15 August 2018, Writing – part x501, Developing Skills, Build a Protagonist, Small Factors in Scenes, Example
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.
It is the small elements, the details that make a scene entertaining. Setting elements don’t need to be huge, they just need to be. The creative elements are not giant piece of the plot, they are subtle elements in the plot. This is what creates good writing and great literature.
Here is an example of a tea. Look at the setting elements and then how they are turned into creative elements. I’ll try to provide some detail about the novel in the context of the scene.
Azure smiled, “Take me to tea sounds pleasant. I’m weary today. Lead on Macduff.”
Lucy hopped on her very modern and new bike, and Azure followed on her old Raleigh up the A404, Amersham Hill. They rode a couple of miles and arrived at a nondescript building just before Kingshill Road.
Azure lifted her head. She noted a smell in the air.
Lucy stopped in front of an ancient brownstone. It was a row house along the road, but Azure could see the odd sign in the window and perceive the house. Power covered it well from those who weren’t supposed to know.
The sign in the window read: Isle of Shadow, a Teahouse. Azure knew immediately something was up.
Lucy opened the door and pulled her bike into the foyer, “Azure, you might as well bring your bike in. No one will molest it there.”
Azure twitched her nose, but she pulled her bike up the short stone steps and into the foyer. She left her bike next to Lucy’s. They both hung their official blue school coats on the coat tree in the foyer. A narrow set of stairs went straight up from the foyer. Lucy didn’t look in that direction.
She led Azure to the left and into a cozy room. Azure became instantly alarmed. She calmed herself. The inside appeared old—it felt ancient. Four tea tables each with four chairs and each covered with an immaculate white table cloth stood in the close room. The tables and chairs were not matched, but they looked solid and old.
Lucy led Azure to the table nearest the front window. On it sat a tea pot and tea cozy. Azure glanced around. None of the tea pots or cozies looked the same. They all appeared to be antiques. Lucy sat and Azure sat. The pot on her table depicted a hunting scene with a castle in the background. The hunters unusually were all women.
The moment the girls sat, a lady in a long white robe seemed to appear in the midst of the room. The lady gave a sudden laugh and stepped to their table. The lady was dark haired and pale skinned. Her neck appeared long, and her features very straight, Irish, and abrupt. She wore a brilliant white robe completely out of place in the modern world. From around her body, she produced a pitcher of hot water. She poured it into the pot on the table and produced biscuits from the same unseen source.
No one said anything. Finally the robed lady poured the tea into their cups. Her voice sounded inviting but slightly harsh, “There ladies. Tea and biscuits.”
Azure crossed her arms, “It’s not a proper afternoon tea. It’s just small tea.”
The robed lady stepped back, “Not a proper tea?”
“No it is not. I was invited to tea. There should be meat of some kind. Sandwiches or pies and bubble and squeak. Something to fill in the creases. I thought I was being invited to tea—I see, it is just a bit of a sham.”
The white robed lady stood straight, “Are you sure you intend to continue along these lines, Miss Wishart?”
Azure pointed at the lady, “We have not been introduced. I have no idea who you are nor why I should be invited to such a shoddy tea.”
The air in the tea house suddenly decreased by decades of degrees. A frost touched the inside of the windows. The lady bit her lip.
Lucy put up her hands, “Really Aife, Miss Wishart is correct. She hasn’t been introduced and this is not a proper high tea.”
“Not a proper tea,” Aife seemed to deflate. She suddenly became chipper again, “If it isn’t a proper tea, how might I make it one?”
Azure sighed, “I would recommend meat pies, crackers, various pickled items, and maybe something starchy and potato-based like fritters or, as I said, bubble and squeak.”
Aife’s nose twitched, “I’ll see what I can do.”
She seemed to disappear from the center of the room.
Lucy leaned toward Azure, “Now you’ve done it.”
“You’ve made her angry.”
“So what. You and she invited me to tea. I expect tea. It’s what I would provide you if you visited me. I want my tea. You asked.”
Lucy blanched, “I had no idea you would be that picky. Aife provides just this kind of tea here every day.”
“It isn’t sufficient. It’s small tea in the afternoon. It isn’t British and it isn’t acceptable. Azure picked up a biscuit and flipped it back on the small plate.
Aife appeared from the shadows of the room. Both her hands held plates. She put these on the table, “Dig in sweet. I’ve brought you tea, just as you desired.”
Azure smiled, “Now that’s what I call a proper tea.” She filled her plate, began eating, and washed it down with hot tea. Aife kept pouring as long as Azure’s cup needed filling.
After a while, Azure asked, “Why don’t you sit down Aife, and we have still not been properly introduced—do you consider yourself a servant or a server.”
Lucy blanched again.
Aife bit her lip again, “You don’t need to speak like that missy.”
Azure sipped her tea, “Then introduce Aife, Lucy. Do it before she pops a vein.”
Lucy nodded, “Miss Azure Wishart, may I introduce Aife, the uh owner of the Isle of Shadow Teahouse. Aife, Miss Azure Wishart.”
Azure put out her hand, “That isn’t all, is it? You, Aife, are not human or Fae. I suspect you are a goddess. If you are the Aife I am familiar with, you caused quite a problem for Ceredwin and she turned you into a stork. She eventually took pity on you, but she almost turned you into a stork again—not that long ago.”
Aife’s lips moved back and forth as if she was contemplating what to say and how to respond. Finally, she burst out, “I’m not sure I should be pleased because you know who I am or displeased at your disrespect. And I was turned into a crane and not a stork.”
This isn’t the entirety of the scene, but you get the point. The scene is relatively simple. In the main, Aife wants to give a warning to Azure. Lucy provides the contact. Aife is a goddess and has been relegated to the tea house and training warrior maidens for certain reasons.
Azure is poor, but she knows a good tea. She is a connoisseur of tea because that’s how she makes up her caloric deficit. Aife has no clue about a good tea because she is a goddess from the Celtic age. I should likely make this clearer in the novel.
Although the conversation and the subject of the scene is Aife, the Tea House, and Azure, the setting elements that become creative elements are the tea. This causes problems on many levels. Aife wants to impress. Lucy wants to placate and accomplish her duty. Azure is the instigator. We see the elements of the tea turned into creative elements to bring entertainment into the scene. The point of the entertainment is the fact that Aife has no idea what a proper tea is. Lucy knows but has been too kind to say anything. Since Aife is a reused character from other novels, others in Aife’s sphere have never complained.
Here is the big deal—I introduced a very simple idea to provide both entertainment in this scene and to reveal something about Azure’s personality. This is called the revelation of the protagonist. This is what all novels are about. Azure is the person who will always get under your skin by telling the truth—she can’t help it. That she is willing to do so to the face of a goddess shows just how powerful and unique a character she is. This is my point about small factors providing entertainment and building entertainment in a scene. Who could imagine that a tea would bring so much tension and release into a scene.
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