23 June 2020, Writing - part xx264 Writing a Novel, Don’t be Boring
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.
Telling is boring. Boring is the greatest enemy of the fiction author. If you remember, fiction and novels are all about entertainment, you already understand, but it’s not just the fiction and the novels—it’s every nook and cranny.
When I write about scenes, the first and main point in developing scenes is the tension and release. Tension and release are the terms we use for the rising action to the climax of the scene. Every scene must have some degree of tension and release. Obviously, this tension development to a release isn’t anything like the rising action to the climax in a novel (except in the climax scene), but every scene needs to be filled with excitement. The point of every scene is to build the tension and release in the novel to the climax. If there isn’t any building tension, there isn’t much of a climax, and if your scenes from beginning to end are boring and not entertaining, you readers will not likely complete your novel. Every nook and cranny of your novels must be filled with tension and release. Every nook and cranny must be entertaining. There is no room for boring. Telling is boring.
Telling is the most boring way to write anything. Just look at any journalistic piece. Journalism is all about boring and all about telling. Occasionally, some creative journalist writes an unboring piece, or not. I’ve never read an exciting or really entertaining piece of journalism. Journalism is all about telling. There is no, or very little showing in journalism. The reason is space. Showing takes space. Telling is compressed. This is one of the things that makes telling so boring. In humans we call this pointers versus painters. Pointers get directly to the point—they tell, and they want you to tell. Painters, paint the story. They are storyshowers. We also call them storytellers, but a great storyshower is what every kid and every painter wants. Most painters are also readers although I know many pointers who are readers. All readers want painting—although many reading pointers will tell you they skip over some parts that are slow to them. I don’t think the problem is showing. The problem is that the author is either telling or their showing isn’t entertaining. Let’s go with all proper showing is entertaining. I have never not been entertained by showing. I have been bored to skipping by telling, and I’m a painter.
This comes around again to don’t tell. If you want to be boring, go ahead and tell. If you want to be entertaining and not boring, you need to show. So what is the difference? Well that’s what I’ve been writing about all this time. I can give you a great example of showing, but not so much of telling. Here is a short example of telling:
Jack greeted Jane, and introduced himself.
Jane asked Jack if he would like to take a tipple.
They decided to go to the pub next door.
That’s telling. Here’s showing.
Jack noticed Jane on the street. He tipped his hat to her, “Good afternoon. I’m Jack. We haven’t been introduced, but aren’t you Jane?”
Jane stopped, and nodded, “I do recognize you too. I don’t believe we have been introduced. Since, I think we do have things to discuss,” she put out her hand, “I’m Jane.”
“Jack. It’s a pleasure.”
“Well, Jack, we do need to talk. The Boar’s Head pub is just next door. We could take an early afternoon drink.”
Jack offered his arm to Jane, which she took very firmly. They entered the Boar’s Head.
As I noted, telling is short, compressed, and boring. That’s the reason pointers and journalists love it. On the other hand, showing takes time, space, and is entertaining. Although, just how entertaining I can make such a short piece is questionable.
Look at your writing. Look at any place where you are telling. I do mean every place. Typically, the beginnings of conversations and dialogs are told by the inexperienced. In most cases, many inexperienced writers give their notes on dialog and action—that’s really bad. The worst and most common telling is where authors are telling about their characters. You should not ever tell even when describing a character. Here is an example:
Jack was a successful businessman. He had a degree from Harvard, and a Masters from Princeton. He like to bowl, and he enjoyed betting on it very much.
That’s all telling. You can show this in many many different ways. Here is one example:
Jack entered the Starlight Bowling alley and went straight to his private locker. (Here’s where I would describe the bowling alley) He pulled off his Armani woolen suit and his silk tie and put on his favorite bowling shirt. It had his name on the front and team on the back. It was a garish pink with his own lucky dice embroidered on the back. He grabbed his bag with ball and shoes, and left the locker room. He headed to the counter.
Old Dean greeted him with a hearty Bronx accent, “Hey Jack, you playing regular tonight or is it a special?”
“Regular,” Jack tried to hide his old Harvard accent. He didn’t want to sound pretentious or scare away his marks. He tried to say as little as possible.
And so on. This is showing. Show and don’t tell. Showing is entertaining. Telling is boring, plus, although I just made up Jack for this little exercise, don’t you want to know more about him?
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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