Removing Complications and Distractions

Romance is out (again).

In re(re) plotting and pondering the state of my series saga whilst snuggled up in a nice, warm corner at the coffee bar within the Character Development Inn in the Land of Exposition, I plotted out and pondered over the various narrative arcs that could/might occur if my (male) main character were married. I managed to think up no less than nine (!) different scenarios, most with sub-scenarios which could/might affect the narrative arc and character/development and relationships between characters – it ended up looking like a complicated flow chart, and ultimately created more problems than solved them.

So, I took the path of least resistance and removed the spouse, whose existence was precarious to begin with, as she was already dead at the start of the series. The question of how her death came about (or whether she was actually dead or pretending to be dead) and its impact on my main character presented too many possible paths down which the character’s journey would travel. I (briefly) toyed with the idea of having their meeting and eventual romance progress through the series arc, but that proved to be a distracting subplot, and really served little to no function to the main thrust of the series arc. Moreover, it would have made the series sequential one, following a quasi-strict linear path; the original intention was that this series (and the two subsequent quasi-related series) would be (for the most part) stand alone, self-contained mysteries.

Furthermore, as I’ve quasi-frequently mentioned (I think) in this blog series, I don’t do romance – I’m not a huge fan of the genre (though there are a few exceptions to this decree) and mostly though of adding it into this first series (as I’m committed to focusing on just Series One of the MASC Chronicles) as it’s an element (most) readers expect to find in (almost) every story series. On the other hand, it’s a well-known (and frequently recited mantra) that one should “write what you know”. Well I don’t know much about love and romance (and all that jazz) – at best I’m either oblivious or indifferent to that sort of thing (at least in my own personal life) so I might as well stick to what I know and not write about matters about which I know very little. Then again, I’ve absorbed enough fictional romance, via books, films, TV shows, theatre, etc. to (kinda) “fake it” – after all, these characters and the situations in which they find themselves is fictional, or exaggerated truths.

But to make a long story short (too late, I know) – the proposed romance and love interest for my protagonist has been erased from existence. However, I did manage to retain the surname of the now expunged spouse/love interest and reassign it to another existing, albeit expository [for the moment] character, because it was a name I particularly liked and has existed amid my lengthy plotting and pondering process. It would have been a (figurative and quasi-literal) tragedy to lose that name.

Anyway.

With the removal of that complication/distraction, the narrative arc and the character development of aforementioned protagonist has shifted and elements/subplots within the narrative arc will need to be reshuffled and adjusted accordingly. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea down which path my protagonist will journey (sans romance of any kind), and hopefully, it’ll prove to be an interesting read once I actually!write it down.

And on a quasi-positive note, as February winds down, I plan on attempting (along with a fellow aspiring author) to embark on an NaNoWritMo-ish challenge to spend the next month actually!writing with little to no plotting in between. Whether or not I actually!accomplish this (when I’ve clearly failed in the official NaNoWritMo challenges) is suspect.

But attempt it I shall.

May the Force Be With Me, as I hope to Live Long and Prosper.

Advertisements

Snowed In (again) at the Character Development Inn

As winter lingers on, and another round of snowfall… well, falls, once more I venture to the Land of Exposition, and book a room (a luxury suite this time) at the Character Development Inn. Thankfully, the place is stocked with plenty of foodstuffs (and a coffee bar too!). Actual!writing has stalled a bit (again) as the narrative arc and the quasi-finalized order of stories has shifted, resulting in the need to rethink the exposition for the handful of quasi-established characters. Naturally, this (re)opens up the myriad of possible narrative paths and parallel/alternate universes for Series One, which (in theory) will trickle down into (the still vaguely sketched out) Series Two and Series Three.

Yes, I probably should stop all this pondering and plotting and just get right (back) to the actual!writing, however convoluted it might become: the introduction of a wholly new character (created in one of those rare spurts creativity that leads to actual!writing) I inserted in Series One, Book One has backed me into a corner as to why it that character suddenly appears and to what purpose that character serves in the overall Grand Scheme of Things (not to mention having to create the exposition for that character and his relationship(s) with the main protagonists).

Fun times.

Also in (re)focusing on character development for the two main leads – the Detective and his Associate (and Narrator), their family history needs to be fleshed out to be able to know why the duo are the way they are, and how they act (or react) they way they do. Of course, in doing that, there arises the urge need to tell their story, if only to explain things, which is now the case: at least one of the novels in Series One is a prequel tale. I’ve managed (thus far) to keep the ventures into the prequel era contained to the generation before the main characters in the series which, considering how I like to know (almost) everything about my characters before getting to the nitty-gritty details of the actual!narrative, is a remarkable achievement.

Anyway.

So as I wrap myself with another blanket, sip my (now) lukewarm coffee (sweetened with honey instead of sugar, which tastes AWESOME) and switch on my “Music for the Muses” iTunes playlist, I delve back into the recesses of my quasi-inane, strangely elaborate mind palace-that-looks-like-Downton Abbey and attempt to figure out who exactly my characters are.

Hopefully, I’ll figure it all out by the time all the snow outside melts. Or stops falling.

Or both.

The (Apparent) Need for Romance

Since today is Valentine’s Day / Single Awareness Day, it only seems fitting that this week’s blog focuses on love and romance (and all that jazz). Romance is a (somewhat) useful (sub)plot device to move the narrative forward (or perhaps create a clever diversion from the main thrust of the story), and appears in (almost) every literary / cinematic / theatrical story in some form or another. While I’m quite romance-indifferent/oblivious in “real life”, I have quasi-outlined romantic entanglements in my works in progress – at least in the fictional realm, I can exert (perceived) control over the lives of my characters. Granted, I have a very limited personal knowledge of the pitfalls of love and stuff like that, but I’ve read enough books and have seen enough films, plays and musicals to grasp the (basic) concept and attempt to imbue some kind of romantic element in my stories.

Whether or not it comes across as believable is another story. Or could be a story all its own – that meta story series is still percolating in the deep recesses of my writer’s mind palace, which is slowly starting to look like Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey).

But that’s another story.

Maybe.

Anyway.

Writing a non-cliche romance is a challenge (or me, at least), and the romantic subplots I’ve quasi-plotted have been bittersweet/tragic affairs, owing to my cynical (for no particular actual reason) perspective on that puzzling, peculiar emotion. Love is often a source of melancholy/angst for my characters and  for that reason they strive (whether rightly or wrongly) to avoid it at all costs, or if they dare to feel, it’ll be at a great cost – which is not what most readers would want in a fictional tale. While I am rather negative (or at least indifferent) to the idea of a happy, rainbow skittles romance, I have no plans on writing abusive, dysfunctional relationships either (no 50 Shades of Grey here – that’s even worse than a sappy romance). The most to which I’d concede is platonic relationships, with a gentler, sweet yet non-saccharine love that endures through hardships and such.

Disclaimer: I should “confess” at this point that one of my favorite TV shows is As Time Goes By and the relationship between Lionel and Jean is the kind of love story I aspire to write. Or Rocky and Madge. (Rock on, indeed!).

Then again, a story devoid of romance is folly – especially in a mystery, as it’s the most used motive for the crime in question (murder, blackmail, theft, etc.), so it’s a necessary evil element in my writing process.

My quasi-recent attempt at writing a romance for last year’s NaNoWritMo (currently on hiatus) started out slowly and turned into a geek-fest of (near) Shakespearean proportions, though by month’s end I hadn’t gotten to the point of actually!writing about it… Eventually I’ll return to that work in progress, but for the time being, my current work in progress (that oft mentioned yet never actually explained for various reasons first book in the first series of the MASC Chronicles) will tread lightly in the romance department. My two main characters will have a sort of Doctor/Donna relationship (not to be confused with the Doctor-Donna), with pseudo-undercurrents of a Doctor/River romance, or a Ten/Rose romance (which, in my opinion, is not as tragic as most nuWhovians make it out to be – after all, she gets to spend her life in that parallel universe with the meta-crisis Doctor all to herself. So her separation from the Doctor is far less tragic than Donna’s – she literally can’t remember him, or else she’ll die. THAT’S  tragic.)

Oops. – Spoilers for those non-Whovians (if there are any out there – if you haven’t experienced the brilliance that is  Doctor Who, get thee to the interwebs and look it up.)

But I digress.

So to make a long story short (too, late, I know), romance is necessary in a story, in all its variations. My quasi-cynical perspective will (hopefully) be an even balance between the sappy and sour, and be plausible and entertaining.

I’ll leave the AU romantic shenanigans to fan fiction writers.

Writing Flash Fiction

Now for something (quasi) completely different.

In the midst of my perpetual plotting and pondering for my various works in progress, my mind almost always occasionally wanders off to stories and ideas totally unrelated to the aforementioned writing projects. Most of these stories are written solely in my head, and never escape through my fingertips. More times than not are speculative fan fiction vignettes of the various fandoms upon I fixate (my current fixation is Downton Abbey).  As infrequently mentioned in this blog, I’m a member of a writing critique group on Facebook, and every now and then various members post writing prompts as a way to hone one’s craft – sometimes an opening line is provided or grammatical rules are imposed (avoid using passive verbs or adverbs).

One such exercise was a contest to write a flash fiction story with a 100 word count limit. Though there’s no actual “prize” (aside from bragging rights and the “undying respect” from the member who posted the contest), I tried my hand at this challenge. I ended up writing three separate entries, using three songs from my iTunes playlist as a starting point.

So without further ado, here are those three entries (and brownies point for anyone who can deduce the songs I used as inspiration):

#1:

The sky was dark – starless, with the moon hidden from sight. The Count stood amid the stone coffins, drowning in guilt. How had it come to this? How many victims had he claimed to assuage his appetite? Every now and then he could hear their anguished screams, their pleas for mercy. All unheeded. Yet it was necessary for his survival. He needed to be alive (how ironic!) long enough to fulfill his destiny. He found the right girl, enticed her to come to his castle under the guise of a birthday ball. Forever would start tonight, with the total eclipse.

#2:

He knew he had to let her go. He had to let her pursue her dreams without him complicating matters. She would travel across the country to gain the fame she deserved. He hoped she would remember him as the one who discovered her and helped her get her start. He didn’t mean to fall in love with her, an act forbidden in the eyes of the law. Yet he did, and that only put her life in danger. Losing her would be painful, but if she was safer without him, it would be worth the pain and the loss.

#3:

When she returned to the studio, she didn’t know what to expect. She couldn’t remember why she stayed away for so long. She didn’t want to face the fact that she was no longer wanted. Time moved on, and her career had stalled. Yet she was back where it all began.  Back to the place she once called home, where anything was possible. Maybe it was a mistake to come back, to chase an impossible dream. Then she heard a familiar voice call out her name. The spotlight glare surprised her. Old friends greeted her. She was home at last.

Maybe these flash fiction stories will lead to longer pieces of works. Maybe they’ll remain micro stories. Either way, it’s the fast actual!writing I’ve done in a long while, without pondering too much.

Which makes for a nice change.

I’ll return to the usual programming (musings about plotting and plotting the Epic Saga) next week.

Hopefully by this time next week, I’ll have more actually!written.

Lesson learned this week: Writing flash fiction is fun.