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Friday, March 8, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Introspection

8 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Introspection

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.

You build up the tension, then you let your readers down with the release. After a high energy and high action scene, the next scene should be easy--this is called scene pacing.  I find this to be natural in my style of writing, but if you discover your scenes are all action, you need to insert resting, low action, introspective scenes between them.  These types of scenes are almost always conversation scenes.  If you look at the composition of action oriented scenes, they include comparatively more narrative and less conversation.  If you look at yesterday's blog, you can see the scene still is mostly conversation, but with a lot of narration within the conversation--that's because a lot of things are happening.  On the other hand, the scene today is almost 100% conversation.  Note that conversation can be used very well to convey action.

Ekaterina returned to the rectory kitchen.

Father Dobrushin glanced up. He asked in Russian, “Is she all right?”

“Obviously in pain and sleeping fitfully, but I don’t think she will awake for a while.”

Father Maker pulled his fingers through his hair, “Dear God what are we going to do about her?”

Father Dobrushin’s face fell into an appearance of serious introspection, “What do you mean Makar?”

“What I mean is that we have an insane girl in there,” he pointed toward the bare bedroom where they placed Aksinya.  “She confessed to murder.  She is a Russian Countess.  Someone will soon come looking for her…”

Ekaterina sat at the table, “What would you have us do, Makaruska?  Turn her in to the authorities?  Throw her out on the streets?”

“I…I don’t know.  What she confessed…can we even believe it—sorcery?”

Ekaterina put her hand on Makar’s, “The crucifix around her neck burned her chest and her clothing.  From the looks of the scars, it had been burning her for a long time.  It was hot enough to catch her clothing on fire.  Whatever caused that was a true miracle.”

“Plus, her hands and arms are scarred everywhere,” Father Dobrushin added

Father Makar pursed his lips, “What does that have to do with anything?”

“When I was in the seminary, my mentor, Father Alexis, introduced me to the church texts that describe sorcery.  One of the key identifying features in those who are sorcerers is scars on their hands and many times on other parts of their bodies.”

Father Makar shook his head, “Why is that?”

“Sorcery requires blood for sacrifice.  They use knives during the rites to cut their hands or arms.”

“What about the other parts of the body?”

“According to the texts, failed spells result in wounds.  Sorcerers can be known by these marks.”

Father Makar sighed, “You know I’ve worked a long time with the insane.  Those who cut themselves display similar marks.”

“Sorcerer’s scars are always fully healed.”

“And why is that?”

“The result of successful sorcery is the healing of the wounds.”
“I’m not sure I believe any of this…”

Ekaterina frowned at her husband, “Not even the crucifix?”

Father Makar mumbled, “We still have to decide what to do with her.”

Father Dobrushin leaned back in the chair and the front legs raised a little off the floor.

Ekaterina tapped the table top and pointed at the chair.

Father Dobrushin lowered the chair to the floor, “Sorry.”  He slouched a little in the seat, “Tomorrow morning, when she wakes, I’ll talk to her and try to get more information from her.  Father Makar, why don’t you go speak to Reverend Mother Kluge at Sacré Coeur?  She will know something about it.

“What if we find the police are seeking her?”

Father Dobrushin opened his hands, “Why don’t we cross that road when we get there.  For now, she is here and under our care.”

“What about the girl she said she killed?”

“Lady Natalya?  I remember her.  A member of the Russian court.  You should find out how we can help her.  If she is dead, she will need an Orthodox funeral.  If she is alive, she will need all the help we can give her.”

“I understand.  The Countess is delusional.  The Lady is likely safe in her bed right now...”

Father Dobrushin smoothed his beard, “What I worry about is this demon, Asmodeus.”

“Surely you don’t believe any of that.”

“I don’t know what to believe.  I know I will spend much of my time in prayer this evening about this very thing.  I will also study everything I can to determine what we might do against such a demon.”

“I don’t believe any of it.”

Ekaterina puffed out her cheeks, “All I know is this girl’s clothing caught on fire from a crucifix around her neck.  I can’t explain that either.  How much less faith does it take to imagine a demon?”

Father Dobrushin cracked his neck and rubbed the back of his head, “I’m tired.  It’s time to go to bed.”  He stood, “Matushka, did you lock her door?”

“Yes.  I locked and barred it.”

Father Dobrushin stretched, “Whatever happens, our little sorceress faces a lot in the future.  It would be unwise for us to let her out of our sight for now.”

The previous scene was filled with action.  This scene conveys introspection.  We get a little repeat of what happened in the last scene from the standpoint of these observers.  This is a very important point about introspective scenes.  This allows the author to reconnect the reader and accentuate ideas to the reader.  The continuing disbelief of Father Makar is a contrast to what everyone observed in the last scene.  Father Makar isn't foolish--his worldview just prevents him from seeing Aksinya from the same standpoint as Ekatrina and Dobrushin.  I like to put these paradoxes in my writing.  This makes it intentionally ambiguous for the reader.  Ambiguity is good; confusion is bad.
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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