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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Scenes - Scene Setting, Who, Receiving Lines

11 December 2012, Scenes - Scene Setting, Who, Receiving Lines

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.

One type of introduction and scene setting is the receiving line.  Because many of my novels involve high levels of society, I use these often in my novels.  The purpose of a receiving line in a novel is not to necessarily introduce characters so much as to introduce a setting itself.  See what is done in this example from my contracted, but as yet unpublished novel, Sister of Darkness.

      Leora was adorned like a princess.  Lady Hastings let Leora borrow from her wardrobe.  She fitted Leora with a pale blue gown that could have been made to fit only her.  The style was classic that became modern in its simplicity.  Beads covered it from top to bottom.  They were formed in patterns woven intricately by density rather than form or arrangement.  The straps were thin and the front plunging but still modestly cut.  She covered the top with a thin shawl—they were thankfully still in vogue.  She didn’t want to give the wrong impression, although she still wanted to cut a striking one.

      Leora was almost unhappy when the footman let go of her hand.  She needed the support.  She threw back her shoulders and marched toward the brightly lit doorway.  Tilly preceded her by a few paces.  At the door, Leora caught up.  The doorman took their cards and led them toward the main ballroom gathering.  He stepped to the side and announced them:

      “Lady Matilda Anne Robina Acland Hastings and Madam Leora Bolang.”  Tilly and Leora stood at the top of the stairs a moment then headed down toward the receiving line.  There they greeted the various members of the Foreign Service and embassy leadership along with ambassadors of England’s friends and potential allies.  They began the long trek down the line of people.  Leora was tired and overwrought and determined not to show it.

      At the head of the line, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’ steward bowed and turned to the notables there, “Lady Matilda, Madam Bolang, may I introduce the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, The Viscount Halifax, Lord Edward Wood and Lady Dorothy Wood.”

      Lord Edward took Tilly’s hand and bowed over it.  He was slightly balding with a strong thin face and very straight nose.  His right hand that held Tilly’s had only three fingers and, she could tell, he was missing his left arm, “Glad you could make it tonight.”  He warmly grasped Leora’s hand, “This is Madam Bolang?  We hoped you could attend.  No word yet on Colonel Bolang, but we have not given up hope or faith.”

      Leora quickly masked her surprise.  

      Lady Dorothy received Leora’s hand from Lord Edward.  She was very elegant with primly waved hair, a wide, thin smile, and very large eyes.  She glanced meaningfully at Leora, “I think we will have occasion to speak together later tonight, please make yourself available if at all possible.”  She kissed Leora’s cheek, “You are all the talk, Madam Bolang.”

      Lady Dorothy turned to her left, “Lady Matilda and Madam Bolang, may I introduce the French Ambassador to Great Britain and his wife, Monsieur and Madam Corbin.”

      Leora greeted them in perfect Parisian French.

      Madam Corbin exclaimed, “You are the Madam Leora Bolang.”

      Suddenly fearful of the recognition, defiantly Leora gazed in her eyes and sought any allusion to her past, unwelcomed notoriety, “Yes, the Madam Leora Bolang.”    

      The lady curtsied and grinned, “I hoped to meet you in Paris, but I understand from your mother-in-law you now live near Hyères.  We might get together for tea, yes?”

      Leora sighed in relief and smiled, “If my benefactress, Lady Matilda is included, certainly.”

      Madam Corbin turned toward Tilly as if really seeing her for the first time.  Her eyes widened, “Lady Matilda?  I would be pleased to receive both of you.  My secretary will contact you tomorrow, if that is at all possible with your busy schedules.”

      “Our pleasure,” Tilly shook her hand.

      Madam Corbin turned and began with breathy excitement, “Greek Ambassador Haralambos Simopoulos and Madam Simopoulos may I introduce Madam Leora Bolang and Lady Matilda Hastings.  Without thinking, Leora responded in Greek, and caused a general backup when the Ambassador and his lady asked, “Where did you learn to speak Greek so perfectly,” and would not let her move an inch forward without further conversation in their preferred language.

      Tilly could barely follow the conversation, but she had to interject, “Madam Bolang’s children say their prayers in Greek.”  That started the round of conversation again, and the line didn’t start moving again until the glares of the later guests finally prevailed.

      Madam Simopoulos at last turned to her left and passed on Leora’s hand, “American Ambassador and Mrs. Joseph Kennedy, may I introduce Madam Leora Bolang and Lady Matilda Hastings.”

      The American ambassador shook Leora’s hand, “Are you not the Leora Bolang whose husband taught at our War College for many years?”

      “I am,” Leora pressed his hand.

      So the receiving line progressed.  Tilly was charmed.  Leora was known by about half of the people in the line, and to the other half, her perfect knowledge and pronunciation of their language enamored them instantly to her.  The line was backed up for over half an hour.

      At its end a man of imposing continence stepped forward toward them.  He was tall and broadly built but not fat.  His face was thickly jowled, and a pair of half glasses sat precariously at the extremity of his nose.  He addressed Leora directly with a beep bass voice, “There you are, ladies.  I was hoping to attend to you sooner, but you held up the receiving line so long, I almost despaired of speaking to you at all.”

      Leora held out her hand to Sir Barot Cheston, “Sir Barot, Tilly told me you would be here.”

In this example, the reader gets to meet some very important and real individuals in history.  The purpose of the scene and the receiving line is to show the readers these important people and to show the readers more about Leora Bolang.  The reader also gets to know more about what is happening in the wide world and in the lives of Britain under the siege of WWII.  In this small snippet from the novel, you don't know the entire time and place setting of the scene, but this is an important piece of information from the novel. Still, the most important point--don't confuse your readers. I'll get to that, 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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