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Monday, March 18, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Rebuilding Tension

18 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Rebuilding Tension

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.

In the preceeding scene there was an important release, but the reader was not let down completely.  There are many loose ends that have not been tied together yet.  The readers know about these events and know generally what is going on behind the scenes.  They expect to see these storylines and events to be completed and brought together.  Aksinya was captured by the inquisitors.  Now we see what happened to her.

The begining is scene setting.  We don't know what time it is, but the beginning is the place.  The second paragraph give the reader an impression of time, but Aksinya doesn't know the time.  I'm not hiding anything or being obtuse, I'm just letting the reader know what Aksinya sees and knows.

Aksinya awoke with a start to a persistent chill.  Her hands were cold and her feet were cold.  Her ears and nose were cold.  She tried to pull herself into a ball.  The surface where she lay was hard and freezing, and she had nothing under her or to cover herself.

Her teeth chattered.  The room was filled with gloom.  She scrutinized the place.  It wasn’t so dark that she couldn’t make out anything, but there was an almost permanent twilight.  At the top of the high wooden walls a frosted pane allowed a degree of light inside.  It wasn’t much light, but the day, Aksinya remembered, had been bleak.

She lay on a hard wooden bench.  It was just long and wide enough for her to lie flat, but would be very uncomfortable for a normal sized man.  She rose up on one arm.  A putrid smell came to her through the cold still air.  She peered under the bench.  A chamber pot lay under it.  The pot wasn’t very clean.  The walls of the very small room were close.  The space was so small the bench completely filled one end.

Aksinya sat up the rest of the way and stared around her.  The walls behind and on either side were uniform dark wood.  In front of her was a wide door made of a thick wooden lattice.  The wood looked very sturdy.  The lattice was open but stout.  The lattice door meant she had absolutely no privacy.  Anyone who entered the hallway outside the door could observe her.

Aksinya stood.  Her legs almost buckled, and she took an involuntary step to keep from falling down.  The floor was stone.  It was freezing through her thin shoes.  She regained her balance and stumbled to the lattice work door.  She gazed out into the corridor.  She couldn’t see very far, but beside the door sat an old woman in a thick habit.  The woman was sewing.  She didn’t look up at Aksinya, “You finally awake, deary?”

Aksinya stared at the woman.

“I expect you’re hungry.”

Aksinya licked her lips.

“You slept through breakfast, so there won’t be anything for you until supper.”

Aksinya cleared her throat, “May I have tea?”

“Tea for the likes of you?  I don’t think so.”

“Water then.”

“It will just make you need to pee, and I don’t have a mind to clean up your mess more than I need to.”

“Who are you?”

The woman laughed, “I don’t need to tell you anything.  I’m your jailor.  That’s enough for you to know.  If you don’t cause me any problems, I will ensure your stay is not harmful to you.  If you cause me problems, I will make your life miserable.”

“Where am I?”

“There is no harm in telling you that.  Perhaps you can guess…”  The woman glanced up at Aksinya.

Aksinya shook her head.         

“No…then you are in the residence of the Cardinal of Wien.”

“He would be the Archbishop.”

The woman’s voice tightened, and she shook her needle at Aksinya, “He is officially a Cardinal.  You must never forget this.”

Aksinya took a breath, “I am very cold.  Could you get me a blanket?”

The woman ignored her request.

“Why am I here?”

A cackle with the undertone of a tremble came from the woman, “You know why you are here.  You are a sorceress.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

“I shall not remain here during the night, that’s certain.  During the day, there are many just outside these corridors who will come to my aid.  At night, the guards are men and the corridor is locked.  They molest you at their own risk.”

“Would they?”

“You are young though ugly.  The darkness brings out the beauty of any woman—so I’ve been told.”

Aksinya backed to the bench and pulled her feet up under her dress.  She hugged her arms around her knees and began to recite the rosary.

The woman’s voice was filled with humor, “The rosary.  That’s fine to pray, but it won’t do you any good.  From what I hear, the Pope’s sent his inquisitors.  They’ll expose all your guilt and then some.

Aksinya kept praying.
Aksinya is a captive in the house of the Cardinal--she is being held for inquisition.  The readers couldn't have expected this.  The readers might have expected the police, the demon, Ernst, the school, but not the inquisition.  Aksinya didn't expect this either.  This is part of the power of good writing, you don't let the readers know everything. You let the readers know what Aksinya knows, not everything there is. 
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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