Content vs. Consistency

Not too much by way of forward momentum in this journey since (roughly) this time last week, but as I’ve continually posted each week since starting this blog, I might as well continue.

But should this be the case?

There are times when I scramble for a topic or theme to write and end up with quasi-rambling musings on random things. Then again, as the entries are written directly into WordPress and posted with minimal edits, while the content may not be substantial (or make any sense to the casual reader – is anyone there?) the consistency of posting something is met. There are other times when ideas and musings flow readily, often inspired from Real World events, or the handful of television shows I watch, which (usually) segue into (vague) tidbits about my works-in-progress.

Then there are those rare times when the Muses weave their magic, and interesting (I hope) paragraphs of literary work emerges. There was a time when I had attempted (twice) to use writing prompts as a launching pad for story ideas – the momentum didn’t last (too) long, yet those samples remain posted within this blog.

Regardless of which scenario happens each week (thus far), actual!writing happens on a weekly basis, which keeps the literary engine running, to use a somewhat cliche metaphor. Then again, (to continue with the aforementioned metaphor) if the fuel that feeds the engine is not of the highest quality, is there a point to keep using it? If the gasoline is watered down to ensure the tank is always full, then the journey stalls until the engine reaches a station where there is actual fuel to produce some forward momentum.

This metaphor actually makes sense in the context of my blog writing journey thus far – and it was one I just thought up as I was writing it (and would make for an interesting side story to that fabled Meta Series).

Anyway.

Distractions and Real Life tend to get in the way of the plotting and pondering and eventual writing, even though the mental writing chugs along at a rate too complex to jot down. The infinite variables and the consequences that occur from those variables blend into something Completely Different, and keeping track of the who, what, where, when, why and how gets complicated. Sometimes as soon as the thought (masquerading as a quasi-epic epiphany) emerges, several other tangents flutter about, helping and / or hindering the original idea.

There may be some value to write an entry when I have something meaningful to share. Then again, I’m not sure if there are any followers out there who look forward to reading these weekly entries. Comments are few and far between, so I’m not certain if anyone will notice, given Real World events, and the billions (?) of other bloggers out there.

So, the consistency of writing blog entries each week may cease, but hopefully when the next entry does emerge, there will be content that will bring about some actual forward momentum.

Until next time.

Whenever that may be.

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Rewriting History

Well that was a dramatic way to end the season.

Spoiler Alert: This entry contains mild spoilers for the Game of Thrones television series, specifically for the season seven finale. As the eighth (and final) season will air sometime in 2019, there will be time enough to (re)watch the series and analyze the narrative and character arcs to speculate how the epic series saga will conclude.

Anyway.

There were loads of game changing events within the seventh season itself, the bulk of which happened in the 80 minute season finale, many of which have the potential to alter everything that is true within the Game of Thrones universe. The viewers are privy to certain knowledge that shifts the perception of certain characters, and will no doubt have immense impact on the Great War against the Night King, who now has his own dragon that blasted away a part of the Wall, and the army of the dead. The motivation behind the Night King’s quest to invade Westeros is (still?) unknown, which makes this enemy difficult to decipher, and thus is an adversary with whom the protagonists cannot reason. Also, Littlefinger’s “trial” and subsequent death were wholly satisfying and long overdue.

The season seven finale also revealed that the perception of history and of those involved can be distorted to suit those who write and tell it. After all, it’s been said that “history is written by the winners”, and the winners would obviously want to cast themselves (and their actions) in a favorable light, if only to justify those actions (which are almost always negative if seen from an objective vantage point). There will be those who cling to the lies and half-truths to the bitter end, even if they’re told the truth, and there are those who knew (and told) the truth, but were labeled as being delusional for doing so, who will feel validated once others believe that truth. (The ranger of the Night’s Watch who survived the White Walkers’ attack, only to be executed for desertion, deserves an apology for telling the truth).

But I digress.

The notion of rewriting history to fit the perspective of the victors is not a new concept in the writing process – telling a story from a different point of view is a staple in storytelling. Another popular saying (though I don’t know who coined the phrase) is that there are always two sides to every story – though I’d argue that there are three sides: “your” side, “their” side, and the truth (which can be a either of the aforementioned sides, a hybrid of those two sides, or something completely different). Depending on whose version of the truth you believe (or choose to believe), one will be the hero, the other the villain.

Or both can be heroic or villainous, depending on the situation.

As seen in the Game of Thrones series, the characters are complex – not one of them are exclusively “good” or “evil”, though Ramsay Snow Bolton, Walder Frey and Joffrey Lannister Baratheon (to name but a few) are exceptions to this notion.  History (and those who write and tell their story) will cast its characters accordingly, even though history (and historians) should be objective, despite the attempts to whitewash or exclude certain aspects of history for the advancement of a social or political agenda.

As the MASC(D) Chronicles (my novel series saga that has been oft-mentioned yet hardly ever elaborated upon) will 96.8% be set in an alternate universe based off changing one historical point in time, the perspective from which to tell the story, and the perspective from which to impart that version of history will be a challenge. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive – the narrator’s perspective and opinions need not match those that are accepted by society (and probably should not, as the friction between the two opposing forces adds tension to the overall narrative).

Researching real history and plotting and pondering the causality from the aforementioned divergence has occupied my time, though internal writing never stops (writing and rewriting scenes and scenarios is exhausting within the head space, and would consume scores of notebooks, notepads and a flash drive or two). The main characters are developing, with their allegiances and opinions shifting from one side to the other.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it all, taking a simple (ghost) story and morphing it into a complex (alternate historical) puzzle, but aren’t all the best stories complex and full of twists and turns?

The challenge begins, and the (long) wait for Season eight of Game of Thrones continues (and I think the wait for the next series of Doctor Who with Thirteen is a long one too)

Might as well spend the time plotting, pondering, researching and writing.

Alliances and Ambiguity

In crafting characters and plots within which to fling them or to carefully place them (depending if you’re a pantser or plotter),  figuring out where they (and with whom) stand in the story is critical. The character’s perspective, influenced both by nature (surroundings) and nurture (upbringing), affects how they (re)act (or not) to the events and environments around them. Knowing who the characters are and with whom they choose to associate helps with the overall telling of the story, regardless if they are the protagonists or antagonists (though it’s often been said that the villain is the hero of their own story).

Then again, if everything is divided in absolutes, the characters and the narrative could fall into the Pit of Predictability and / or Sphere or Stereotypes, rendering the story and its characters unbelievable and unremarkable. On the other hand, there is a need for the reader to know (or at least ascertain) which characters are on the “good” side and which are on the “bad” side – “good” and “bad” being subjective, depending on the character’s perspective, and the readers’ interpretation of the story. Grouping characters in this way is convenient in drawing a (figurative) line between the two sides, though each side need not have member(s) who adhere to the ideals adopted by the group as a whole.

That’s where / when the (shocking?) plot twist drops.

The somewhat quasi-random inspiration for this entry is how the current (seventh) season of Game of Thrones is unfolding; the final episode of the season will air tomorrow, and considering what has happen thus far, the alliances that have been forged thus far may break, only to be refashioned out of expediency to battle against a common enemy. Loyalty and trust dwell on a slippery slope in Westeros, and the elaborate schemes within schemes, coupled with personal agendas could doom the characters who are still alive (or in some cases characters who died and subsequently brought back to life).

The moral ambiguity that lies within the world of Game of Thrones (and in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that inspired the TV series) and the complexity of its characters is among the inspirations for my journey in attempting to (and eventually succeeding in) creating an epic series saga. Not everything is simply “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, though there are instances where it’s clear whether something or someone is right or wrong – there may be those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the label, but they’ll learn (hopefully) they’re on the “wrong” side of history. Then again, without the presence of an opposition, how could anyone know when they’re on the right side?

But I digress.

Plotting and pondering all the angles (or as many as can plausibly exist) in the MASC(D) Chronicles is an ongoing process as the plots within plots grow exponentially with the seemingly infinite possibilities brought about by establishing alternate history, thus creating an alternate universe where (just about) anything can happen.

(I do hope that last sentence makes sense, and is somewhat grammatically correct.)

Anyway.

Having the power (as it were) to devise an alternate universe (with its alternative history) is overwhelming and loads of fun, though it can’t all be rainbows and unicorns traipsing about the landscape. I’m sure there’s a well-known quotation (by someone) that light cannot exist without darkness – the laws of Time and Space (relative as they may be in any dimension) dictate that there are Fixed Points in history, events that need to happen in order for the universe to remain intact. So certain Dark moments in history will still happen in the Alternate Universe of the MASC(D) Chronicles, though perhaps not in the same time and place or under the same conditions due to the Left Turn taken from One Key Moment in World History.

Seems the quasi-rambling musings within this entry have meandered a bit – the original title was “Allies and Enemies”, and was to ponder the fragility of grouping certain characters – a quasi-direct reflection on last week’s episode of Game of Thrones “Beyond the Wall” and the alliance between Houses Targaryen / Martell / Tyrell / Greyjoy against House Lannister (spoiler alert – it does not bode well for either side, as military strategy and dragons play a significant role).

Ambiguity quickly became the emerging theme, and a degree of uncertainty is sometimes necessary.

Next week’s entry will no doubt contain reactions and insight into the season finale airing tomorrow night.

Valar Morghulis.

Valar Dohaeris.

 

Revisiting The Land of Exposition

With all the musing about the State of Things in the Real World (with brief quasi-rambling segues about Doctor Who and Game of Thrones), not (too) much time has been spent on the results of the plotting and pondering (and researching about the plotting and pondering) happening in the various sectors within the Land of Exposition.

Actually, it’s been a while since the last (official) visit into that mythical, magical place where plot bunnies plot, and Muses wander about quasi-aimlessly musing about anything and everything. A place where the weather is ideal (which can vary depending on a majority vote), supplies (of every kind) are abundant, and where tolerance and empathy is the standard. It’s a safe haven for writers to escape from the less than ideal conditions of the Real World and plot, ponder, research and (eventually) write. The overall acreage of this fantastical land has never been measured, as it exists on an ever changing dimension in time and space. There are no (real) set borders, though the invading contingent that is/was the Real Life Brigade built a Wall to keep themselves separate from the rest of the land (for reasons not entirely explained). However, the “Wall” ended up being a tall fence that crisscrosses the southern plain, the Babbling Brook of Quasi-Rambling Musings flows through its center. Even though it has no real function, it is a geometrically pleasing piece of architecture (which might have been the real reason it was constructed in the first place).

But I digress.

Anyway.

Among the landmarks within the Land of Exposition is the Character Development Inn is always bustling with muses, writers and other creative types, collaborating and partaking in gourmet cuisine. The vast library occupies nearly half the building, with a fully stocked bar (and corner coffee bar). A quasi-newly renovated theater, with plush, roomy seats, and proscenium stage that can easily be modified into a thrust stage; there’s also a state-of-the-art movie screen that descends from the stage for the occasional film marathons.

Things with the land itself have been calm, with the aforementioned Real Life Brigade ceasing their shenanigans (at least for the time being) and the Land Minds neutralized (though the omnipresent aroma of maple syrup and vanilla still linger in the air, which is not really a bad thing). The Muses and Plot Bunnies (and Plot Ninjas) have used their time to muse and plot, sifting through historical records and Other Known Facts with the hopes of mapping how the (quasi) alternate (historical) universe that is the MASC(D) Chronicles will unfold.

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) continues to work its own brand of mystical magic, as potential alternative universes are calculated based on the causality brought about from the stealthy minds of the Muses and Plot Beings calculating their alternate universes. Pondering alternative universes from Canon that has not yet been established might be foolhardy and counterproductive, but it’s still fun to potentially plot out fan fiction of a literary work that has yet to exist.

The MASC(D) Chronicles is the primary work in progress, though stray thoughts wander to the other quasi-developed works in progress, and how they could possibly fit within the primary epic saga. Working in themes and Easter eggs (based on my other interests) will be part of the process, as the narrative is sorted out and the characters developed.

A fascinating journey upon which to embark – the Meta saga of How it Happened is quasi- happening right now (I think).

That’s where the fun begins.

On Character Diversity

As a quasi-continuation of the musings surrounding character development and world building,  another vital component is deciding upon race and ethnicity of the characters. The gender and age of those characters was mused upon fairly in depth in a previous entry, so there won’t be as much here, and race and ethnicity was briefly mentioned in that entry as well. Gender, age, race and ethnicity are among the primary pillars upon which define the external characteristics, which can also influence the character’s perspective on the world and on others, and their overall personality. The environment in which the characters live and the circumstances in which they endure play a role in character development. How they are perceived by the general public (whether it’s positive, negative or indifferent) affects how they act (and react) to those around them.

This impromptu entry is a modest (and hopefully political-free) stream of thought stemmed from Current Events happening in the Real World. I tend not to be overly political in these entries, as this blog is meant to chronicle a writer’s journey in creating an epic series saga (with brief segues into discussions / rants / musings about certain television shows). While quasi-rambling thoughts about Real World events seep in every now and then, they are mostly (I hope) fairly harmless, as I am not qualified in any way to talk / write about anything political, as my perspective and opinions are shaped by my personal experiences. My life and experiences are different from others; having said / written that, I can still empathize with the struggles and obstacles endured by others, both near and far.

But I digress.

Kinda.

As mentioned in the entry about gender and age, race and ethnicity should reflect as much diversity as possible, unless the fictional world in which the story takes place is inhabited by beings that are of a single race or ethnicity. This would not necessarily make for an interesting read, unless there is some kind of disruption to that (seemly) singular, hive-mind world…

… and there goes another plot bunny, hopping about high on coffee and jelly beans.

Perhaps that particular plot bunny will find a home in the latter part(s) of the MASC(D) Chronicles.

Anyway.

Diversity exists, and representation matters – whether conforming to established stereotypes (positive or negative) or skewing the aforementioned stereotypes. Regardless on how the characters are created and how they act within the confines of the story, there will be critics. In this hyper politically correct / reactionary world, where social media can swiftly impact the finished product, there will be those who will condemn any (and probably all) deviation to the “accepted” norm of how a race or ethnicity (as well as gender and / or age) is “supposed to be”.  There will also be others who “complain” that the deviation is “not enough” to shatter said stereotypes; needless to say, it seems easier for people to criticize than to praise.

Human nature, I suppose.

Diversity is important in the writing process – there needs to be conflict in order for things to change (hopefully for the better, though change for the worse is a part of the quest to right the wrong and to bring about character development). Conformity can be an end goal, but without different points of view, the story can be bland and ultimately uneventful.

If the protagonist does not have an adversary to fight, what is the purpose of a protagonist?

Is there a point to being a protagonist?

Deep thoughts to ponder while the plotting unfurls once again.

Researching History

Amid the plotting and pondering (and mental writing), a great deal of research goes into crafting a fictional universe – deciding on how much (if any) of it will be based on the Real World, what themes and perspectives to undertake, and the pacing of the overall story. If the tale is set in a wholly alien world (literally on another planet in a galaxy far, far away) or in another dimension, the writer is in full control in deciding on every aspect of that world – its climate(s), the beings who inhabit it, and the (practical) rules that govern the ways things are (or at least supposed to be). If the tale is set in the Real World, whether it be in the near (or distant) past or present, the writer is bound (to a certain degree) to ensure a level of historical and geographical accuracy, lest the reader nitpick on the credibility of the story and its characters. If the tale is set somewhere in between fact and fiction, the writer needs to decide the realty / fantasy ratio and follow through accordingly. In this context, fantasy need not refer to Fantasy, where wizards, dragons, elves, and such exist along side humanity (though it could, depending on the needs of the narrative).

For any of these scenarios, a whole lot of research is required, whether in creating the absolutes in that wholly fictional world, fact checking historical documents (seeking as objective sources as possible) and finding the happy balance between the first two options, when melding reality and fantasy.

Thus far, the MASC(D) Chronicles finds itself quasi-rooted in the third option – a world where history takes a left turn and travels down a path where reality as we know it is quite different. How different remains to be seen (or in this case, plotted and pondered); there is a very specific (historical) time (and place) this will occur, though the alternate history / universe that will unfold due to this disruption in the time/space continuum is (still) a work in progress. There are a few possible paths this divergence can travel, and figuring out which one is the most plausible and would entice a reader to become invested in it (and the characters within) is the (fun) challenging part.

With all this plotting and pondering comes actual research, via (gasp!) actual books, credible, objective tomes that impart the social and political history of the world, as well as online sources, i.e. Wikipedia (though more for quick / reduced version of a specific topic) and watching episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, the genealogy series that explores the family history of Well Known People – actors, writers, singers and entertainers. The series was among the inspirations for the inter-connectivity of the three series that make up the MASC(D) Chronicles, albeit plotted and pondered in chronological order.

As the song goes, starting at the beginning is a very good place to start, though where and when to start is the question to answer.

I have a fair inkling on where and when to start, though sometimes I wonder if working backwards, travelling through time in that manner will solve some of the aforementioned questions.

After all, time doesn’t strictly need to be linear – it’s a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of stuff, bouncing about quasi-aimlessly in search for a place to land.

The plotting and pondering (and researching) continues.

The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

Lies.

Words can hurt.

Depending on what those words are, who is speaking / writing / tweeting them, and to whom they are addressed, words have the power to induce fear, anger, hate, and (ultimately) suffering. For some, words are the difference between life and death, freedom or incarceration.

On the other hand, words also have the power to inspire and to educate, bringing hope and imparting knowledge to everyone and anyone willing to hear / read them. Choosing the right words to write or say for and about the characters the writer creates helps shape the personality of those characters – their beliefs, quirks and perspective on the world in which they inhabit. The same goes for the universe in which the story is set, the historical events that may or may not have taken place, and the overall atmosphere of the narrative.

How those words are interpreted by the reader is (mostly) subjective – some will be delighted, while others will be disgusted by the content and context of the words released into the (fictional) world. And that’s a good thing – there need not be consensus about everything (though there should be some universal concepts that are acceptable and unacceptable regardless of one’s personal beliefs).

But I digress.

The topic of this week’s entry stems partly from my recent (non-Sunset) experience at the theatre – last night I went to see Indecent, a play by Paula Vogel about the controversy surrounding the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance, which included a love scene between two women. The power of words and the context in which the words are used have an effect – both positive and negative. Words have meaning, and when they (often) are taken out of context, the meaning of those words change, sometimes to suit the agenda of the opposition. The addition or deletion of certain (key) words make all the difference, which is all the reason to choose those words carefully.

Think before you speak / write / tweet, and always check spelling and grammar (unless the words are misspelled for a reason) – everyone is a critic these days, and will remember the mistakes more than the nuggets of wisdom.

Why is that?

I have no idea – human nature, I suppose.

Anyway.

Plotting and pondering, as well as world / alternate universe building is (still) a massive work in progress. Research and creating flow charts on where / when history diverges consumes a lot of time and energy (requiring copious amounts of coffee and energy-laden foodstuffs). How divergent to travel down the alternate history / universe is a valid question, and whether or not to “fix” the timeline in order to return to “real” history is equally questionable. When the fictional world begins in alignment with the Real World, then diverges at some Key Moment in history, the impulse is to continue down that path and speculate how events might unfold if that Key Moment did (or didn’t) happen:

What would change?

Would there be any change?

Would the universe find a way to return to its true path?

Actually, it seems a bit like time travelling into the past, with the hopes of creating a better present / future, but as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits has demonstrated, the Universe seems to have a way to ensure that any interference in that Key Moment is remedied if only to ensure that the time / space continuum remains intact.

But I digress (again).

I think.

On the other hand, a fictional world is just that – fictional, borne out of a imagination fueled by coffee, sugar and binge watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. 

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Stormborn” was fantastic, with unexpected reunions, a great sea battle and the buildup to an epic meeting of two characters to whom (I believe) the novel series refers, i.e. “The Song of Ice and Fire”.

The notion of alternate history leading to a parallel universe remains the central concept of the MASC(D) Chronicles – details of which will be revealed once it’s been properly mapped out.

If all goes according to plan, it should be epic.

Whether or not it’ll make sense is relative.