9 March 2020, Writing - part xx158 Writing a Novel, Reader’s Choice Protagonist
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 websites 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
Ideas. We need ideas. Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw. Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus. We need to cultivate ideas.
1. Read novels.
2. Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about.
3. Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
6. Make the catharsis.
The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity. Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form. It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect). Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.
If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative. Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form. Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way.
So, modern characters must look like the reader’s impression of the protagonist. This is an interesting problem as culture and society change as does the impression of the readers.
As we look for creative ideas, and I believe creative ideas begin with creative characters, we should look at just what excites and interests us. How can we project what we like and enjoy into a great character.
Great protagonists look something like our readers. The question is how much they look like them and just how little they look like them. I’m of the opinion that readers don’t really want to be like protagonists. It is one thing to view the revelation of the life of the protagonist through the eyes of the author, and entirely something else to act out the difficult and dangerous life of the protagonist. If our readers don’t really want to be like our protagonists, then what do they want?
It is much too easy and derogatory to write that our readers want to live vicariously through the protagonist. I’m not sure this is true either. Readers don’t really want to live vicariously through the protagonist. I don’t think they really see themselves as the protagonist. I’m one hundred percent certain that our readers want to be pleased with the protagonist. I don’t like protagonists who make intentionally bad decisions. I believe our readers don’t like incompetent protagonists. Readers want to be pleased with the protagonist—they don’t have to like, be like, or live vicariously through the protagonist, but I think they must want to be pleased with the protagonist. Ultimately, they want to imagine they would make the same “good” decisions the protagonist did.
Here is a very different view of the reader and the protagonist. If you presume the readers must like the protagonist, you might have some difficultly meeting all the requirements of like for the protagonist. Likewise, if you imagine the readers want to be like the protagonist, you will have a very limited protagonist. Further, your readers might live vicariously through your protagonist no matter what they think of them. Let’s look at a protagonist whose decisions a reader might be pleased with.
Perhaps the opposite type of protagonist can clarify this type of protagonist better. For example, when the protagonist makes a decision or comes to a conclusion that is the opposite of what the reader might. Readers expect, first, protagonists to make decisions in context with their character. An indecisive, vile, mean, bad, immature, or uncertain protagonist might make a bad, indecisive, vile, mean, bad, immature, or uncertain decision. What do you think the reader will imagine about this character? Do you think the reader would make the same decision?
I imagine, the reader will be unhappy and concerned with the protagonist. In fact, I’ll go further, I think the reader will not only dislike the protagonist, if I were the reader, I’d put the book down in disgust. I expect the protagonist to be at least as intelligent and educated as I am. Do you remember, the reader expects the protagonist to love to read and to learn, as in education? If I am wise enough to make a good decision, then so can the protagonist. Looking further into this, many authors make the mistake of having their protagonists make bad decisions. You could argue that the reason for the bad decisions are to bring the protagonist to zero, however, let me remind you, pathos is driven by undeserved problems not deserved problems. You can have a character who is a screw-up, and whose zero is in criminality or worse, but I’ve written, these types of characters don’t build pathos. Your protagonist needs to not be the cause of their own problems—that is if you want to build pathos.
So, can we conclude that protagonists must make decisions like those the reader would make? I think this is an important point. Another problem isn’t bad decisions, it is difficult decisions—these are an entirely different issue. Again, your protagonist should make the same decision your readers would. The issue then is execution. We need to look at this.
Let’s look at the other suggestions and see how we can use them to develop entertaining writing.
The beginning of creativity is study and effort. We can use this to extrapolate to creativity. In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.
For more information, you can visit my author site http://www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites:
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