16 March 2020, Writing - part xx165 Writing a Novel, Trusting the 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.
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 think the reader must trust the protagonist. This shows itself in the concept that the protagonist makes decisions the reader can agree with. This trust is entirely part of the entertainment in the novel. What reader wants to read the revelation of a protagonist whom he or she doesn’t trust? The trust of the protagonist is a critical aspect of the entire novel. I know and have seen many modern movies where the trust between the viewer and protagonist is broken—most of these trust problems are caused by bathos in the screenplay. In some cases, the director might ruin the trust between the viewer and the protagonist. In most very entertaining movies and especially action related movies, the trust between the viewer and the protagonist is never broken. You can see the work of the director and screenplay writer as they attempt to have the audience cheer in every scene for the protagonist.
If this isn’t intentional, then it needs to be. Just go look at any of the “popular” movies. Many of the not popular movies do break trust. The protagonist does something stupid and the viewers groan not because they feel for the protagonist, but because they know the protagonist is a dumb lug who will screw up the novel and drown the entertainment.
Have you never wondered why some movies are stinkers and others are not. This break of trust with the viewers is a primary reason. In our novels, we need to be much smarter than screenplay writers who write stinkers. As I noted, you can tell a stinker from this little test—look for trust.
When I write trust, I mean the agreement between the decisions of the protagonist and the readers (viewers). It isn’t the actions that affect the protagonist. It isn’t the actions of the other characters or the antagonist. It isn’t really a poor plot. What matters is how well the viewers (readers) agree with the mind of the protagonist. When I write mind, I specifically mean the decisions the protagonist makes.
In addition, I’m not writing about the actions of the protagonist. The decisions of the protagonist is the measure. The protagonist might decide correctly to take a course of action, but while attempting to accomplish the action is confounded in it. This is a means of tension development and also a way to build the rising action to the climax. Perhaps I should explain this.
One well used plot device is the multiple attempt tension and release development. The protagonist plans to accomplish some goal or achievement. The decision to make this attempt is what the reader needs to be convinced to agree with. For example, a protagonist sees a need to cross a rushing stream. The author needs to make it imperative and obvious in the plot that the protagonist needs to decide to take the risk to cross the stream. The author needs to build the tension by description of the dangerous situation and the circumstances of the protagonist. Once the reader and the protagonist must obviously agree to cross the dangerous stream, now the protagonist takes the actions necessary to cross.
In a typical plot device, the best approach is for the author to have the protagonist make three difficult attempts to cross the stream. In each case, the author builds up the excitement and the circumstances. The final attempt (third attempt) is built up as the critical and last chance. The protagonist only has the materials, strength, ability, nerve, to make a third and final attempt. On the last (third) attempt, the protagonist succeeds. By the way, you can also have a failure of the protagonist to achieve. At that point, the protagonist has to regroup and figure a new way to proceed. There is more to this.
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