14 March 2020, Writing - part xx163 Writing a Novel, What the Reader Wants
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.
We have come around full circle in the ideas of meeting the desires of the reader. The reader doesn’t necessarily have to like, be like, or live through the protagonist, but the reader must agree with the decisions of the protagonist.
This is another way of expressing that the reader must find some affiliation to the protagonist—I’m just being more straightforward than other authors in my advice. What I’m trying to do is boil down the essence of this idea, “what the reader wants in a protagonist,” so we as authors can incorporate it in our writing.
What I’ve boiled this down to is the expectation of the protagonist’s decisions. I’ve also related to you that the author has a strong power over all of this. First in the actions or decisions of the protagonist, and second, in making the readers agree with or at least accept the decisions of the protagonist. What I’ve warned you about is the modern fault of having your protagonist make bad decisions.
That brings up another problem—what if the authors don’t realize their protagonists are making bad or unpopular decisions? I don’t mean unpopular because of their peers or society, I mean unpopular with the readers. We all know that protagonist making ethical, moral, or good countercultural decisions are usually applauded by readers. These aren’t the unpopular ones I mean. Unpopular decisions in this sense are those the readers will disapprove of. If you think you have this problem, I’m not entirely sure how to help you. The fact you have an inkling of it lends hope for change, but the problem might be pernicious because it is so hard for the author to recognize. Let me try to help.
First of all, I get very connected to my protagonists. I really have a problem making my protagonists look bad. I also have a problem hurting my protagonists for little reason. Let me try to explain. Peril is a huge positive for both tension and release in a scene and in a novel. Placing protagonists into peril or circumstances that could harm them is all about writing. On the other hand, as I wrote, I am sensitive to my protagonists, I don’t want my protagonists to interfere with my reader’s entertainment. That is, I don’t want my protagonists to in any way irritate my readers.
This is part of that sensitivity. For example, in the current novel I’m writing, I’d like to put forward some circumstance that puts the protagonist and the protagonist’s helper’s relationship on the rocks. At the same time, I don’t want either of my characters to do something stupid or that would not be a decision my readers might make. Can you see the conundrum? I am concerned how my readers might view my character’s actions and decisions. If you haven’t, you need to developed this sensitivity to your characters.
Second of all, peril is great, injury is not. People getting injured all the time like godlike superheroes in the movies is not peril at all. A good author needs to judiciously develop peril and in some rare cases introduce injury to his or her characters. In most cases, injury should be reserved for the climax, and even then, the climax might not be the right place for it—it depends on the novel, resolution, plot, and theme.
The point is that we need to keep our readers content and pleased with our characters while presenting the revelation of the protagonist and the plot.
This is what makes such odd decisions worthwhile, but use them cautiously. Perhaps we should look at more of what readers really want in a protagonist and a novel.
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:
fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic