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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Writing - part xx041 Writing a Novel, Characters and Pathos, Melodrama

13 November 2019, Writing - part xx041 Writing a Novel, Characters and Pathos, Melodrama

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  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 websites
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
Cover Proposal
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

Perhaps I should go back and look again at the initial scene—maybe, I’ll cover that again as part of looking at the rising action.  The reason is that I’m writing a rising action in a novel right now.

That gets us back to the protagonist—complexity makes the protagonist and the telic flaw one and the same. 

The novel is a revelation of the protagonist.  The telic flaw is connected directly to the protagonist.  The plot is the revelation of the telic flaw.  This connects the protagonist to the plot and the telic flaw.  The point is that to plan a novel, I simply need to plan the revelation of the protagonist.  To accomplish this, you need to develop a protagonist.

When I write you develop your protagonist, you write notes about:

1.     Name
2.     Background
3.     Education
4.     Appearance
5.     Work
6.     Wealth
7.     Skills
8.     Mind
10.  Dislikes
11.  Opinions
12.  Honor
13.  Life
14.  Thoughts
15.  Telic flaw

I design a protagonist around the initial scene.  This is the way I write a novel.  This isn’t the only way to write a novel, but it is the way I have discovered to write well-conceived and powerful novels.  This goes back to the initial scene. 

Above, I gave you four options for developing the initial scene.  Yesterday, I told you to take two off.  Authors have used three and four, but they don’t produce the kinds of exciting initial scenes we want.  Here’s the list again.

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

Let’s plan to put one and two together.  Let’s also focus on the other characteristics of the initial scene.  Notice that first, the initial scene must include the protagonist.  This should be obvious, but let’s go down the list.  I’m looking at background and pathos.

Looking at the classic pathos developing scene from A Little Princess, the emotions of the characters are not very strong, but the reader is significantly affected by the circumstances and situation.  How can this be?  More specifically, what are the characteristics of a scene or of a characters that builds pathos?

A character is pathos building who through no fault of their own is:
1.     hungry
2.     sad
3.     abused
4.     an orphan
5.     penniless
6.     abandoned
7.     cold
8.     injured
9.     falsely convicted or accused
10.  desiring for information
11.  education
12.  to read
13.  a child
14.  a female
15.  beauty
16.  loss of a child
17.  general loss
18.  friendless
19.  alone
20.  afraid
21.  helpless
22.  isolated

The antagonist or less positively, the circumstances of the setting, produces suffering and misfortune in the protagonist and this results in pity and fear in the reader.  This is the formula for the development of pathos in any fictional work.

Overdramatic is hard to do, but perhaps it is possible.  The worst problem in most cases of melodrama is not any of these, but rather deus ex machina.

The worst cases of overemotional writing is where the author is trying to build pathos in the reader by having the characters express emotion.  For example, having the protagonist be filled with grief and expressing that grief.  In most cases, the reaction of the protagonist or any other character isn’t what drives the pathos reaction in the reader.  Most of the time it is the event or scene that caused the grief.  Your protagonist might suck it up and show no emotion at all—just like the example of Sara Crew.  No emotion was shown in the scene I gave before—the classic hot cross bun scene.  No emotion, but this is one of the most elegant pathos building scenes in literature.  There is no emotion in the characters, but great emotion in the reader.  This gets to what kinds of writing ruins the effects of pathos development by the author.

I mentioned all the overs, but these overs can be usually easily corrected.  The worst is likely not the overs (overdramatic, overemotional) as much as the overreaction (another over) by the characters.  Making a mountain out of a molehill.  The worse may be deus ex machina.

A deus ex machina is a god machine.  In Greek theater, when the writer couldn’t resolve the telic flaw, he or she would bring out the god machine.  The god machine was a platform than lifted the god down onto the stage or picked the protagonist or antagonist up off the stage.  The god could also address the characters on the stage. In other words, the god machine could use the gods to resolve any telic flaw or other problem in the play.  Needless to say, once one playwright used the god machine, it was no longer thought such a great resolution for a play. 

What this looks like in a novel is those unexpected and mystical coincidences that magically occur to a protagonist or a character that help resolve the telic flaw.  I write magically because they are nearly unbelievable.  The classic god machine in modern literature is the child separated from his or her family at birth who finally finds his or her family and is reinstated to his or her class or status.  Mark Twain thought this was so funny he wrote The Prince and the Pauper as an irony to this theme.  Think about it.  Oliver Twist is just this plot—only Dickins was much more careful about his novel.  It is possible to have a singular coincidence that launches the novel.  Two are two too many.  Three are right out. 

Use a single coincidence to develop your initial scene, but no more.  The classic Victorian novel with a lost child theme has the child living in poverty and noted by others as not in the proper class.  The child is given opportunities, again great coincidences that then lead the parents to accidentally recognize or some other circumstance to make the actual pedigree of the child evident.  The tearjerker for the Victorian is that the child lived so long outside its class, but it was not ruined, never ruined by living in the lower classes because birth will out.  This is the Victorian idea of human society—you are born into your class.

Okay, we are all Romantics now.  We don’t hold to Victorian ideas or Victorian ideology.  In the Romantic ideal anyone can reach any level based on training in skills, education, and training.  In fact, the Romantics claim to not hold to class at all and make fun of class.  Certainly, a modern novel wouldn’t need god machines.  You haven’t read many modern novels.  The god machine is still operating.  For many inexperienced authors, the god machine is their unintentional means to resolve difficult problems.  Also, like the Victorians, the god machine is their means of building pathos.

For example, how easy is it that the moment a protagonist needs to shed a few tears that their BFF comes around the corner.  I’ve seen movies and read books like this.  This is a god machine.  How about the moment the protagonist needs to beat the antagonist in the climax that the protagonist discovers how to split an atom with a knife.  Amazing, the problem is solved and the enemy is vanquished. 

There are better ways to resolve these problems than a god machine.  I’ll show you.            

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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