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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, more Introspection

9 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, more 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.

After a strong climax, you begin building the tension again.  In this type of novel, you start very slowly.  You can still feel the tension in each scene, but you should be able to note stronger tension and less release.  For example, the previous scene was the members of the Ekklesia discussing Aksinya.  The release was that they should closely watch her.  In this scene, the tension builder is Aksinya's sudden and continual tears--tears she doesn't recognize because she hasn't cried before.  I use this image to convey that she has changed through repentance.  You also get the strange discussion about love.  This is Aksinya's fumbling attempts to understand love and Ekatrina's attempt to explain it.

Aksinya didn’t wake until late the next morning.  The pain in her chest finally overcame even sleep.  Her eyes opened to a dark windowless cell.  She lay on a cot.  Her hand went to her breast.  The crucifix was still there and so was a deep stinging pain.  Her eyes felt oddly damp.  She wasn’t certain what that meant.  Perhaps it was from straining to see in the darkness. 

Her clothing had been changed.  She felt the fabric.  It was very coarse and thin.  Her eyes were well enough acclimated to the darkness that she could make out much of the room.  She sat up and set her feet on the floor.  She sat on a cot.  A woolen blanket had covered her.  She was cold, and she needed to go to the toilet.  There wasn’t anything else in the room. 

Aksinya wanted to make some light.  She knew exactly how, but she consciously stopped herself.  She was confessed, and she intended never to do sorcery ever again. 

Aksinya stood.  She was a little wobbly.  She staggered to the door and tried the latch.  The door was locked.  She tapped on it.

Almost immediately she heard a bar raised and a key scratch in the lock.  The Matushka from the Ecclesia pushed open the door.  The light rushed in, and Aksinya covered her eyes with her sleeve.  She blinked her damp eyes and slowly lowered her arm.  The woman smiled at Aksinya and began to curtsy.  Aksinya grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up.  Aksinya tried to speak, but her throat was raw, and she couldn’t squeeze even a squeak out of it.  She shook her head.  The Matushka took Aksinya’s hand, “Come with me, Countess.  I’ll show you where the outhouse is and where the bathroom.  Then we can go to breakfast.”

Aksinya nodded.

The Matushka kept very close to her.  They went out the door at the back and to the outhouse behind the rectory.  She waited for Aksinya then took her to the bathroom.  The water was tepid, but it wasn’t cold.  The Matushka stayed right beside Aksinya.

They went to the kitchen, and Aksinya sat down.  The Matushka served Aksinya tea and a bread roll.  She sat down opposite Aksinya and sipped on a cup of tea herself.  After Aksinya had drunk half her tea, she tried her voice again.  Her throat was still raw but she forced out in a hoarse whisper, “Thank you, Matushka.”

Ekaterina smiled, “You may call me Ekaterina, Countess.”

Aksinya’s lips didn’t exactly smile, but they turned up a little, “I wish you would call me Aksinya.”

“You know that isn’t possible, Countess.”

“It would please me, Ekaterina.  Because of what I really am.”

“We all have our own problems… and sins… even the nobility.”

“Perhaps you don’t understand…”

“I heard it all last night.”

“Oh…then you hate me.”

Ekaterina laughed, “Not anymore than anyone else.  It depends on what you mean by hate… and love.  You know your Greek?”

Aksinya nodded.

“I am called to love you with the love only God can have—that is agape love.  I think I can love you like that.  I don’t not love you like that.  There is also phileo, the kind of love between people who trust each other.”  She smiled to take away the sting in her words, “I don’t know you well enough to have phileo love toward you.”

Aksinya look up from the sides of her eyes, “How might you come to love me like that?”

“By sharing together in work.  By companionship and pleasant conversation.  By sharing thoughts and ideas.”

“I see…  I told you I murdered my lady-in-waiting.  I know she loved me.  I’m not certain I loved her.”  Aksinya shook her head, “What is wrong with my eyes?  They have been damp since I woke.”

“Let me look at them.”  Ekaterina inspected Aksinya’s eyes, “What do you feel, Aksinya?”

“I feel very sad, and I feel great pain.”

“Your eyes are filled with tears.”

“I don’t remembering ever crying before.”

“But you are crying now.”

Aksinya laid her head on the table top, “Natalya cried all the time.  I didn’t understand it.  Do you think she was always sad?  I think she loved me.  Do you think she was that sad because of me?”

“I don’t know.  Did you make her sad?”

“No, I think I loved her, but I killed her.”  Aksinya let out a sob, “Why did I make that sound?  What’s wrong with me?”  Her shoulders shuddered.

Ekaterina moved next to Aksinya.  She put her arms around the girl.

Aksinya sobbed again in a hoarse whisper, “You shouldn’t try to comfort me.  Instead of comfort, I beat Natalya.  I don’t deserve comfort.”

“Everyone who is confessed deserves comfort.  That is what we call agape love.”

“I see.  I wish I could see Natalya.  I miss her so much.” Aksinya buried her face in her arms.  Aksinya couldn’t speak for a while, “Do you think she will hate me now?”

“She may hate you.”

“Do you think that is why I am so sad?”

“I think there are many reasons why you are sad.”  She gently stroked Aksinya’s hair.

“You really shouldn’t try to comfort me.  I should not be comforted.”

Ekaterina held her more tightly, “Should I beat you?”

“It might be a good idea.”

“You said you were in pain already.”

“I am in great pain.”

“Is it from your burns?”


“Then there is no reason to beat you if you are already in pain.”

“I see,” Aksinya sobbed.

“Why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

“Will that help you to love me?”

“Yes, and it will help me get to know you.”

Aksinya put out her arm and dipped her finger in a small puddle of tea spilled on the table, “My mother hated me.”

Ekaterina rocked Aksinya, “I doubt that very much.”

Aksinya ignored her, “I was her first child and the child of her first husband.  He died before I was born.  I reminded her too much of him.  My adopted father loved me very much.  He gave me whatever I wanted, but my mother didn’t give me what she did my younger sister or brother.  She knew I loved fine clothes.  Mine were always the least in the house.  My mother couldn’t give me hand-me-downs, not at first.  Her clothing was too elegant, but when my sister grew taller and larger in the…you know, the chest, than me, I received her old clothing.  My sister had jewelry.  I had nothing.  My father gave me the old guest house.  It was too unimportant and too ruined for my mother to care.  That’s where I found the books on sorcery.  I taught myself everything.  I learned Latin on my own.”

“On your own?”

“Yes, perfectly.  To use sorcery, you must speak the Latin words exactly as they should be spoken.  Most can’t do it.  I memorized the books on sorcery.  Then I could have everything I wanted.  At least I could make the appearance of everything I wanted.  Much of sorcery is similar to illusion.  It shapes the way the world looks.  Some of sorcery is like…”

“Hush, Aksinya, Countess…you shouldn’t speak about sorcery.  You want to give it up.  You shouldn’t let your mind dwell on it.”

“Yes, you’re right, but it has been a part of my life for so long…”

“How old are you, Countess?”

“I’m eighteen.”

“You look younger.”

“I know.” Aksinya played with the spilled tea.  “What am I to do now that I don’t have sorcery?”

“What do you know?”

She let out a strange sob, “I know how to be a countess.”

Ekaterina smiled, “Beyond that?”

“Latin, Greek, German, Russian, French.  I can speak, read, and write in them.  Can anyone do anything with that knowledge?”

“Yes.  Those are very good skills.  Surely you have read a lot?”

“That is almost all I do—I read.”  She sighed, “I wanted to go to school.  I’m certain that is at an end now.”

“Perhaps, Countess.  We can’t know much of anything right now.”  Ekaterina looked up, “I must say the prayers and clean the Ecclesia.”

Aksinya didn’t look up.  Her voice was thick with tears, “May I pray too?  May I help you?” 
Ekaterina smiled, “You may.

In this scene, we learn much about Aksinya.  How much is true?  This is truely what Aksinya thinks, but perhaps is not completely accurate.  Still we don't get as much as we would like--it is more than we had.  The tension in each scene builds like this--slowly and deliberately.
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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