Sveta’s arm, and she came to herself. [Release]

George raised his hands, “Heidi is much older than she looks.  We just came from Poland where there are no age limits for drinking alcohol.  She usually has a glass or two every evening.” [Release]

Sveta narrowed her eyes again, “I see.  Heidi,” she almost spat the name, “You may drink as much as you desire in my house.  Harold, please bring up a sweet German Riesling for Ms. Mardling.” [Release]

Heidi raised her head high, “An auslese, if you have it.”

Harold, the butler, bowed, “Yes, ma’am.”

Heidi glanced at Sveta from the sides of her eyes, “Thank you again for your hospitality.” [Release]

Daniel pulled Sveta back a step.  Heidi grasped George by the hand and led him toward the buffet tables.

When they moved out of earshot, George leaned over and whispered, “What was that all about?”

Heidi didn’t look at him, “I think she realizes what I am.” [Tension]

“What?  Are you kidding?”

“I am completely serious.  I think she would have attacked me right there if she could.  I am in serious danger here—in this house—and in this city.”

George turned and glanced back.  Daniel and Sveta engaged in a heated conversation.  Sveta did not look at them.  She pointed back toward them. [Tension]

Heidi moved to the buffet and picked up a plate.

George whispered, “Why did you have to antagonize her so much.  She is my boss’ wife, shouldn’t you try to gain her as an ally?” [Tension]

Heidi glared at him, “She antagonized me first.  Does a wolf try to ally itself with the hunter?  Or the sheep with the wolf?  Right now, I wish to eat her food.  It surely isn’t poisoned—not if she fed it to her friends.  I also wish to remain in the crowd where she can’t find me alone.  When we return to your apartment, I will go on foot.”

George caught her arm, “You sound like you have been through this before.” [Tension]

“Never before, but I have not lived this long without learning some degree of caution.”

“I find that hard to believe—you were not living very well when I discovered you.” [Tension]

Heidi raised her voice, “Your life-blood was eking out of your body when I found you.”

George whispered forcefully, “Sveta is my boss’ wife.  She runs an office in the organization.  You need to mollify her and not antagonize her.” [Tension]

Heidi stared at him, “You choose her over me?”  Her eye twitched.  [Tension]

“I didn’t choose her at all.  I just want to keep my job.  Where do you think this clothing comes from?”

Heidi threw down her plate, “If that’s the way it is, you may have it back right now.”  She began to unbutton her dress. [Release]

George grabbed her hands, “Stop that.  I didn’t mean it that way.”  He continued lamely, “I need this work.” [Release]

She stopped, “I understand.  I’m just not happy about it.”

George buttoned her dress, “Everyone is staring.” [Release]

She lowered her head, “I’m sorry, Mr. Mardling.”  She kept her head down and glanced up at him with her eyes alone. [Release]

“Pick up your plate.  You’re lucky it didn’t break.”

She knelt very primly.  Harold came up behind her and slipped the plate out of her hands.  He placed a glass of wine in it, “I’ll get you a new plate.  This one is soiled.” [Release]

“Thank you,” she mumbled.  She took a sip of the wine, and her face brightened. [Release]

Harold came beside her, “What may I select for you from the buffet.”

Heidi answered very sweetly, “Some of the partridge, a bit of cheese, bread, and pudding.”

Harold carried the plate for her.  Already the attention began to draw away from her and from George.  A few watched her as an apparent fifteen year old sipped on a glass of wine.  When the glass became empty, Harold replaced it with a full one.

Heidi found a seat at the back of the room.  She sat quietly with a very attentive look.  No one approached her.  George didn’t let Heidi out of his sight.  He took a plate of food and a mug of dark beer and sulked.

A few people greeted George.  Tim and his wife came by.  They spoke of trivialities.  As the evening progressed, George tried to keep count of the number of glasses Heidi downed.  He lost track, but he thought she only drank three.  He thought about leaving early.

Daniel Long sauntered over.  Sveta wasn’t in view.  Daniel took a quick glance at Heidi then addressed George, “George, do you know what set off your niece?” [Release]

“Not a clue,” George lied.

“Sveta was also very agitated, but she wouldn’t tell me what was going on.  Sveta thought that she was acting unsocial.  She’s trying to make it up to you both.”

“I’m afraid my niece is drinking herself to oblivion.”

“Sorry about that…”

“I didn’t handle it well at all.  She was narked at me too.”

Daniel stepped closer, “George, are you certain you don’t know why they leapt at each other’s throats?”

“Opposing personalities?”

Daniel shook his head and took a sip of his drink, “I’ve come to trust Sveta’s intuition about our business and many other things…”

“I can understand that.”

“I know this isn’t the best time to discuss things, George.  Perhaps you can come visit me on Monday.”

George grimaced, “Yes.  I’ll come by.”

“Maybe we can discuss getting a larger flat for you and…what was her name, Heidi.”

“Yes, Heidi.”

Daniel nodded apologetically, “Glad you could come to the party.  It’s not been as pleasant for you as I’d like—sorry about that.”

“It’s all right.”

Daniel moved on to the next couple.

When George turned around to check on Heidi, she was gone. [Tension]

Heidi held a glass of wine in her hand and followed Harold.  Harold stopped at a closed door, “Ms. Mardling, this is the sunroom.  Mrs. Long is waiting for you within.”  Harold opened the door for her and bowed.

Heidi didn’t stagger too much when she stepped through the door.  It shut behind her.

The room was very brightly lit.  Sveta sat in a padded chair next to the center of the room.  In front of her stood a love seat, and on the other side, a matching padded chair.  In between the seats sat a tea table.

Sveta stood.  She didn’t move an inch toward Heidi, “Thank you very much for being willing to meet with me.  I’m afraid we got off on the wrong foot…”

Heidi curtsied.  She didn’t lower her eyes, and she didn’t dare take her eyes off Sveta.

Sveta stretched out her hand, “Would you please take a seat.  I have tea.”

Heidi pursed her lips tightly together.  She stepped deliberately to the other padded chair and stood behind it.

Sveta nodded her head, “You see, there is a table between us.  I won’t try to touch you again.”  Sveta sat down and put out her hand.

Heidi sat quickly.  She set her wine glass on the table.

“May I serve you tea?”

Heidi nodded.

Sveta poured the tea and pushed the cup and saucer toward Heidi.  After Sveta pulled her hand completely back, Heidi with her eyes on Sveta, reached forward and took the cup and saucer.  She held her cup and waited.

Sveta poured her tea.  No one moved for a while.  Finally, flustered, Sveta took a sip of tea.  Heidi kept her eyes on Sveta—she took a quick sip.

Sveta sat back a little, “Ah, I see…”  She steepled her hands, “Your dress is lovely.  You have very good taste.”

Heidi sipped her tea again, “Taste slightly out of time…”

“Yes, slightly out of time.  I really do not desire to antagonize you.  I wonder exactly why…”

“You wonder why my presence unnerves you…”

“Yes, I wonder very much…and I would like to know why.  What is it about you…?”

Heidi frowned, “It might be better for both of us if you do not know…”

“That thought never crossed my mind…”

“It has not left my thoughts since we were first introduced…”

Sveta sighed, “Listen, Ms. Mardling, let me lay my cards on the table.”

Heidi nodded, but didn’t lower her eyes.

“I recognize you are a being of spiritual dimensions.  I myself am such a being.”

“I know.  Does Mr. Long realize—that is about you?”

“Yes.  Does George realize about you?”

“I should lie and say no, but I will say this…officially, Mr. Mardling doesn’t know anything about it at all…”

“Then he does know… but I am not to tell my husband about it.  I understand.  I will not say anything to him.”


“I will not tell anyone…I am very good at keeping secrets.”

Heidi scowled, “You are not very discreet at hiding your emotions…”

Sveta put up her hands, “I understand.  I was just surprised.  The last thing I expected to find was a being like you at my Christmas party.”

Heidi took a deep breath, “I admit, I was not at my best.  I upset Mr. Mardling and your guests.  Additionally, I acted petulantly.  I apologize.  You were very tolerant of my behavior when I was childish.”

“You are not a child.  I realize that.”

“I am not a child.”

Sveta sucked in another deep breath, “Can you tell me who you are?”

“Your cards are on the table—not mine.”

“I understand.”  She sighed, “Then I will tell you who I am.  I am an unbound goddess.  I lead the Stele branch of ‘the organization’.”

Heidi stared, “You…you are a goddess?  I should ask for proof, but the fact that you recognized me…,” she gave a half smile, “…and I you, might be proof enough.  What exactly does this Stele office do?”

“Chiefly, we use spiritual means to protect Britain.”

Heidi visibly relaxed.

Sveta put her hands up, “I only wish to know more about you, but there is a scent.”

Heidi’s eye twitched, “The scent of blood and the grave?”


Heidi folded her arms.

“Will you please tell me what kind of being you are?”


“I see.  If you are worried, we follow the One named יהוה.”  The sound reverberated like a rushing wind about the room.

Heidi covered her ears.  Her eyes flashed, “Why did you have to say that Name?”

“I won’t say it again.  You have not bowed your neck to Him?”

“I was already broken by that Guy.”

Sveta’s brow creased, “I…I don’t understand.  I have never heard of such a thing.  Please tell me who you are.  I’d be happy to help any way I can.”

Heidi’s voice rose, “You can’t help me.  No one can help me.”

“I don’t believe that is true.”

“Then you don’t know everything do you…goddess?”

Sveta was getting a little hot, “If you tell me who you are, we can move forward from there.  If you simply bow your neck to Him, we can work together.”

“I lay with my face on the ground broken by Him and without any hope of redemption…”

“I know that is not true…”

Heidi rose to her feet, “It is truth.”

“If you know about Him and you are convinced, you must have hope…I believe this is truth.”

Heidi stood, “I believe we have nothing else to speak about…”

Sveta held out her hands, “Please, Ms. Mardling…don’t go.  I promise, as long as you don’t oppose us, we will help you…”

“You don’t understand…”

Sveta took a deep breath, “I want to understand.  Please tell me who you are…”

“I will not… if I do…if I do,” Heidi’s chest heaved.

“Please…, I know someone you will want to talk to.”

Heidi backed around the chair.  She kept Sveta at her front.

Sveta sighed, “You don’t need to fear me.  I promise—I’ll not attack you.  I think we can still work together to the same ends.”

Heidi perked up, “Do you truly promise?”

“I do… I do promise, by the last and all.”  The air crackled in the room.

Heidi smiled, “You may regret that you ever made such a promise, but I do accept it.  I can’t handle anything more tonight.  I thank you for your hospitality.”  She backed to the door.  When Heidi touched the door handle, Harold opened the door from the other side.  Heidi curtsied and ran through the opening.

I marked some points of tension and release in the scene above.  I’ve written about this before.  Complex scenes are about waves of tension and release.  If you notice the break –these are technically two separate scenes.  The second scene is a release of tension and more tension development from the first scene.  You can see that the tension developed in the first scene is not completely resolved by the second scene.

The really big secret that drives all the tension in these scenes is that Heidi is a vampire.  This is what motivates Sveta and Heidi.  This motivates George.  Everything in the scenes revolves around this secret.  There are other pieces of information, but this secret drives the tension and release cycle of the scenes.  In fact, this secret drives the tension and release cycle for the entire novel.  By the end, a few more people know Heidi’s secret, but not that many more.  This secret drives the tension and release through the entire novel.

This idea of secrets or really unrevealed information is a concept I can’t push any harder.  I’ve written over and over about this idea.  Perhaps as an author, you imagine that only mystery and crime novels work with secrets…or some other specialty novel.  All novels are driven by secrets.  Think of Pride and Prejudice—this novel is completely driven by secrets.  The unrevealed thoughts and positions of the protagonist and the antagonist are known to the reader, but not to either character.  The resolution of the novel occurs when the protagonist and the antagonist realize their thoughts and motivations and communicate them together.  The classic irony and beauty of the novel is that the readers knows and wonders when and how the characters shall be resolved.

Think about any novel, at least any great novel.  Thing about the unrevealed or secretive knowledge in them.  In some cases, the knowledge is withheld from the readers and the characters.  Sometimes the characters know and the readers do not.  In some cases, the readers know but the characters don’t.  Each circumstance creates a different type of irony.  So to begin a novel and to propel tension and release, you really need secrets.

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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