Pondering and Plotting

With my focus (somewhat) split between pondering over what to write for the Writing Prompt Project and plotting the narrative for my novel(s), it’s no surprise that I’ve fallen behind in actually writing anything substantial. Yes, I’m quasi-aware that I’ve mentioned my lack of progress in other blog entries, and I probably should not be devoting yet another blog entry about it, but it’s a topic that remains prevalent in my mind, alongside the various plot lines and characters that are to appear in the epic MASC Chronicles series saga. The undertaking of the Writing Prompt project has compelled me to think about what kinds of scenes would fit each prompt (though technically speaking, I could write mini essays instead), which has led to thinking about situations and character introspection that occur throughout the saga, including incidents and characters I have yet to fully develop.

I’m probably over thinking all of this, as I’ve discovered with overwhelming certainty that I am a plotter and not a pantser – I spend (far too much) time outlining narrative arcs and character development, always wanting to have a clear idea (or at least as clear as possible) of where the series arc is headed, if only to mitigate too many left turns and plot twists. As the series saga has been set up to be a (somewhat) linear one, with generational links between each series, with ample use of cause an effect, over a large span of time, there almost needs to be military precision in the plan of attack (so to speak – I’m not even sure if that’s the correct metaphor to use, but it does sound impressive…)

Anyway.

In my pondering and plotting the series saga, the brief excerpts that have been posted thus far do not (and probably will not) appear in any of the novels I intend to write. The way I had envisioned their function is that they are the incidents and introspection that happen before or in between the stories that are to be written, and thus far they have served as potential springboards of ideas for the novels in the later series.

Or at least I hope that is how they are perceived.

Then there’s the additional pondering about two possible plot twists that can/should be employed, and hinted at throughout the series saga, influenced mainly by some of my more recent fixations. I could say more about it, but…

*Spoilers* 

Enough pondering and plotting and writing about pondering and plotting – time to start writing (and editing).

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Writing Prompt #8: Gateway

[Disclaimer: The story that is about to unfold is completely fictional – any resemblance to actual or existing fictional people, places and/or events is purely coincidental.]

Writing Prompt #8: Gateway

Roderick Fenshaw arrived at the Golden Dagger Inn at nine o’clock sharp, even though he was not due to clock in for work for another hour. Punctuality was a virtue drummed into his head at an early age – those who arrived on time would be handsomely rewarded, and those who were late would be harshly punished. By that logic, he always strove to arrive early or least on time for every appointment be it personal or professional, and expected respect and admiration. Instead, this particular character trait earned him disdain from his peers and a level of distrust from his superiors, which puzzled him.

As it was his first day on the job as night concierge, Roderick loitered about the lobby, observing the bustle of people and luggage, picking up snatches of conversation in passing. Out from the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure enter the stairwell leading to the basement, a place out-of-bounds for anyone save hotel staff. Despite hotel protocol dictating that such matters were to be left to hotel security to handle, curiosity got the better of him as he stealthily made his way toward the stairwell, careful to avoid arousing unwanted attention. The intruder’s footfalls echoed within the narrow staircase, heavy and resolute, and Roderick was mindful to tread softly behind so as not to reveal his presence. At the foot of the stairs, he paused to ascertain where the intruder had gone, but only heard the hum of the electric generators.

This is a bad idea, a gentle, masculine voice inside his head, reminiscent of his father, warned. You should let Security handle this. Roderick turned to head back up the stairs, with the intention of finding George Hastings, head of security. Fortune favors the bold, intoned another voice – a strong, distinctly feminine voice, reminding him of his domineering mother, you must take control of your own destiny. Roderick shook his head to be free of the conflicting voices buzzing in his head, when he heard a sharp, insistent patter resonating in the distance from his left. He strode down the hallway wondering why anyone would venture in that direction – it was a dead-end. It was then a surprise when he saw the outline of a large figure disappear into the wall.

“What the hell…?” Roderick exclaimed to no one in particular. He blinked several times, as he stared the blank wall. According to the hotel floor plan (which he obtained and studied in great detail once he secured the job) there were no rooms on this side of the basement, nor were there any exits of any kind. There had been whispers of ghost sightings and other strange happenings, but he paid no heed to such codswallop – he believed in logic and in concrete facts.

And yet he could not dismiss or even explain what he had seen. Perhaps against his better judgment, he approached the end of the hallway with some trepidation – despite his rational mindset, he was now hesitant to discount what he had just seen. He tentatively touched the wall through which the figure had passed, confirming it to be what it should be – a solid stone wall, a quaint remnant from the building’s original foundation. Feeling more confident, he tapped lightly on the wall, startled to hear a faint echo – the seemingly solid wall was not what it seemed.

Emboldened by the prospect of discovering the truth behind those ghost stories, Roderick resumed tapping against the wall, though this time with more vigor. His boldness was rewarded when he heard a faint click and a low rumble; he checked his watch – only twenty minutes had elapsed since he entered the hotel. He returned his glance back to the wall and found himself looking at an old-fashioned elevator compartment. I have a bad feeling about this, the vigilant part of his subconscious reasserting itself, only to have the audacious side counter with, follow your instincts and find out the truth.

Once again disregarding his timid side in favor of the bold, he stepped into the elevator compartment, unaware that he was crossing a threshold that would result in his being late to report to work, and would face a consequence beyond his imagination.

Inconsistencies with Inspiration

So here we are in the middle of January,  and I’ve fallen behind in the whole write/post something every day using the 100 Writing Prompt list project proposed at the beginning of January, and it’s mostly my own fault. Well, real life things do get in the way of writing, plotting and planning these prompts, not to mention my own insecurities in plotting, writing and posting entries, which usually involves me staring at whatever I’ve written and editing it several times. Of course, there’s also the unreliability of my Muses and their plot bunny minions to provide proper (if any) inspiration for the prompts (or the novels), as the two are now inevitably linked (even though I had not intended it to become so).

Then again, since I have subliminally  linked these prompt-themed short scenes with my series saga, I suppose those same Muses were distracted (overwhelmed ?) at the multiple avenues being traveled down and the actual scope of the series saga I had roughly outlined. Maybe the enormity of the project, coupled with the multiple story lines, characters and pseudo ideas being bandied about in my head has made the Muses flee to some watering hole to load up on booze and recover/hide [I do imagine my so-called Muses having a raucous interior life while I’m otherwise occupied – one of these days when I can find the time, I’ll need to write a whole series about the secret lives of my Muses].

These (perceived) lapses of inspiration, or the unwarranted (maybe) accusations against my Muses is not a new phenomenon, nor (I suppose) one unique to me – I presume (hopefully) that all writers, regardless of genre, style and media, experiences times of lethargy and/or the dreaded Writer’s Block (or maybe Writer’s Speed Bump or Writer’s Roundabout – terms I hope will have a life of its own) when productivity wanes. On the other hand, there are (very) rare times when the stars align and the Muses poke and prod me with all the interesting, bizarre, fantastic and utterly mad ideas all at once [personifying imaginary muses and such is probably a sign of madness or creativity, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing].

Anyway.

The ideas are all (more or less) in my head, on various sheets of paper and in electronic files – it’s the organization of it all that is perhaps the most daunting aspect of this thing called novel-writing.  Having too much inspiration is almost as bad as having too little – there’s never enough time to figure out the various narrative arcs, character development and plot twists, and if/when some spare time can be found, the Inner Editor would make his presence known, craving attention (yes, I’m still personifying the various Muses that pop in every now and then).

Of course with the time I’ve spent writing all of this, I could have been pondering, plotting and (maybe!) even writing something attributed to the Writing Prompt project, or for the series saga, but then again, rambling about all of this is an exercise in honing one’s writing skills and style.

Hopefully.

Writing Prompt #7: Eternity

[Disclaimer: The story that is about to unfold is completely fictional – any resemblance to actual or existing fictional people, places and/or events is purely coincidental.]

Writing Prompt #7: Eternity

In the courtyard of the Blackhampton estate, Lucia Rossi stood gazing at the night sky with great interest and anticipation – the only source of illumination came from the full moon, shining bright and awash in crimson. As shadowy wisps of mist danced across the sky, a satisfied smile emerged from her normally severe demeanor, only to be broken by clipped footfalls accompanied by the clatter of steel upon stone. Alert and ready to strike, Lucia turned to confront the intruder only to find a familiar face approach.

“Celeste, to what do I owe the honor of your presence tonight?” she greeted, dropping her hood and bowing her head with respect. “I did not expect to find you here of all nights. I would have thought you would be at the ball.”

The steady tap of the steel-tipped walking stick was all that was heard for several moments, until both women were standing side by side. Celeste replied, “Lucia, my attendance was not required at the ball, as I sensed it was needed elsewhere. Coming back here after all these years, but then you were always sentimental.” Celeste Bianchi glanced at her companion’s youthful demeanor and the crimson glow reflecting off her midnight black hair.

Lucia sighed wistfully. “This is where it all started for me – it only seemed fitting to return on this momentous night, when…”

The burning sensation came unexpectedly and with such intensity it seemed as if her body was engulfed in flames. She watched as pinpricks of light danced towards the scarlet moon, illuminating the midnight sky, instantly, if not momentarily turning night into day. It was a strange surge of energy that left her shaken, bringing her to her knees. She swayed to and fro, unable to think, unable to move, her eyes unfocused.

Blinking fiercely, she felt herself being lifted to her feet, and a cool hand upon her chin. Darkness returned, save for the moon, now shown blood-red. Lucia stared into the eyes of her companion, whose silver orbs seemed to shimmer with flecks of vermilion.

“The Prophesy has been fulfilled” Celeste decreed, a slow grin emerging from the aged face, teeth bare and glistening. She also felt the sudden energy spike but was better prepared to receive it, having felt it before. “How do you feel?”

Breathing deeply, Lucia replied, “I feel good,” Glancing back at the blood soaked sphere floating high above, the satisfied smile returned, revealing her fanged teeth. “I feel very good.”

“Perfect. Come, it is time now to feed.”

Sequence of Events

Already a week into my self-appointed task of writing and posting something in accordance to a 100 Writing Prompt list, and I’ve fallen behind. It’s partly my own fault, as my usual modus operandi when I’m in writer mode is to ponder and plot out as much as possible before committing any of the story to paper or into a Word document. I had started off well, as stated in last week’s weekly entry, but the momentum was broken by those ever-present muses and plot bunnies, and while writing the few snippets of fiction (not so much chapters but rather short scenes), the aforementioned sources of inspiration brought about new, interesting possibilities into my series saga (still) known as  the MASC Chronicles.

While I probably should have written fictional snippets unrelated to the series saga (and I have a repository of story ideas among my paper and electronic  archives) I’ve been so immersed in the overall pondering and plotting of that series saga, it’s almost impossible not to write about it. On the brighter side of things, the characters that have appeared in and the events that have transpired in the snippets already posted (as well as those still in progress) will have some impact and influence on the series saga, and will most likely not be included in the novel proper. Though having said (written) that, they have (as mentioned earlier) inspired possibilities to the overall sequence of events,  which may or may not unfold in a strictly linear fashion.

All these wonderful and intriguing have caused me to take a brief pause in the writing process and focus (again) on the plotting and outlining events that have yet to happen which will impact events that have already happened or could happen, which will impact the same events that have yet to happen, which has led to a minor stall in the writing process I proposed to accomplish in relation to the Writing Prompt Project. In the previous writing prompt exercise I (think I) coined a pair of  new writing states of mind in which I find myself: Writer’s Speed Bump and Writer’s Roundabout – unlike  the more commonly known Writer’s Block, these two states of mind deal with the overwhelming amount of ideas that slow down the writing process to the point where it remains in a sort of limbo of plotting and figuring out who and what goes where and when and how, and why.

Sequence of events is key to all of this, and at this point, in my attempts to organize all the various ideas swarming around in my head, coupled with the few older ideas poking their heads up wanting to be noticed and included in the seemingly mad universe I’ve unwittingly created.

Well, maybe I’m exaggerating things a bit.

Anyway.

I suppose being stuck with Writer’s Speed Bump and Writer’s Roundabout is better than being struck with Writer’s Block – the ideas are there, it’s the sorting through them that’s put a temporary (I hope) halt to the writing, though I have every intention to battle through this writer’s traffic jam. Maybe someone should create a writer’s GPS system [to continue the driving/traffic metaphor for a little while longer] to give writers guidance to follow the recommending route and avoid bottlenecks and construction work.

OK, that’s enough driving metaphors (and I don’t even drive!)

Well, here’s to finding a new path back to where I was before all these alternate routes appeared.

Writing Prompt #6: Obsesssion

Writing Prompt#6: Obsession

A brief pause in the storytelling that has been (slowly) unfolding in the previous prompt posts: clearly I’ve fallen quite behind on the whole “post a short something every day in accordance to the 100 Writing Prompts” thing I had quasi-resolved to undertake. I did manage to stay true to the “rules” of the exercise at the start, but then found myself face to face (metaphorically) with Writer’s Speed Bump, which segued into Writer’s Roundabout. I’m sure I’ve just created those two terms, as it wasn’t really as if I was struck with Writer’s Block – I kinda, sorta knew what I wanted to write, but didn’t really know where/how to approach it. I kept writing bits of exposition or dialogue, pondered about it, then deleted it (well, moved it to another Word document entitled “deleted text”) to write other bits of storytelling only to remove that, after a good ponder and moved back the text I removed earlier…

Wash, rinse, repeat. You get the idea.

Anyway.

While I spent many hours over the past few days doing this, I had the mind imploding epiphany to break the speed bump roundabout cycle abandoning the seemingly fruitless quest to write a short fictional piece tied to the sixth day’s writing prompt, and write about the process of attempting to write a short fictional piece tied to the sixth day’s writing prompt: obsession.

[That was kinda a roundabout sentence, come to think of it, as well as a really, really long sentence.]

For those who have been reading my writing blog over the past several months, it’s no surprise that I tend to plot and ponder a LOT while not giving that much away about my series saga. I’ve written at length about general ideas and themes that are a part of my writing process, but it was through this exercise that I wrote and posted actual bits of narrative and dialogue that has some relation to the series saga I’ve been plotting for a good percentage of my life. Interestingly, those bits of storytelling were more or less spontaneously written, though with some forethought as to where they could possibly fit in the grand scheme of things.

So in a way, all of this pondering, plotting and (eventual) writing is among the many things I obsess about – the development and relationships my characters have with one another, their motives and desires, the overall framework of the narrative arc with each series and within the saga as a whole, and all the possible and/or potential plot twists that could crop up. I obsess about plotting out, or at least sketching out as much as possible before ever writing a single word or narrative (whether it be exposition, action or dialogue), which is probably why I have (literally) a billion or so ideas, characters, and plot lines yet only a few chapters actually written (though I have written lengthy notes and bullet points of plot ideas, plus a good many marked as “deleted” or “archived for future use).

I also have an obsession with writing really, really long sentences with lots of commas, semi-colons, parenthesis and other grammatical… things, which I suppose is the written version of verbally rambling on about random stuff. I obsess about ensuring that what (little) fiction I have publicly published is as grammatically correct as possible and that it makes some semblance of sense [I have since gone back to edit the three snippets of fiction I have posted at least half a dozen times since I first published the posts].

I’m sure other writers obsess about their stories, characters and such, so it’s nice to be good company (I hope).  I know what I’ve written won’t be perfect, and that even after I publish any of my novels (hopefully at some later date in the near future), I would want to edit or rewrite some or all of it, but I suppose I’d need to let go sometime, right?

The next few prompt posts should be more fictional snippets, as I have a quasi-realized idea (and some time) to figure out what happens next.

I think.

Writing Prompt #5: Unbreakable

[Disclaimer: The story that is about to unfold is completely fictional – any resemblance to actual or existing fictional people, places and/or events is purely coincidental.]

Writing Prompt #5: Unbreakable

On the western coast of England stood a grand estate spanning over several acres and contained a vast number of rooms across several floors. Built in the late 13th Century, it was the ancestral home of the Blackhampton family, who amassed their fortune and influence by understanding the intricacies of royal politics. The estate was renowned for its Gothic architecture  with its pointed arches and vaulted windows, along with its lavish gardens; it became a hub for extravagant parties, where alliances were formed and destroyed, deals made and broken, and fortunes won and lost.

The estate’s prominence waned over the centuries, as succeeding generations became more progressive, leading to its eventual sale in the mid 17th Century and conversion to a private hospital. Over the years, the estate acquired a reputation of altruism and charity as it treated the unwell and accepted the unwanted. An unexpected and unprecedented fire consumed the building, resulting in the closure of the hospital; despite the internal damage and countless loss of life, the external structure remained intact.

The estate remained abandoned for many years afterward until an American businessman gained ownership in the early 20th Century and transformed it into a lavish resort hotel. The estate soon regained its former status as the destination for the wealthy and influential, and attracted the socially ambitious and the morally dubious. Once again, alliances were forged, treaties brokered and assets managed. The looming shadows of war soon fell upon its gilded halls, and whispers of espionage and treason brought about the second downfall of the once prominent estate.

Legend tells of an ancient curse said to have been the cause of the estate’s bouts with misfortune – tales of ethereal figures lingering at the tops of staircases, disembodied voices echoing through the rooms, and cryptic messages appearing on the walls. Although the validity of origin of those strange occurrences remains a mystery, the curious and the intrepid are drawn to its mythical allure, hoping to discover a logical explanation behind the paranormal assertions.

The one constant throughout its long history and its many incarnations was that once the construction of the estate was complete, the exterior framework could never be destroyed. Rooms within the estate might fall to disrepair, marring its superficial appearance, but never to the point of utter collapse. Nor could any additions or partitioning be made in order to change the overall layout – the way in which the original estate had been created was the way it was to remain. Only aesthetic changes seemed allowed – furniture, tapestries, lighting fixtures and any other objects that would not alter the structure were unaffected.

The estate remained vacant, despite sightings of shadowy figures wandering about its faded halls and reports of abnormal and disturbing voices emanating from within, echoing across the moor. The curious and intrepid were replaced by the cautious and superstitious who feared dire or even fatal consequences if they were to ever set foot across its threshold. The few brave souls who had ventured were never seen or heard of again, and those who managed to escape never fully recovered from their journey.

It was into this remarkable and possibly cursed edifice Rosalind Kendrick was charged to infiltrate, in order to set into motion the first phase of the Imperial Alliance’s master plan to end the war.