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Monday, March 11, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Domestic Integration

11 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Domestic Integration

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.

Aksinya is a historical novel, and I wanted to give my readers a clear idea of how the world was different in this time 1918.  We assume the world was as it is now.  We know they didn't have computers and TVs, but we don't realize what they did have and what they did.  Through these scenes, I let you see the world as it is in this time.  Through Aksinya's learning, I let you see how the people lived.  Before, you got to see how the wealthy lived--now, you get to see how the middle class and poor live.  Notice the simple scene setting that gives the place, time, and characters.

When Aksinya entered the kitchen, Ekaterina twitched her lips, “There you are, Countess.  Do you know how to cook anything?”

Aksinya shook her head.

“Can you make tea?”

Aksinya shook her head again.

Ekaterina brought over a knife, “I will show you how to peel potatoes, yes.”


Aksinya sat in the corner of the kitchen and peeled potatoes.  She wasn’t very fast, but it kept her occupied.  Ekaterina attempted to teach her something about cooking.  Aksinya listened attentively and tried to remember everything.

When the food was cooked, Ekaterina asked Aksinya, “Countess, do you know how to set a table?”

Aksinya shook her head, “I know where the silver is supposed to go, and if you show me…”

Ekaterina smiled, “We have no silver, but I will show you.”  She handed Aksinya a fork and a spoon for each place.

Aksinya placed them on the table while Ekaterina instructed her.  Aksinya’s lips turned up, “It wasn’t difficult.”

“Most things are not.  You just have to know what to do.”


Father Makar entered the kitchen.  He stared at Aksinya for a moment, but sat at the table.

Ekaterina nodded to Aksinya, “Please get Father Dobrushin.  He will be praying in the Ecclesia.”

Aksinya nodded and stepped through the door and down the hall.  She passed through the sacristy with the hanging vestments and into the nave.  Father Dobrushin knelt at the altar.  His hands were clasped before him so tightly the veins on them stood out.  Aksinya barely made a sound as she approached. 

She stopped in amazement.  Her stomach didn’t bother her.  The crucifix between her breasts didn’t burn her.  Her body felt light and free.  She stood there transfixed.  She felt a touch on her arm and started.  Father Dobrushin smiled, “Countess?”

“Ah,” she muttered, “I’m to call you to supper.”

“What were you thinking?”

Her lips turned up a little, “How pleasant it was to not feel pain in here.  I have lived for a long while with only nausea and suffering when I entered a church.”

“That is a great thing to celebrate.  Come to supper.  It will surely not incite luxuria.”

“It will not because I had a hand in making it.  A small hand…I did peel the potatoes and set the table.”

“That is a good beginning.”  Father Dobrushin stood, “Come, let’s go to supper.”

Aksinya followed the priest back to the kitchen.  He sat, and she sat across from him.  Father Makar said the prayer and they all crossed themselves.  They had boiled potatoes covered with bacon grease and flour gravy.  Some tiny bits of bacon speckled the gravy.  There was also strong Russian tea.

After supper, Aksinya and Ekaterina cleaned the dishes and the kitchen while Father Makar and Dobrushin spoke quietly at the table.  Ekaterina pushed the hair away from her face with the back of her hand and whispered, “They would speak until the morning hours if I let them.”

“You will not let them?”

“Makar is my husband.  I have work in the morning and he has work too.  It would be foolish for me to go to a cold bed and foolish for him to not be able to accomplish his work in the morning.”

“I see.”

“You have to look after a husband just as you would look after a boy—they are just older boys.”

“I see.”

Father Makar glanced up, “Just what are you telling her Katyushenka?”

“About how foolish men are…”

Aksinya stared at her.

Father Makar frowned.

Ekaterina put up her finger, “Tut, tut, don’t say a word Makaruska.  You wouldn’t want Father Dobrushin to have to take your confession more than once this week.”

Aksinya still stared at her, “They must confess to one another?”

“Of course they must confess.  They must confess more than anyone.  Everyone sins, but if you wish to help others, you must be first willing to help yourself.”

“I see.”

Aksinya glanced back at the bowl she held.  She placed it carefully on the counter then she stepped over to the table.

She stood silently until Father Makar turned her a stern look, and asked, “Do you need anything?”

“Please, Father Makar, have you heard anything about Lady Natalya.”

He looked her up and down, “No, nothing yet.”  While Aksinya’s face was still downturned, he signaled with his eyes to Ekaterina.

Ekaterina came to Aksinya’s side, “The dishes are almost finished, Countess.  We will leave the rest to Father Makar and Father Dobrushin.  I’ll help you prepare for bed.”

Aksinya clenched her hands together, “Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

Father Makar pushed his chair back a little to get out of Aksinya’s reach, “There is nothing to tell.  No one knows what happened to her.  I…I’ll check again tomorrow.  You needn’t be concerned.”

“But I am concerned.”  Aksinya wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, “I need her.”

Ekaterina clucked, “That’s all right.  You have us, and you have God.  We will help you, and we will try everything to find the Lady Natalya.”  She took Aksinya by the arm and led her toward the back of the rectory.

Ekaterina took Aksinya to the room and shared with Father Makar.  In it was a big schrank, a desk and chair, and a large bed topped with a thick comforter.  Ekaterina led Aksinya to the chair and sat her in it.  She took a brush and began to brush Aksinya’s hair, “You have beautiful hair, Countess.”

“Is it growing out?”

“Very nicely.  Why did you cut it?”

“I gave it to the demon to contract him.”

Ekaterina paused a moment then continued to brush Aksinya’s hair.  She didn’t say anything for a while.  Then she asked, “Countess, do you need anything?”

“I need nothing, and right now, I have nothing.  Perhaps the two go together.”  She turned suddenly in the chair, “Let me brush your hair.”

Ekaterina thought a moment then nodded.  She handed the brush to Aksinya and sat.

Aksinya fumbled a little with the thick braids in Ekaterina’s hair, “I used to be so good with braids, but I haven’t been able to…”  Aksinya ran the brush through the Matushka’s hair.  Ekaterina’s hair was thick and dark with silver streaks.  It wasn’t as fine and soft like Aksinya’s hair, but it was very wonderful to feel. 

Ekaterina closed her eyes, “Are you happy here, Countess?”

“I don’t know what happiness is.”

“Is that so?  Tomorrow, you will help me all day.  We must prepare breakfast and supper.  It is also the day to wash.”

“I have never cooked anything, and I don’t know about washing.”

“Then you will learn.”

“Yes, I will learn.”

Conversations should drive the tension and release.  Note the types of conversations going on here and what is said and not said.  The tension and release is entirely through these conversations.  First Aksinya with Ekatrina, then Makar and Aksinya, and finally, Ekatrina and Aksinya.  From a historical basis, I like to use women and hair (toilet, as in preparation for going out or going to bed) in conversation just as I like to use men and smoking or after dinner conversation.  These scenes come from a bygone era, but the use of them can be powerful.
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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