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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, A Dinner Party

3 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, A Dinner Party

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.

Dining is something that everyone must do--it is also a wonderful setting for conversation.  This is especially true in refined novels and novels about human interaction.  Since we must always eat (or we will die), the dining table is the perfect place for conversation, revelations, and etc. You don't really have to make up many reasons for the interaction or the setting. In this example, there has been elaborate preparation within the novel for the event, but the setting is common enough.  I used real world places from 1918 for this dinner and evening.   All the accouterments are correct and correctly detailed for the times.  Note, the place setting.

Herr Leichter led them to a room at the far end of the lower floor. The walls were salmon colored and the carved wooden ceiling was frescoed with a beautiful painting. A great chandelier hung from its center. On the wall was a large oil of a woman in a white lace wedding dress. The oak doors were carved, and the floor was a wonderful wooden mosaic. Inside the room was a long table set for three. Two places were set at one end and the other a little further down from them. A grand piano sat in one corner of the room. Gas lamps and candles were lit and provided all the illumination here not electricity like the rest of the building. Wood fires were lit in two opposing fireplaces. Immediately, when they entered, the pianist began to play a gentle waltz melody.

Herr Leichter led them to the head of the table. A maid stood there. She curtsied to Aksinya. Herr Leichter grinned, “Countess, would you like to remove your cloak?”

Aksinya nodded. The maid untied the clasp and Ernst helped Aksinya slip out of it. Aksinya removed her long gloves and handed them to the maid. She noticed wryly, her rich blue gown clashed with the decorations in the room. The maid took the bouquet in one hand and the coat over her arm and moved to a corner. She stood there almost unmoving the rest of the evening until just before they left.

Ernst sat Aksinya at the head and then Natalya at the setting a little further down. Another maid took Natalya’s cloak and gloves and Ernst’s top hat, gloves, and top coat and handed them to the maid who held Aksinya’s mink and bouquet. As soon as Ernst sat in the chair to the side of Aksinya, three waiters brought lavers and towels for them to rinse and dry their hands.

They disappeared for a moment then almost immediately returned with the appetizer and wine. The wine was a slightly dry Riesling. The appetizer, a tiny filet of roebuck encircled with bacon and topped with krauter butter. Ernst stated off-hand, “I asked for the night’s special dinner. I think you will like it. If you don’t, they will prepare you anything you wish—you just have to ask.”

Aksinya took a bite of the steak, “This is very nice. Please ask them to continue.”

Ernst gave a small bow at his seat.

Aksinya slowly savored the food. She asked, “So Herr von Taaffe…”

“Won’t you call me, Ernst?”

Aksinya pursed her lips, “Don’t you think that is a little familiar?”

“I will continue to address you as Lady or Countess, but you may call me Ernst.”

“That is still too familiar, but I shall do so only because I am polite and you asked. I do not address my lady-in-waiting by her given name in public.”

Ernst glanced at Natalya and his brow rose.

“In any case, Ernst, am I to understand that you didn’t participate in the war?”

“Ah, but I did, Countess. I marched off with the first wave and served honorably until my father caught me. At his insistence, the Army sent me back and assigned me as an adjutant to a General in Wien. I would still be there except for the end of the war and the reduction of the military. They didn’t need a half Graf who was a lieutenant at full pay. So I am back to my old habits.”

“And what are those?”

“In general, I read. I study Latin. You understand why. I go to breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at my favorite restaurants in Wien. I visit my friends and my father’s friends. It is a pleasant existence.”

Aksinya pressed her lips together again.

“You disapprove?”

“A nobleman should be about a nobleman’s business…”

“And what is that?”

“Managing his estate. Keeping his horses and property. What about your people? Who holds court over them and judges their problems?”

Ernst laughed,“The aristocracy in Austriais much different than you imagine. My estate is not made up of lands and people. Although my father does have some property, and I keep a house here in town, our family’s wealth is in stocks and bonds. We hold industrial agreements and own factories.”

“And your people?”

“No one looks to us.”

“That is sad, you have so little purpose.”

The waiters poured them another glass of wine. This was just a little sweeter than the last. They removed the plates and utensils and exchanged them for a spoon and a small bowl of soup. The size of the spoon was petite and matched to the size of Aksinya’s mouth. She was very pleased with it. The soup pleased her as well. It was a buttery consume of some kind of squash and little bits of bacon. The wine matched it well.

This is a very important conversation between Aksinya and Ernst.  You will note that their ideas about life are almost 180 degrees apart.  Although Aksinya loves luxuria, she is absolutely driven as a ruler and leader of people.  Ernst is more interested as a social person.  He uses luxuria to reduce his tedium while Aksinya is temped by luxuria and uses it to live.  If you read the entire novel, you know that this kind of person is not who Aksinya would choose as her love. She needs someone who is driven like she is.  Ernst is anything but driven.  The setting is very important and sets the stage for the entire conversation.
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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