World Building

With all the changes (minor and major) to the overall plotting and pondering over the MASC Chronicles, the mystery series saga that is slowly (and almost surely) falling into the fantasy genre, the actual writing of the series saga has been delayed (once again) in order to plot, ponder and plan the overall structure of the world, its history and the characters within. Those who have been diligently following this blog (those wonderful people out there in the dark somewhere) will no doubt know I’ve been long-winded about plot structures, character development and such without giving away any salient details about the series about which I am writing. I hesitate to describe in detail specific elements within the (still) sprawling series saga that spans several centuries with a generational cast of characters, lest there be any changes in the narrative, characters and other elements.

Of course, writing is an evolving process, with external influences and inspirations both ordinary and extraordinary impacting the shape of the story and/or character – a fairly recent influence that has led me to rethink sequence of events, exposition and (maybe) genre has been the A Song of Ice and Fire series written by George R. R. Martin (perhaps better known as Game of Thrones), an epic fantasy saga with [real world] historical parallels. As my series saga will be set in specific chunks of time within the last three centuries (one century for each series) in the real world (as opposed to a completely fictional one), the idea of inserting an alternate history element has emerged. I’ve always had an interest in world history, and toyed with the idea of “what if [a certain historical event] didn’t happen, leading to an alternate history which may (or may not) be ‘corrected’ by the saga’s end”.

While I initially set out to write a purely mystery series saga with quasi-stand-alone stories within, the extraneous elements (Steampunk, horror, fantasy, and science fiction) has seeped into the narrative, the character development and the overall exposition. At the moment, many of the aforementioned elements will be taken into consideration while I go forth in building and developing the world in which my characters dwell and interact with one another. Whether or not I continue with the notion of setting the series saga in the alternate history or keep with history as we know it [or at least as we accept it], there will be a need for copious amounts of historical research, a necessary evil in world building, and a time-consuming one at that – I wholeheartedly admire authors, like J.R.R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin (surely it must be a coincidence that they both have double “R”s in their name)  who are able to create intricate stories set in fantastical worlds, complete with complex characters, religions, historical events and so forth.

Though as I plan (so far) to keep my series saga within the “real world”, the alternate history plot twist might lead me to dip my toes into the world of fantasy world building (albeit marginally); on the other hand, having a mystery series set in a fantasy world has its appeal – I’m not quite sure if that’s ever been done before. Most of fantasy series of which I am aware have the protagonist(s) embark on a Quest to achieve a specific goal: retrieve/destroy a relic, vanquish the antagonist(s) and reclaim control of the kingdom. It’d be interesting to write a series focused on the “ordinary” events that occur independent  from the aforementioned singular Quest, yet have an impact on that Quest.

[If that makes any sense…]

The question of whether to complete the world building before the actual writing of the story or create as you  go along has arisen in one of the Facebook writing groups to which I belong: while I probably should focus more on the actual narrative and character development/interactions, world building is equally important, as it’s the foundation upon which the story is built – of course things can change while writing the actual narrative that could lead to adding/removing/adjusting elements from the world building structure or intended elements within the narrative could be hindered by the rules set forth in the world building design, which could lead to adding/removing/adjusting plot elements – another potential Writer’s Roundabout dilemma, all of which leads me [back] to an extended stay in the Land of Exposition. Again.

I’ve got a lot of pondering to do. Again.

Advertisements

An Unexpected Twist…

In the midst of my pondering and plotting out my series saga the MASC Chronicles, and its ever-expanding exposition and cast of characters, I’ve taken to reading and researching other longstanding (epic) literary series for inspiration and guidance – after all, an aspiring author should also be an avid reader, mindful of the existing storylines, characters and concepts to ensure that the stories, characters and concepts in the work-in-progress have not already been written (if that makes any sense). As the series saga I plan on writing includes a large cast of characters spanning over several generations, with potential supernatural/fantasy elements, it seemed only logical to read up on other literary fantasy sagas, even though that’s not the genre in which I anticipate writing (mystery). Through circumstances unbeknownst to me (though most likely influenced by its popular TV adaptation), I delved into the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, better known as Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin – borrowing the first five books in the proposed seven book series. I have yet to watch full episodes of the HBO series (though I have watched some scenes via YouTube and read selected episode spoilers online), opting to read the books first [as I write/type, I’m roughly a third of the way through the first novel A Game of Thrones]. Despite “knowing” what happens in the story before reading the books (it’s awfully hard to avoid spoilers, and I tend not to like surprises, unless I’m the one creating them), I find reading the source material engaging, with its multiple third person limited narration.

But I digress (kinda).

Researching (via Wikipedia and behind-the-scenes videos) about the world of Westeros and its historical parallels to real world history (The War of the Roses, medieval themes, etc.) has opened up an entirely new path upon which my series saga may travel, resulting in a return trip to the Land of Exposition via the Alternate History route. As a self-professed Anglophile, naturally that meant the alternate path would be set at a very specific point in English history, with a possible twist to the course of  American history as we know it. I’ve always been interested in history as well as writing – I once had childhood aspirations to becoming a historian if I didn’t end up becoming a writer – fascinated by the world events that inevitably shaped how the world is today. I suppose writing a historical saga with mystery elements (with perhaps a dash of fantasy) is the perfect way to merge my two main interests.

So that’s the unexpected (yet should have been anticipated) twist in my (long-winded) writing journey – though upon reviewing old notes, both written and typed over the years, as well as recent musings, this (alternate) historical aspect of my mystery series saga was always there, albeit subconsciously. Now that this killer rabbit of a plot bunny has been brought to the forefront, it’s made the plotting process both easier and harder – easier in that, the (alternate) historical framework clarifies some of the Writer’s Speed Bumps I’ve encountered, yet at the same time it’s made things harder in that I now have to figure out how the exact (fictional) sequence of events work within the proposed alternate (yet real world) historical events meld together, and decide when (or if) historical events are “corrected” and merge back to actual history/reality or whether to have the entire series saga set in the alternate universe.

So it’s back to Character Development Inn in the Land of Exposition.

May the odds be in my favor…. oh wait, wrong literary series…

Searching For Clues

One of the essential elements of a good mystery story is the proper placement of clues (and other indications) to direct (or misdirect) the detective (and the reader) – they can’t be too obvious nor too subtle (or  far-fetched) else the narrative structure falls apart. In conjunction with my (many) posts about the difficulties of figuring out the sequence of events of my series saga, which plot lines fit with which character arc and such, the careful placement of clues (or red herrings that may or may not be red herrings) is another facet in the art (craft?) of mystery writing. Though it seems an overwhelming  task for any writer to undertake, I know that it’s not an impossible one – after all there are scores of amazing mystery authors over the centuries who have created tales filled with intriguing characters and inventive ways of committing murder, larceny, and a whole host of other crimes.

Of course while the task is not impossible, it is (or at least it seems to me)  an involved and complicated task – as mentioned in an earlier blog (I think), being the initial creator of the mystery is a daunting, as the writer is the one who knows whodunnit (and why) yet can’t reveal their hand (as it were) too soon to the characters within (or to the reader without) yet at the same time not make it too hard for the detective/reader to figure out the perpetrator by the story’s end. As an avid mystery reader, there have been  times when I (correctly) spotted the criminal within the first few chapters of the story, and other times when I was blindsided by the denouement, resulting in either a  ‘holy-****-that-was-awesome’ reaction or a ‘what-the-****-did-I-just-read’  reaction, and an inexplicable urge to vigorously poke the book (I prefer reading hardcovers or paperbacks over e-books – though I do own a kindle,  the potential temptation to fling the device in the midst of the aforementioned reactions would be a not-so-good thing to do.)

Anyway.

Being the one to decide the (fictional) date of one’s characters is a tremendous task, as well as to plot out the ripple effect such decisions have on the overall narrative – too many possibilities can potentially change the course of future novels in the series saga, as I’m (still) planning to write a sweeping series saga over a long period of time with a core group of characters and their antecedents and descendants. As a quasi-related tangent, I developed an interest in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga (of course better known as Game of Thrones series – the TV show and the books upon which the series is based) and its interweaving of different families towards a specific objective. Whether or not this was a wise decision remains to be seen – I have yet to read the novels or watch full episodes (I’ll need to borrow them from the library at some point).

While the genre in which my series saga will be set remains firmly in the realm of mystery, finding another epic saga quasi-similar to the one I’m in the midst of creating helps a great deal; adding those extraneous non-mystery genre elements (fantasy, Steampunk, horror, science fiction) is still a possibility.

So, while the parts of the various novels within the series saga have been quasi-written in my head, I’m still in the plotting out the paths the story could take, and the impact they could/might have further down the series and saga. Sometimes I find myself thinking of conversations, scenes or plot points for stories set years, decades, even centuries ahead (and sometimes before) the start of the first series, jumping from one series to the next, thinking about family trees and the possible outcomes to events yet to be created.

Or, to make a long story short  (too late, I know) I’m still finding my way out of the (mythical, soon-to-be-written-about) Land of Exposition, searching for clues to find the way to the World of  Actual (!) Writing.

The process itself would make for an interesting series saga…

Maybe.

Finding The Way Back

So, in last week’s exciting [insert sarcasm] post, I’d fallen (back) into the pitfall that is pondering and plotting out exposition – for the various characters that reside in my imagination, and its potential (and varied) impact on the relationships it may (or may not) have on other characters, as well as for the overall story/series/saga arc, and the possible ripple effect any given path will have on the total journey, all of which leading towards multiple scenarios and timelines, inevitably creating a host of alternate universes, speculated past, present and future, and a whole lot of plot twists and [wait for it]… spoilers.

Clearly, the wait for the next series of Doctor Who has sunk in.

The comforts of the Character Development Inn in the Land of Exposition proved to be too comfortable, and the paths now verdant and blossoming, have inspired the plot bunnies and Muses to wander about quasi-aimlessly  amid the picturesque landscape, plotting and musing (as they’re wont to do).  Seemingly minute changes in the sequence of events, perspectives and in character exposition have brought about strange, ingenious and devious possibilities of  how things could turn out for the intrepid cast of characters. Thankfully though (so far) these epiphanies have not totally derailed the general direction of each series (then again, the general direction of series 2 and 3 were sketchy all along); also, the extraneous elements that may (or may not) be included in the overall storytelling have not distracted the process (though they do poke up their heads every now and then).

Also, as a previous entry stated, I’ve returned to the writing prompts, short pieces of fiction, mostly plotted and written with little to no forethought, though my subconscious would disagree – many of the characters, situations within the prompt are ones created and quasi-developed for the series saga, though whether or not they will ultimately be incorporated into the series saga remains to be seen –  many of those prompt pieces are scenes with a cliffhanger element to them (usually due to the fact that I’ve more or less made up what was going on in the scene as I was writing it).

I know I should stop all this pondering and pondering and just get down to actually (!) writing the stories  I keep (vaguely) mentioning – but I can’t seem to let go of mapping out (as much as possible) the foundation from which the narrative is to launch and develop. To know where the story is going, I need to know where it came from and how it could (possibly) end.

That’s the hardest part – not knowing where exactly where things were/are/will be – as I’ve often quoted (or at least paraphrased) time is not a line, it’s well… you know. It’s not easy figuring how which way to go when the map is blank or has too many routes. Knowing which path is the right one is the challenge, without wondering about the roads that were never taken.

The subtitle of this blog is “A Writer’s Journey” and thus far it’s been a meandering one that seems infinite, but one way or another, I’ll find my way – whether or not it’s the right one is another issue for another day.

 

Writing Prompt #10: Opportunities

[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 #10: Opportunities

Phillip Carrington heaved a sigh as he sank into his plush armchair after a long day of tense and tedious negotiation. While circumstances forced him to concede on many of the salient points of his proposal, the end result proved agreeable for all concerned. He felt a tinge of guilt as his valet entered the study with a decanter of whisky and a bowl of pitted cherries. He shook the feeling as he filled his glass and quickly drained its contents. Everything depended upon the execution of his side of the deal, regardless of the moral implications. No turning back now, he thought, not that I could even if I wanted to – it will be all worth it in the end, restoring the family’s good name, even though…

“Quite the palace you have here, Carrington,” a deep baritone voice emanated from the far corner of the dimly lit room. “I do wonder: how many lives were ruined to attain this level of prestige?”

“Things did not go as well as expected.” Phillip sat up, wary of his nocturnal visitor.

A soft chuckle filled the silence. “Naturally – you have become too accustomed to getting your own way.”

“Compromises had to be made.” His hand slowly moved toward the desk drawer, where he kept his father’s Army-issued pistol, oiled and loaded.

“Of course, as anticipated.” Measured steps echoed upon the marble floor as Nigel Hardcastle sauntered across the room. “No need to arm yourself – I am not here to cause any trouble.”

Phillip withdrew his arm and poured himself another measure of whisky into his glass, downing it in one gulp. This was an unexpected turn of events, adding insult to injury. “I did the best I could, considering the circumstances.”

Nigel approached the desk, eyeing the half empty whisky bottle and bowl brimming with pitted cherries. “It would have been a surprise if things went smoothly. Remember with whom you brokered this arrangement.”

“Why are you here?” The whisky slurred his words slightly, yet emboldened him despite his better judgment. “How did you even gain entry?”

“No locked door in the world can keep me from entering wherever I choose,” Nigel smiled as he plucked a pitted cherry from the bowl and squeezed it between his gloved fingers. “As for the reason for my presence, I have a proposition of my own, independent from the Guild’s misguided scheme.” Scarlet rivulets trailed down the palm of his white gloves.

Phillip froze, debating whether to rise to the bait. The situation was already precarious – even a minute change could tip the scales out of his favor; then again, that minute change could lead to a better opportunity to even the odds for the better. “Tell me.”

Nigel smiled. The fear, mixed with a tinge of hope, in those two words confirmed his suspicions and prompted him to seize this unique opportunity to ruin the Carrington family once and for all.

Falling into the Exposition Trap (again)

Just when I thought I was ready to leave the Land of Exposition, the plot bunnies spring forth from out of the woods to pose questions about my detective’s life. Questions and (nearly) infinite possibilities about the events that (potentially) shape his behavior and relationships with the other characters in the novel/series/saga. Granted, the events I’ve been pondering are not events that will be included in the novels themselves (thus far), but will play a factor in shaping events to come. (If that makes any sense).

Anyway.

As I’ve stated (written?) repeatedly, I spend far too much time pondering and plotting and not enough time actually writing – there are far too many variables to take into account, any of which could have an overreaching influence on sequence of events, not unlike ripples in a pond. Causality and consequences that potentially will affect the shape of the series saga – of course one option is to meander down each major path to its conclusion, which will inevitably lead to flow charts, lists and mind-imploding epiphanies.

Once again, it’s a case of too many ideas, not enough time to focus on any one at any given time. Or rather, I have a multitude of ideas floating about in my head, scenes and scenarios enacted yet unwritten. It does seem I do my best “writing” as I’m falling asleep for the night, or as I’m waking up, yet at those creative peaks, I’m usually too sleepy (or groggy) to grab the pen and notebook (set beside my bed  for such instances) to jot things down. So in theory, many of my novels have already been written (or at least formulated) – the process of extracting these notions (whether or not they make any sense) is an arduous one.

Then again, thought-writing is not a linear – there are instances when pondering exposition, the narrative flow wanders to the third novel in the series, then to the prequel and flashes way forward to the third series. Sometimes I feel I should be writing the series saga backwards – after all, one can analyze events after they have happened, then flash back to how things came about the way they did (or could).

So here I am again, checking back into the Character Development Inn, in the now-verdant Land of Exposition, where the snow has finally melted, and flowers have begun to bloom.

May the Forth Be With Me in my quest to create a sustainable and (quasi) believable universe.