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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 http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
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.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my 25th novel, working title, Escape, is this: a girl in a fascist island nation will do anything to escape--a young cargo shuttle pilot not following the rules crashes on the island.
Here is the cover proposal for Lilly: Enchantment and the Computer. Lilly is my 24th novel.
A huge problem for many inexperienced writers is conversation. They believe their writing of conversation sounds trite and forced. They want to know the tricks to writing good conversation. This is a great aspiration and an important skill. My novels are about 90% conversation. I love to write conversation, and I see it as the major tool of the novelist. I'll spend some time defining what makes good written conversation in a novel, and how to write it.
Let's review my guidelines for conversation.
1. Cultural norms (greeting, introduction, small talk, big talk)
2. Logical response (characters must respond to each other in the conversation)
3. ID the speaker
4. Show us the picture of the conversation
5. Use contractions (most of the time)
6. What are you trying to say?
7. What is unsaid in the conversation?
8. Build the tone of the conversation.
9. Show don't tell.
One of the greatest tricks an author has is the ability to bring characters to a point of revelation through conversation. In other words, to a point where characters can potentially reveal information about themselves. I write "potentially" because in any great novel, the truthfulness of the revelation is always in question. The author usually provides means to evaluate truth in the context of the conversation or confession. The example of the confessional conversation below, is the result of more than 200 pages of development. It comes from my, as yet, unpublished Ancient Light novel Warrior of Darkness. I'll give you a context of truth in the conversation.
Niul was very agitated when he picked up Klava at the
Lyon’s house the next Sunday. Instead of heading directly for , he turned off into Saint James Park and stopped the car. Westminster
Klava’s voice trembled, “What’s wrong Niul?”
“You and I need to speak about something.”
Klava covered her face with her hands, “What other sins have caught up with me?”
Niul stepped out of the car and went to her side. He opened the door and put out his hand, “No sins just something I need to know.”
Scáth scowled as she slid out of the car, “What else do you need to know about her, Mr. O’Dwyer? You’ve already taken an unfair share.”
[The readers know Scáth is an undead being who serves Klava. Klava made her in a fit of despair. Scáth acts as a protector and conscience for Klava.]
Niul clasped Klava’s hand. She did not stop trembling. Niul led her down the walk. The day was dreary with early fog and cloudy skies. Scáth trailed them at a pace behind. Niul took Klava’s hand in both of his. He caressed it and took a deep breath, “Klava are you blind?”
Scáth’s voice was tense, “Does she act blind?”
“Yes, in many ways, she does.”
Scáth nearly spat, “Mistress, you don’t have to tell him.”
Klava smiled. She still trembled, “No, Scáth, I must tell him. He has a right to ask. It is one of my defects that is not readily apparent.” Klava pulled up short. She turned Niul to face her. Her deep emerald eyes sought his and were slightly off queue. They stared obviously unfocused at his cheek.”
“You are blind.”
“Who told you?”
“The Dean of the department mentioned that you were the most accomplished student he ever taught, and related his astonishment that you couldn’t see. You are blind.”
“Yes I am. I have been blind since I was a child. Is this a defect that makes me unacceptable to you?”
[The readers have known Klava was bind since the beginning of the novel. This fact isn't very apparent.]
“No it doesn’t at all. It just makes me more ashamed, and me, more unacceptable.”
“More ashamed, Niul O’Dwyer. How could that make you more ashamed?”
“I took advantage of a blind girl. A person who was handicapped. What kind of monster does that make me?”
Scáth laughed, “One much worse than I.”
Klava put her arms around him, “I don’t think it makes much difference. We all are handicapped in some way. Most of us just don’t acknowledge our deficiencies, or we exaggerate things that are not deficiencies to hide our true faults—like sin.”
“But you are blind.”
Klava sighed, “And that makes you want to turn away from me?”
“No it makes me want to protect you even more.”
“You pity me?”
“Yes. I do pity you.”
“That is not a foundation on which to build affection.”
“Nah, there you are very wrong, Klava. If love is a commitment, then a person who loves must commit to everything for the one he loves. Pity is a feeling that makes me want to never let you be away from me—I’d gladly be your eyes. As it is, I’m not sure how you manage as well as you do.”
[This is a statement of one of the main themes of this novel--love is not a feeling; love is an action. A confessional conversation allows the author to place statements like this in the mouths of his characters.]
“I manage because I see through the black tablet.”
[This is a great secret of Klava's that is only hinted at in the novel--finally stated here.]
“A black tablet, what is that?”
“The black tablet. My black tablet.”
“Still, what is that, Lamb?”
Klava opened her purse and took out the tablet. Niul reached for it. Klava jerked it away from him, “Don’t touch it.”
“If you touch it, it will take your ka. It will pull your ka into the tablet.”
“Why can you touch it?”
Scáth sneered, “Duh! She’s the goddess who controls it.”
[This is also a secret that has been shared before. Niul knows this already.]
Niul moved his head to get a better look at the tablet, “It bears your face. What can it do? Is it the source of your power?”
Klava held the tablet close to her, “The Dagda is the source of my power. The tablet allows me to manipulate the forces of the world and the kas of men. With it, I can control darkness and use darkness.”
[This is known to the reader, but not to Niul.]
“And it allows you to see?”
“I can’t see real colors. Everything is like black and gold to me. They are all shades of black and gold. It is very lovely to my sight, but there is no color.”
“Is that why you only wear black?”
“Is that why you only wear black?”
She blushed, “Yes, every other color makes me appear underclothed. The tablet allows me to see in a region that is near infrared. My body shows through anything but black. Grays, in my sight, are scandalous, but usually not too overexposed.” Klava tossed her head, “I also dress this way to irritate my mothers—both of them. I like to remind them that I am not my sister, and I am not like them. I am who I am, and who the Dagda has made me to be.”
[The reader didn't know this.]
“And what you eat?”
“Dark foods appear unappealing to me. White ones are like gold. They are radiant.”
“What you drink?”
“I can’t see light liquids very well in a glass or cup. I make a mess. I can manage drinks that are black—I have come to enjoy them very much.”
“You usually wear dark glasses during the day. What about liking the night and darkness?”
“In daylight everything appears too bright to me. I can’t see details. At night and in darkness everything is clear.” She shrugged, “I can see much better.”
Niul laughed, “Here, they all think you have a character flaw, and you simply are trying to live life on your own terms.”
[Again, here, I can make a statement through the words of my character about Klava. This kind of statement would be otherwise impossible.]
“Niul this is a secret. It is my secret. Scáth knows it, but few others. I told you because you guessed and you asked. No one else has ever cared enough to ask.”
[The fact that this is a secret can only be shared in the context of this type of intimate conversation.]
Klava laughed, “That is just a bad habit. I am not pure as you think.”
Niul clasped her to his chest. He put his face in her thick hair, “Please, Klava, it is justice when you remind me of what I did to you, but it only makes me sad. If there is any lack of purity in you, that was my doing. You are perfect. You are precious…”
“I am neither, and I didn’t mean to remind you.”
“But you should, all the time.”He reluctantly released her. Klava didn’t step back. She reached up to his eyes and wiped them with her fingertips. “If we hurry, Niul, we can make Communion.”
[Here is another "showing" trick. Instead of telling you Niul is tearing up (I would not want to even state my hero male protagonist's helper is crying, I show you a picture. Klava wipes his eyes with her fingertips. With this picture, I can relate the strength of Niul's feelings and Klava's tenderness in a very simple description, but without telling you anything.]
Here's the point. Novels are all about "revealing" the characters of the novel. The most powerful way to reveal a character is to allow them to give their own story. This is a confessional conversation or a confessional moment. Since novels don't really have a soliloquy mode, like a play, it does no good for the character to tell us her story (not unless you want to use omniscient voice--yuck). You want to manipulate the characters into a point where they can share their most private thoughts. One of the best ways to do this is through the "lovers" conversation. Klava and Niul have all kinds of lover's conversation through this novel. However, remember this, even lovers don't share everything.
For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:
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