Seeking a Clear Narrative Path

Plot bunnies, narrative ninjas and other such muses have commandeered the narrative and have run amok in the timeline – or at least that’s what it seems like, as the element of time travel (which perhaps, might be a revealing spoiler) has preoccupied my thought processes and has made me rethink things I used to believe were true for my characters and the overall narrative flow. On the other hand, the inclusion of time travel (or at least the idea of it) has cleared up some of the plot holes that were threatening to tear into the fabric of my narrative arc. It’s also made me think of pulling a [George] Lucas and start the tale in the middle of the narrative arc, and work my way forward and backwards. Clearly, I’m still in a Doctor Who state of mind, as that series does have a tendency to explore alternate universes, the near and not-so-near past and future, sometimes all within a season (or series, as they call it outside the US).

Gone (perhaps) is the singular narrative arc, replaced (maybe) by a seemingly infinite number of possibilities, alternate paths my characters could take, choices that could ultimately change the (fictional) universe as they know it to be.

Time travel can do that (as can watching an abundance of Doctor Who).

Of course, the topic of my characters’ journey and the different paths they can take is prevalent in my thoughts, as I’ve just seen the musical Pippin (the other great passion in my own life is live theater, both plays and musicals, of which I also blog about here). That musical is about a young man’s quest to find his “Corner of the Sky” – his purpose in life, and he travels down several paths throughout the musical, searching for something to make sense of his life.

[Side note: anyone who resides near New York City or plans to travel to NYC in the near and far future should go see Pippin – it’s an amazing production, with a stunning cast and an amazing score. Truly, the show is a feast for the eyes and ears with a great story at its heart. Ticket prices might be on the steep side, but it’s worth it. Really. I’ve just seen it and I want to go see it again, and again and again.]

But I digress. Kind of.

Finding a clear (or at least relatively clear) path for my characters will be tricky now, with the (relatively) new changes, though I have some inklings on how the overall narrative arc might look. There will be some tributaries to the main narrative river, those “what if?” trails on the main road that is the MASC Chronicles.

Of course jumping from the future to the past then to the present is a worthwhile journey as well, one that will be very interesting (and probably frustrating) to plot.

Then again, isn’t the journey just as important as the final destination? How one gets to where one is going and the experiences undertaken, relationships made (and broken), and lessons learned along the way?

I hope so.

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Venturing Towards the Unknown

In light of  my recent discovery of a published novel that bears a striking similarity to an integral part to my novel saga, the MASC Chronicles, I’ve had to rethink certain aspects of the saga and make adjustments accordingly (and also actually read the novel in question, which is on queue of my list of books to read). Interestingly (though not quite surprisingly) enough, while pondering these changes, the often used plot device of time travel has slowing (but surely) crept into the narrative like a stealthy ninja (plot ninja – now there’s a new type of muse…)

Anyway.

It’s not too much of a surprise that the Muses have ventured me towards the use of time travel in my stories – I’ve quite recently become engrossed in the phenomenon that is Doctor Who, of which this year is its 50th Anniversary (though the show has not been on the air for all of those fifty years, but that’s not the point).  What has intrigued me the most about the show (and I’m mainly referring to the “modern” Who era, from 2005 onward) is the narrative arcs and plot and character twists throughout, leaving the viewer with much to speculate, theorize and reevaluate the actions that go on in any given episode – the notion that there are fixed points in time where events cannot be changed (or else the universe as we know it would cease to  exist) and other moments in time where events can be altered, leading to parallel universes, paradoxes, and alternate realities. It’s brilliant in its quasi-non linear way of revealing sequence of events, and imparting subtle (and not so subtle) clues nonchalantly, as well as inserting references to older episodes (whether it be from the modern and/or classic Who era).

All this being said (written), it’s made me look at the overall narrative arc of the MASC Chronicles, and has given me ideas on how to incorporate some aspect of time travel to one or more parts to this saga. The challenge is to figure out how to insert time travel in a way that has not yet been used before (or at least doesn’t outright copy previous allusions to time travel whether it be in literature, movies, or television), and to make it believable (to a certain extent). I have some working ideas on how this could work, but in doing so, I might have to start plotting/pondering/musing backwards or  at least in a non-linear way, and yet keep in mind that the main genre in which these novels reside is in mystery (with shades of fantasy and such).

Strange how off course I’ve gotten from the initial intent of this series/saga, but maybe it’s better this way – change is inevitable, and venturing towards the unknown is the way most stories unfold anyway.

Variations on Narrative (and Character) Archetypes

A long time ago (in a galaxy quite like our own) I dreamed a dream about a haunted (possibly cursed) English estate with a long winding staircase, a massive chandelier, hidden passageways that led to a secret lair and an elaborate garden maze with a magical fountain at its center. Within this realm were a motley assemblage of characters, including a clever yet socially awkward private detective,  a level-headed and sassy assistant, a by-the-book police inspector, and a charismatic criminal mastermind. Murder, theft, kidnapping and other such strange things would happen, secrets would be revealed and criminals would be brought to justice.

These archetypes were the start of my creative universe, which has since expanded, and changed over the years – I’ve put quite a lot time and effort in creating characters, plotting narrative arcs and developing the foundation of the quasi-alternate historical universe that has now become the MASC Chronicles, an Epic Saga that focuses on the interactions of several families (and lone characters) over a long-span of time. I’ve also filled several flash drives, spiral notebooks, legal pads, index cards, post-it notes and allotted considerable amount of space on my laptop hard drive with all my random musings, narrative notes, lists of character names, traits and detailed family trees.

The aforementioned archetype elements will appear at some point within the MASC Chronicles (though perhaps not all at once) and are among the literary archetypes found in literature, film and television: the reluctant Hero, the loyal Sidekick, and the nefarious Villain; challenges are placed before the hero of which he/she must overcome, alliances are forged and destroyed, and the Hero goes on a journey of discovery and will (more times than not) face his/her (arch) enemy in a final showdown that will have  a far-reaching impact on the world/universe as the Hero (and those who reside in said world/universe) knows it to be.

Anyway.

This is all really a rather long-winded preface to the recent discovery I’ve made with regards to the novel(s) I’ve been working on (and off) for most of my life, and the potential impact it will have on my novel-writing going forward. I visited my local library where I was there to pick up a copy of Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno (I do like his novels, though the film adaptations have been less than stellar, in my opinion), where I happened across (quite by accident, or not, I’m not quite sure now) a hardcover copy of 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz. I like to think that I read a wide range of novels, and will give a novel of almost any genre a try, so long as the story via the summary blurb on the book jacket (on hardcovers) or on the back cover (on paperbacks) holds my interest;  a novel’s title as well as the cover artwork are also indicators on whether or not I pick up a novel and skim over the summary blurb.

So, the cover artwork and the title 77 Shadow Street piqued my interest enough for me to read the book jacket blurb, and as I did, I came to the realization that the summary was quite similar to the initial novel I had written (which has since expanded to the MASC Chronicles).  Not quite the same, but similar enough for me to borrow the book in order for me to read it to see just how similar it might be. While I knew of Dean Koontz and the novels he had written, I had not read any of his previous novels, and not because of disinterest – there are far too many books I want to read, but never seem to find the time to read them; though now with this revelation I will need to read this novel to see how his tale unfolds and whether or not I need to make any adjustments to my quasi-plotted out Epic Saga.

I suppose it was inevitable that this would happen, as there seems to only be a handful of narrative archetypes (and character templates) used in literature, film and television, with seemingly infinite variations on those archetypes. After all, the journey Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins (among others) undertakes is a similar one, with the obligatory arch-enemy to defeat, a wise father figure guiding the hero along in his quest, epic battles to fight, and moral choices the hero must make. It’s the variation to the Coming of Age Hero story that makes a story unique – the details the author creates that leaves readers enraptured and invested in the characters and in the overall narrative.

Seems the moral of this (exceedingly and unintentionally long-winded) blog (if there ever was one) is that I need to read and research existing novels to ensure that what I’m writing (and been plotting) isn’t too similar, though I do feel the adjustments I’ve made since this revelation will make the MASC Chronicles unique from the worlds that already exist in print.

Back to the drawing (well writing) board for me then – a new adventure awaits.

Maybe.

The Power of Three (and Multiples Thereof)

I believe in the Power of Three.

There seems to be an almost magical quality to that number – it’s referenced and used in almost every aspect of society: in the United States, there are three branches of government – the judicial, executive and legislative; in the arts and entertainment arena, there are the Three Stooges, The Three Musketeers, The Three Amigos, three books that encapsulate the in the Lord of the Rings saga, and the overall structure of The Reduced Shakespeare Company consists of the three archetypes: (the Intellectual, the Enforcer and the Man-Child), and all of their productions consist of a cast of three men (and on one occasion two men and one woman).  In the arena of sports, there are three outs to an inning, three strikes before the batter is called out in baseball; in hockey, a game consists of three periods [and a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in a game]. There are (according to Wikipedia) three major divisions in comparative religion, all of which have references to three things/people/aspects (far too many to mention, but they’re there). In the realm of science,  Earth is the third planet from the sun, and an atom consists of three components, there are three phases in matter, and of course the world as we know it exists in three dimensions. So, to make a long story short (too late!) – the number three is everywhere.

As the MASC Chronicles stands now (and it’s changed dramatically over the years), this Epic Saga consists of three separate (yet linked) series, with varying number of novels within, but the sum total of books in the overall Saga will be 36. This is where the “and multiples thereof” bit from this blog title comes in – as mentioned in previous blog posts (I think) I had originally planned on writing a three book saga, set in one specific time period [mainly in the 1930’s – there’s that “3” again) but over the years, this quaint little series grew and grew to what it is now. There was a brief period of time when the three book series was to be a six part saga (possibly influenced by the addition of the three prequel Star Wars films to the Original Trilogy – and I do hope that there will be three succeeding Star Wars films, if only to preserve the multiples of Power of Three dynamic), and I think at some point there were thoughts of a nine part saga, only to be replaced with the current structure of three series, 36 books in total.

Also, adhering to the Power of Three (which was also the title of a Doctor Who episode, and it seems of late, there has to be some sort of Doctor Who reference whether it be in the text or subtext), and quasi-following the archetypes laid out by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, there are to be three main characters for each series within the saga: the  Detective, the Sidekick (and quite often the Narrator) and the Villain. After all in most mystery series, there’s a main detective, the trusty sidekick/associate/assistant/narrator and the antagonist (the murderer, thief, criminal mastermind, etc.). I’ve roughly planned out who they will be and into which of the aforementioned archetypes they will fall – or at least that’s the plan. Also, each novel will consist of three parts (akin to the overall structure of a play/musical): Two main parts (acts) and an interlude (intermission) in between. Whether or not there will be further references to the Power of Three (and multiples thereof) remains to be seen.

Three Muse fairies

Three Muse fairies