25 April 2012, Development - Classical First Scene
Introduction: I realized that I need to introduce this blog a little. I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. The working title was Daemon, and this was my 21st novel. Over the last year, 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.
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.
If you haven't guessed yet, I've left this up because I plan to use it in the future as we move through development. The steps in making and using a character in a novel are as follows:
1. Development of the character (history, description, personality, etc.)
2. Revelation of the character (within the novel, show don't tell)
a. Description of the character - introduction
b. Voice of the character
c. Continuing revelation by showing
In a classical plot (and in most of my novels) you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a protagonist's helper. If you develop these three characters for a novel, the plot will naturally fall out of the development of the characters.
I mentioned before that with properly developed characters, the plot will automatically fall out of the development of the characters. The first scene must be a carefully chosen point in the plot. It doesn't have to be the beginning of the plot--it must be an exciting point near the beginning of the plot. Here's the point--you have to capture your readers in the first scene. This means the first scene must be exciting and entertaining. You, therefore, must pick a first scene that is exciting and entertaining.
When I wrote Aksinya, I chose the first scene to be the point where Aksinya calls the demon. I could have written a prolog all about how Aksinya became a sorceress, or about how Russia became mired in a civil war, or about Aksinya's family. Don't use prologs. I could have written a scene about Aksinya in her home and with her family etc. I could have written a scene about Russia during that time in history. Notice what all these potential scenes are missing. They don't include an antagonist or a protagonist's helper.
Here is a very simple way to know where to begin a novel. If you don't learn anything else from my description of classical plot development learn this: your novel can't begin until you introduce the protagonist and either the antagonist or the protagonist's helper. BANG! That's the way to begin almost any novel. If you begin the novel at the point where the protagonist and the antagonist first meet or become involved with one another, you automatically have the potential for excitement. If you begin a novel with the protagonist and the protagonist's helper meeting or becoming somehow involved, you will have an exciting point to begin.
The first scene must be exciting and entertaining--one way to do it, perhaps the best and maybe the only good way is when the protagonist first interacts with either the antagonist or the protagonist's helper. Keep this thought in mind when you begin to write--or rewrite. (And definitely rewrite if the first scene is not exciting and entertaining.)
Tomorrow, I'll explain more about tension and first scene development. I'll talk about characteristics that make a bad first scene/chapter eventually.
I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.