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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, a Drunken Dance

21 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, a Drunken Dance

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.

There is an aftermath to everything.  The confession leads to a kiss.  The kiss leads to Natalya's anger.  They all result in Aksinya getting drunk.  This has been her response to tension.  It is certainly not an appropriate response, but it is typical.  Aksinya is both happy and sad and her response is based on this.  Her words to the Graf express this.

They both returned to the ballroom.  Until they entered the rooms Graf von Taaffe’s servants provided them, Natalya did not speak to Aksinya again that evening.  She stuck close to Aksinya for the rest of the event.  After Ernst rejoined the party, he did not let Aksinya out of his sight.  Natalya watched Ernst with frosty eyes. 

Aksinya sat beside the large fireplace closest to the dining room and outside the draft that blew constantly through the long room.  She drank and stewed.  She would not engage anyone in conversation for very long, but that didn’t matter, the party was winding down and the couples were primarily interested in dancing. 

Near midnight, Graf von Taaffe stepped to Aksinya’s side, “Countess, would you honor me with this dance?”

“Why not?” Aksinya’s words were only a little slurred.  Her Russian accent cut through the German.  Aksinya had feigned weariness to fend off the other invitations she received that evening.  She wished Ernst would ask her to dance again.  She knew she could not beg off this offer from her host.  She stood a little shakily.

The Graf took her hand in his and placed his arm around her back.  He led her into the waltz, “I didn’t notice your Russian accent before, Countess.”

Aksinya tried unsuccessfully to pronounce her German words as she usually did, “I was not drunk before.”

“Drunk?  You seem very steady on your feet for being drunk.”

“I’m used to it.  I’m sorry, I should have said, I had drunk too much wine before and not that I was drunk.”

The Graf smiled, “I have happy news for you.  I hoped you had as happy news for me.”

“I’m drunk.”

His smile slipped a little, “Yes, I understand.  I didn’t see the ring on your finger.  Then your answer to my son was not an affirmative?”

“I have not given him my answer yet.”

Graf von Taaffe’s smile widened again, “He told me he would begin to train to take over the business.  I think he is completely serious about you.”

“He said as much.  He said he loves me.”

“Indeed, he has never, to my knowledge, told a woman that before.”

“That makes me happy.  I would have liked to have kissed him a little longer.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Aksinya made a face and an unmistakable gesture of her head toward Natalya.

“Your chaperone.  I understand.  I would very much like you to accept my son as your husband.  You would be very good for him.”

Aksinya raised her eyes to the Graf’s and cocked her head.

“We don’t have many young women, even in the aristocracy, whose presence brightens a room like yours.  You are an absolute treasure to the nobility.”

Aksinya smirked.

“You may laugh at me, but you move and act like a princess, and I have seen many princesses.  Most of them couldn’t hold a candle to you.”

Aksinya snickered.

“You laugh again?”

“Sir, my face is plain and my body is boyish.  I indulge too much, and I…” She continued in a mumble, “I have other faults not so visible.”

“Yet, by walking into a room you captivate it.  By simply existing, you capture the attention of everyone around you.”

“If I were not a Countess, I would be nothing.”

The Graf raised her hand to his lips, “If you were a washerwoman, I believe you might have captivated my Ernst.  Whatever you did, it ensorcelled his heart, and I can easily see why he is fascinated by you.”

Aksinya pushed back from him, “Temptation.  I am a temptation.”

“Yes, you are, and I’m glad your eyes are at least on my Ernst.”  The Graf let go of her hand and stepped back.  The music ended, “Thank you for the dance, Countess.  Even drunk, you are a wonderful partner.”  He bowed.

Aksinya gave a slight curtsy, “Now, Franz, you may not leave me here.”

“Why not, Countess?”

“I will be unable to make it back to my seat without your help.”

The Graf von Taaffe turned a trifle to the side and signaled Ernst.  Ernst rushed to them.  The Graf took Aksinya’s hand and put it in Ernst’s, “Please Ernst, escort the Countess and her lady-in-waiting to their rooms.  The Countess might stumble.”  He winked at his son.
This scene is filled with Victorian power.  If you understand the times, you will get much of what is going on.  You can still understand the basics even if you don't know much about the culture.  There are significant cultural markers in the text so a complete understanding isn't necessary.  I show you the culture and allow you to understand it from within.  That's the point of any good historical fiction.

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., and the individual novel websites:,,,, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.

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