16 November 2012, Answers to Some Questions, Number 3
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.
A scene outline is a means of writing a novel where each scene follows the other with a scene input from the previous scene and a scene output that leads to the next scene. The scenes don't necessarily have to follow directly in time and place, however they generally follow the storyline of the protagonist.
A storyline outline is a means of writing a novel where the author develops a scene outline for more than one character and bases the plot on one or more of these storyline scenes. This allows the scenes to focus on more than the protagonist. This is a very difficult means of writing. There is a strong chance of confusing your readers.
Whether you write with a scene outline or a storyline outline, you must properly develop your scenes. All novels are developed from scenes and each scene has a design similar to a novel. Every successful novel has the following basic parts:
1. The beginning
2. The rising action
3. The Climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
Every scene has these parts:
1. The setting (where, what, who, when, how)
2. The connection (input)
3. The tension development
4. The release
5. The output
There are lots of approaches to scene setting. That means there are about a million plus ways you can set a scene. The main point is you have to clearly get across the where, when, who, what, and how.
Place is the obvious next place we go in scene setting. I'll take some time to answer the following questions from one of my readers. Questions in blue, answers in black:
I was trying to systematically review your writing installments, and organize them w/in the context of 'Elements of Literature'..ie, (Plot, Setting, Theme, Characterization, Point of View, etc.) and I had couple of questions:
3. Theme: Do you think themes ought to be subtle or obvious? Is it best communicated by one character or by the text in other ways. In other words, do you express it directly (or nearly directly, up-front, say w/in first 10% of novel) or do you want the reader to gradually learn of it through the trails and tribulations of the main character, through the characterization of plot, setting & point of view? Do you think the author's underlying theme is always, nor nearly always tied to his/her world view?
This is the very interesting thing about themes. If you study themes, the theme in any writing becomes obvious quickly. You can construct them backwards from the major characters and the plot. The theme is never subtle, but it is usually never said outright. Usually, the language of the theme is not the same language of the plot. That is, there is no opportunity for the characters to know and speak about the theme--only an omniscient narrator could do that. I'll address the omniscient point of view later, but this is one of the things an author should never do (especially to the theme level).
What I'm trying to communicate, is that at the level of the plot, the theme can only be properly communicated by showing. If you try to communicate the theme by telling, you will destroy the whole purpose of writing a novel. An essay or a nonfiction paper would be the best means to directly state a theme idea, but then the purpose of a novel would be lost.
Remember, a novel first entertains. It second entertains. It third entertains. The theme just happens to be the framework on which I write an entertaining novel.
The theme, but not the plot, is usually tied directly to the writer's worldview. I pointed this out in Aksinya. In Aksinya, the plot is all about sorcery, demons, and very earthy events and actions. This is certainly not my worldview. However, the theme of Aksinya is her redemption from lust, sorcery, and a demon. This goes back to my writing about using symbols. The symbols in Aksinya point directly to the theme. The plot points directly to the theme. The closest I come to stating the theme in the novel are the last words of Natalya to Aksinya: “Because of everything that happened before. That time marked the end of a horrible and wonderful period, yet redemption came to you, to me.” She held Aksinya close, “I could not bear to lose you again, Aksinya. You redeemed me, the first of many. You shall redeem many more. God exceeded our expectations in spite of what we had done.”
4. Characterization: (Agent, Who): We know characterization is generally made up of three elements, appearance, personality & behavior. Can one rank their relative importance, and do you have a rule of thumb of how you go about developing it. Also, do you make use of stock characterization, or common types or not? I know you get very sophisticated in presenting character detail in many forms (physical feature, clothing, possession, communication, etc.) ; do you every consider that your audience doesn't have the literary knowledge, memory or intellect to grasp your character detail...ie, gets lost in the detail. How do you guard against it; your novel, for example was very complex.
5. Point of view: Which point of view do you prefer to employ in telling different types of stories, and why? How careful are you at tracking what he/she is aware of, at various stages of the story? Any rules, tricks, techniques or warnings for 1st Person narrator, 3rd Person Limited narrator or 3rd Person Omniscient Narrator?
Just a few questions. Thanks in advance. And, may I briefly add, I have certainly enjoyed reading your postings on the art of writing, and apologize if I'm asked Q's that you've already covered in the past. If so, I must have missed those particular installments, or more likely, was looking for a bit more elaboration, should you care to provide it. :)
I'll answer more, tomorrow.
My Notes: once you have a theme, you need to begin to visualize your plot, focus your theme, and define your characters. More tomorrow.
I'll move on to basic writing exercises and creativity in the near future.
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.
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.centurionnovelthesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor, http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.