8 December 2018, Writing – part x616, Developing Skills, How to Suspend Disbelief, Developing Entertaining Characters
Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment. I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher. More information can be found atwww.ancientlight.com. Check out my novels–I think you’ll really enjoy them.
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 withhttp://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.
4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
- 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 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential titleBlue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective. The theme statement is: 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 cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30thnovel, working title Red Sonja. I finished my 29th novel, working titleDetective. I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.
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 30: 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 31: TBD
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: Suspension of disbelief is the characteristic of writing that pulls the reader into the world of the novel in such a way that the reader would rather face the world of the novel rather than the real world—at least while reading. If this occurs while not reading, it is potentially a mental problem. To achieve the suspension of disbelief your writing has to meet some basic criteria and contain some strong inspiration. If you want to call the inspiration creativity, that works too. Here is a list of the basic criteria to hope to achieve some degree of suspension of disbelief.
- Reasonably written in standard English
- No glaring logical fallacies
- Reasoned worldview
- Creative and interesting topic
- A Plot
Everything is about entertainment. The purpose for all published novels is entertainment. Other than this is the only point of fiction literature, one of the main reasons is that entertainment can fill a lot of holes as well as result in the suspension of disbelief.
The factors that do lend themselves to entertaining are these:
- Use of figures of speech (vocabulary and language).
How to develop entertaining protagonists? The first thing to note is that you will rarely find a truly entertaining protagonist in nature. I suppose it is possible, but it’s like finding a whole conversation in nature. What do I mean?
Actual conversations are filled with incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, incomplete thoughts, filler words, filler sounds, incorrect word use, and a whole host of other problems. Don’t believe me—just read any transcription of an actual conversation. Plays and novels are different.
In a play or a novel, the conversation is similar and perfect. You might find some intentional sentence fragments, fillers, and incomplete thoughts, but in general, the conversation is whole, complete, and has a specific point in the context of the novel—or it should. Characters in fiction are like this.
Characters that we develop and design for our novels are not stereotypes (necessarily, some authors do indeed use stereotypes), but entertaining characters fit a typical design structure that we call romantic. You don’t need to use the romantic design, but you do risk creating a character who is not entertaining. Perhaps we need to look at what makes a character entertaining.
I’ve thought a lot about this as I’ve read about thousands of protagonists and developed over thirty—what makes an entertaining protagonist? The first thought comes from a misunderstanding about protagonists. Many authors think that readers what to be like or put themselves into the mind and body of the protagonist to vicariously live as the protagonist. I don’t think that is true at all. I don’t think most readers want to be like the protagonists, they want to experience the protagonists. They don’t want to vicariously live the lives of the protagonists, they want to experience the emotions, elation, fear, happiness, love—basically the feelings of the protagonist. Here is an example. A prim and moral man or woman who enjoys reading sultry romances or historical writing about immoral people. They might never actually want to experience adultery, murder, theft, and all, but they exhilarate in the emotions and feelings of the characters and their times. Likewise, most people who read thrillers, mysteries, or spy novels would not necessarily want to experience these dangerous and difficult events, but they want to vicariously feel the emotions of the characters.
Okay, this is a thin line, and I’m sure there are some people who vicariously live their lives through characters, but I’m trying to help focus on the entertaining. Whether the reader wants to vicariously live or vicariously feel the experiences of the protagonist, the same tools will work.
Here is the point, you don’t need a male or female character to appeal to a man or a woman. You don’t need a rich character to appeal to the rich or a poor to appeal to a poor. What you need is to provide vicarious emotion or feelings through your character. This was my point about vicarious emotion. Entertaining characters cause the reader to feel emotions. The emotions can be those of the protagonist or for the protagonist. This is the number one entertaining feature of any character. You want the readers crying for the character even if the character has no reason to cry. You want the readers exulting for the character even if the character has no reason to exult. The question is how to achieve this, and the best way to start is to look at what the ancient Greeks thought about it.
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