13 August 2018, Writing – part x499, Developing Skills, Build a Protagonist, Small Factors
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.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
- Don’t confuse your readers.
- Entertain your readers.
- Ground your readers in the writing.
- Don’t show (or tell) everything.
- 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:
- Design the initial scene
- Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
- Research as required
- Develop the initial setting
- Develop the characters
- Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
- Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
- Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
- Write the climax scene
- Write the falling action scene(s)
- 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.
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’m just finishing number 30, working title Detective.
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.
For novel 30: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.
Here is the scene development outline:
- Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
- Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
- Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
- Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
- Write the release
- Write the kicker
Today: Many people would like to write, but writing is hard work. I’ll express again, if you want to be a skilled and potentially a published author, you need to write about one million words. That equates to about ten 100,000 word novels. When you look at it this way, it is a daunting goal especially if you haven’t written a single novel.
To become a good writer, you need two specific skill sets first reading and then writing. Without these skill sets, I really can’t help you much. I provide advanced help and information on how to write great fiction.
Characters are the key to great writing. Entertainment is the purpose of fiction writing. The key to entertainment is character revelation, and specifically revelation of the plot and protagonist telic flaw (the same thing). If we want to be a successful writer, we must aim for great protagonists, and a great protagonist means a great or compelling telic flaw.
In moving to mechanics, you have to start with something. The something I recommend is the protagonist. As I noted for you, the protagonist owns the telic flaw and the telic flaw is the catalyst for the plot. The resolution of the telic flaw is the plot of the novel, so obviously, the best place to start any novel is with the protagonist. I hate to do this because I usually end up writing a new novel—let’s develop a character.
I happen to have a list of great protagonist characteristics.
- Skilled or becoming skilled—they are competent.
- Even though these characters are unique and uniquely different, they feel like real people.
- Pathos building.
- Action oriented.
Here is a list of updated ideas from yesterday.
- Isolated and protected
- School girl
- France or Britain
- Deirdre and Sorcha
Here is my initial description:
The girl stared intently at them both. Her large eyes glared with intensity and some agitation. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t. Her face simply announced her severe displeasure and reproach. She looked young with gently pale cheeks only tinged slightly with rose, and the slight swell of youth in her face, but that was her only manifestation of lack of adulthood.
She was not very tall, but somehow, she looked imposing. Her face was thin like the rest of her, but her appearance wasn’t emaciated—it looked restrained and strong. In contrast to her black dress and black bonnet, her hair swept long pale and straight from the crown of her head to a single thick braid at her back. Her eyes were a piercing light blue that glanced haughtily under thin nearly invisible brows. Her nose was likewise striking and straight, but not so large to mar her features. It pointed to her lips and chin—the lips being a thin pale pink and her chin oddly pointed. All in all, her face was beautiful, but unforgettable—a face that was in no way plain, but left an impression of tightly controlled energy and chilly restraint.
Her name was Cassandra Lyons, but the nuns and teachers all called her Lady Glamis. She was some relation of the House and clan of Glamis a Scottish noble family.
In the list above, I noted characteristics that help build an entertaining character. What I’ll do is look at these characteristics in Cassandra Lyons. The fifth is action oriented.
What makes a character and a scene entertaining is ultimately tiny factors that bleed reality into the scenes and the characters. I noted that characters are usually never taken wholesale from reality. Most people are not interesting or exciting enough to write about. What you have to do is take the odd and build the exciting. The actual descriptions and characteristics of these remarkable characters aren’t as great as you might think. As you can see above, the description of Cassandra isn’t super remarkable. What makes her description interesting and entertaining, dare I say exciting, is the small perturbations within it. Let me repeat some of it:
- Her large eyes glared with intensity and some agitation.
- She looked like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t.
- Her face simply announced her severe displeasure and reproach.
- That was her only manifestation of lack of adulthood.
- She was not very tall, but somehow, she looked imposing.
- Her face was beautiful, but unforgettable.
- A face that was in no way plain, but left an impression of tightly controlled energy and chilly restraint.
These are all from the description of Cassandra—they are all showing, but can you detect the character within them. Have you met someone like this? I haven’t, but I use composites to develop my characters. I’ve met people who incorporate various components, but then put them together into a person whom I would really like to meet.
Since I designed and developed this character, I am her creator. Although I am aiming for someone unique, I hope you can see and experience her through just a taste of her description. Of course, the description and narrative aren’t the way you or I will really get to know this person—it is through interaction and dialog. The interaction and dialog will tell us exactly who this person is.
I didn’t tell you anything—I simply showed you. In writing the description of a character, this is the force of the description—showing. In the development of a scene, the action and dialog are the force of the scene.
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