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Friday, August 11, 2017

Writing - part x217, Novel Form, Tension and Release, Means of Entertainment

11 August 2017, Writing - part x217, Novel Form, Tension and Release, Means of Entertainment

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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

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.

     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.

5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:


1.      Design the initial scene

2.      Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)

a.       Research as required

b.      Develop the initial setting

c.       Develop the characters

d.      Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)

3.      Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)

4.      Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)

5.      Write the climax scene

6.      Write the falling action scene(s)

7.      Write the dénouement scene

I finished writing my 28th novel, working title, School, potential title Deirdre: Enchantment and the School.  The theme statement is: Sorcha, the abandoned child of an Unseelie and a human, secretly attends Wycombe Abbey girls’ school where she meets the problem child Deirdre and is redeemed.  

Here is the cover proposal for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School

Cover Proposal

The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I continued writing my 29th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 28th novel, working title School.  If you noticed, I started on number 28, but finished number 29 (in the starting sequence—it’s actually higher than that).  I adjusted the numbering.  I do keep everything clear in my records. 

How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.


For novel 29:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.


This is the classical form for writing a successful novel:


1.      Design the initial scene

2.      Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)

a.       Research as required

b.      Develop the initial setting

c.       Develop the characters (protagonist, antagonist, and optionally the protagonist’s helper)

d.      Identify the telic flaw of the protagonist (internal and external)

3.      Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)

4.      Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)

5.      Write the climax scene

6.      Write the falling action scene(s)

7.      Write the dénouement scene


The protagonist and the telic flaw are tied permanently together.  The novel plot is completely dependent on the protagonist and the protagonist’s telic flaw.  They are inseparable.  This is likely the most critical concept about any normal (classical) form novel. 


Here are the parts of a normal (classical) novel:


1.      The Initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)

2.      The Rising action scenes

3.      The Climax scene

4.      The Falling action scene(s)

5.      The Dénouement scene


So, how do you write a rich and powerful initial scene?  Let’s start from a theme statement.  Here is an example from my latest novel:


The theme statement for Deirdre: Enchantment and the School is: Sorcha, the abandoned child of an Unseelie and a human, secretly attends Wycombe Abbey girls’ school where she meets the problem child Deirdre and is redeemed.


Here is the scene development outline:


1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)

2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)

3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.

4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.

5. Write the release

6. Write the kicker


If you have the characters (protagonist, protagonist’s helper, and antagonist), the initial setting, the telic flaw (from the protagonist), a plot idea, the theme action, then you are ready to write the initial scene.  I would state that since you have a protagonist, the telic flaw, a plot idea, and the theme action, you have about everything—what you might be lacking is the tension and release cycle in your scenes.


What makes a scene entertaining?  My off the cuff answer is tension and release.  This is an adequate answer as long as you understand just what is tension and release.  Very simply, tension and release is conflict and some means of resolution of the conflict.  The reason it is called tension and release is because you don’t need a full out conflict and you don’t need a full resolution for tension and release.  I can have a dinner party with some slight disagreement and that can be sufficient tension.  Likewise, at the same dinner party, the conflicted characters can agree to disagree—no real resolution, but that is a kind of release.


In every case, for entertainment, we require some degree of conflict.  As you design your scene—look for some expression of conflict that you can inflict.  If there is no conflict at all, there is no tension.  No tension, no entertainment.  Writing an entertaining scene is as simple as that. 


You might ask, do I need to make up some conflict to interject entertainment in my scenes?  I’d put it this way: if you can’t find some degree of conflict, there is something wrong with your plot, theme, or telic flaw.  The telic flaw of the protagonist can’t but create tension.  This tension must be an important part of the novel until the climax (which resolves the telic flaw).  If you don’t have tension, you don’t have a strong enough telic flaw to propel a novel. 


In any case, every scene must propel the telic flaw toward the climax resolution.  I’ll give an example:


Sorcha looked at the place Deirdre indicated.  She moved forward a couple of mincing steps, “My name is Sorcha Aingealag Mac an Uidhir.  I’m known at this school as Claire Angela Weir.  I would not confess this to you, but you’ve already discovered it about me.”

Deirdre smiled gently, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.  I do apologize for that.”

Sorcha shook her head, “You needn’t apologize.  I attacked you first.  I came to speak to you on just this subject.  I’d like us to declare a truce.”

Deirdre held up her hand, “Very well, I accept your truce, but we haven’t completed our introductions.  I’m Deirdre Effie Calloway…”

“That isn’t your true name.”

Deirdre cocked her head, “I don’t wish to tell you my true name.”

“I’m not stupid.  Your true name must be Deirdre Oighrig Calloway.  It can’t be anything else.”

Deirdre frowned, “I shall not confirm nor deny...”      

“Your parents must be pretty stupid to allow your true name to be so close to your public name.”

Deirdre balled her fists, then slowly released them, “I have my own problems, some of them that you caused.”

“Well, excuse me,” Sorcha pointed at her cheek, lip, and eye.

“You can easily cover it with your glamour.”

Sorcha glared, “I have enough problems hiding what I already do.”

Deirdre patted the bed beside her, “That’s exactly what I wanted to speak to you about.”

Sorcha slowly moved toward the bed.  She sat, but not very close to Deirdre, “What do you want to know?”

“First of all, what the h-e-double-toothpicks are you doing?”

“You really are stupid—can’t you figure it out on your own?”

Deirdre balled her fists again, “I get that from my brothers and sisters all the time.  I’m not stupid.  I’m asking you to tell me what you are doing.  I know you need my help.”

Sorcha let her breath out in a whoosh, “I do need your help.  Since you can spot me and see through my glamour, I could be revealed to others in the school.  I have two options.  I can get rid of you or have you help me.”

“You already tried to get rid of me—it didn’t work.”

Sorcha snorted, “I didn’t expect you to be able to fight.”  She looked to the side, “You’re the only girl who has ever beaten me.  I haven’t tried anything more permanent—yet.”

“I wouldn’t try if I were you.  My mum is pretty well connected with the fae, and my somewhat relative, Luna Bolang is a teacher here.  You wouldn’t like the results of crossing either.”

Sorcha sighed, “In that case, I need to make you my ally.”

“I’d like a friend too, and you seem to be exactly the kind of friend I need.”

Sorcha gave Deirdre a strange look, “I’ll level with you. I haven’t had many friends before, but I’d like to have one here too.  The first thing is this—don’t blow my cover.”

“What’s your cover?”

Sorcha gave Deirdre a long look, “Isn’t it obvious to you—I’m not an official student of this school.”



Deirdre turned her head and rocked back on the bed, “What good does going here unofficially do for you?”

Sorcha blushed, “This is my opportunity to learn.  I won’t bore you with the whole terrible story at the moment.”

“Why not?”

“Why not?  Because it pisses me off, and it would take all night…”

“I have all night.”

Sorcha pressed her hands against her chest, “Just listen for the moment.  I’ve never told anyone this before.  I’ll tell you as much as necessary.”  She took a breath, “My mother abandoned me when I was barely out of diapers.”

“Yeah, the Unseelie tend to do that—they can be real jerks.”

Sorcha teared up.  She choked, “How did you guess that?”

“Your hair, your face,” Deirdre flipped Sorcha’s hair and lifted it above her ears.  Sorcha’s ears were obviously very pointed, “Your ears, your complexion.  I think you are obviously the offspring of an Unseelie fae and a human.”

Sorcha didn’t move her long black hair to recover her ears, “Yeah.  That’s just it.  The fae didn’t want me, and my father didn’t care.  He’s probably dead.”

“Sucks to be you.”

Sorcha trembled.  She slowly regained her composure, “Because my mother abandoned me, the British Foundling System took over my welfare and put me in a foster home.  Due to my appearance, that took a while.  I lived in quite a few group homes until they finally found me a foster family.”

“I take it the whole foster experience sucked.”

“It sucked all right.  They only cared about the money from the state.  In the foundling homes, I could go to school.  With a foster family, I could still go to school.  That was the good part even though they occasionally beat me and always locked up the ice box.  They fed me the minimum and made me clean, cook, and take care of their younger children.  I was lucky that was all they did.  From what some of the other girls said…  I wouldn’t have minded all that except after the occasional beatings became regular and the kids began bullying me at school.”  

Deirdre laid back on the bed, “Why’d they bully you?”

“My clothing looked like it came out of the trash bin.  I never had a lunch.  I studied all the time and made top grades.  That all makes you a bully magnet.”

“That really sucks.”  Deirdre stared at her, “Your clothing still looks like it came out of the bin.”

“That’s because it did.”  Sorcha scrunched her nose and continued, “I didn’t take the bullying or the beatings very well.  The school said I started acting out.  What they meant was, I didn’t let them bully me.  I fought back.  If they attacked me, I attacked back.  If they hit, I hit.  If they kicked, I kicked…”

“They expelled you?”

“They didn’t expel me—they sent me to a reformatory.”

Deirdre sat up, “They sent you to prison?”

“Assault and battery.  She hit first—I just beat the crap out of her…plus a couple of her friends.”  Sorcha smiled at the memory.

Deirdre put her hand on Sorcha’s, “That’s why I’m here at Wycombe.  I’ve beat up a lot of girls and some boys too, but they didn’t send me to prison.”

Sorcha lifted her lip, “You’re a rich toff and special.  Girls like me get sent to the reformatory.  Girls like you get to go to a good school.”

Deirdre made a thoughtful face.

Sorcha continued, “They sent me to HM Prison Aylesbury—that’s just up the road from here.”

“Why aren’t you there now?”

Sorcha smiled, “I escaped.  They let me go to school there too, but I learned something much much more useful when I was in there.  I learned to use the glamour.  I knew all about it from my mother, but I didn’t imagine that I could use it.  I used it inside Aylesbury, and I used it to escape Aylesbury.”

“How did you learn about using glamour?”

“It’s funny the kinds of people you find in prison, and it’s funny the kinds of creatures who are attracted to prisons.  The Unseelie are everywhere around such places.  They seem to enjoy the suffering and malignant thoughts of people held captive.”

“They’re like that all right.”

“There were also kids like me in Aylebury.  All of them were abandoned.  Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t really that many of us, but many of them are in prison.  I learned that most of them don’t have the knowledge or the power to use their skills, but some know the rudiments.  From them, I gained the knowledge, and I learned I had the power.  After I perfected the glamour, it was nothing to change my appearance and slip out of that place.  I walked to High Wycombe and found a great spot to live here.”


“Like I’d tell you…”

“You don’t have to tell me.  Go on…”

Sorcha ran her fingers through her hair, “I saw how much the girls learned and how much they taught here.  I was well prepared from my previous schooling and personal study, all I had to do was to attend the classes and make them think I was just another student.”

“They didn’t call your name in class today.”

“Not yet—you screwed up everything for me on the first day.  Because of my last name, Weir, I almost always end up at the bottom of their list.  I just go to the teacher and use a flash of glamour.  I tell her they forgot to list me—because I was last, they accidentally dropped me off the roll.  They always accept that, and because of the glamour, they believe me.  They add me to the list, and then mostly ignore me for the rest of the year.  I hand in my homework.  I write my papers.  I take the tests.  I get my grades.  I produce the results, and they forget about me because of the glamour.  Eventually, I hope to graduate from this school.  I’ll use my records and the diploma to go to university.”

Deirdre clapped, “That’s great.  I think that’s fantastic.  What a wonderful idea.  I wish I’d thought of it.  What’s the downside?”

Sorcha closed her fists, “The downside is when some stupid twit sees through your glamour, gets in your way, and prevents you from making the pitch on the first and best day.”


This idea that Sorcha is attending Wycombe Abbey illegally is one of the main points in the novel.  It isn’t the telic flaw of the protagonist.  That is something entirely different.  However, this idea propels a great deal of the novel.  It provides a powerful conflict for Sorcha and for Deidre in the first part of the novel.  The actual telic flaw is Deirdre’s issues, but Sorcha’s existence in the school is one of the tension drivers for this novel. 


Can you see and understand how this might color every scene and part of the novel?  If you can’t then let me just state it for you.  As an author, in every scene, you must determine and use some type or degree of conflict (tension) that is somewhat resolved (release) in every scene.  As an author, you look for conflicts that can be used from scene to scene to continue building tension and giving some release until you hit the climax.  The climax must resolve the telic flaw of the protagonist.  It’s as simple as that.


More tomorrow.

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

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