20 June 2020, Writing - part xx261 Writing a Novel, It’s all about dialog.
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.
It’s all about dialog. I’ve written for years that if you are writing dialog, you can’t tell—then I reviewed the worst book I’ve ever seen for telling. I can’t call it a novel, there was no novel in the book—there was no story showing but all telling. In that book, the author actually was telling in dialog. I’ll get to how in a future post. Actually, the next post where I discuss perfect tense. So, be warned, a very poor writer can actually screw up dialog.
Now, back to dialog. In general, it is impossible to tell in dialog. You can only show. The example, I gave you yesterday was all showing thought dialog. I revealed huge amounts of background and information about Shiggy Tash through the dialog. Plus, the dialog was entertaining, fun, as well and informative. This is how you use dialog to reveal. In fact, all dialog is meant to reveal the protagonist, other characters, and necessary information to resolve the telic flaw. This is one of the reasons that I always look for means to introduce dialog into my fiction. I don’t think it is hard, but I realize dialog and the introduction of dialog is difficult form many if not most inexperienced writers. I know because I’ve heard it and seen it.
So, look for opportunities to bring in dialog. Any time characters come together is an opportunity for dialog. The most common means of dialog are introductions and meals. Meals are wonderful times to bring characters together for interaction and dialog—obviously dialog. Since people eat about three times a day not including tea time, you have at least three chances to get people together for intimate and close conversation per day. If you include tea time, you have another freebee. If you bring in parties, meetings, and other potential interactions, you have many opportunities for conversation and therefore dialog. In most of my novels, the opportunities just leap out. The problem for the inexperienced writer is to take advantage of them. Here’s what I mean.
In my novel, yet unpublished, Azure Rose: Enchantment and the Detective, the protagonist Azure Rose solves the crime. Solving the crime allows all kinds of opportunities for dialog, but at the end, I wanted Azure to rub New Scotland Yard’s nose in it and get her recompense. The obvious resolution is for the participants to go to a pub for lunch and drinks. One of the police constables comes along with Azure’s check. To me, the opportunity falls directly out of the plot. It’s a short piece, I’ll give it to you as an example:
After a few minutes, La Cross stepped out of the office. He glanced at Miss Rose and Ms. Morris and scrunched up his nose.
Before he could say anything, Miss Rose flicked the butt of her JPS into the potable ashtray and returned it to her purse, “La Cross, you owe me a Guinness, and two thousand pounds.”
La Cross made a motion toward the ladies to follow, and they headed out of the Bank. La Cross led them up the street to The Counting House, a pub. They entered and took a seat at a table. La Cross and Ms. Morris ordered tea. Miss Rose ordered a pint of Guinness stout.
As she did, La Cross told the barmaid, “Check her ID.”
The barmaid turned La Cross an evil eye, “Of course I was going to ask her. She looks like she isn’t even in a form yet.”
Miss Rose scowled but pulled an ID card out of her purse.
The barmaid stared at it, “You don’t look that old, sweetie, but who am I to say.”
Before she could hand the card back, La Cross grabbed it and stared at it himself. He tossed it back, “This says you are Neel Rhosyn and you are twenty-five.”
Miss Rose laughed, “I have a few others, but I won’t show them to you at the moment.”
La Cross leaned back and crossed his legs, “Who are you really?”
“That, I certainly won’t tell you. It is enough for you to know that I am available to help solve the crimes you cannot.”
“We would have eventually solved the Price murder.”
“Ah, you would have eventually found Ms. Phillips body—after it began to stink. You would not have been able to put it all together. Where are my two thousand pounds?”
Ms. Morris fidgeted with her going out bag, “Will a check be acceptable?”
“Actually, no. I’d like a cashier’s check or cash.”
Ms. Morris made a call on her phone, “I’ll have it for you in a jiffy.”
The barmaid brought a pint of Guinness and two cups of tea to their table. Miss Rose lit another JPS.
La Cross put his hand over his face, “Before you get your money young lady, I’d like you to answer a few questions for me.”
“About the case?”
“Yes, yes. About the case.”
“Very well. Ask away.”
“You knew the name of the bank manager. That information was not public knowledge.”
“You are a silly man. There is only one bank manager at the Bank of London. By letting the press report on the murder investigation of the bank manager, you told me exactly who he was.”
La Cross’ stared at her, “That was perhaps an easy search, but what about the employment information for the bank?”
“I hacked the bank’s employment files. The rest was easy.”
“You must have also hacked Ms. Phillips hospital employment files.”
“Those are both criminal activities, Miss Rose.”
She lifted her Guinness, “Underage drinking and smoking are also illegal, but you first have to catch me in the act, you have to, second of all, identify the perpetrator, and third, you have to make it stick in a court of law. You have no idea who I am, you can’t identify me even then, and try making it stick.”
“I hate lawyers.”
“I am not a lawyer. I am a detective. I am happy to help you at the current rates we have established.” She pulled a white card with a blue rose marked across it and placed it on the table.
Ms. Morris picked it up and handed it to Chief Inspector La Cross. He inspected the card. He gave a loud sigh, “It has a phone number, an email address, and reads Blue Rose Supernatural Detective Agency.” He stared at her, “Am I to believe you think there is such a thing as the supernatural, and you are willing to investigate it?”
Miss Rose smiled at him, “I will investigate any crime you wish, but the supernatural is my specialty.”
La Cross let out a loud harrumph.
Ms. Morris sipped her tea, “Miss Rose, how did you immediately divine the Price murder was not supernatural?”
“That’s easy, Ms. Morris. Vampires only hunt during the full moon, they don’t go for the jugular, they don’t leave evident puncture holes, and they can’t enter a building unless invited.”
“How do you know so much about vampires?”
“I am acquainted with more than one.”
La Cross harrumphed again.
Inspector Corbyn entered The Counting House pub and headed directly toward their table. When he arrived he sat down in the empty seat beside Miss Rose and handed Ms. Morris a cashier’s check. He raised his brows at Miss Rose, then looked sideways at La Cross and Ms. Morris, “I’d hoped to see this Neel Rhosyn.”
La Cross pointed at Miss Rose, “There she is inspector—in the flesh.”
Did you notice how the opportunity for conversation and lunch suddenly poped up. It was a natural continuation of the previous scene. The unfinished business should be obvious: Azure wants her money and the Chief Inspector wants information.
This is how you design a conversation or dialog. To me, this is obvious in the writing of a novel. I have characters who need information and I have information to share with my readers. If you need to, outline that information then develop a dialog to naturally reveal it. You obviously don’t want to vomit up all the information at once. You want to reveal it in a natural way.
Look at the list of information you want to reveal. Look at your characters. Look at how they are dressed and their characteristics. It should all be in your setting—that is who (no telling) the characters are, what they look like, and what they are wearing. Take this information and build the dialog to reveal what you need to. Visualize the conversation in your mind. Visualize the characters in your mind. Visualize how they would approach the conversation—then write the conversation. If you use the conversation above as an example, I think you can see the characters of the characters come out and their situations and thoughts come out even if it isn’t spoken aloud. This is all part of dialog development as well. Ultimately, you need to get the ideas and information across that move the telic flaw and reveal the characters or information about the characters.
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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