17 November 2012, Answers to Some Questions, Number 4
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:
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 ever 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.
The only important parts of a character in a novel are the appearance and actions (description in the narrative) and the words and actions (conversation). A better way of expressing this is that the revelation of the character should only occur through these means. The development of the character is the part of the iceberg the readers do not completely see. In this regard, the description in the narrative is the physical (and largely true) characteristics of the character and the spoken words (conversation) represent the character, but not necessarily the truth about the character.
Now pick your way through this. Is the narrative description (which is largely true) the most important part or the actual words of the character (may or may not be true) more important? The author develops all the "truth" about a character (appearance, actions, words), but then reveals the character as the plot and theme demand. In this sense, the author should develop a very detailed physical description of the character (which should be given to the readers early and cohesively) and a very detailed mental description (which should never be given directly to the reader). For example, a physical description (which should never be a secret, no physical description (what the readers can see on the stage) should be kept hidden) might be a scar on the character's face. The scar can be used as an indirect and a direct reference to the character. On the other hand, a mental description of a character might be that he is secretive and untruthful. The author should never tell us the character is secretive and untruthful, the author shows us that the character is secretive and untruthful. In Aksinya, the demon is both secretive and untruthful. This fact becomes increasing obvious to the reader and to Aksinya throughout the novel. Eventually, this fact becomes undeniable and, when he leaves her to her fate, the demon actually confesses to Aksinya how untruthful he has been...but is this the truth?
This is a long way around to tell you that physical appearance and mental character are both equally important, are revealed in a novel in two different ways and tell the reader a lot about the character.
I know novels and writing are getting dumbed down all the time. Unless you are writing for a specific audience (children, juveniles, low vocabulary, etc.) i recommend you write at the highest level you can achieve. That doesn't mean you use words or concepts that are generally outside of normal comprehension--for example, don't write about nuclear physics unless you can explain it to a sixth grader; don't use the vocabulary of an Oxford Don, unless you are writing about an Oxford Don, don't bring ideas and concepts into the main plot of a story without fully explaining them. Let's say you are writing about spies. You can't just assume that everyone knows about spies. I hope you know about spies if you are writing about them. You have to explain and describe a lot. On the other hand, if you make an allusion or a quote from Shakespeare, the author may assume universal knowledge--unless the quote or allusion is critical to the plot or theme, then the author might need to explain.
The point, complexity in language, plot, and theme are acceptable at the highest levels as long as the readers are entertained, not confused, and the plot and theme are understandable. I think that is a good standard.
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/.