21 February 2021, Writing - part xx507 Writing a Novel, Build Up to Big Talk
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. This moves us on to plots and initial scenes. As I noted, if you have a protagonist, you have a novel. The reason is that a protagonist comes with a telic flaw, and a telic flaw provides a plot and theme. If you have a protagonist, that gives you a telic flaw, a plot, and a theme. I will also argue this gives you an initial scene as well.
So, we worked extensively on the protagonist. I gave you many examples great, bad, and average. Most of these were from classics, but I also used my own novels and protagonists as examples. Here’s my plan.
1. The protagonist comes with a telic flaw – the telic flaw isn’t necessarily a flaw in the protagonist, but rather a flaw in the world of the protagonist that only the Romantic protagonist can resolve.
2. The telic flaw determines the plot.
3. The telic flaw determines the theme.
4. The telic flaw and the protagonist determines the initial scene.
5. The protagonist and the telic flaw determines the initial setting.
6. Plot examples from great classic plots.
7. Plot examples from mediocre classic plots.
8. Plot examples from my novels.
9. Creativity and the telic flaw and plots.
10. Writer’s block as a problem of continuing the plot.
Every great or good protagonist comes with their own telic flaw. I showed how this worked with my own writing and novels. Let’s go over it in terms of the plot.
This is all about the telic flaw. Every protagonist and every novel must come with a telic flaw. They are the same telic flaw. That telic flaw can be external, internal or both.
We found that a self-discovery telic flaw or a personal success telic flaw can potentially take a generic plot. We should be able to get an idea for the plot purely from the protagonist, telic flaw and setting. All of these are interlaced and bring us our plot.
For a great plot, the resolution of the telic flaw has to be a surprise to the protagonist and to the reader. This is both the measure and the goal. As I noted before, for a great plot, the author needs to make the telic flaw resolution appear to be impossible, but then it happens. There is much more to this. Here’s the list of plots I’ve looked at already:
Here is the list of classics that everyone should read. What I want to do is evaluate this list for the plots.
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury – Best modern novel in English.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible – Most important book to understand Western culture.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 We The Living – Ayn Rand
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Dune – Frank Herbert
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – better to see as plays
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 The Cadwal Chronicles – Jack Vance
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Green Pearl Novels – Jack Vance
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchel
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
37 The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu
38 The House of Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne
39 The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 Dracula – Bram Stoker
43 Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis
44 Le Morte D'Arthur - Thomas Malory
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
51 What Katy Did - Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge
52 A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
53 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
56 Kim - Rudyard Kipling
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 Beowulf – Unknown
60 The Odyssey – Homer
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
64 The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett
65 The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Robinson Caruso – Daniel Defoe
69 The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Don Quixote - Miguel De Cervantes
73 Heidi – Johanna Spyri
74 Hans Brinker - Mary Mapes Dodge
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 The Big Sky – Arlo Guthrie
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 The Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
83 The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
84 The Miser – George Eliot
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemmingway
87 Tarzan – Edger Rice Burroughs
88 The Death of Socrates – Plato
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 Huckleberry Fin – Mark Twain
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 Gulliver’s Travels - Jonathan Swift
96 Matilda – Roald Dahl
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
101 The Once and Future King – T.H. White
102 The Deerslayer – James Fenimore Cooper
103 The Black Book of Communism – Various
104 Ben Hur – Lew Wallace
105 The Robe – Lloyd C. Douglas
106 The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
107 The Histories – Herodotus
108 Lives – Plutarch
109 The Call of the Wild – Jack London
110 Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
111 The Shockwave Rider – John Brunner
112 The Aeneid – Virgil
This is what I did. I looked at each novel and pulled out the plot types, the telic flaw, plotline, and the theme of the novel. I didn’t make a list of the themes, but we identified the telic flaw as internal and external and by plot type. This generally gives the plotline.
We have a list of all the major plots from this list of classics in literature. The question is what can we do with it? This is the first step in evaluating our results. I took a percentage of the results based on the number of classics.
Modern writing is all about the Romantic—both Romantic protagonists and Romantic plots. This is where we are going and this is the focus of modern entertaining literature.
In the end, we can see there are just a few baseline plots that are characteristics of most classics. These are the revelation, achievement, and redemption plots. When I write these are baseline, I mean that they are overall plots that might also have a different plotline or other plots directly supporting them. Here’s what I mean exactly about each of these plots:
Redemption: the protagonist must make an internal or external change to resolve the telic flaw. This is the major style of most great modern plots.
Revelation: the novel reveals portions of the life, experiences, and ideas of the protagonist in a cohesive and serial fashion from the initial scene to the climax and telic flaw resolution.
Achievement: the novel is characterized by a goal that the protagonist must achieve to resolve the telic flaw.
I evaluated the list of plots and categorized them according to the following scale:
Overall (o) – These are the three overall plots we defined above: redemption, achievement, and revelation.
Achievement (a) – There are plots that fall under the idea of the achievement plot.
Quality (q) – These are plots based on a personal or character quality.
Setting (s) – These are plots based on a setting.
Item (i) – These are plots based on an item.
All of the plots we looked at fall into one of these five. Let’s do that:
1. Redemption (o) – 17i, 7e, 23ei, 8 – 49%
2. Revelation (o) –2e, 64, 1i – 60%
3. Achievement (o) – 16e, 19ei, 4i, 43 – 73%
1. Detective or mystery (a) – 56, 1e – 51%
2. Revenge or vengeance (a) –3ie, 3e, 45 – 46%
3. Zero to hero (a) – 29 – 26%
4. Romance (a) –1ie, 41 – 37%
5. Coming of age (a) –1ei, 25 – 23%
6. Progress of technology (a) – 6 – 5%
7. Discovery (a) – 3ie, 57 – 54%
8. Money (a) – 2e, 26 – 25%
9. Spoiled child (a) – 7 – 6%
10. Legal (a) – 5 – 4%
11. Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%
12. Self-discovery (a) – 3i, 12 – 13%
13. Guilt or Crime (a) – 32 – 29%
14. Proselytizing (a) – 4 – 4%
15. Reason (a) – 10, 1ie – 10%
16. Escape (a) – 1ie, 23 – 21%
17. Knowledge or Skill (a) – 26 – 23%
18. Secrets (a) – 21 – 19%
1. Messiah (q) – 10 – 9%
2. Adultery (qa) – 18 – 16%
3. Rejected love (rejection) (q) – 1ei, 21 – 20%
4. Miscommunication (q) – 8 – 7%
5. Love triangle (q) – 14 – 12%
6. Betrayal (q) – 1i, 1ie, 46 – 43%
7. Blood will out or fate (q) –1i, 1e, 26 – 25%
8. Psychological (q) –1i, 45 – 41%
9. Magic (q) – 8 – 7%
10. Mistaken identity (q) – 18 – 16%
11. Illness (q) – 1e, 19 – 18%
12. Anti-hero (q) – 6 – 5%
13. Immorality (q) – 3i, 8 – 10%
14. Satire (q) – 10 – 9%
15. Camaraderie (q) – 19 – 17%
16. Curse (q) – 4 – 4%
17. Insanity (q) – 8 – 7%
18. Mentor (q) – 12 – 11%
1. End of the World (s) – 3 – 3%
2. War (s) – 20 – 18%
3. Anti-war (s) –2 – 2%
4. Travel (s) –1e, 62 – 56%
5. Totalitarian (s) – 1e, 8 – 8%
6. Horror (s) – 15 – 13%
7. Children (s) – 24 – 21%
8. Historical (s) – 19 – 17%
9. School (s) – 11 – 10%
10. Parallel (s) – 4 – 4%
11. Allegory (s) – 10 – 9%
12. Fantasy world (s) – 5 – 4%
13. Prison (s) – 2 – 2%
1. Article (i) – 1e, 46 – 42%
Starting with the protagonist makes novel writing about as easy as it is possible to make novel writing. As I wrote, if we start with the protagonist, I can’t guarantee you the next bestseller, but I can assure you it will solve four problems common to novelists:
1. What is the plot?
2. Why is my novel so short?
3. Why is my novel so simplistic and uncomplicated in terms of plot and theme?
4. Why do I get writer’s block when I want to write?
Not every writer gets writer’s block. I never get writer’s block. I get tired of writing. I sometimes want to change up my writing (write something different). I never run out of something to write. How could that be? Doesn’t everyone get writer’s block? Only in the movies, and I would say only non-professional writers.
Here’s some ideas to help you prevent writer’s block.
1. Nothing anyone writes the first time on paper (or ether) is worth reading, publishing, or anything else.
2. You gotta write to learn to write well.
3. If you don’t like it, dump it.
4. If you are in over your head, just stop and regroup.
5. These are all helpful ideas for getting your stuff together, but why don’t professionals have the problem of writer’s block?
Writing paragraphs may be the most powerful way to train up your writing skills. None of the paragraphs I wrote as a seventh grader are worth reading now, but they sure helped me learn to write. We are writing about training.
Every paragraph looks like this:
1. Topic sentence
2. Body based on the topic
3. Conclusion and transition
Every paragraph looks like this except dialog paragraphs. These are special paragraphs that are designed through the speaker rather than coherent outline.
You must include tone and body language in the dialog, or the conversation will go awry for the reader. There is more to dialog to make it sound correct to the reader.
I’m repeating in synopsis all my previous advice on writing dialog, but dialog is very important and most beginning (and some experienced) writers seem to have problems with it.
So, we saw that dialog follows normal human conversational order, lets the dialog flow, uses contractions, doesn’t use direct address, expresses tone, body language, tags, and action in the dialog. These are the most straight forward and best way to correct most dialog. Then you need to study and practice.
Here is an example of getting to big talk in a dialog. We had the beginning of this yesterday—this is the middle portion. This is from my yet unpublished novel, Valeska: Enchantment and the Vampire:
When they moved out of earshot, George leaned over and whispered, “What was that all about?”
Heidi didn’t look at him, “I think she realizes what I am.”
“What? Are you kidding?”
“I am completely serious. I think she would have attacked me right there if she could. I am in serious danger here—in this house—and in this city.”
George turned and glanced back. Daniel and Sveta engaged in a heated conversation. Sveta did not look at them. She pointed back toward them.
Heidi moved to the buffet and picked up a plate.
George whispered, “Why did you have to antagonize her so much. She is my boss’ wife, shouldn’t you try to gain her as an ally?”
Heidi glared at him, “She antagonized me first. Does a wolf try to ally itself with the hunter? Or the sheep with the wolf? Right now, I wish to eat her food. It surely isn’t poisoned—not if she fed it to her friends. I also wish to remain in the crowd where she can’t find me alone. When we return to your apartment, I will go on foot.”
George caught her arm, “You sound like you have been through this before.”
“Never before, but I have not lived this long without learning some degree of caution.”
“I find that hard to believe—you were not living very well when I discovered you.”
Heidi raised her voice, “Your life-blood was eking out of your body when I found you.”
George whispered forcefully, “Sveta is my boss’ wife. She runs an office in the organization. You need to mollify her and not antagonize her.”
Heidi stared at him, “You choose her over me?” Her eye twitched.
“I didn’t choose her at all. I just want to keep my job. Where do you think this clothing comes from?”
Heidi threw down her plate, “If that’s the way it is, you may have it back right now.” She began to unbutton her dress.
George grabbed her hands, “Stop that. I didn’t mean it that way.” He continued lamely, “I need this work.”
She stopped, “I understand. I’m just not happy about it.”
George buttoned her dress, “Everyone is staring.”
She lowered her head, “I’m sorry, Mr. Mardling.” She kept her head down and glanced up at him with her eyes alone.
“Pick up your plate. You’re lucky it didn’t break.”
She knelt very primly. Harold came up behind her and slipped the plate out of her hands. He placed a glass of wine in it, “I’ll get you a new plate. This one is soiled.”
“Thank you,” she mumbled. She took a sip of the wine, and her face brightened.
Harold came beside her, “What may I select for you from the buffet.”
Heidi answered very sweetly, “Some of the partridge, a bit of cheese, bread, and pudding.”
Harold carried the plate for her. Already the attention began to draw away from her and from George. A few watched her as an apparent fifteen year old sipped on a glass of wine. When the glass became empty, Harold replaced it with a full one.
Heidi found a seat at the back of the room. She sat quietly with a very attentive look. No one approached her. George didn’t let Heidi out of his sight. He took a plate of food and a mug of dark beer and sulked.
A few people greeted George. Tim and his wife came by. They spoke of trivialities. As the evening progressed, George tried to keep count of the number of glasses Heidi downed. He lost track, but he thought she only drank three. He thought about leaving early.
Daniel Long sauntered over. Sveta wasn’t in view. Daniel took a quick glance at Heidi then addressed George, “George, do you know what set off your niece?”
“Not a clue,” George lied.
“Sveta was also very agitated, but she wouldn’t tell me what was going on. Sveta thought that she was acting unsocial. She’s trying to make it up to you both.”
“I’m afraid my niece is drinking herself to oblivion.”
“Sorry about that…”
“I didn’t handle it well at all. She was narked at me too.”
Daniel stepped closer, “George, are you certain you don’t know why they leapt at each other’s throats?”
Daniel shook his head and took a sip of his drink, “I’ve come to trust Sveta’s intuition about our business and many other things…”
“I can understand that.”
“I know this isn’t the best time to discuss things, George. Perhaps you can come visit me on Monday.”
George grimaced, “Yes. I’ll come by.”
“Maybe we can discuss getting a larger flat for you and…what was her name, Heidi.”
Daniel nodded apologetically, “Glad you could come to the party. It’s not been as pleasant for you as I’d like—sorry about that.”
“It’s all right.”
Daniel moved on to the next couple.
When George turned around to check on Heidi, she was gone.
This part of the scene is called a sequel by some. I don’t see this separated from the original scene, but in this portion, we have the protagonist and the protagonist’s helper reflecting on the previous dialog and circumstances. I want to point out that nothing was resolved in the first portion of the scene I showed you. This first part was a setup. In this portion, the characters are discussing the problems anticipated by the first portion. There is an argument between the characters.
Doesn’t this argument seem like something you have seen in the real world? This is the classic domestic fight at a party. I’ve seen it more than once. I’ve been in the middle more than once. You usually see this between married couples, but it is a normal occurrence between siblings, relations, parents and children, and less commonly, but still not uncommonly between associates and business partners (or other partners).
In the case of this argument one disagrees with the social approach of the other. George was irritated at Heidi’s response to his boss’s wife. Heidi had a good reason for it. They both disagreed with the other’s response, and there was an argument. I do say I used this to the extreme, but Heidi is a woman/child who is used to having her way in the world, and George isn’t that used to working with women. The setup is pretty classic, and the fight is too.
However, their response is mature. They both back down and resolve their differences to some degree. Not totally. That’s the point. If this is just a part of the scene, as I allege and wrote it, the point is the tension buildup for the eventual release. This is part of the tension build up. If you look at this as a sequel, this is the part where the protagonist reflects on the previous circumstance and then makes a plan to resolve or reach the scene climax in the next scene.
I find my way of thinking about this a bit clearer for me. In any case, the protagonist’s helper (Heidi) in this case will take the lead in the next portion.
In the end, we can figure out what makes a work have a great plot, and apply this to our writing.
Let’s start with the idea of an internal and external telic flaw. Then let’s provide it a wrapper. The wrapper is the plot.
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.