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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Scenes - Scene Setting, Showing, Example

29 December 2012, Scenes - Scene Setting, Showing, Example

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.

Here is another example of scene setting from the novel, Aksinya.  This isn't so much scene setting as the what of a scene.  I wanted to put it in because this is a fun scene and demonstrates the power of the use of conversation and description in such a way to build tension and resolution as well as to move a scene.  This is all about social position and sitting in an aristocratic environment.

The Reverend Mother led Aksinya and Natalya to the first table in the room.  This was the only one that wasn’t round.  The head table was rectangular and at the center was a high backed chair carved with a cross and the emblem of Sacré Coeur.  The Reverend Mother stepped behind the table and motioned Aksinya and Natalya to follow her.  She pulled out the high backed chair and pointed to the two seats at the end of the table, “I would like you ladies to sit there, please.”
Aksinya curtsied, “I’m sorry, Reverend Mother, we will not take the first place.  That would not be appropriate for students.  Please seat us at a lower table.  Since we are new, it would be most appropriate to seat us at the lowest tables.”
Frau Drescher was aghast, “The Reverend Mother wishes to honor you.”
Aksinya didn’t blink, “But I don’t want to be honored in that fashion.”
The Reverend Mother put up her hand.  She motioned to one of the novices behind the head table, “Sister Rita, please seat the Countess Golitsyna and the Lady Obolenska at the older scholar’s table.”
Novice Sister Rita’s eyes opened wide.  She stared at Aksinya, “Countess?”
“Yes, Countess.  I want you to take care of them yourself, Sister Rita.”
The novice sister curtsied to the floor.  She couldn’t take her eyes off Aksinya and Natalya.  She led them to the round table just below the head table and tried to seat them.
Aksinya sat and Natalya stood behind her chair.  The novice sister stared at Natalya, “Lady, you should sit.  That’s what the Reverend Mother instructed me.” 
Natalya shook her head. 
Aksinya spoke to the novice sister in German, “She doesn’t understand German.”
Novice Sister Rita pulled out the chair beside Aksinya, “Please lady, sit here.  Countess, you tell her.”  She glanced nervously at the head table. 
All this time, the other students entered the dining room.  They sat in their places and gawked at the odd scene at the older scholar’s table.  The young women who sat at that table came in and took their places.  They stared at Aksinya and Natalya.  Natalya still obstinately stood behind Aksinya’s seat. 
Sister Rita ran over to the head table and whispered to the Reverend Mother.  The Reverend Mother slowly stood and stepped over to the older scholar’s table.  She took everything in a glance and spoke in French, “Please Lady Natalya, sit at the table.  It is necessary for the good order of the school.”
Natalya cocked her head toward the Reverend Mother, “For the good order, Reverend Mother?”
Aksinya laughed, “Yes, Lady Natalya.  I told you already.  You must sit.”
Natalya frowned and appeared as if she was about to cry.  She complained, “But why isn’t it good order to wait on my mistress?”
The Reverend Mother pressed her lips together and seemed completely reluctant to say what she knew she must say.  The other young women around the table strained to hear the Reverend Mother’s words.
Finally, the Reverend Mother opened her mouth, “Please, Lady Natalya.  Because of your social position, most of the ladies in this room should serve you.  You must sit and eat with us otherwise the good order of our school will be in question.”
Lady Natalya’s mouth fell open.  The other young women at the table mouths’ hung open.  Tears formed in Lady Natalya’s eyes but she quickly and with embarrassment fell into the seat beside Aksinya.  Aksinya put her arms around Natalya and held her close.  The girl was obviously crying.  The Reverend Mother moved to her and put her arms around the both of them.  She clucked soft sounds under her breath, “Please don’t be sad Lady Natalya.  You may serve your lady all you desire, but you must eat at table with her.”
Natalya let out a great wail, “But I have never sat at table with her before.  I have never sought to put myself above her.  Never.”
Aksinya whispered in Russian, “Silly, we sat together like sisters and ate together like friends during our whole trip here.  Please act like the great lady you are, Lady Natalya.”
At that word, Natalya sat upright.  She covered her face with her napkin for a moment then sighed and laid it in her lap.
Aksinya smiled.  The Reverend Mother smiled, “That’s much more pleasant, Lady Natalya.  Thank you.”

Every scene should turn on tension and release.  This scene is filled with great tension and release.  The example I gave you is just one small part of the overall scene.  The tension and release here is not monumental--it is purposeful and of great importance to the novel.  It shows the position of Aksinya and Natalya in relation to the other girls in the school.  It displays Natalya's resolve and Aksinya's power.  It is entertaining and entertaining is the most important thing in any writing.  It also sets up the next portion of the scene which includes character setting.  That's the main reason I wanted you to see it--both for the tension and release and for the set up for the next character setting example.

Make certain your writing is entertaining on all levels and ensure you are showing and not telling us.  This example, like all my examples shows you about the characters without telling you about the characters.  That is the entire point of the what of a scene.

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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