15 March 2020, Writing - part xx164 Writing a Novel, More about 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.
I’ve been presenting the means to develop protagonists and characters your readers will enjoy—precisely those that will entertain your readers. Mainly, the ideas I’ve proposed are these: seeking knowledge, readers, decisions the reader would make, pathos building, and overall, entertaining.
I wrote that your protagonist doesn’t necessarily need to be liked, be like, or be lived vicariously by your readers. The main question I haven’t answered specifically is about decisions the reader would make. I’ve written around it and tried to give examples, but perhaps we can provide a better rule or ideas to help inform this better.
I think the best design for the protagonist and the plot is this basic idea—once the protagonist is at zero, they must make decisions the reader would him or herself make. Plus, you might consider that any time the protagonist should make only decisions that are agreeable to the reader. For example, Sara Crew from A Little Princess never makes a decision that is not agreeable to the reader.
What does this not mean? This does not mean the protagonist doesn’t make any difficult, dangerous, unhappy, trying, or hard decisions. It means that the difficult, dangerous, unhappy, trying, or hard decisions appear rational and within the character of the protagonist as the reader sees him or her. It does mean the protagonist should not make any bad decisions. Is that right, you might ask? That is exactly what I mean.
The protagonist might certainly make an incorrect decision based on the information they have, that is a wonderful plot device. For example, the protagonist decides to trust another character and that character betrays them. This is a classic plot device and tension developer. However, from the standpoint of the reader, the protagonist’s decision to trust the character should be the same at that time. You can throw in some degree of foreshadowing, but you shouldn’t make it obvious to the reader that the character will betray the protagonist.
Now, I will give you, you might present us some information the protagonist doesn’t know, but I would advise not. Like I said a little foreshadowing, but not too much. If the reader knows the character will betray the protagonist, without thinking, the reader might assume the worst about the protagonist. Here’s what I did and do.
In my novel, Dana-ana: Enchantment and the Maiden, the protagonist slowly begins to be mistrusted by the protagonist’s helper. The protagonist doesn’t do anything wrong, but the protagonist’s helper and his family slowly begin to mistrust the protagonist. I try to develop this such that the reader is never sure exactly what is going on. Is the protagonist at fault or is it the antagonist and nefarious forces acting against her? Because the protagonist never makes a decision that is against her own character or that is not rational, the only conclusion the reader can make is that the protagonist isn’t the problem. Do you see what might happen if the reader presumes the protagonist is acting in a negative fashion?
Such a situation might seem like entertainment to a psycho, but to the reader who has invested time and emotion into the protagonist, this is something that will definitely break them out of the suspension of disbelief, but worst, it might break them out of the train of the novel. In other words, they might discard the novel out of unhappiness or frustration.
The one critical aspect of the protagonist that you can’t compromise for the reader is the reader’s trust in the protagonist. The entire point of the entertainment of the novel is the revelation of the protagonist. As long as you reveal the protagonist to be the entertaining person the reader expected, you are on solid ground. The moment the reader begins to question the protagonist, the entertainment factor is gone. Question the antagonist all you wish. The protagonist’s helper or other characters are up for grabs, but the protagonist is the point of the novel.
This is why Harry’s semi-betrayal of his friends is so devastating in the novel—it isn’t what Harry does but rather that he had no good reason for doing it. The author was not about to turn Harry’s friends into the betrayers, but Harry as the betrayer was the worst decision the author could have made. Of course, bestsellers are best sellers. People will buy the book even when they don’t necessarily agree with parts of the writing.
Let’s not get ourselves into this situation. Now, we are looking at more than decision, but rather the entire flow of the plot. The reader must trust the protagonist. This goes hand in hand with the protagonist must make decisions the reader will agree with.
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