26 June 2020, Writing - part xx267 Writing a Novel, Start with Scene Setting
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.
Start with scene setting. It all begins with the senses. If you notice, the first writing step in developing a scene is scene setting. Setting is where the author places everything on the stage of the novel. The stage of the novel is the stage where all the action and dialog take place. I use the term stage of the novel to help writers understand exactly what the novel is about.
The stage of the novel is like the stage for a play or a movie. The audience can only see what the playwright or the screenplay author can show on the stage of the play or movie. A novel is the same and yet different. A novel is the same in that the wise author only shows what is on the stage of the novel. A novel is different in that a poor or inexperienced author can literally tell everything instead of showing. An author needs to show and not tell.
Telling is where the author writes something that can’t be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or physically felt on the stage of the novel. When characters feel or think things, for example, and the author reports this as reasonable or even normal. How many stage plays or movies have you seen where the audiences can perceive the thoughts of the characters. It’s possible in a movie about mind reading, but not in any movie about reality. Just as a novel about mind readers might tell you their thoughts, but if the novel isn’t science fiction about mind reading, the readers know they are getting something that isn’t right—it isn’t right it’s telling.
The author’s tools are very broad and powerful in presenting the description, plot, and theme of any novel, but there are places the author shouldn’t go. Telling is one of them. The best way to prevent telling is to focus on the senses. I wrote about this yesterday. Although it should be impossible for dialog or action narrative to be told, I’ve seen it. I have given some tips to help prevent telling in dialog and action narrative—I’ll try to give some more, but the area where most authors tell is in the descriptions. This is why I write only show what the readers and characters can see, hear, smell, taste, and physically feel (touch) on the stage of the novel. Let’s write about description.
Every scene needs to start with description. You can safely interject description through the scene, but I and most readers what to see the stage at the beginning of every scene. So set the stage. Show us what is on the stage of the novel. I can’t think of any reason not to set the stage completely at the beginning. If the precise time is ambivalent, just describe the conditions. If the place is ambivalent, you don’t need to tell us anything, just describe the scene. Characters really can’t be ambivalent. You have to describe them. Perhaps you don’t tell us who they are—that is their names, but that’s my point entirely. I don’t have a problem with the telling of information that is self-evident or a tag—for example, names. Other things are not tags at all. Description is what is necessary not mind reading or mental telepathy.
So, let’s set every scene. Just describe what the readers and the characters can see on the stage of the novel—no mind reading, and stick to point of view (PoV). I’m not adding any complexity to this exercise. I’m just telling you to imagine the setting of your scene in your mind and describe it on paper. Use about 300 words per place setting and don’t forget to include time and the weather. This isn’t scripted. Just read any well written piece of literature, especially modern literature and you’ll see what I mean. If you show us the skies, the buildings, the area, the countryside, and the characters, you have set the scene. Only what the readers and characters can see. If you read Mill on the Floss, you will see an example of the extended scene setting of the Victorians. Don’t go this far. This type of scene setting is more akin to a travel log. It’s better than nothing, and most of it is showing, but there’s a lot of telling in that writing. I advise you not to show anything not evident. For example, if your scene starts outside, describe the outside and the exterior. Don’t describe the interior until we get there. As the and if the scene moves to the interior, then describe that interior. Don’t describe the interior of any place or structure. For example, if you have people exploring a haunted castle, and the camera shows every room in the castle before the party gets there, the entire point of the exploration has been destroyed. There is no reason to explore a castle in the plot if the castle has already been explored. This is an example of telling destroying the plot of a novel.
Let’s face it, every novel and every plot is about revelation. The novel is literally the revelation of the protagonist. The plot just happens to be the revelation of the life and actions of the protagonist. No plot, no novel, no protagonist no novel, although I’ve been astounded at the number of inexperienced authors who don’t have any protagonists. Not a one. Or so many, you can’t even keep them straight. The problem of no protagonist is an entirely different one, but most of these novels are so much telling the lack of any protagonist means nothing. You can’t publish something that isn’t even something. You can certainly self-publish it, but that doesn’t mean it is more than a collection of words on a page. Let’s aim for the entertaining and the publishable. Set each scene. Set each character. No telling.
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