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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Dinner and Anticipation

17 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Dinner and Anticipation

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.

To me eating is one of the most pivotal and important parts in civilized life.  We either eat with our families or we eat in a social setting with our friends or acquaintances.  Seldom does one eat with his enemy although I have had that opportunity too.  Eating is a critical act in society, culture, and life.  If you don't eat, you will die.  So eating should be an important scene in your writing.  I'm not telling you to just add eating scenes willy-nilly.  I already told you I admonished a writer who did that.  But eating and eating scenes are natural places to set conversations.  There are indeed times when eating may advance the theme or plot in a scene without conversation.  There are also potential times when solitary eating can be important in a scene.  In the case of this scene, the reader should be catching up faster than Aksinya.
When the introductions were finished, Aksinya had only a few moments to stand at one of the fireplaces beside Ernst while he engaged in conversation with his father’s guests.  Aksinya didn’t speak much to them.  She didn’t have time to become comfortable before a house servant came around to announce that dinner was served.

They entered a large dining room and Ernst escorted Aksinya to the seat next to the head of the table.  It was the seat usually reserved for the lady of the house.  Ernst sat beside her and the Graf von Taaffe at the head.  Natalya was seated by the Graf next to Ernst.  Across from Aksinya sat her uncle and next to him, her aunt.

As soon as the first course of wine and appetizer was served, the Graf asked her, “I understand you are attending the gymnasium at Sacré Coeur.”

Aksinya touched her lips with her napkin, “My lady-in-waiting and I.”

“Yes, you made the acquaintance of my son there?”

“Through my aunt and uncle…”

“Yes, through your aunt and uncle.  Your uncle is a very good friend of mine.  Do you intend to continue your studies?”

“I would like to.”

“I understand you are as fond as my son of the ballet, opera, and theater.”

Aksinya tasted a bite of the appetizer.  It was a small piece of hart in a light wine sauce.  She took a sip of wine before she answered, “Yes, although I am still getting used to comedy.  In Russia, not so many of the stories end without tragic consequences.”

The Graf laughed, “I thought we Austrians were dour.”

“I have not found Ernst dour at all.”

“That is good.  Are you pleased with him?”

“He is pleasant to me.”

“Good.  I intend for him to take over the business from me.  Perhaps you can encourage him in this direction.  He can’t continue to spend his life in frivolity.”

“Father,” Ernst complained.

“Now, Ernst, I simply state the obvious.  Although I understand very well why you might want to spend every evening entertaining the Countess, I do wish you to be as serious as she is about your future.”

A servant removed the appetizer plates and another served the soup.  Aksinya’s glass was filled with a new wine that was a little sweeter than the first.

Aksinya took a small spoonful of the soup, it was a delicate consume of partridge and spices.  She sipped her wine again and glanced over her glass at the Graf, “I would not wish Ernst to become dour.”

The Graf smiled, “Dour by working?  How should he support a family otherwise?”

“I have spoken to him about this.  In Russia, my father was always busy with the affairs of our county.  I would expect Ernst to do the same.”

“Well said and good advice to him.”  He turned toward Ernst, “Has this wise woman been so candid with you?”

“Yes, father,” Ernst’s voice sounded slightly strained.

“Then you should listen to her, and not become dour.  What, dear Countess, do you think a young nobleman should be about?  That is, to prepare his way in the world?”

Ernst scowled, “Father, this is much too candid a conversation for the table.”

“What do you think, Countess?”

“What do you wish Ernst to do to prepare himself?  He told me he was in the military during the war.”

Graf von Taaffe frowned a little, “He was.”

“Were you not proud of him?  I was.”

The Graf’s smile returned, “We have not been a military family for a long while.  I was also proud of him, but I feared for his life.  I could not stand to think I would lose him too.”

Aksinya’s face displayed her curiosity.

The Graf continued, “I lost his mother, and I do not wish to lose him.  To me that is unthinkable.”

“Perhaps a little frivolity is owed to a man who is willing to protect that which he believes is important.”

The Graf puffed out his chest, “Well said, Countess.  And well turned.”  He raised his glass to Ernst, “Ernst, you have chosen well.”

Aksinya raised her glass and took a sip of wine, “Chosen?”

“Why, he has chosen to court you, Countess.  If you are willing to defend and to admonish him, this is a very welcome thing to me.  His mother would have done the same.”

Aksinya blushed, “You attribute too much to me, I think.”

The Graf only continued to smile.

Victorian settings are critical in the seating around the table.  Notice that Aksinya is seated at the place of the lady of the house.  Ernst is beside her.  The Graf has given her the place of honor above his son and above anyone except his wife.  This isn't lost on any of the people there.  The Graf is not naming Aksinya his love interest--he is rather encouraging Ernst to make her his fiancee'.  We know this is Ernst's plan and we will see more of this later.  The point is that the conversation fulling points to this.  The reader should be getting it all.  Although Aksinya doesn't fully comprehend what is going on, it is obvious to everyone else.  The anticipation (tension) in the scene is being build for the reader and the reader knows there will be a release at some point.
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, aseasonofhonor.

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