10 March 2020, Writing - part xx159 Writing a Novel, What does the Reader Want?
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.
Another problem in writing the plot of the protagonist 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.
We are looking at the idea of what does the reader want in a protagonist. I wrote before, the reader doesn’t have to necessarily like the protagonist, nor be like the protagonist, nor live vicariously through the protagonist. Readers what to be pleased with the protagonist, and specifically, they want to be pleased with the protagonist’s decisions. A protagonist who makes bad decisions is very unpleasant to any reader. The first question I looked at was intentional bad decisions. The second is difficult decisions.
A difficult decision is one where the writer puts the protagonist in a situation where the protagonist has a devil’s choice. For example, the protagonist has to choose between supporting competing friends. The support of one will injure or hurt the other. Which will the character choose? Let me tell you the reader really doesn’t care—they will care quite a lot in terms of the plot, but the protagonist’s reasons for the choice and not the actual choice is what is critical.
As I wrote before, the reader wants the protagonist to make decisions at least as well as the reader. This is the “like” I am writing about when I write the protagonist must be like the reader. The reader expects the protagonist to go through some logical reasoning that matches in some degree his or her own. It is this reasoning that is important, not so much the decision. Likewise, the protagonist might make a decision the reader never would make—for example, a terrorist begins firing a weapon and shooting people. The protagonist might choose to rush toward the shooter. Many readers would never make such a decision—they all want to, but many would not choose to rush into harm’s way.
Here is the point—what does the reader wish they could and would do? This is exactly what they want in a protagonist. The protagonist is not them, but rather a projection of what they want to be. What do you want to be—this is what you want your protagonists to be. For example, I don’t really want to be Menolly from Dragonsong and Dragonsinger, but if I were like Menolly in her circumstances and world, I would make the same decisions. Her decisions are reasonable, logical, and what I would expect if I were in similar circumstances.
Likewise, in an adventure novel, and I’ve written quite a few, my characters take risks some extreme and some simple, but the reasons for the character’s decisions and actions are based on what I think readers imagine for a good adventure protagonist. Here is an example and a circumstance. In my published novel, The Fox’s Honor, the protagonist is caught in the house and bedroom of the protagonist’s helper to whom he is currently secretly married and aligned. The lady’s father catches them. His only hope for freedom and survival is to escape through the window—so he does. Many people would never consider jumping through a window, but part of the plot is for the protagonist to remain free and the lady needs to bring her family into alliance with her new husband. My point is this, I wrote the novel, scene, and situation such that the protagonist must escape, and the window is there. Few readers might jump out of a window, I’m not certain I would, but I presented the character and the circumstances such that he must.
This is an important point about decisions—the protagonist’s decisions must seem reasonable to the reader and many times the author is developing these decisions in the scenes such that the reader can’t help but agree with the protagonist’s decisions. This is another important point in decisions and what readers expect.
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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