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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, A Ballet

5 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, A Ballet

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. I'm giving you examples from the book so you can see different ways of introducing and writing a scene. In each snippet, you get the scene setting, the tension and release, and the input and output. This isn't true of every example, but the pieces should be there, and I've been trying to identify for you when all the pieces aren't evident. You can use these ideas to guide your own writing. Make sure you set the scene properly, then make everything come to life through the narration and conversation.

This is a whole scene from the setting to the end.  I love this type of scene.  I really enjoy writing scenes about plays, ballets, and opera.  This is because many readers don't get an opportunity to see many of these great pieces of theater art.  If I can convince even a single person who hasn't seen a ballet to go to one, I have succeeded on a certain level.  I also love theater because you can reflect it in the lives and minds of your characters.   

The landau drove them only a few blocks away to the Wien State Opera.  The building was large and classical.  It wasn’t as brightly lit as the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz.  The gaslights flickered in the chill breeze.  Ernst escorted Aksinya into the building.  When they entered, Aksinya wobbled a little shakily on her feet.  She held tightly to Ernst’s arm, and almost fell when she entered the enormous foyer.  She almost lost her feet again near the center of the large entranceway.  Aksinya whirled when she thought she spotted Asmodeus in the crowd, but immediately lost sight of him.  Ernst clasped her arm tightly under his and kept her from falling.  Natalya steadied her.  She followed right behind Aksinya.  Ernst took care of their coats.  He led Aksinya to a box seat.  She finally concluded that she was unsteady on her feet from the wine at supper, so she held even more tightly to Ernst’s arm so she wouldn’t stumble.  Ernst seated her and then Natalya.  He took the chair between them both. 

As though the ballet master waited just for them, at that moment, the lights dimmed and the conductor walked across the stage and climbed into the orchestra pit.  Aksinya leaned forward and held the side of the rail.  She kept a tight grip on her flowers.

The music started.  It was bright and melodic.  Aksinya was entranced.  Ernst propped his elbows on the top of the rail.  His face was close to hers, “I didn’t tell you the ballet we are going to see.  It is Coppellia and a comedic ballet.” 

Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage, “A ballet that is a comedy.  I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“Ah, you Russians are so dower.  I can’t remember a Russian comedy.”

“Do you think I am dower?”

“You are entirely too serious, but I find that engaging in you.  I have never met a serious woman before.”

Aksinya’s eyes moved toward his face, “I would indeed like to be taken seriously.  I am a serious woman.”

“Also a dangerous woman.”

“I don’t wish to be thought a dangerous woman.”

“But you are.  That makes your seriousness necessary.”

“Or, I am just dower.  What is this Coppellia about?”

Ernst turned his face toward hers.  Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage and orchestra.  He laughed, “It is a story about an old man, Dr. Coppellia, who tries to use magic to give life to a mechanical woman.”

“Does he succeed?”

“No.  He believes he has, but in the end it is all a trick.  At the conclusion, the young fool does marry the wonderful and smart heroine.  A match between a serious girl and a frivolous boy.”

Aksinya mumbled, “I am like the old man.  I have made a terrible thing.”

“You said, Countess?”

“Nothing.  I said nothing…”

The curtain rose and the ballet began.  Throughout, laughter from the audience punctuated the performance.  Natalya and Ernst both chuckled under their breath.  Aksinya didn’t laugh.  She had never laughed in the theater.  Her lips did turn up many times in a gentle smile.

During the very delightful ballet, Aksinya remembered the words of Fraulein Trauen.  She took surreptitious glances to see where Ernst’s eyes dwelt.  Every time she looked, his eyes were focused on her profile.  She couldn’t help but blush.  She wasn’t certain he ever glanced at the very beautiful ballerinas who danced on the stage.

At the intermission, a butler delivered caviar and Champagne to their box.  Ernst served Aksinya, “Countess, would you rather have vodka?”

“I do like vodka, but Champagne with caviar is my favorite.”  She inclined toward him, “Plus, I’m not sure how much vodka I should drink.  The wine at dinner went a little to my head.”

Ernst refilled her glass.  Natalya watched closely.  She barely sipped at her still filled glass.

Aksinya watched the second Act with greater enjoyment.  Ernst thought he heard a giggle from her a couple of times.  Natalya frowned.

They returned home late.  It wasn’t too late, but still late.  Aksinya leaned sleepily against Natalya the entire trip back to the house.  Aksinya could not stand without help.  Natalya wouldn’t let Ernst sit next to Aksinya.  When they exited the landau, Natalya did let him help her on one side while she held Aksinya on the other.

Sister Margarethe met them at the door. She took one look at Aksinya and pulled both her charges into the house.  She was wary of Ernst this time—she partially closed the door and stood directly within the opening, “Thank you, Herr von Taaffe for your attention to the Countess this evening.  I will help the Lady Natalya see her to bed.”

“Please convey my thanks to the Countess.”

“Next time, don’t ply her with so much wine so you may convey your own sentiments.”

Ernst bowed, “Yes, sister.  I shall.  I’m sorry.”

When Sister Margarethe turned around, Natalya and Aksinya were already gone.  When she climbed up to Aksinya’s room, she found the door already shut and locked.  It was much too late for tea, so she returned to her room.
There is a lot in this scene.  The first point is the comparison of Aksinya's personality both as a person and as a Russian.  There is a cultural joke here.  It is a double cultural joke since the Germans and Austrians are not really known for their humor.  The ballet is then compared to Aksinya's life and condition.  This gives a little parable or allegory within the story.  I've written before that this novel is a semi-allegory of the book of Tobit.  There is much more, however, we discover that Aksinya likes to drink and has no real compunction to control her drinking.  We should have realized this--her temptation is luxuria.  In every case, note the scene setting at each point in the scene as well as the tension and release in the scene.

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: I am awaiting for you to write a detailed installment on identifying, and targeting your audience, or, multi-layered story, for various CS Lewis did. JustTake care, and keep up the writing; I am enjoying it, and learning a lot.

I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples:, and the individual novel websites:,,,, thefoxshonor, http://www.aseasonofhonor.

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