22 June 2020, Writing - part xx263 Writing a Novel, Senses
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 the senses. If you are writing with and about the five common human senses, you are showing. That’s pretty simple, except I get all kinds of claims about showing, and it’s all mind reading. Here’s the direct information. I’ll go back to my stage of the novel analogy.
Imagine your scene—don’t write anything down yet, just imagine your scene. You don’t need to imagine the entire scene. Let’s start with the setting first. Always start with the setting. It makes this simple if you are using the scene input/output ideas I’ve written before, but I’ll remind you.
Take the previous scene output that drives the current scene input. If you haven’t been reading here for a while, you might not know what I’m writing about. I’ll write about it again. Every scene has an output. The output is what is going to happen next. For example, if your characters decide to visit a haunted house, then the output of the scene is to visit the haunted house. If the characters conclude they need to go to a restaurant for dinner, that’s the output. The input of the next scene comes out of the output of the previous scene. This works for every scene in the novel except the initial scene. Thus we have an output from the previous scene and an input for our current scene.
The input will define the stage of the novel. What I mean is the input of the scene will define the setting. For example, in the case of visiting a haunted house, the author needs to provide a haunted house. The haunted house is the setting. There are always four elements in a setting. The time: time of day, day, month, year, etc. The place: a haunted house in this case. The characters: whoever they happen to be. Finally, the stuff: things used by the characters. The stuff is more important than your think. All these things are setting elements. We’ll get to that.
So, we need time, place, characters, and stuff. These populate the stage of the novel for the scene. The first step is to imagine each of these elements. Imagine them and place them on the stage of the novel. What this means is that the author uses his or her senses to describe the setting elements. Let’s start with time. The author uses his or her senses, sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing to describe the time on the stage of the novel. Here the author can give us some basic information like it is dark. Describe the lighting, the temperature, the wind, the smells of summer etc., the taste of the wind, the sounds of winter ice. In this showing, the author can provide some direct information that sets the time. Here’s an example:
The January wind bit deeply into his cheeks. The sounds of ice cracking in the trees as the breezes rushed through them, and the gunmetal smell of hard, old, ice filled his freezing nose.
And so on. This description isn’t complete for time. There is more to write and show. Notice, I didn’t use every sense, you don’t need to use every sense, but use only human senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Next, we need the place.
If we are at a haunted house, we need to describe the haunted house. You can also mix these descriptions—in other words, mix time and the house. The important point is that, if you didn’t figure out, the exploration of a haunted house is about exploring a haunted house. Likewise, in any novel, the author should only show what is on the stage of the novel. If the characters are standing outside the house looking at the outside, they can’t know anything about the kitchen or the bedrooms, or any other part of the house. This is what showing is all about. I set the time. I set the place—what the characters can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear—not anything they can’t perceive. Thus we are writing about the outside of the house, or wherever the characters happen to be. Next, the characters.
Describe the characters physically, and only what the author and characters can see, hear, smell, taste, and smell. You can’t see inside a person’s heart, liver, brain, or lungs. Don’t tell us anything about the characters that you or a character can’t physically see, hear, smell, taste, or physically feel. Thus, we describe our characters on the stage of the novel. Part of this description is their places on the stage of the novel. Thus, we have time, place, and characters with their locations—their places on the stage. In addition, we need to put in the stuff. Stuff can be the parts of character’s clothing and descriptions. Specifically, the author needs to put in the setting elements.
The setting elements are all those things on the stage of the novel that the characters can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch on the stage of the novel plus all those locations. The additional setting elements are those things which the characters can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch that are on the state of the novel that the author intends to turn into creative elements in the novel. Thus, the knife that Jake has in his belt is a setting element. It is also a likely creative element. It is also a Chekov’s Gun. The shotgun Jane is carrying under her arm is also a setting element. It is also a great creative element and a Chekov Gun. The author fills his stage with all kinds of setting elements.
Here we are with a completed stage. On the stage we have time, place (the exterior of the building that the characters can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch), the characters, and the stuff. Just to be sure, the description of the characters is only what we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch—nothing else. We now move to showing the action in the novel.
The action and input into this scene was the exploration of the haunted house. The characters move to explore the haunted house. I just happen to have an example of this kind of scene from my current novel. I’ll share it with you.
They continued along the path as it wound deeper and deeper into the woods. They crossed a couple of small streams and traversed a few long flower covered meadows. Their trek led them up the side of a rising hill. At the top lay a large cropped meadow, and in the center, a ruined stone house.
The house contained two stories and a connected kitchen at the back. The roof was fallen in on one side, but the stones and the house appeared whole. The front door hung half open on a single wooden hinge.
Laura pulled off her pack and laid it in the sheep and goat cut grass, “There it is.”
Deirdre asked, “How do you know that house is haunted?”
“My brothers told me they heard scratching and crying from inside. They said, when there is no wind, you can hear cries and the sounds of blowing and rattling windows. Everyone thinks it’s haunted. That’s why I thought we should explore it.”
Sorcha plopped down on the sundrenched grass, “I think we should have Iris check it out first.”
Everyone turned toward Angélique.
Angélique lifted her lips slightly, “Of course. Please Iris, would you take a look around.”
Iris made a face, but she gave a tense smile and gathered the frollick together. As one, they flew around the girls and rushed toward the old house. They spread out in a large fan that expanded and separated into clumps of two and three fairies and dove though the broken windows, doors, cracks, and high grass around the house.
Laura opened the picnic basket and pulled out a large blanket, “I think we should have lunch while Iris is checking.”
Everyone felt tired and ready for a break. They all plopped down on every side of the blanket and handed around the cold food, sandwiches, and drinks as Laura handed them out.
When everything was laid out, Angélique took the small bowl and honey and filled the bowl. She placed it carefully just off the edge of the blanket on her side.
Everyone picked up a sandwich and drink and began to eat.
After a while, Elodie asked Angélique, “Why place the bowl and honey off the blanket?”
Angélique didn’t pause a moment, “Because there might indeed be strange Fae creatures here. The blanket creates a boundary, a place, so-called. Fae creatures may not enter a human space that is defined by human things like an enclosed house, enclosed fence, or walled barn. The blanket makes this a fenced space. My frollick are no problem although I shall not invite them into this space. If the frollick flushes out some strange Fae, we are safe on this blanket. The Fae will be attracted to the honey, I will be able to detect them although Deirdre and Sorcha should be able to see them.”
Elodie stared intently at the place where the bowl stood, “You will tell me if one comes, won’t you?” She turned her glace toward Sorcha and Deirdre.
They both shrugged their shoulders.
After they had eaten most of the sandwiches, Angélique announced, “My frollick are returning. I can feel them hovering around the bowl.”
Sorcha and Deirdre both nodded. They could see the fairies gathering and sampling the honey in the bowl. Cassandra quietly watched them too.
After a few moments, Iris returned to her seat on Angélique’s shoulder. She spoke slowly at Angélique’s ear.
Angélique announced, “Iris says she found nothing of interest although there is a touch of the strange about the place.”
Laura asked, “A touch of the strange? What is that exactly?”
Angélique sipped on her soft drink, “There might have been a Fae presence at this place and in this house in the past. She felt some indications. I suspect she is simply adding to our interest—the Fae are like that.”
Laura sat back on her knees confused, “What do you mean—like that?”
Angélique pursed her lips and smiled, “If Iris reported there was nothing at all, what purpose would there be in exploring the place? She owns a tendency to exaggeration. The Fae are not very benevolent, their help comes at a price, thus the honey. But that isn’t really a sufficient gift to absolutely guarantee their complete candor—if any gift could make that assurance.”
Laura laughed, “So there might be something inside?”
“That is always possible. I would stay together in groups of two, and I suggest those who are sensitive pair with those who are not.”
Elodie grasped Deirdre’s arm.
Laura took Sorcha’s hand.
Cassandra glanced at Angélique.
They carefully placed all he remains of their meal in the hamper and left the blanket and bowl of honey in their place. Then they all stood and excitedly headed toward the old house.
Laura and Sorcha moved straight toward the front door. It was already opened enough so the girls could squeeze through. Angélique and Cassandra followed them.
Deirdre stopped and glanced at Elodie, “Why don’t we check the back door and the kitchen?”
Elodie swallowed and held tight as Deirdre led them through the lower grass to the back of the building. The grass here was higher than that at the front and the sides of the house.
Deirdre examined it carefully. The kitchen roof appeared whole and the door was shut. She pulled Elodie with her to the stone stoop. The door latch still worked and the door opened on nearly silent hinges. Deirdre gave an excited commentary, “The high grass means the sheep and goats wouldn’t come close enough to eat although the grass here is very fresh and abundant. Plus the door is oddly solid and oiled. Either some person has used this place or…”
“Perhaps we shall find something interesting.”
Elodie trembled in her coat even though the day was sunny and relatively warm.
They stopped a moment in the open doorway and glanced inside. The kitchen looked nearly spotless. The floor was packed dirt, but looked swept. An old table and some old chairs sat around it. They couldn’t see much else because it was dark inside.
Deirdre pulled an electric torch from her pocket and flashed it within the interior. The light of her torch was insufficient to make out much more. So with Elodie still holding on to her, she stepped into the kitchen.
Deidre moved to the first shuttered window on their right and unlatched it. The shutters opened without a sound and the window was whole but the old glass not very clear. It still illuminated the interior better than her torch.
The kitchen held a large open hearth on the left and another window on the right. Deidre went to the next window and opened its shutter. The room filled with sunlight. It looked as immaculate as an old kitchen could ever be. No dust touched any of the surfaces. Deirdre went to the table and dragged her fingers across it. Although the wood was rough with age, the tabletop was oddly clean.
Elodie touched it herself, “It looks like someone has been living here.”
Deirdre sighed, “Yes, that’s just it. Perhaps someone has been using this place. It seems solid enough.”
Okay, this scene isn’t complete. I just moved you into the setting. The time and characters were already set. The place is the only thing missing. Every part of the setting and action is only description—all showing. There is no telling at all.
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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