28 June 2020, Writing - part xx269 Writing a Novel, Make it Sense Setting, Characters
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.
Make it sense setting. Let’s move on to exercises. Yesterday, I gave some examples of how to begin settings. I called it sense setting because the point is to get all the senses involved and to specifically show and not tell. I showed you how to describe time and place without telling. Now, I want to move on to the characters. Let’s go.
Characters, like time and place need to be described with showing and not telling. Use 300 words or so for major characters and about 100 words for minor characters. Don’t give us character outlines or notes, describe the characters. Use only your senses and show us the character on the stage of the novel. Don’t tell us anything about the character.
Here are some descriptions from my novels about the same person, Mariread May Rowley. She is a person who teaches history and has magic issues. Here are the setting descriptions I used for her in various novels. Look at them closely:
It was history with Ms. Mariread Rowley. Ms. Rowley dressed in a light skirt and a blouse. She wore glasses, and she appeared very young and fresh. Her smile was straight and lush—it seemed to incorporate everyone in the room. She had pulled her caramel colored hair into an elegant French twist. She seemed pleasant enough, although a little intimidating. Deirdre caught a smell, but it wasn’t strong.
They met their group at Paddington Station. A woman held a placard with ‘King’s College Ancient English Prehistory’ written on it. The woman was dressed in a light skirt and a blouse. She wore glasses, and a canvas day bag lay at her feet. She appeared young, but her face had a slight sardonic twist to it. She seemed pleasant enough, although a little intimidating. Mrs. Macintyre went right up to her, “Dr. Rowley?”
The woman smiled. Her face changed a little. Her eyes were bright and intelligent. Her brows still had a sardonic lilt, but much less intimidating, “I’m Dr. Rowley. You must be Dr. Macintyre and these are surely Byron, Gwen, and Dana-ana. Am I right? Dr. Macintyre, I mean your husband, Dr. Macintyre, signed you all up through my class.”
During the last week of August, Essie and Mrs. Lyons again rode in a black Bentley to Monmouth. They entered the front door of the school. Teachers and students bustled around the campus and the building. The two of them stood silently for a few minutes in the foyer before a young woman came up to them. The woman was dressed in a light skirt and a blouse. She wore glasses, and she carried a canvas day bag over her arm. She appeared young, but her face held a slight sardonic twist. She had pulled her caramel colored hair into an elegant French twist. She seemed pleasant enough, although a little intimidating.
These descriptions are a little light on what I really want to get to—clothing and appearance. If you notice, I don’t tell you anything about Mariread, except her name—and that in only one description. The others use dialog to give her name. Mariread is a secondary character. She gets about 100 words. She is an important character. This is the least you should show of any character. Mariread gets more description and setting in the context of the novel—that’s also how you should show.
Here is another description, but of a major character, from Valeska: Enchantment and the Vampire.
A movement caught him by surprise. It came from the dark alleyway away from the street. A small person moved very quickly from the opening to stand right in front of him. It stopped suddenly and whimpered, then sat on its haunches. It squatted outside of his reach and watched him. Its face was thin and pale. The face barely showed in his night vision goggle. That in itself was surprising. It wore clothing that seemed exceedingly fine, but which was filthy and obviously damp, the remains of a girl’s party dress. The dress had once been white with red or pink ribbons, but now it was torn and bedraggled. The ribbons blended with the stains on the dress. The stains seemed to be long dried blood and not just the dirt of the streets.
The girl, it was a girl, stared at him with bright eyes tinged with silver. They appeared slightly dull in the night vision goggle. Her hair was black and matted. It reached almost to the cobbles of the alleyway where she squatted. Her face was finely etched and hard. She let her tongue slip out of her mouth. She licked her lips. Her tongue was slightly pointed, and George could swear her incisors were elongated and pointed like fangs.
This is the kind of description I am talking about. No telling at all. Only showing. No names, no information, only clothing, only what you can see, smell, hear, taste, and physically feel on the stage of the novel. This is exactly what I’m writing about and exactly what a good author will give for description and in showing a character. Perhaps we should move on to stuff and a wrap up of sense setting.
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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