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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scenes - Scene Setting, Tension

24 November 2012, Scenes - Scene Setting, Tension

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

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.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

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.

I showed you the way I set the scene in this last scene from the novel, Aksinya.  The scene is set from the country level down to the street level, then to the interior, and the place setting does not stop there.  The place setting continues through the entire scene.  Here I continue from the point where Akinsya is seated in front of the Headmistress' office.  I'm not giving you place setting so much as showing you the tension and release in the next portion of the scene.

The girl beside her stared at Aksinya.

Aksinya stared back, “I’m Aksinya Andreiovna Lopuhin, and you are?”

The girl answered, “I’m Anastasiya, but everyone calls me Stacy.”  Her Russian was from Moscow, but the name Stacy was said purely in English.

Aksinya laughed, “Do you speak English?”

“Not well.  We’re supposed to learn it here.”

“Are you?”

“Too well.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“My brother taught me some words and the Sister didn’t like me to say them at all.”

“What were the words?”

Stacy motioned for Aksinya to lower her head a little and whispered into her ear.

Aksinya blushed, “Is that why you are here to speak to the headmistress?”

Stacy nodded woefully.

“You have a Nun teaching here?”

“Yes, she is Orthodox but not from Russia.”

“What does she teach?”

“English, German, and French, but mostly German.”

“I see.”

The girl, Stacy asked, “Are you going to go to school here?  Where are your mother and father?”

Aksinya laughed, “I’m applying to be a teacher here.”

The girl’s eyes widened, “You look so young.”

“I’m married,” Aksinya held out her right hand.

Stacy admired Aksinya’s plain golden ring, “Mother told me they married young in the old country.  Just how old are you?”

Aksinya laughed again, “I’m twenty-three.  I just graduated from Radcliffe.”

“Do you like school that much?”

“Yes, I like it very much.  I never was able to go when I was young.”

“You’d hate it if you were my age.”

“Why is that?”

Stacy held out her red hand, “Sister already used her ruler on my hand, and now I have to speak to the headmistress.  If she tells my mother, I’ll get the strap for sure.”

“Perhaps you should tell the headmistress you didn’t know what the words meant and beg her forgiveness.”

“I truly didn’t know what the words were, and I still don’t know what they mean.”

“Then tell her that.”

“Sister wouldn’t listen.”

“Sometimes they are like that.”

The door cracked open, and a call came from inside the office.  It was Russian accented English and sounded very pleasant, “Miss Anastasiya please come inside.”  To Aksinya, the voice seemed slightly familiar.

As Stacy passed Aksinya, she whispered in Russian, “Don’t let her voice fool you, she is quite strict.”

Aksinya nodded.

In the part of the scene I gave you, we have a change from the front door to the interior of the building and then to the waiting place in front of the headmistress' offices. The first tension and release was with the maid. There is also a foreshadowing for the next tension and release sequence.

In this sequence, we see the tension and release between the girl, Stacy, and Aksinya.  The purpose for the sequence is a buildup for the last sequence in the novel.  You get to learn about the school and the people in the school--this is a foreshadowing.  There are hints throughout for the reader.  If you have read the entire novel, you will perhaps be able to guess at the person Stacy is talking about.  If not, that's okay, the purpose is not to provide a guess, but to foreshadow the next sequence. 

The tension and release is the words Stacy said and her possible punishment.  Notice that this is entertaining.  There is humor in this tension.  We feel for Stacy, and the tension is her punishment.  She builds the tension for us by her spanked hand and the threat of the strap.  Aksinya gives her good advice.  We aren't sure the advice will be taken or if it will work and that also builds the tension.  The obvious release is what will happen to Stacy.  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, 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:, and the individual novel websites:,,, http://www.thefoxshonor,

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