8 February 2019, Writing - part x763, Writing a Novel, Protagonist in the Initial Scene, Pathos Revelation
Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment. I'll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher. More information can be found at www.ancientlight.com. 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 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.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select "production schedule," you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.
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 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective. The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.
Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja. I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective. I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter.
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 30: 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.
For novel 31: Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events.
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
Today: Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel? I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together. We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing.
To start a novel, I picture an initial scene. I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene. I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources. To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene.
1. Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
2. Action point in the plot
3. Buildup to an exciting scene
4. Indirect introduction of the protagonist
The protagonist is the novel and the initial scene. If you look at the four basic types of initial scenes, you see the reflection of the protagonist in each one. If you noticed my examples yesterday, I expressed the scene idea, but none were completely independent of the protagonist. Indeed, in most cases, I get an idea with a protagonist. The protagonist is incomplete, but a sketch to begin with. You can start with a protagonist, but in my opinion, as we see above, the protagonist is never completely independent from the initial scene. As the ideas above imply, we can start with the characters, specifically the protagonist, antagonist or protagonist’s helper, and develop an initial scene.
If we start with a protagonist, we need some kind of guide. Here is a general guide for developing a modern protagonist. We’ll look at examples and explain the ideas.
1. Normal person (not wealthy, noble, or privileged)
2. Loves to read
3. Loves to learn
4. Unique skill(s), power(s) and/or learning
5. Pathos (poor, homeless, abused, friendless, ill)
6. Individualistic and independent
9. Naturally good
10. Rejection of the urban
11. Rejection of the modern
12. Appeal to the imagination
Pathos…what is pathos, and why do we need it? Pathos may be the most important characteristic of any protagonist. I’ve written before, almost every comedy novel can be characterized as zero to hero, and every tragedy novel as hero to zero. This is not too great a generalization. We should probably dig deeper into this.
Therefore, our protagonist will need to either start as a zero or be brought to the zero state. This zero state induces pathos. How do we use pathos?
Another point worth considering in pathos development—the sudden revelation of the protagonist and the informed development of the understanding of the reader. There is more to this than pathos development. This concept actually applies to all revelation and especially the revelation of the climax. Climax development is more intricate and powerful, but the design is similar to pathos and other revelations in any novel or scene. Specifically, we are talking about the concept of foreshadowing and related to that Chekov’s Guns.
It may be simplifying the entire situation to apply the term foreshadowing to the concept of revelation, but that is exactly what it is. The foreshadowing must exist, but it doesn’t have to be framed as foreshadowing or even acknowledged as foreshadowing. For example, if the climax turns on the idea of a magical stone, I bring up the idea of the magical stone at some point earlier in the novel. Or, if the protagonist saves herself by unlocking a door in a scene, I needed to explain how she learned to pick locks or show her learning to pick locks in an earlier scene. The first is a Chekov’s Gun with foreshadowing applied, the second is purely foreshadowing.
The point is that for many reasons, the author wants the reader to be able to look ahead and behind to recognize the circumstances of the revelation, while to the protagonist or other characters, the revelation is perhaps quite surprising. That is, the anticipation of the revelation is one of the major driving powers in affecting the emotions of the reader.
Even if we are not striving for pathos directly, in any revelation, we don’t want the reader to be suddenly surprised by the circumstances. We want a slow burn where the reader becomes slowly aware of the problems or issues about to be faced by the protagonist. A sudden and unexpected revelation is just that, a singular event in a novel. A slow burn and slow reveal to a sudden revelation is pure artistry. We see this a lot in properly constructed climaxes, but a wise author builds all reveals the same way. I would want the author to focus on pathos for reveals, but that’s just how I desire the strongest response from my readers.
The description of a reveal is very difficult to put your head and hands around because of the complexity required to develop it in a novel, but we can use a mystery reveal as an example. Let’s set up a murder situation. A murder occurs and the protagonist’s job is to discover the identity of the murderer and bring them to justice. A typical crime mystery setup. There are as many degrees of the development of such a plot as there are crime novels. Look at Murder of the Orient Express. The protagonist comes into contact with each of the possible murderers and at each juncture notes a jarring problem with them or their reasons for being on the train. These pieces of evidence keep building and the protagonist notes them and the conclusions, some correct and some incorrect for them. Some fit together and others don’t. The reader is being fed much more information than any other character and some information more than the protagonist. As the novel unfolds, the reader becomes more and more aware of the circumstances around the other characters and the murdered person. At the reveal, the author would prefer that the reader come to the same conclusion as the protagonist at the moment the protagonist gives the climatic reveal. That provides an aha moment and all the pieces of evidence, the foreshadowing, comes together and can be understood. The perfect climax is where the reader comes to the proper conclusion as the protagonist but exclaims, I knew it—even when they didn’t completely understand the reveal until the full climax reveal. This is the way to handle all reveals and not just the climax.
The perfect circumstance of any reveal or pathos building scene is a slow burn and a realization of the circumstance—you’d like the reader to be in absolute anticipation of the event before it happens and completely aware at the reveal. This is the most powerful buildup. The Chekov’s gun is another part of this foreshadowing.
For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:
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