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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Writing - part xx217 Writing a Novel, Protagonists from Classics: Winston Smith

7 May 2020, Writing - part xx217 Writing a Novel, Protagonists from Classics:  Winston Smith

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  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

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
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
Cover Proposal
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.
4.     Study.
5.     Teach. 
6.     Make the catharsis. 
7.     Write.

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. 

If we agree, any breech between the protagonist and the reader is not desirable, we can move forward.   

Below is that list of classics.  Let’s look at it from the standpoint of protagonist’s I/we love.  Perhaps after I look at these from the standpoint of the protagonists I love, we can look at the opposite too.
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen – I love this novel, but I can’t say I loved the protagonist or any character in it.  They are all too Victorian and too filled with themselves and their imagined slights and worlds.
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien – Does anyone really love any of these characters.  I don’t.  
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte – I do love the young Jane and the older Jane is likable.  We can look at this one.
4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.  I evaluated this protagonist.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee – I don’t find this protagonist to be lovable or likable.  I’ll skip.
6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.  There is no single book or protagonist and this isn’t a novel.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte – I did enjoy the protagonist’s helper, but can anyone love this protagonist?
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell.  I like this novel, but the protagonist is not lovable or likable and barely rememberable.
9 We The Living – Ayn Rand.  This is an unforgettable protagonist.  Definitely, we should look at this one.   
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens.  There are no lovable characters in this novel.

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott – Jo isn’t my favorite protagonist.  The other characters are somewhat lovable.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy.  None of Hardy’s protagonists are lovable.
13 Dune – Frank Herbert.  Paul is a lovable and unforgettable character in the first novel.  The author does pretty much destroy him as a protagonist at the end of the novel.
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays.  This is a set of plays with many protagonists.  Many are unforgettable and lovable. 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier.  The protagonist is not lovable in this novel.
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien.  Bilbo Baggins is indeed a lovable and unforgettable character in this novel.
17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance.  I evaluated this protagonist.
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger.  Nope, this is not a lovable human or protagonist.
19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance.  Yes, the protagonists in these novels are indeed lovable, and not so unforgettable.  It’s worth looking at.
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot.  I don’t consider this protagonist to be lovable or unforgettable.  Eliot’s protagonists are generally too real to make great protagonists.  Her human interaction and complex and realistic plots make her novels great.

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel.  They are unforgettable, but not lovable or even likable.
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald.  I’m not sure any protagonists by Fitzgerald are likable at all.
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens.  Dickens is best knowns for whiny kids and adults, not really unforgettable protagonists unless you consider Scrooge and Mr. Pickwick.
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy – I’m not so sure this is a great novel in English.  Yeah, no.
25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein.  I covered this novel and its protagonist.  It is one of the best for great protagonists.
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Not unless you like criminals.
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck – In Dubious Battle may be better.  I can’t love or even like Steinbeck’s protagonist’s.  I don’t think Steinbeck liked his protagonists.
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll.  Yes, Alice is unforgettable and lovable.
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame.  Ratty is too chatty, Mole is too quiet, Mr. Toad is crazy, and Mr. Badger is scary.  Kids aren’t sure who the protagonist really is and if they like them.

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy – Not so sure about this one, but it’s worth a read.  Tolstoy’s characters are devious and scary.  If you like this, then perhaps, but they aren’t that memorable or lovable to me.
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens.  Alright, David is memorable and lovable to a degree.  He’s definitely less whiny than Oliver. 
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis.  I’ll skip this because although you have a hard time forgetting these characters, they aren’t very lovable.  That’s part of the point of the writing.
34 Emma -Jane Austen.  I can’t remember Emma although I’ve read this novel more than once.  I’ll skip it.
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen.  Jane’s characters are just not that memorable or lovable to me.  They are typical Victorian.
36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand.  Who really is the protagonist in this million word novel?  I love the novel, and the characters are unforgettable, but there are many.  I’ll skip it.
37 The Tale of Genji -
Murasaki Shikibu.  This is a wonderful novel and the first ever written.  The protagonist is not a very good, honorable, or lovable person. 
38 The House of Seven Gables -
Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The protagonist is forgettable, but this is a great novel.
39 The Scarlet Letter -
Nathaniel HawthorneThis is perhaps one of the most unforgettable characters of the novels from this age.  Perhaps the most unforgettable, but only somewhat likable.  Still, we should look at Hester.
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne.  Pooh Bear or Christopher Robin?  Pooh Bear is lovable and unforgettable.

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell.  George doesn’t write many protagonists anyone could like.
42 Dracula – Bram Stoker – First Gothic horror novel.  Great novel, but the monster isn’t really the protagonist.  Perhaps this novel is worth looking at anyway.
43 Til We All Have Faces – C.S. Lewis – two for one—you get Cupid and Psyche at the same time.  The characters aren’t very lovable or unforgettable.
44 Le Morte D'Arthur - Thomas Malory – chief basis for Arthurian Legend and chivalry.  I can’t handle Arthur or his friends.  I love the novels. 
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins.  Collins writes wonderful novels, but his Victorian characters are not very memorable.
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery.  Yeah Anne is unforgettable and lovable at the beginning.
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.  I already wrote about Hardy.
48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott – perhaps the most important historical novel about England.  Ivanhoe is unforgettable, and lovable, but he is almost a flat plate around whom the other characters interact. 
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding.  No one could like one of Golding’s characters.  His books are wonderful.
50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand.  Howard Roark is unforgettable, but really not that lovable. 

51 What Katy Did - Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge.  A lovable character, but flat.
52 A Little Princess -
Frances Hodgson BurnettSara is unforgettable and lovable.  We covered her.
53 The Secret Garden -
Frances Hodgson Burnett.  The protagonist is unforgettable and becomes lovable.
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen.  Nah, for the same reasons above.
55 The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling.  Mowgli seems like a side character compared to the animals.
56 Kim - Rudyard Kipling.  Kim is unforgettable and lovable.  Classic Romantic character.
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens.  Nope.
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley.  Huxley’s characters are forgettable and unlovable.
59 Beowulf – Unknown.  Beowulf is an unforgettable and lovable character.
60 The Odyssey – Homer.  Oh yeah, no one can forget Ulysses.  He isn’t that lovable, but he is Greek

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck.  I wrote that Steinbeck doesn’t like his own characters, how can we?
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov.  No one could like this character.
63 The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins – first detective story in English.  The Moonstone has the same protagonist problems of other novels in its time.  The protagonist is hard to determine and to like.
64 The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett – first noir detective novel.  Great novel, but the protagonist is intentionally not likable.
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas.   The Count fades into obscurity.  The Three Musketeer’s D’Artagnan
66 As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner.  Nope.
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy.  Nope.
68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe – First novel in English.  Yeah, Robinson is an unforgettable and lovable character.
69 The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane.  Nope, you can’t love a coward. 
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville.  Nope.

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens.  Perhaps.  I find Oliver flat, but he is worth looking at.
72 Don Quixote - Miguel De Cervantes.  Yeah, unforgettable and lovable for the wrong reasons.
73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri.  Definitely unforgettable and lovable.  I should have included her in the original list.
74 Hans Brinker - Mary Mapes Dodge.  Definitely unforgettable and lovable.
75 Ulysses - James Joyce – really not worth the read and not really a classic, but you might as well know what a bad novel is.  Nope.
76 The Inferno – Dante.  Nope.
77 The Big Sky Country – Arlo Guthrie.  Guthrie is a great author and his characters are unforgettable, but not for good reasons.
78 Germinal - Emile Zola.  Yeah, nope.
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray.  Thackeray’s characters are intentionally not likable.

80 The Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson.  Definitely unforgettable protagonist’s helper.  Perhaps this is worth looking at.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens.  Scrooge is definitely unforgettable and lovable.  He is worth looking at.
82 Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson.  Not so lovable or memorable.
83 The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  It’s hard to love Solzhenitsyn’s protagonists or characters.
84 The Miser – George Elliot.  Silas Mariner is definitely an unforgettable protagonist and protagonist’s helper.
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert.  Nope.
86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway.  Hemmingway’s protagonist’s helper is memorable, but few of his characters are lovable.
87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs.  Oh yeah, Tarzan is unforgettable and lovable.
88 The Death of Socrates – Plato.  Unforgettable, and likable, but frustrating and not a novel.
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Most readers like the protagonist’s helper, Dr. Watson better than Sherlock.  Perhaps this might be worth looking at.
90 I, Robot - Isaac Asimov.  Asimov’s technology and protagonists are not memorable.

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad.  Nope.
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery.  The Prince is flat, but the writer or aviator in the stories is very interesting and lovable.
93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain.  Yeah, you can’t forget and you have to love Twain’s protagonists.
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams.  Nope, it’s rabbits.
95 Gulliver’s Travels - Jonathan Swift.  Swift’s protagonists were for satire and irony not love or memory.
96 Matilda – Roald Dahl.  Perfect.
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas.  Yeap, one of the most balanced novels with more than one major character in orbit around a wonderful protagonist.
98 The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer.  More than one protagonist.
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl.  Charlie is pretty forgettable.
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo.  Nope.  Great Romantic novel but a poor Romantic protagonist.
101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White.  The first novel presents an acceptable Arthur.
102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper.  Who can forget Natty Bumpo?
103 The Black Book of Communism – Various.  Not a novel.
104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace.  Forgettable protagonist, but worth looking at.
105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas.  Also forgettable.
106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan.  A very flat protagonist, but it is an allegory.
107 The Histories – Herodotus.  Not a novel.
108 Lives – Plutarch.  Not a novel.
109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London.  Perhaps the most unforgettable animal protagonist.
110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner.  Not a very memorable protagonist and definitely not lovable.

111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner – prediction of the computer virus and inspiration for it.  Kinda not memorable.  Definitely not lovable.
112. The Aeneid – Virgil.  Nah.  Forgettable.

We looked at memorable and likable protagonists, but I skipped a bunch of classics because I called the protagonists forgettable and not likable.

Here is the list of characteristics for great protagonists (this is based on the concept of a Romantic protagonist):

1.     Hero, independent, and individualistic – characters who truly risk their lives for others.
2.     From the common ilk – as opposed to the nobility and wealth.
3.     Educated – both seeking education and study and loving to read and learn.
4.     Focus on the inner world of the protagonist – the mind and motivation of the protagonist.
5.     Celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination – the expression of the mind of the protagonist.
6.     Rejection of industrialization and social convention – from urban to rural.
7.     Idealization of woman, children, and rural life.
8.     Inclusion of supernatural or mythological elements.
9.     Inclusion of historical elements.
10.  Frequent use of personification.
11.  Emphasis on individual experience of the sublime.
12.  Discovery and skills—the protagonist finds his or her special skills and abilities and uses them to resolve the telic flaw.
13.  The readers agree with the mind (thoughts and decisions) of the protagonist

I added the last statement, but really this last statement is a direct reflection of 4, 11, and 12. 

1984 isn’t one of my favorite novels.  As a novel, it is an amazing work, however its protagonist, Winston Smith is really not very likable and barely memorable.  When I think of Winston Smith, I think of someone cowering at the side of a darkened room.  Not to say Winston Smith doesn’t have some redeeming characteristics, but redeeming and redemption are what novels do best and 1984 is a tragedy.  You can’t redeem the dead—or more to the point, 1984 isn’t into classical salvation, it is into physical salvation that can result in nothing but tragedy.  The world of 1984 can only support physical tragedy and the author has little to give to salvation.

In comparing 1984 to what I think it could have been under a different author’s hand, I wrote a novel I call Escape from Freedom.  In my novel, Freedom is an island country that is politically based in socialism and communism.  My protagonist is a pilot who accidentally crash lands on Freedom and is taken in hand by one of the creative class workers in that country.  My novel is about classical and physical redemption.  My protagonist fits the list above of the classical Romantic protagonist.  I find my protagonist memorable and likable.  He has faults, but he constantly makes decisions a reader might—that’s also part of his problems.  On the other hand, I find Winston Smith constantly makes decisions I would never have made.

Another novel that expresses the loss of hope found in totalitarian societies is Henri Todd by Buckley.  I’m not as enthused by the character Henri Todd as I am with my protagonist from Escape from Freedom, but Henri Todd is willing to confront his society and the culture of the communists in East Germany with heroic strength.  Winston Smith just can’t do that.

Perhaps the problem is that I am not a fan of “end of the world” themes in novels or movies.  1984 is an early “end of the world” theme.  The world already ended and there is no hope to change it from that course.  That is the ultimate warning from 1984.  I’m not adverse that that—in fact, I think it is a great novel.  It was a first for the world at the time.  It kinda said what many were thinking, but it was ultimately a tragedy.  In this regard, it was entertaining as a tragedy, but it isn’t a novel I would pick up purely for entertainment.  That’s the ultimate rub.  Worthwhile as 1984 was and is, it is ultimately not an entertaining novel as much as it is a political and cultural warning.  I’m in, but your changes as an author of publishing such a work is almost zero.  Without years and eight bestsellers sitting behind him, I doubt Orwell would have been able to write and publish this novel.  Lucky for the world, he did write it and that it was published. 

I hope at some time my novel, Escape from Freedom will be published.  It is entertaining and about a similar subject and society as 1984.  The difference is the protagonist and the theme.  Escape from Freedom has a comedy theme as opposed to a tragedy theme, and the protagonist and protagonist’s helper are redeemed and saved not imprisoned and reeducated.

Ultimately, 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.    

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.    
More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

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