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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Injury and Release

20 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Injury and Release

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.

Events have consequences--especially in novels.  The point in every scene is to set up a situation of anticipation in your readers.  The previous scene set up such an anticipation.  Aksinya was already cold.  She was placed in a cold place with insufficient food and covering.  The demon took her clothing.  The anticipation of the reader is that something will happen to Aksinya during the night.  The expectation is that Aksinya will be found by someone in the morning--likely her jailer.

In the morning, the old woman came to the cell door and tried to rouse Aksinya, “Sorceress.”  She knocked against the wooden frame with her stick.  Aksinya didn’t move.  In the early morning darkness she squinted at Aksinya, “Sorceress, where is your dress?”  She struck the wood harder, “Wake up, sorceress.  I have your breakfast.”  Still Aksinya didn’t move.  The old woman hobbled back up the corridor.  She cried for the guards.  They wouldn’t enter the corridor—they had been warned by the Archbishop’s secretary not to enter it for any reason.  The women in the kitchens ignored her.  She finally made her way up to the archbishop’s secretary’s office.  She lifted her stick and thought better of it then she tapped hesitantly at the door with her fist.  The door immediately opened.  The secretary’s servant stood there with a surprised look on his face.  When he recognized the visitor, his look turned to anger.  The old woman curtsied a little crookedly.
The servant was about to shut the door, but the old woman stuck her stick in the jam, “I need help…the prisoner.”
The secretary’s voice came from the depths of the room, “What is wrong, Otto?”
“It is Frau Mauer.”
“What does she want?  She has her instructions.  She is neglecting the Cardinal’s prisoner.”
Frau Mauer curtsied as deeply and evenly as she could, “Sir, I think the prisoner is dead.  She is naked in her cell, and she won’t wake.”
The secretary rushed to the door, “Naked, dead.  This cannot be.  I instructed you to care for her.  If something happens to her, the Pope’s inquisitors will be down on our heads.  Do you wish that?”
“You told me not to open the cell door.”
“I told you to watch her carefully.”  He snarled, “Otto, get a kitchen woman and come with me.  There can be no delay.”  He motioned to Frau Mauer, “You come with us too.”  They started down the steps toward the basements.  “How long has it been since you found her?”
Frau Mauer was breathless, “I tried to get the guards to help, then the kitchen women.  No one would help, that’s why I came right to you.”
He glanced at his pocket watch, “Dear God, frau, it is already seven and you were to serve her at six.  Already an hour.  Quickly.”  He moved more quickly.  They paused at the kitchens to retrieve a blanket and a lantern.  Secretary Schwab called for Frau Becker, the mistress of the kitchen, and she followed them past the guards, where the secretary collected the key to the cell, and then into the corridor.
At the cell door, the secretary took one look inside and turned his face away.  With his face averted, he unlocked the door and pushed the kitchen mistress, Frau Becker, inside, “See if she is alive.”  He handed the blanket to her. 
Frau Becker paused a moment but the look on the secretary’s face drove her more than any words.  She laid the blanket over Aksinya’s naked body, and put her face close to the girl’s.  The woman called over her shoulder, “She’s still breathing.”
“Thank God,” exclaimed the secretary.  “What’s wrong with her?”
“What did you expect?  She’s naked and freezing.”
“What should we do?”
The woman tucked the woolen blanket around Aksinya’s body, “It’s too cold in here for a thin girl like her.  Bring warmers and hot water bottles.  Hot tea and food later.”  She stated almost accusingly, “Where are her clothes.  Was she molested?”
Frau Mauer called from the corridor, “Her dress is out here on the floor.”
“Bring it to me.”
The secretary nodded at Otto, “Get warmers and hot water bottles.  Go now.”
Frau Mauer brought the dress to the open cell door.  Frau Becker barked at her, “Frau Mauer, bring that here and help me dress her.”
Frau Mauer grumbled, but entered the cell, “She did it herself.  I’m sure.”
The woman began to pull the dress over Aksinya’s head, “Secretary Schwab, this dress is too light for this place.  Did you want her to die from exposure?”
He stared accusingly at Frau Mauer, “The girl was fine when she came here.”
“She is certainly not fine now.”  They pulled the dress over the rest of Aksinya’s body.  Frau Becker held her close and rubbed her hands.
Otto returned with two coal packed metal warmers, “The hot water bottles are being filled.”
“Go back and tell them to bring them right away.”
He nodded to the kitchen head.
She stopped him, “Bring another two blankets.”
“Yes.”  He ran back down the corridor.
Frau Becker laid Aksinya down again and placed a warmer near her head and one near her feet.  The kitchen head ordered Frau Mauer, “Take off her shoes and rub her feet.”
Frau Mauer jumped, “Her feet?”
“I’ll do if it you won’t.  Here, take her hands and be gentle.  When the circulation returns she will be in great pain.”
Frau Mauer shook her head, “I’ll rub her feet.  I don’t want to be that close to her.”
Otto returned with four hot water bottles and two blankets.  The woman wrapped the blankets around Aksinya and put the hot water bottles in the layers.  She put the warmers under the blankets but where they wouldn’t touch and burn Aksinya’s skin.  She and Frau Mauer rubbed Aksinya’s chilled hands and feet.
Aksinya gave a moan and tried to sit up.  The woman’s voice was very kind, “Don’t get up.  Don’t move for a little.”
Aksinya whimpered, “It hurts.”
“Aye, it does hurt.”
Aksinya squeezed her eyes shut then opened them wide, “Who are you?” 
The woman smiled, “I’m Frau Becker.”
Aksinya moaned again and began to shiver, “It really hurts.”
“Why did you take off your dress?”
Aksinya groaned, “I didn’t take it off.”
“Were you molested?”
Aksinya didn’t reply.
Frau Becker turned toward Secretary Schwab, “You need to question the guards.  The girl was attacked in the Archbishop’s own home.”
Aksinya gritted her teeth, “They didn’t molest me.”
“…But your dress.”
Aksinya let out her breath, “You would not believe me anyway.  I am here to be tried.  No one molested me.”
“Tried, surely you aren’t the one.”
“I am the one.”
Frau Becker stared at Secretary Schwab, “This isn’t a joke is it, Schwab?  I’ve heard the rumors.  This girl is to be tried as a sorceress?”
Secretary Schwab shrugged.
Aksinya was shivering a little less, “I am a sorceress.  That is why they locked me up.”
Frau Becker’s gentle hands didn’t stop rubbing Aksinya’s.  She mumbled, “Then you are not fully sane.  They put a poor crazy girl in a cell and are going to try her for sorcery.  Does the Archbishop think this is the Fifteenth Century?”
Aksinya tried to smile, “I am perhaps not sane, but I am a sorceress.”
Frau Becker gave Aksinya a very sad look then she turned to the secretary’s servant, “Get some food and hot tea.  Bring sugar and milk.”
Very quickly Otto returned with a tray that contained wheat mush, cheese, bread, and tea.  Frau Becker placed it on the bench.  Aksinya’s eyes were closed.  Frau Becker tried to hand Aksinya a spoon to eat the wheat mush.  Aksinya couldn’t hold it, so the frau fed her and held the tea for her.  After a while, Aksinya was able to hold the spoon on her own.  She had to grasp it in her fist, but she could get it to her mouth.  She ate everything on the tray.
Frau Becker collected everything and returned it to the tray.  Aksinya had already pulled out her rosary.  She began to pray the decades.  Frau Becker stared at her.  Aksinya glanced up in embarrassment, “I did not pray before I ate.  I couldn’t finish my prayers last night.  Thank you very much for taking care of me.”
Frau Becker stepped out of the cell.  She was the last one to leave.  Secretary Schwab locked the door and pocketed the key.
Before Frau Becker departed, she gave the secretary a stern look, “Anyone who would try this girl is insane.  Keep her warm and feed her or this will happen again.  Keep the men away from her, or something worse will happen.”

The understatement in this scene drives it and the building tension at the end.  The beginning is a release--Frau Becker helps Aksinya.  The new tension is the idea that Aksinya will be tried and the information.  Notice Frau Becker can't imagine that Aksinya would be tried for sorcery. 
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. 

For more information, you can visit my author site at, and my individual novel websites:,,,, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.

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