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Friday, September 8, 2017

Writing - part x245, Novel Form, Description Tension and Release

8 September 2017, Writing - part x245, Novel Form, Description Tension and Release

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.

     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.


Here is an example of developing or building tension and release in a scene.  This example is from Shadow of Darkness an Ancient Light novel.  This is the scene of Sveta’s first regular day in her office at the Soviet NKVD.    


One of the main reasons for this scene is to show you the description in it.  Most modern writers don’t describe enough and especially characters.  I’m afraid the modern tendency to use the first person in novels has exacerbated this bad characteristic.  Therefore, I wanted to show you how I approach description and especially character description in the middle of the novel. 


One of my little pet peeves is that I never usually get enough character description from most writers.  Plus, I like to be reminded about how the protagonist looks.  One description is not enough for me.  I’ll not levy that on every author, but give me at least one strong 300 word description—please. 


My technique is to give my readers another description of my protagonist through the eyes of another character.  This gives an update (if one is necessary), and it reminds the reader about the physical characteristics of the protagonist. 


I have an author friend who is adamantly against this technique.  In his way of thinking, he likes to imagine himself in the role of the protagonist.  The reminder that the protagonist is female or in some other way different from him ruins his experience as a reader.  I understand that idea.  I do approach my reading a little differently.  I don’t identify as much with the physical characteristics of the protagonist as I do with the mind of the protagonist.  Perhaps this is why I find it easy to write both female and male protagonists.


In any case, I recommend strong description of the protagonist, and I also recommend a reminder about the description of the protagonist.  I find this to be very entertaining in any novel.                  


Here is the scene:        


        After morning prayers, Sveta and Marya dressed for work, and Sveta’s black NKVD motorcar picked them up at the postern door.  If anything, the men who entered NKVD headquarters were more deferential to Sveta than the day before.  Marya heard comments like, “She’s the commissariat’s little ptitsa,” and “Watch out, the little ptitsa runs Embassy Relations.”  The NKVD’s own propaganda corps must have been laboring in high gear.

        Sveta’s office staff was already in place and at work when she and Marya entered.  Marya counted two secretaries.  Her office manager, Oleg Mikhailovich, greeted Sveta, “Good morning, Svetlana Evgenyevna.  Your schedule is on your desk.  You have guests already waiting to see you.”  Oleg was an older minor official in the NKVD.  He was balding with thin lanky hair along the sides and back of his head.  He wore a vest shirt and pants because he couldn’t afford a suit, but he was known as a good and efficient office manager.  He tried to keep clear of any of the politics in the commissariat and was slightly put out that he had been assigned so close to the top of the building and near the office of People's Commissar Beria.

        Sveta’s brow rose.

        “Would you like tea first?”

        “Yes,” Sveta smiled, “With milk and sugar.”

        Marya settled in her office just outside Sveta’s, then came with a pad into the director’s office.  In a few moments, Oleg led one of the secretaries in.  She carried a tea tray, “Lyubov, serve the director and you may return to your work.”

        Sveta addressed the secretary, “Your name is Lyubov?”

        “Yes, Svetlana Evgenyevna.”

        “Thank you, Lyubov.  Marya, would you like a cup?”

        Marya gestured, no.

        The secretary smiled—she was rarely thanked for anything.  She took a surreptitious at her new director and was not sure what to think.  Svetlana Evgenyevna was not tall.  Her face was delicate with a slightly Ukrainian look.  Her eyes were faintly oriental, but her nose and lips were strong and fine.  They were not too sylphish to appear foxy nor too soft to appear naive.  In all her features blended to make the most astonishingly attractive face Lyubov had ever seen.  Svetlana was disconcertingly young.  Lyubov heard that she was only fifteen.  That seemed possible now that Lyubov had seen her in the flesh.  Svetlana was dressed like a Party official.  That in itself was odd for one so young.  Svetlana’s private secretary was a little less unusual.  Lyubov heard her name was Marya.  Like most secretaries, she was addressed with no patronymic or family name.  Marya was a thin, older woman with a finely wrinkled face as though she had aged much more than her years declared.  She walked with a firm step and watched everything carefully.  Lyubov noticed, Marya closely observed both her and Oleg.  After Lyubov served Svetlana, she left the tray on the sideboard and retreated out of the director’s office.  Lyubov immediately rushed to share her opinions with the other secretary in the office.  She had come closer than almost anyone in the building to the mysterious Svetlana Evgenyevna.

        Sveta took a sip of tea, “Oleg Mikhailovich, who is waiting to see me?”

        Oleg opened his notebook and frowned, “Svetlana Iosifovna.”  He rolled his eyes, “She is Stalin’s daughter, but there is little risk in making her wait.  And Eremeevich Vladimirsky, the painter.”

        Sveta scowled, “Send Svetlana Iosifovna to me at once.”

        Oleg hurried off, and in a few moments, Marya invited Svetlana Iosifovna into the inner office.  Sveta stood, “Svetlana Iosifovna, would you like tea?”

        Svetlana Iosifovna pulled the cigarette out of her mouth, “No tea.  You don’t need to stand for me or offer me anything.  I am not in that sphere.”

        Sveta laughed, “I want to offer you a job, Svetlana Iosifovna.”

        “Do you know how dangerous that could be for you Svetlana Evgenyevna?”

        “No, I don’t really care.  You understand what I want to do, and you have the desire to improve your language skills.”

        Svetlana Iosifovna flopped into the chair in front of Sveta’s desk.  She squinted her eyes.  Her tone was slightly desperate, “What do you want me to do, Svetlana Evgenyevna?”

        “I need translators, very good ones in all languages.  The most critical are British and American English.  Can you find me some who are willing to improve their skills and work here for me?”

        Svetlana Iosifovna’s eyes widened, “I can find you a few.  In a new office, within the NKVD…quite a few.  And you would hire me?”

        “Yes, why not?  I need someone to manage the translators.  Will you do it for me?”

        “Yes, I will,” she puffed on her cigarette, “What is the purpose of your new office?”

        “It is called Embassy Relations.  We ensure the Ambassadors and their embassy staff members have someone to talk to in their own language.  I want all of our staff to speak the languages as well as the ambassadors do.”

        “I see.  We report these conversations to whom…?”

        People's Commissar Beria has not told me specifically, yet.  I suspect that is part of the office we must develop.  I believe Beria wants us to report to him directly.”

        “Yes.  I will work for you Svetlana Evgenyevna,” she snubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray on Sveta’s desk.  “First, you want me to find you translators.  I will start with English.  I am one for you.  Second, I will determine how we will train them and others.  Third?  What is third?”

        “Third, this afternoon, you will come with me to the British and American Embassies.  We will see how things are going.  This will fill our afternoons.”

        Svetlana Iosifovna grinned, “Yes, it will.  After lunch then?”

        “If you can return at one, we will take lunch together.”

        Svetlana Iosifovna bobbed her head, “At one then.” 

        She quickly exited the room, and Olag stepped right in, “The painter Eremeevich Vladimirsky is waiting to speak to you.”

        Sveta glanced up, “I asked Svetlana Iosifovna to visit yesterday.  Who sent Eremeevich Vladimirsky?”

        “People's Commissar Beria sent him.”

        “Very well, I will allow him a moment, but only a moment.”

        After a short while, Eremeevich Vladimirsky entered the inner office.  He smiled broadly and slightly lecherously when he saw Sveta.  That look changed abruptly when he noticed Marya at the side of the desk.

        “Why are you here, Eremeevich Vladimirsky?” Sveta inquired.

        “Beria asked me to come.  He would like me to produce a couple of pictures of you.  Personally, I would like to paint them of you nude.”

        Sveta shook her head, “You may paint them of me as you have painted the portraits of other directors.”

        “No, dear lady.  That would be a crime against the state.  I will paint you as you appeared in that ravishing dress the other night.”

        Marya spoke quietly, “I recommend you paint, Svetlana Evgenyevna as an allegory of the State communicating to Communists worldwide.”

        “In the nude?”

        Marya was firm, “No, in her green satin dress.  You might get something like that past the Artist Union and People's Commissariat for Education.”

        Eremeevich noncommittally wagged his head, but Marya could tell he liked her suggestion, “What do you think Svetlana Evgenyevna?  When can you come to my studio?”

        “My secretary’s suggestion is excellent.  I don’t have time to come to your studio.  You may bring your equipment here.”

        Eremeevich pulled at his lip, “Very well.  I will be here tomorrow afternoon.”

        Marya spoke up, “You may arrive in the morning, Svetlana Evgenyevna is busy every afternoon.”

        Eremeevich glared at Marya.  He gave a half nod, “Very well.  Tomorrow morning.  Good day, Svetlana Evgenyevna.”

        Sveta was examining her schedule, “Good day.”

        Eremeevich also left quickly.

        When the door shut, Marya and Sveta burst out laughing.  Marya leaned over the desk and pointed to the schedule, “Svetlana, you have a staff meeting today in an hour.  This will be with all the heads of the NKDV departments.”

        “Can you come with me?”

        “I will attempt to.  They may keep me out of the meeting.”

        “What will they expect from me?”

        “If they ask you anything, they will want to know the progress you have made toward meeting Beria’s orders.  You may get new instructions, but I doubt it.”

        “That doesn’t sound too difficult.”

        “I will get the full names, titles, and information about those in your office and about the other departments.”

        “Very good.  While you do, I will work on a plan of how to train translators with the skills I desire.”

I give you a description of the office manager and one of Sveta and Marya.  The latter are intended to recalibrate your mind first to Sveta and give you a stronger description of Marya.  Marya didn’t have a very detailed one before. 


The rest of the scene is just entertaining tension and release.  Notice, I gave to the foreshadowing for the events in this scene.  The creative elements were already set up.  First, Svetlana and the translators.  This was in more than one scene.  Sveta has met them at various parties already.  Svetlana herself has been set up as an important person Sveta will want in her office.  Svetlana has direct connections to her father, Stalin. 


The second creative element is the painting.  If you noted the name of the painter, you would see what would happen.  By the way, this portrait of this historical figure is accurate, as is my portrait of Svetlana.  This is the way I incorporate historical figures and information into my novels.  The history is completely accurate.  That doesn’t mean everything is accurate.  Sveta, Marya, and this NKVD office are all fiction, but the concepts of a Soviet office are all there.  This is a historical possibility if not a historical reality.  By the way, Svetlana was working for the NKVD as a translator of American English.  That is exactly historical.   


I’ll give you more examples.


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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