18 June 2020, Writing - part xx259 Writing a Novel, Identity
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.
Identity is a problem. Just what is identity? Identity is the use of the identity verb which is “is” or more specifically “to be” in English. This includes: am, is, are, was, were, be, had, has, have, have been, had been, will be, will have been, and will had been. Did I get them all? The most egregious use of identity is in the statements: it is, it was, those were, and those are. Usually searching for is, was, and were will catch the evil identity.
So, what’s the problem with identity? Identity is not necessarily bad. It has its uses. That was one of them. When you want to identify a specific term or idea that you have already introduced. I introduced the concept of “identity.” I used the statement “it has” to relate directly back to that idea. For this reason, identity is very important in technical and journalistic writing. It is nearly useless in fiction. Technical writing and journalism are all about telling. Fiction is all about showing. The problem with identity is that in faction, it can and should be replaced with stronger verbs and more direct constructions. Here are some examples. These show exactly why it is called identity:
She was a teacher. Can become: she taught children for a living. Or, she teaches as an occupation. Or, Jane trained to be a teacher. Or, Jane acted as a teacher.
Jack was fighting the cow. Should become: Jack fought the cow.
Jack was hitting the big cow. Should be: Jack hit the big cow.
Jane and Jamie were drinking tea. Should be: Jane and Jamie drank tea.
Pretty simple. Look for “was” especially and put in the stronger action verb. You see “to be” is about identity. It says something exists but nothing else. The other forms are the present participle using was for identity and an –ing verb. The present participle, like identity, has its uses. It means specifically something is happening while another thing is. Thus:
Jack was sipping tea while he answered the phone, is an appropriate use of the present participle form. The other instances, like, Jack was fighting the cow, are not appropriate use of the form for fiction.
Where identity and the present participle are overused and where they indicate problems like telling is in description, although the incorrect use of the present participle, in my opinion, is just poor fiction writing. Here’s what I do. I search for was and were in my writing and fix them out of identity and from inappropriate present participle. If you have a lot of was or were, you likely have a lot of showing going on. For example:
Jane was a great teacher. She was a graduate of high school and teaching college. She was a great basketball player. She was a kind person who loved everyone. Her mind was filled with all kinds of great information that she was happy to share with her students. She was filling her glass with tea while she was contemplating her special life.
If you are entertained by that, you are the only person who is in the world. That paragraph is all telling. There is no showing and no fiction in the entire thing. It’s not even resume worthy. It’s obviously an exaggeration, but I hope a teaching one. There is one more point about fiction and identity.
Identity is common in conversation. In this case, you should review the dialog for improvement, but generally, identity fits well. For example:
Jack sipped his tea, “I’m really excited about your new car.”
Jane put her hands together, “I was hoping you’d like it. It’s one of the reasons I bought it.”
So, there you go. Identity in conversation is nearly always acceptable, but not unless it’s necessary in using the present participle or in description. In description and generally, the use of identity usually indicates telling. Show and don’t tell.
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