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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 636, Modal Auxiliary Verb Forms English Syntax/re-arrangement of Words in a Sentence Tools for Developing Tone Q and A

7 January 2016, Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 636, Modal Auxiliary Verb Forms English Syntax/re-arrangement of Words in a Sentence Tools for Developing Tone Q and A

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but the publisher has delayed all their fiction output due to the economy.  I'll keep you informed.  More information can be found at  Check out my novels--I think you'll really enjoy them.

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

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 26th novel, working title, Shape, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.

Here is the cover proposal for Escape from FreedomEscape is my 25th novel.

Cover Proposal

The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action.  I'm on my first editing run-through of Shape.

I'm an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action--in fact, to write any novel. 

Scene development:

1.  Scene input (easy)

2.  Scene output (a little harder)

3.  Scene setting (basic stuff)

4.  Creativity (creative elements of the scene)

5.  Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)

6.  Release (climax of creative elements)

I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:

1.  Historical extrapolation

2.  Technological extrapolation

3.  Intellectual extrapolation

Creativity is like an extrapolation of what has been.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing. 

One of my blog readers posed these questions.  I'll use the next few weeks to answer them.

1.  Conflict/tension between characters

2.  Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)

3.  Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme

4.  Evolving vs static character

5.  Language and style

6.  Verbal, gesture, action

7.  Words employed

8.  Sentence length

9.  Complexity

10.  Type of grammar

11.  Diction

12.  Field of reference or allusion

13.  Tone - how tone is created through diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.

14.  Mannerism suggested by speech

15.  Style

16.  Distinct manner of writing or speaking you employ, and why (like Pinter's style includes gaps, silences, non-sequitors, and fragments while Chekhov's includes 'apparent' inconclusiveness).

Moving on to 13. 13.  Tone - how tone is created through diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.

If tone is the feel of the writing, the author must start first with what tone he wants to convey. 

The first method of developing tone is through scene setting--the second method is through tension and release.  Let’s look at the specific tools used to create tone in tension and release (these can also be used in the scene setting).  I like the list from the question—it is nearly exhaustive:  diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.  Why don’t we look at each of these tools?

Syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence as tools to develop tone.  What makes English so versatile and so difficult as a language are the many verb forms that allow subtle changes in the syntax and meaning of the sentences.  Verb tense is only one part of concept of syntax.  English has more complex forms of verb usage that are sometimes called “helper” verbs.  They are most properly called auxiliary verbs.  Here is a comprehensive list of auxiliary verbs.


Auxiliary verb
Meaning contribution
She is the boss.
progressive aspect
He is sleeping.
passive voice
They were seen.
deontic modality
I can swim.
epistemic modality
Such things can help.
deontic modality
I could swim.
epistemic modality
That could help.
epistemic modality
How dare you!
You did not understand.
perfect aspect
They have understood.
deontic modality
May I stay?
epistemic modality
That may take place.
epistemic modality
We might give it a try.
deontic modality
You must not mock me.
epistemic modality
It must have rained.
deontic modality
You need not water the grass.
deontic modality
You ought to play well.
deontic modality
You shall not pass.
deontic modality
You should listen.
epistemic modality
That should help.
epistemic modality
We will eat pie.
epistemic modality
Nothing would accomplish that.


If you notice we already saw some of the uses of be (is) and have (had).  These auxiliary verbs are used to change the verb tense in English.  They have other uses we will address. 


Modal verbs are sometime called “helper” verbs in English.  Deontic modal verbs are can, could, may, must, need, ought, shall, and should.  A deontic modal verb indicates a change of state or the desire to make a change of state.  For example:

I can help.

Can she love?

He could march.

Could Jane run?

I may fight.

May he help?

Jack must help.

Must he jump?

I need to sing.

Jane needs to walk.

She ought to work.

Ought he to play?

Jane shall not pass.

Shall he kill?

I should study.

Should he cook?


I have never heard anyone complain about the use of deontic modal verbs in writing.  These are verbs that provide great depth in English writing and they are huge tone builders.  Their purpose, in English, is to build tone.  The tone is the deontic feel of the writing.  This is a complex word that no one should use in writing a novel—the word simply indicates that the scene is not in line with what should be and the deontic verb form indicates this.  Thus, in the very first sentence, to fix something in the world (scene) someone or something needs help—I can help.  The sentence expresses the ability to solve a problem or fix a circumstance. 


This is an enormous power in using English verbs.  The writer is not stuck with pure action—I helped, but literally every degree of change of action.  The modal verb entirely changes the action of the verb from absolute to varied. 


Just look at the options: can—has the ability to, could—had the ability to, may—permission to, must—required to, need—necessary to, ought—obliged to, shall—future tense, should—obligated to.  The meanings are nuanced and form expressions that are not actual actions, but rather intent to actions.  The events don’t happen without some resolution by the writer.  Thus, I can help is not a completion, but an expression of capability.  The response is, you can help or don’t bother or stay back or get away or silence.  There is more.  The resolution is, I helped or I stepped back or I ran away or I helped anyway.  Each of these responses and resolutions lead to more and more.  The tone is based on the modal desire, the response, and the resolution.

So complex a development with a single verb form.  This is one of the features that makes English so powerful as a fictional writing language.  The modal form has fiction written all over it.  These are storytelling verb forms.  We use them extensively in normal speech, but even so, they are verbs encased in depths of understanding and meaning.  Some languages share this capability, but not all.
More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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