17 June 2020, Writing - part xx258 Writing a Novel, What to Write
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.
I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist. The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel. I should move back to the initial scene, but I’ve been writing about showing and not telling in my short form blog, and I want to expand that out a bit in this blog. Let’s move on to perhaps the most important feature of the novel: showing and not telling.
Novelists are not storytellers. Novelists are story-showers. I hope you have heard the fiction writer’s adage: show and don’t tell. This is the most important aspect of the internal construction of the novel.
I will reveal that in reviewing a recent self-published author’s book, I was compelled by the wholesale telling in the book, I can’t call it a novel, that I had to address each area where the author failed to show. That’s where I came up with the following list:
Show and don’t tell.
Omniscient voice is poop.
Only write what the characters saw, tasted, felt, smelled, heard, said, or any action.
Identity is a problem.
It’s all about dialog.
Perfect tense can be a problem.
It’s all about the senses.
Don’t be boring.
Eating is living and dialog.
Creativity and senses.
Start with scene setting.
Make it sense setting.
So just what does it mean to show and not tell? This seems to be a very difficult question for new writers as well as a source of contention for experienced writers. It seems that many writers can’t agree or even concede on what showing vs. telling really means. Not to worry—I have the answer.
Only write what the characters saw, tasted, felt, smelled, heard, said, or any action. This is the definition of showing. If you write this, you are showing. Anything else is telling. Simple enough. Somehow many newbies get cross purpose with this simple rule and just start giving us their writing notes. I’m not sure how to help many get beyond this. How about an example:
Here are my character notes about Cassandra Lyons:
Her name was Cassandra Lyons, but the nuns and teachers all called her Lady Glamis. She was some relation of the House and clan of Glamis a Scottish noble family.
Skipness Castle in Scotland
Assumed father is John Glamis and Janet
Father was Dewi the red dragon and patron of wales and Janet Glamis
She can transform into a dragon, but has been prevented.
Here is my initial description:
The girl stared intently at them both. Her large eyes glared with intensity and some agitation. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t. Her face simply announced her severe displeasure and reproach. She looked young with gently pale cheeks only tinged slightly with rose, and the slight swell of youth in her face, but that was her only manifestation of lack of adulthood.
She was not very tall, but somehow, she looked imposing. Her face was thin like the rest of her, but her appearance wasn’t emaciated—it looked restrained and strong. In contrast to her black dress and black bonnet, her hair swept long pale and straight from the crown of her head to a single thick braid at her back. Her eyes were a piercing light blue that glanced haughtily under thin nearly invisible brows. Her nose was likewise striking and straight, but not so large to mar her features. It pointed to her lips and chin—the lips being a thin pale pink and her chin oddly pointed. All in all, her face was beautiful, but unforgettable—a face that was in no way plain, but left an impression of tightly controlled energy and chilly restraint.
There is no telling in this description. I haven’t even moved on to action or dialog. Notice, no names, history, background, no information except what she looks like. There is some level of “impression,” but this is from the point of view (PoV) of the protagonist and the protagonist’s helper (Sorcha and Deirdre). They are the characters on the stage of the novel who are describing or seeing Cassandra Lyons. It would be appropriate for me to describe their impressions—that’s not telling. Here is another example form the same novel. This is the beginning of the novel:
Général de Corps Aérien Jacques Bolang was sweating profusely. He had never been this nervous that he could remember during any time of his sixty-four years on God’s green earth. He had never been nervous in the presence of women and especially young women, and he definitely felt nervous now. He hoped it didn’t show. He wiped his brow a couple of times with his already overly damp handkerchief.
Jacques Bolang possessed wide shoulders and gave off an appearance of strength. His features were angular and handsome, just time enhanced by fine and deep creases. Thin, now deepening wrinkles caused by the sun and wind as well as the lines from his bright smile surrounded his eyes and mouth. Those smaller furrows always heralded his smile. His features were distinguished; they combined both gentleness with a strength that was rooted in his heritage and his profession. His skin was uniformly tanned and darker than most of his peers. He sported an athletic and compact build that left him shorter than the average, but with a lightness and refinement of movement that belied his somewhat stocky appearance. And he was nervous.
He stood near attention in his study. It was a small room well accoutered and perhaps too cluttered with the brick a brac of a long career as an Armée de l'Air Française pilot and officer. In each padded leather chair in the room sat a young women. They were both sixteen and both of them possessed the palest skin Jaques Bolang had seen on any woman. He knew it was a legacy from their mothers. He had learned to know them both very well over the far too short summer.
The PoV is that of General Bolang. Notice, there is information provided from the PoV of the General. He knows his name and his age. He is observing the girls in his study. Notice also, the first thing I give you is a physical description of the General. What follows is a physical description of the room. You should expect to see next a physical description of the girls…and here it is:
The girl on his left, Deirdre Effie Calloway’s hair was nearly white blond. The other girl, Sorcha Angela Weir, sported hair as black as coal. Both of them had put up their locks in tight French braids, which only made them look more becoming and dangerous. Except for their hair, they could have been sisters. Their appearance was developing to be achingly beautiful. Their faces were heart-shaped with gently sharp chins and thin cheeks. Sorcha’s ears were slightly pointed, and she kept that part carefully concealed with the loose locks that covered them. Jacques knew what that meant too, but he acted as if he had no idea.
Deirdre’s ears were normal, but both of their faces betrayed their origins—he tried to keep that fact out of his impressions and his introspection.
This is called the setting. The only thing I didn’t give you was their clothing. That comes later. This is the beginning of a novel. The clothing is important, but more important is jumping directly into the action. In this case, dialog:
Jacque cleared his throat. He spoke clearly in crisp Parisian French, “Ladies. I have some news that will certainly be unwelcomed to you.”
Deirdre Calloway squinted. She replied also perfect Parisian French, “What do you mean Uncle Jacques?”
He ignored her expression and held up an envelope, “I received a letter from your mother. She has changed her plans for you this next semester.”
Deirdre snarled, “Changed her plans? We were supposed to train with you this summer, and you were to turn us into perfect aviation cadets.”
“In the main, that is correct—except, I was to train you for one year to be perfect aviation cadets, and I have unfortunately been recalled to duty…”
“Recalled?” Deirdre partially stood.
Jacques waved her back into her seat, “I have been recalled. I can’t explain to you why. It is enough for you to know that I cannot continue your training at the moment.”
Deirdre made a very ugly face. Jacque continued to ignore it. He knew she was trying to control her features. She just wasn’t very good about it.
Sorcha asked, also in perfect French, “What will we do?”
“I’m glad you asked. Your mother has already made arrangements for you both.”
Deirdre looked hopeful, “Does that mean we shall enter Cranwell this year?”
“No. No it does not. You have both excelled in your training, but you are not ready for that, yet.” He held up his hand, “I’m certain you are both ready mentally and perhaps emotionally prepared, but you have not grown sufficiently to pass as aviation cadets.”
“You are not tall enough, and you both appear like, like, well like sixteen year old girls. We can’t send you to a collegiate level education filled with mature men and women even if you are prepared. That’s why I was supposed to train you for an entire year.”
Deidre put her hands over her face, “Then what are we supposed to do?”
“Your mother has everything planned out.” Jacques tried to sound upbeat, but he was filled with misgivings of his own.
Deidre glanced between her fingers, “Then again what are we supposed to do?”
“You have both been enrolled in the Lycée Institution Saint Malo La Providence.”
Deidre suffered herself a tight smile, “That is at least a collegiate level institution.”
General Jacques lifted his finger, “You are enrolled in the private woman’s college, Notre Dame that is an auxiliary of the Lycée.”
Sorcha growled, “Another girl’s school after all we’ve been through? That’s just an unfair punishment.”
General Jacques shrugged, “It is the choice of your mother. She needs you to continue to perfect your social graces as well as your education.”
Deirdre did stand this time. She leapt out of her seat. Her gesture was slightly ruined by the depth and stuffing of the leather chair. Her voice rose, “You mean she’s sending us to a finishing school?”
General Jacques scratched his cheek, “In the main—yes.”
“What on earth does she think we need finishing for?”
Sorcha grabbed Deirdre by the waist of her skirt and pulled her back into her seat, “That’s exactly why.”
Deirdre pouted. First she squinted at Sorcha, who ignored her entirely. Then she squinted at General Jacques who put up his hands again. He waved the envelope, “You and I have no other options or choices.”
Deirdre scowled, “Why can’t we go back to England?”
Sorcha rolled her eyes, “You know exactly why we can’t go back to England. You and your pixilated parts make you still too well known. My associations were revealed. We were banished for just that reason.”
Deirdre turned her head to the side so neither General Jacques or Sorcha could see her eyes. Finally, she asked with a slightly choked voice, “When do we leave?”
“Emilie is packing up your things now. Your mother sent instructions for the uniforms and…”
“Uniforms?” Deirdre spat.
General Jacques frowned, “Yes, uniforms. You should get used to them. At Cranwell and well afterwards, if you succeed, you will be wearing uniforms all the time.”
Deidre flopped back into her seat. She still kept her eyes strategically hidden, “But those are flying and military uniforms.” She sputtered, “These will be schoolgirl’s uniforms.”
“Because you are schoolgirls. Listen very closely to me, Deidre Calloway. I have taught you as much as I could during this summer. It is not enough, and you have not achieved sufficient stature or maturity to enter a military training program. You must excel at Notre Dame to meet your mother’s and my requirements. If you succeed, and grow sufficiently, we will evaluate your readiness again at the end of the spring semester at Notre Dame.”
“And if we don’t?”
General Jacques pulled himself to his full height, “If you don’t, perhaps you will spend another year at Notre Dame in Saint Malo or at another institution of your mother’s choosing. It all depends on you two.”
“And our genes. What if we don’t grow sufficiently?”
“I suspect that two very mature young women, no matter their age or height could potentially be entered into the program at Cranwell. That is your goal to prove.”
Deirdre squinted again, “What if we…”
Sorcha placed her hand over Deirdre’s, “We shall accept this assignment, but it doesn’t mean we are happy about it.”
“That is the answer your mother and I are looking for. You both better go help Emilie with your packing. You need to try on your uniforms. You should arrive tomorrow at Saint Malo ready to learn and ready to be finished.”
Deidre kept her head down. She didn’t say another word. She stood and Sorcha stood.
Sorcha nodded, “Thank you, Uncle Jacques.”
He gave a deep smile, “I will not be able to see you off tomorrow. I must pack as well.”
Sorcha put out her hand, “I…we are grateful for your attention and training.” She nudged Deirdre.
Deirdre reluctantly put out her hand.
General Jacques shook both their hands. He pulled each into a tight embrace and kissed their cheeks. He noticed Deirdre’s were damp.
The moment he released her, Deirdre fled from the room. Sorcha curtsied, “I guess I will have to comfort her. On the other hand, she’ll want to hit something or someone. Perhaps I’ll just let her recover on her own.”
General Jacques gave a bow, “Good luck.”
“To you also. Be careful in the Middle East.”
General Jacques smile fled, “You are much too perceptive Mademoiselle Weir. Too perceptive by far.”
She curtsied again and left the study at a stately pace.
General Jacques sighed and glanced at the ceiling. He was still sweating.
That’s it and I gave it away without telling anything. Look at the dialog. The characters tell you a lot of information and that’s entirely the point. Instead of telling, I’m showing. The dialog is used to show you about the characters—not to mention this is the initial scene and setup for the entire novel. This is a pretty quiet beginning for my novels, but hey, it’s a fun setup for a fun novel.
I’ll repeat: only write what the characters saw, tasted, felt, smelled, heard, said, or any action. I’ll add to that, you can show direct information within the PoV of the character. In this case the PoV was General Bolang. Don’t take advantage of this allowance. You can give impressions and relate some degree of feelings, but don’t start telling us thoughts and ideas. I hope the example was helpful.
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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