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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scenes - Scene Setting, Resolution and Tension

14 March 2013, Scenes - Scene Setting, Resolution and 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.

The beginning of this scene is a movement in time. The scene setting gives you that time motion and the place is understood from the context. The next scene sets the time on Saturday following the morning prayers. So we have time moving and then catch the plot to that point.

In this scene you get to see the results of the last few scenes.  The tension decreased because of the climax, and I am in the process of building it back up again.  The scene begins with a transition and time movement.  Notice the time is into Lent.  The time is important both for scene setting and for the setting of the novel.  Also, I use these in the plot and for the theme.

A couple of weeks passed as though they were days.  The season of the church was now lent.  They all fasted, although Aksinya wasn’t certain they could actually fast more than they did.  The food in the rectory of the Ecclesia was filling, but it was nothing like what Aksinya had been used to.  At lent, there was less meat, but she ate plenty of potatoes and almost all the tea she wished. 

Father Makar came home in a strange mood Saturday evening only two weeks from Easter.  Although Aksinya didn’t notice, he wouldn’t look at her at all.  His eyes kept shifting toward her all through supper.  When Aksinya was finished eating, Ekaterina pushed her toward the door to her room.   She placed a taper in Aksinya’s hands, “Here, you might want to read tonight.  I’ll take care of the kitchen.”

Aksinya was so happy to get back to her Bible, she didn’t think much, but took the taper in her hand.  She stammered, “Th…thank you, Matushka.” 

Aksinya headed down the corridor to her room until she heard the Lady Natalya’s name mentioned.  Aksinya had asked, like clockwork, but Father Makar hadn’t been able to tell her anything.  Aksinya quietly moved back down the hall and snuffed her taper.  The door to the kitchen was open.  The three sat at that table.  Ekaterina wasn’t working on the dishes at all.

Father Makar was speaking, “The abbot won’t reveal anything about the Lady Natalya to me.”

“Does he know the Countess is here?”

“They have no idea.”

“They are looking for her?”

“That isn’t clear either.  The Reverend Mother doesn’t know anything.”

Father Dobrushin breathed out, “It’s been almost three weeks.  You’d think we would hear something, anything.”

“They may have concluded she is insane too.”

“I’ve watched her all this time.  She is odd, but she is certainly not insane.”

Ekaterina added, “I agree.  The Countess is anything but insane.”

“She believes she contracted with a demon.  She is certainly insane.”

Father Dobrushin continued, “Whether she is insane or not, is not the main question to my mind.  What I want to know is does the Cardinal seek her, and what happened to the Lady Natalya?”

Father Makar hunched over the table, “The Lady Natalya is certainly not dead.”

Father Dobrushin and Matushka Ekaterina stared at him.

Father Matar shrugged, “I went to every funeral in this city since the Countess came to us.  I saw the dead.  The Lady Natalya was not among them.  Unless the Catholics are hiding something more sinister than a lady-in-waiting, I am certain, she isn’t dead.”

“Then where is she?”

Father Makar shrugged again, “If I knew, I would tell you.  I honestly don’t know.  I’ve checked with anyone who was close to the two of them.”

Ekaterina asked, “What about Ernst von Taaffe?”

“To tell you the truth, I have not been able to approach him.  He is in seclusion.  From what the Countess told us, I’m sure he would have nothing to do with the Lady Natalya.  I was shocked myself when I heard what happened.  The poor boy was embarrassed and certainly stripped of his honor.”

“You checked at her house.”

“I check every day.  No one answers.  No one is there.”

“But no one is looking for her?”

“Not as far as I can tell.”

Father Dobrushin clasped his hands on the top of the table, “I just can’t believe it.  Surely her aunt and uncle…”

Father Makar shook his head, “Even they aren’t looking.”

Ekaterina scowled, “Do you think they were so shocked by what happened?”

“No idea.”

Father Dobrushin pressed his hands more tightly together, “I’m not going to let her out of the Ecclesia yet.  For now, I think it is too dangerous.”

Father Makar cocked his head, “If they aren’t looking, then there is no danger for us.  Maybe no one wants a crazy woman like her.”

Ekaterina’s voice was soft, “Hush Makaruska, have you thought, that perhaps we are the only ones who might care for her.  She is not like most people.  She is a little strange, but she has no place else to go and no one else to turn to.”

“I don’t like having her here.  I have a bad feeling about everything connected to her.  Her preoccupation with the idea of a demon or with sorcery is just laughable.  I think she should be under lock and key in an insane asylum, but Father Dobrushin won’t let me report her.”

Ekaterina’s voice was hard, “I would stop you too.”

“She claimed to kill her lady-in-waiting.  Doesn’t that mean something to you?  What if she tries to kill someone else?”

“We have yet to determine if what she said was true.  We can’t find any evidence that the Lady Natalya was hurt much less killed.”

“If what the Countess said is true, she is a murderer.  If what she said is not true, she is insane, but you two still want to keep her in an Ecclesia.  If she really is a sorceress and called a demon, she is the most dangerous person to have within these walls.”

Ekaterina’s voice rose, “But she confessed.  She has been a great help to me.”

“She confessed to murder.  She may be forgiven by God, but she has yet to face the true punishment for her crimes.”

Father Dobrushin opened his hands, “Everything you say Makar is true.  I just know there is more to her and this whole thing than we know.  She is forgiven, but we will not allow her to escape the just punishment for her crimes.  Even she should understand this.”

“She doesn’t know this Dobrushin—she is insane.”

“I hear you, brother.  Let’s sleep on it.  She hasn’t caused us harm.  We can keep her here a little longer.  Check with the police again tomorrow.”

Father Makar mumbled.

“I, for one, need to get to bed.”

Ekaterina was dismayed, “What about me.  You had me send my helper away, and now I have the entire kitchen to clean.  Father Makar and Father Dobrushin stood.  Both their voices came at almost the same time, “I’ll help.”

Aksinya crept down the short corridor to her room.  She didn’t relight the taper.  She didn’t read her book.  She lay on her cot under the woolen blanket and thought about everything she heard.  Finally, she made up her mind and fell into a fitful sleep.

The setup here is obvious and very classic, the overhearing of an important conversation.  Aksinya has been trying to change.  She believes she has accomplished this to some degree.  Father Makar brings up an important point--one that Aksinya had not thought of.  Although Aksinya has repented her sins before God; she has not repented them before man.  Makar's words set in motion the next steps for Aksinya and the steps that now propel the novel.  The question here is just how honest has Makar been and just how diligent in seeking information.  We will soon discover that many have been looking for Aksinya--there were just reasons they were not so quick or obvious about it.

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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