He Said, She Said…

As a quasi-continuation of my previous entries about perspective and character building, I’ve quite nearly reached the stage of actually writing my novel(s), as opposed to endlessly pondering over plot points, characters and other such details. Though I have (and have had) started writing actual narrative, both specifically for the current MASC Chronicles and for previous incarnations of this Epic Saga, in recent years I’ve only ever gotten around to writing a few pages, most of which was description and inner monologues.  There does exist a nearly completed novel (roughly fifty typed pages, albeit printed out from a word processor) written nearly two decades previously, and while I never got around to actually finishing that tale (school and life in general got in the way), forward thinking as I was back then, I had hand written (and subsequently typed) chapter notes on the denouement and an epilogue. Eventually I’ll need to re-read that initial story (which was an expansion of the initial short story) and see if anything can be salvaged from it.

Anyway.

As I’m just nearly plotted as much as I can plot (and as the entire narrative arc is quite massive, at least as far as I’ve plotted it), I do feel that I’ve plotted and pondered enough to actually start writing the first novel in the first series of the three-part Epic Saga. I highly suspect that there will be a subsequent blog entry detailing why there are to be a total of thirty-six novels within this three-part Epic Saga (which I had initially thought would be the topic of this week’s blog entry, but another quandary has arisen that should be addressed)

Oh. There I go, digressing again. Oops.

Anyway.

The quandary at hand is (as alluded to at the start of this entry)  the question of perspective: namely, who will narrate the first part of this Epic Saga? As I’ve decided to try my hand at writing in first person perspective, it’s been quite a puzzlement as to which character will be granted the honor of narrating the stories. To date there are two main characters vying for this honor: a male character and a female character (hence the reason behind the title of this entry). As these novels will be primarily in the mystery genre (with other genre elements thrown in), I’ve decided to employ the traditional private detective and sidekick model. Though I haven’t quite settled on which of the two aforementioned characters is the private detective and which is the sidekick, nor have I decided on whether the narrator is to be the private detective or the sidekick – as there is in mystery series in which either (and sometimes both, or neither) option is the case.

Nevertheless, whichever character ultimately ends up winning the narration duties, he or she will have quite an impact on how the overall story will unfold. Again, it’s back to the question of perspective – whether it be the private detective or the sidekick narrating the story (and moreover which character occupies which role) will affect what the reader (as well as the characters themselves) knows and doesn’t know (or shouldn’t know but does inadvertently), all of which makes my job as the one charged with knowing everything about everyone (or at least as much as I’m allowed to know) much more challenging.

Again, as the first series of this three-part saga is tentatively (though almost most definitely) set in a Steampunk-infused (and fantasy-tinged) alternate historical universe from ours, this gives me the freedom to diverge from the true historical aspects of the era in which the first series is set, which is mid Victorian-era England. In other (not so long-winded) words, I am not bound to adhere to the actual mores and mentality that actually existed in the Victorian era, though perhaps use some aspects from that period and bend them ever so slightly so that they fit the universe I have created (and create it I have – I’ve drafted broad ideas on the socioeconomic system, and general rules to which the inhabitants of this universe are to adhere).

But I digress. Again.

At least I’ve narrowed it down to two main characters to duke it out (so to speak) for narration rights. Of course, I could  choose the path of least resistance of have both characters narrate, though I would rather not have dueling narrators within the story (I’ve read a few novels that have had multiple narrators, and more times than not I had lost track of which character was narrating and often spent more time flipping back and forth within the story to figure out what exactly was going on). On the other hand, there is the temptation to tell the tale(s) from both perspectives, but separately, though if that were to occur, that would undoubtedly double the number of novels and (potentially) double the amount of plotting and such – I’d probably need a large whiteboard to diagram the exact timeline and sequence of events, though technically speaking, “time is not a strict progression of cause and effect… from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff” – yeah there had to be a Doctor Who reference somewhere).

Well, this is where it gets complicated. Eventually (hopefully) I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I shall plot on.

Wish me luck (I’m gonna need it). [Ooh, first Star Wars reference… I think].

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Difficulties, Digressions and Distractions (Oh my!)

There actually is such a thing as having too many ideas when planning to write a novel series/saga, especially when those multitude of ideas get in the way of the actual writing process. I probably (well, most definitely) spend far too much time plotting and far less time actually writing my novel(s), which is a good thing and a not-so-good thing. Plotting does give me the opportunity to  figure out the overall structure of the novel (and of the series/saga) will unfold, with all the twists and turns that any good mystery/fantasy/science fiction series should have, but with all that pondering, planning and plotting, a tsunami of random ideas pop into my head like plot bunnies, leading me to think, rethink and re-rethink plot narratives, character development and character relationships. Sometimes the (quasi) random idea is one that I had had (and had written down, either in long hand or typed in a Word document/notepad) weeks, months, or even years ago, other times they’re combinations of older ideas with a new twist. Either way, sometimes I feel that these quasi-random ideas (in the guise of plot bunnies and Muses) have clandestine meetings and plot to distract and divert the writing process, leading to difficulties in actually starting to write the narrative for the MASC Chronicles.

[Actually, I’m kinda contemplating writing a quasi-meta series of stories with personifications of the plot bunnies, Muses and other digressing and diversionary beings doing exactly what I think they’re doing. Of course, the very idea of plotting this series in and of itself is a distraction and digression from my working on the MASC Chronicles.]

But I digress – which is at the heart of the matter.

As stated in previous blogs, I’ve thought about and plotted this saga for many, many, many years, albeit not exactly in the layout as it stands now (three series, with multiple books within each series, with one central location as the focal point in each series containing multiple generations of a handful of families). Oh so long ago (and it does feel like a lifetime as passed since the initial idea), I was planning to write a simple (sorta) trilogy of books, set over a block of time, still with one central location as its focal point and with generational families. As the years went on, and I became interested in different things (books, movies, television programs, etc.) and as current events played out in real-time, and as aspects relating to historical events were revealed,  more and more random and not-so-random ideas surfaced, which left indelible impressions on the Epic Saga. These digressions, while distracting, have been helpful in changing and clarifying the overall plot line, yet at the same time, have introduced (seemingly) infinite possibilities for which the saga can take shape.

Despite this though, I do have a multitude of expository narrative scenes (albeit most without much dialogue), most of which have been relegated as “false starts” (I have a multitude of Word document folders/files, all duly time and date stamped);  moreover, my very first attempt at novel-writing all those years ago (more years than I care to mention, though perhaps I had in an earlier blog post) was a nearly completed novel (and as a sign of my foresight, I had plotted out the ending and an epilogue). That initial novel may or may not be revived (though most definitely will be revised) and elements of that first attempt at novel-writing might find its way in this Epic Saga – there are several character names (thought not the same personalities) from that initial novel still exist, and have endured this long  journey, and it is my hope that  they make it into at least one of the series within the MASC Chronicles.

I just need to sort through all the random, weird, and totally outrageous ideas to finally figure out the exact narrative flow for the novels, series and saga. It’s already been a long journey, and I don’t even think I’ve even gotten to the midway point yet (wherever and whenever that is); needless to say the journey will go on, and I intend to make it to the  finish line.

If I can definitively figure things out – too many tangents, too many possible digressions, and too many perspectives to take into account – such is the life of a novelist.

Spoilers…

As I continue on this long and epic journey of plotting and writing my novel(s) and blogging about it, I’ve come to realize that I have spoken (well, written, if one wants to be technical about it) very little about what this Epic Saga (and yes, that has to be spelled out with capital letters to stress the import and enormity of what has been planned out) will actually entail. There are several reasons for this – one of which can summed up in this blog’s title: “Spoilers…” (I’m almost certain that there’s a certain percentage of readers out there who saw and read that single word and thought of Alex Kingston’s voice and her exact  intonation of that simple yet complex word).

Yes, I’ve become a Whovian (albeit a fairly new fan) – watching (and re-watching) episodes of Doctor Who (especially those in the 11th Doctor’s tenure, plus a few from the 10th Doctor’s tenure) has given me much insight to how to structure long story arcs and how to use the multiple meaning of certain words and/or phrases and present them in a way where they can be interpreted as nuggets of truth or possible red herrings. Misdirection and playing on preconceived  presumptions [try saying that three times fast] are tools often used to enhance the element of surprise. This has had quite an impact on how I approach my writing: how to develop my characters and the myriad of connections / relationships one character may (or may not) have with another, and how the character’s actions, inactions, and/or their very existence impacts the plot of not only the novel in which they live, but of the entire story arc (and in the case of the MASC Chronicles, the entire Saga. Maybe.)

Describing and/or explaining what the MASC Chronicles is about and relating who the characters are and what their motives are is a tricky business when the genre in which this Epic Saga takes place is primarily mystery (with dashes of horror, fantasy and a bit of science fiction). As the author and creator of this universe, which, as of now the entire Saga (not just the first part) will be in an alternate Steampunk-infused world, I will need to be holding all the cards (so to speak) and only showing you (the reader) just enough of what is up my (proverbial) sleeve.  Moreover, the reader may (or may not) know more about what is going on in the story than the characters do – one of the benefits of employing first person perspective narration over the more omniscient third person perspective. As the creator of this universe, I will have final say of who knows what and when and how and why, and having said that, it’s difficult to know how much to impart prior to the actual writing of the story, and to whom certain truths (or mistruths) are to be shared without spoiling the (possible) plot twists that will be revealed (eventually).

Of course another reason for the hesitation of explaining  what the Epic Saga is about is a simple one: I have no idea myself how this Epic Saga will turn out – it’s been an evolving (if I can use “evolving” in this context) process spanning many, many years (as my initial blog post can attest) and has changed over the years (again, as my initial blog will attest). The narrative plot and character development is an organic work in progress, sometimes with minute changes, and sometimes with monumental changes, both of which will have an impact (both large and small) on every facet of the story.  With this seemingly constant and consistent element of change and the Unknown, it give me as the author and creator much to ponder about, and has filled many pages of Word files (and many legal pads) of musings about plot, characters and other random thoughts. Some are whimsical, nonsensical thoughts (often conjured from somewhere in my mind usually in the middle of the night as I’m drifting off to sleep) that lead nowhere, while others are no less than major epiphanies (that again often occur as I’m drifting off to sleep) that both clarify and complicate matters.

I do have (somewhat of) a clear notion of how the first part of the MASC Chronicles will play out – as I’m very much a plotter, I have (very) generally outlined the fourteen novels (well thirteen novels plus one prequel) of the first part [Tainted Blood] and (kinda) plotted of the pacing of Important Plot Points to maximize the build up to the Big Reveal (though I’m stymied at the moment of how to handle the Fallout). That being said, I’ve tentatively started to think about the overall story arc of the second part [Fatal Illusions] and the allusions that series will have to the first part; I have yet to ponder what will happen in the third part [Buried Secrets] but I have tentative ideas.

So, you may ask, “What does ‘MASC’ in the MASC Chronicles stand for? To what does each of the titles of the three series [Tainted Blood, Fatal Illusions and Buried Secrets] refer?”

“Spoilers.”

Choosing a Genre

When setting forth to write a story, there are a multitude of factors to take into account – one of the more important factors to take into account is the genre in which the story is based, which may (or may not) dictate where and when the story is to occur. Literary genres are elusive things to figure out – sure, there are the general categories: mystery, science fiction, horror, romance, fantasy, etc., but there are quite possibly an infinite number of ways to blend the known (and universally accepted) genres to create interesting sub-genres (or even a new genre).

The Steampunk genre is probably among the best examples (or rather the one that I can think of off the top of my head) of this blending of genres – start with  a bit of historical fiction (usually set in the mid to late 19th Century), mix in a dose of science fiction then add perhaps a dash of horror, fantasy, romance and mystery. Amid the blending, more times than not, one of the components stands out more than the rest – perhaps the story is a romance that happens to be set in a futuristic world where angels and demons exist. I’m not quite sure if such a story exists (though I’m sure someone, somewhere has thought of it).

Interestingly enough, when I started writing my own stories, they tended to be mysteries, more or less emulating the books I grew up reading, which were mainly in the “Golden Age” mystery genre. However over the course of time (and as my reading habits expanded to science fiction, fantasy and suspense novels), I’ve found that gradually and quite unexpectedly, the genre in which I was writing began to change. The short story that sparked my current writing odyssey, which essentially a ghost story with elements of detective fiction, had grown and evolved (if it’s possible to use this term in this sense) into a detective fiction saga with elements of Steampunk, fantasy and horror (though not the bloody, violent kind of horror – more the psychological, what-the-heck-is-going-on-get-me-out-of-here kind of horror, which sometimes is often times the scarier of the two).

Anyway.

As the genre quasi dictates (at least to me) the overall structure of the story, and the characters that inhabit the story, it’s truly fascinating to see how blending them can open up a seemingly infinite number of possibilities in which the overall arc of a story (or in my case an Epic Saga)  can take. Of course if time travel is thrown into the mix, then that presents other interesting and puzzling possibilities.

[Disclaimer: I’ve recently been Doctor Who, albeit mainly the episodes in the past few years – so mostly the adventures of the 11th Doctor, and I must say the story arcs that have been presented are quite inspiring – the brilliance of placing seemingly innocuous clues in plain sight, and the use  the multiple meanings of certain words.]

Thus far I have consciously avoided using time travel in my stories (I have enough trouble keeping track of the linear historical timeline, and as the MASC Chronicles is to span several centuries and include multiple generations of a core group of families), the possibility of  time travel is tempting. The Steampunk, fantasy and horror aspects are welcome additions, though the mixing of the three may yield something quite new.

Maybe.

Only time will tell.

Relationships are Important

The relationship (or lack thereof) a person has with another person, whether it be familial, professional or romantic,  has a great and lasting impact on one’s life – on their overall opinions of themselves, of others and  how they view the world around them. These relationships can be staggeringly straightforward, deliberately complex,  or something in between, constructive or destructive,  or ambiguous. In writing, as in real life, how a person relates, interacts and reacts to others is an essential component in a person’s motives, motivations and perspectives.

In a quasi-continuation of a blog posted a fortnight ago, in creating realistic, well-rounded characters, how the characters interact with one another is a starting point in figuring out who they are, and why they are the way they are. There is nearly an infinite number of possibilities a writer can create characters’ relationships, and intricate layers they can assume – combinations that not only shape the characters but also the story in which they reside. As my current writing project [the MASC Chronicles] spans several centuries [in the late 19th Century, the early 20th Century, and in the mid 21st Century], there is the added challenge of figuring out how the relationships change and impact future generations.

Thankfully (maybe?) the world in which the MASC Chronicles is an alternate universe from ours (a Steampunk-influenced one), the historical and social aspects that exist within the aforementioned time periods need not adhere to  how it was/is/will be in “real life”. That is one of the joys of writing fiction – the freedom to tweak historical and social norms to conform to the universe in which the narrative resides. It’s almost like working with a blank canvas on which a writer (or artist) can create a brand new (almost) world.

As it stands now (and given how quasi-random ideas regularly pop into my head, this can all change), there are several layers of complexity in the relationships of my main characters (or at least of the ones I’m focusing on at the moment) – some of which is evident, while some aspects are covert, with hints dropped here and there. Thus far the characters and their interactions, impressions and influences on one another is a great work in progress, and it might even surprise me what kind of story they will have to tell.