My Favorites

Monday, February 4, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, more Dinner Party

4 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, more 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.

In this dining scene, notice the continual scene setting and description, especially of the food.  The point of description is setting the scene and making it real to your readers.  At the same time, nothing should be extranious.  I once read a piece where the author wrote that the main character prepared and ate a meal.  The author even described it.  The point was that the meal and the description had no purpose other than to tell the reader that the character ate a meal.  If you look at the following, you will see purpose in every description and every word of each chracter.  There is literally nothing extranious in the writing.  When you write a scene, make certain you have an input and output, a tension and a release, scene setting, and nothing extranious.


After he had taken a couple of spoonfuls, Ernst dabbed his lips, “I told you a little about me.  Now, I would like to know something about you.”

Aksinya leaned a little over the table.

Natalya cleared her throat and made a sign with her fingers.

Aksinya scowled and sat up straight, “Why would you want to know about me?  I am nothing.”

“Ah, but you are not nothing.  You are a Countess from Russia and a very intelligent woman.”

Aksinya lifted her chin, “Then I will tell you, I am perhaps more worthless than you.  My family and people were everything to me.  Now, my family is dead, and I abandoned my people.  How am I supposed to be a countess when I have no one to look to me?”

“Indeed,” Ernst smiled, “I am willing to apply for that position.”

Aksinya snarled, “Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to.  How did you escape alive from Russia?  Your aunt and uncle told me a little.”

“My father knew the Bolsheviks would visit our estate.  He chose to confront them.  He thought he could talk to them, negotiate with them.”

“He was wrong?”

“He died because he was wrong.  My mother, sister, brother all died with him because he was wrong.”

“And you?”

“I was at the guesthouse.”  She took a deep breath, “I didn’t trust them.”  She glanced up, “The Bolsheviks.  I knew it wouldn’t work out well.  I was so afraid my family would die.  Afterward, I escaped with the Lady Natalya to Wien.”

Ernst put his hand over hers.  His eyes bore into hers, “There is much more to this than you are telling me.”

Aksinya pulled away her hand, “And I will not tell you any more.”

The waiters appeared to take away the soup and serve the fish.  They brought out a fish knife and a small fork.  They placed a small trout fillet before each of them.  It was covered with a cream sauce.  Aksinya turned a little away from Ernst and took a bite.

Ernst ate a forkful of the tender fish himself.  He wiped his lips, “Countess, there are many more events that touch this world and Austria right now.”

Aksinya whispered, “None is more important than my sorrow.”

Ernst made a serious face, “That may be true, but the end of the war has placed a great burden on the Austrian and German people.  You see the beggars in the street even in this freezing weather.  The usual restaurants can barely keep their doors open.  We have coffee and tea—they drink hot barely water.  And I see little improvement in the future.  For example, the treaty of Versailles in itself may cause suffering for all of us.”

“What is this treaty of Versailles?”

“It is the agreement the allies forced on Germany to conclude the war.”

“Is it onerous?”

“It is indeed onerous.  It calls for reparations the German people will never be able to afford.  Their aristocracy is in collapse.  It is not yet certain who will lead them forward.”

“A man who is noble, forthright, and courageous must lead them.”

“I would that there was such a man.  I expect they will be led by an egotistical commoner and fool.  The people there have rejected their nobility.”

“And I understand your people here have decided to reject your nobility too.”

“Ah, so you have heard?”

“At school.”

“It is true.  The parliament intends to dissolve the aristocracy.”

“If you hold no true fealty, then there is no purpose for an aristocracy in Austria.”

Ernst smiled, “There you have found us out, Countess.  We have no reason to exist, and the parliament will erase even the slight nobility left us.”

“Nobility is not a question of birth, but rather how a man carries himself.”

“What did you say?”

“It is something my father often reminded me.”

“Yes, well…”

The waiters brought the main meat course.  It was wiener schnitzel with puffy potato croquettes in a demi glace sauce.  Aksinya was delighted.  Although she and Ernst made a few additional remarks about the meal, their conversation after that wasn’t very remarkable.  They completed their dinner with a salad, a cheese course, and a desert.  The courses were a little larger than those at Sacré Coeur, but much smaller than those before the war.  Desert was an apple strudel with whipped cream.  The whipped cream was not sweet, but the desert more than made up for it.

When they finished eating, Ernst stood and helped Aksinya and Natalya out of their seats.  The maid who held their coats and gloves came to them.  She assisted Aksinya first with hers and then Natalya, finally Herr von Taaffe.  With a deep curtsy, she reverently handed Aksinya her bouquet.  They had been placed in water the whole time and still were fresh.  Ernst led them both back out of the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz and helped them into his landau.  The carriage headed off down the cold and damp streets of Wien.

This dining and this conversation sets the stage for lots of action in later scenes.  It also gives the reader a feel for the times and what is going on in the world.  The concerns of the people of the time as represented by Ernst and Aksinya are shown.  The pressing question is the transition of many countries in Eurpoe from monarchies with royalty to parlimentary systems without royalty.  This is the end of an age and an era.  It is something I want to convey well in the novel.  It is something that drives Ernst and more importantly, Aksinya.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment