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Monday, February 11, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, the Opera

11 February 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, the Opera

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.

An author doesn't need to write an entire description and scene setting for every scene that has already been set--this is that kind of example.  Aksinya and Ernst have already been to the Palais Coburg.  They have already been to dinner there.  They have already been to the Wien State Opera.  To set the scene again, all I have to do is state the place and the time.  Additionally, a good author will provide some place tags.  In the case of the Palais Coburg, the tag is the bright lights and Herr Leichter.  There is also the additional detail of the demon in the mirror.  These tie the scene back to the original description.  There is a similar connection with the Wien State Opera

They arrived at Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz and were greeted again by the bright lights and Herr Leichter.  Once more, Aksinya thought she spotted Asmodeus in the mirror over the mantel in the foyer, but she did not see him a second time so she counted it her imagination.

They ate in the Red Room again.  This time, Aksinya’s dress didn’t clash with the décor.  After a wonderful dinner, Ernst’s landau delivered them to the Wien State Opera.  The Die Zauberflöte held Aksinya enthralled.  A faint scent of sulfur touched Aksinya’s nose for a single breath, but she didn’t see the demon.  Although she had drunk a little too much at supper, her mind wasn’t fuzzy at all through the opera.

At the intermission, an attendant delivered Champagne and caviar to the box.  Ernst served Aksinya and then Natalya.  Aksinya thirstily drank her first glass of Champagne, “Ernst, is this another comedy?”

“Yes, Countess.”

“It is all about marriage…”

“It is indeed about marriage and magic.”

“Yes, I couldn’t miss that part too.  So who am I cast to be?”

Ernst poured Aksinya another glass of Champagne.  Natalya frowned.

Aksinya raised her glass, “It’s all right Natalya.  I’m thirsty and it matches the opera and my mood.  So, who am I cast to be in this opera by Mozart?”

Ernst smiled, Who do you wish to be?

Aksinya took a deep breath, “I wish to be Pamina, the heroine, but I think I am The Queen of the Night.

Ernst grinned, “If you are the Queen of the Night, then I must be the traitorous Monostatos.”

Aksinya raised her eyes to his, “You can’t be Monostatos—that role has already been cast.”

Ernst stared at her, “You aren’t kidding, are you?”

“I’m not kidding at all.”

He tried to take her hand in his, but she pulled it back at the last moment.  Ernst’s appearance was very serious, “Then, I do have a rival in love?”

Aksinya giggled, “Only if I am truly the Queen of the Night.”

“I beg you not to play with my heart, Countess.  I love you.  I am serious…”

Aksinya sobered immediately, “I am also serious.  If you wish to be my Tamino then you must find a way to transform me from the Queen of the Night to Pamina.

Ernst grasped her hand, “Listen to me, Countess.  I don’t intend to lose you to anyone in this world.”

Aksinya laughed.  She couldn’t stop her laughter.  It was slightly wild and uncontrolled.  The other guests in the box seats next to and above and below them became silent. The audience close to them silenced.  The conductor stepped across the stage and still Aksinya’s sweet laughter sang out in the suddenly quiet opera house.

Finally, Natalya put her arms around Aksinya.  She whispered in her ear in Russian, “Please mistress, be quiet.  You are embarrassing yourself.”

Aksinya immediately sobered.  Her lips turned down.  She appeared like she might cry but that lasted for only for only a moment.  She turned her face to the side and pushed Natalya away.

The music started and the lights came down.

Aksinya held out her empty Champagne flute, “Ernst fill my glass and continue to fill it.”

Ernst poured the remainder of the bottle into Aksinya’s glass.  He moved a little closer to her and whispered, “I’m terribly sorry.  What did I say that so upset you?”

“It was nothing you said.”

“There had to be something.”

“Are you arguing with me, Herr von Taaffe.”

Ernst shut his mouth.

Aksinya sipped on her Champagne, “I will tell you this, Ernst von Taaffe.  You have no idea what you desire from me or what you ask of me.  You may never learn what you ask or the danger you run, but I will tell you this, nothing in this world competes against you.  You have put yourself up against powers and evil that you can’t begin to imagine.”

Ernst stared directly into her eyes, “That may be so, Countess, but I swear I will overcome anything for you.”

Aksinya put her hand against his lips, “Do not swear anything in regard to me.”  She turned back to the opera and held out her glass to be refilled.

In the end, Ernst had to carry Aksinya into her house.  Sister Margarethe frowned at him the entire time.  Ernst said nothing at all and after he placed Aksinya on her bed, he simply glanced around her room and quickly left.  Sister Margarethe stepped after him to speak to him, but Natalya took her arm, “Sister, it was not his fault.  He simply accommodated the Countess.  She could not be reasoned with tonight.”

Sister Margarethe nodded. 

Natalya continued, “See him out of the house and then come help me undress and put the Countess to bed.”

Natalya began to work the buttons on Aksinya’s gown.
The novel, Aksinya, is a semi-allegory based on the book of Tobit.  It should follow, that the novel, Aksinya, has with in it allegory based on other things--this is such a time.  Aksinya compares her life to the opera they are viewing.  Indeed, she is like the Queen of the Night and the demon has then the role of Monostatos.  The trick in this is that Aksinya can't then be the title role and Ernst can't be her lover and husband.  The role has already cast Aksinya as the lover of the demon.  This is the point of the imagery throughout the novel of the demon and Aksinya in terms of marriage.  So by weaving this opera as a small allegory in the novel, we see in a stronger light the life of Aksinya and the overall theme of the novel.  That is the entire point.

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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