23 August 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Characters of Centurion, and What to Show
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.
Here are my rules of writing:
1. Entertain your readers.
2. Don't confuse your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
All language is symbols. Therefore it shouldn't surprise you that your writing should include higher level symbols. What are higher level symbols? I mentioned before the cross as a symbol. The cross is a higher level symbol--a symbol that doesn't depend on language. Symbols can be ready made or author made symbols. Some symbols are a mix.
The primary means of writing a good novel is the use of scenes and a scene outline. Scenes and a scene outline can be enhanced through the use of storylines to reveal characters.
Ruth is the protagonist's helper (a major character) in my published novel, Centurion. I am writing about how I decided when to include her storyline in the novel. Note that the plots of all novels are an interweaving of the characters storylines.
Since the focus of the novel, Centurion, is the protagonist Abenadar, the general choice of what scenes to show is relatively easy--in general, almost every scene included Abenadar. His storyline is prevailent in the plot. However, as I've written before, there are times you want to give your readers insight into events, actions, and conversations outside of the storyline of the protagonist. There are many methods to do this. One of the chief methods I used in Centurion was Ruth's reports to Abenadar. Ruth was intrigued by the prophet, Jesus. She listened to him in the marketplace and the Temple. I never show you these interactions, but I have Ruth relate them to Abenadar. Even then, her reports are simple. The point here is both the focus of the novel and a dramatic means to build tension in the novel. There is a third purpose, that is to reveal Ruth's thinking about Jesus without telling.
The focus of Centurion is Abenadar and not Ruth or Jesus. By centering on Abenadar and the knowledge he has about the world, I keep the focus of the plot and theme. Beyond that, the dramatic tension (tension) in both the plot and the scenes is kept high because of Ruth's reports. Abenadar uses Ruth as a spy on Jesus. When Ruth speaks to Abenadar, there is always the tension that Abenadar might decide to arrest Jesus. Ruth realizes she is a spy and yet she still reports to Abenadar. The tension developed by the scenes where Ruth and Abenadar speak about Jesus are much more powerful (in terms of tension) than if I showed Ruth's interaction with Jesus.
And there is the main point of any writing. When you choose which scenes (which storylines) to show, chose those with the most tension. Look for the most powerful tension possible. Tension is the means (the only means) to develop excitement and entertainment in a scene. If you are interested in the elements of tension in a scene, I covered them in detail in my blog at www.novelscene.wordpress.com. More on what storylines to show, tomorrow.
There is much more to writing without confusing your readers. I'll write about that tomorrow. The following is a question asked by one of my readers. I'm going to address this over time: Please elaborate on scene, theme, plot, character development in a new novel creation....ie, the framework, the development, order if operation, the level of detail, guidelines, rule of thumb, tricks, traps and techniques. To what extent do you outline the historic context, culture, mannerism, speech, dress and thought process of the main characters, in a historic novel...in order to maintain integrity, and gradually (help) reveal attributes of a character in the story, or otherwise clarify the plot, scene, transition, tension or resolution?
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.thefoxshonorhttp://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.