Preparing for NaNoWriMo (again)

Quasi-random ideas pop into my head at any given moment and at any given place – sometimes they’re mind imploding epiphanies and other times they’re silly notions borne out of everyday situations. Sometimes it’s a plot twist, sometimes it’s a character trait, and other times it’s a potential story title. Usually the idea last a few days or so, living as a nebulous glob of stuff floating about in the Mind Palace, or roaming out and about in the Land of Exposition, carefully avoiding those pesky land minds. A recent thunderstorm revealed another batch of orange plaid land minds curiously exuding the aroma of candy corn and bacon. Luckily, most of the land minds floated away and landed into the Lake of Contemplation, creating unique formations.

But I digress.

Anyway.

As the 2016 Edition of NaNoWriMo is about to get underway, the challenge to complete the task of writing a 50,000 word novel within the 30 day window looms across the horizon. This year the plan (so far) is to write an original novel, with no ties (thus far) to any of the works in progress which have remained (so far) works in progress, albeit in various stages of progress.Details with regards to the title and (general) plot to that project will be shared next week, along with (hopefully) a bit more optimism than usual.

Nevertheless, the internal plotting and pondering of the MASC Chronicles and the possibilities within continues; it’s still in a quasi-nebulous form with the various alternatives being vetted for their plausibility, complexity and potential for fan fiction. The characters are waiting in the wings (or rather, gathered around the wide screen in the Character Development Inn) wondering what will happen next. Meanwhile, the Real Life Brigade gathers in a remote (and warm) location, pondering their ponders and plotting their plots – rumblings of change are on their horizon.

The days grow colder and shorter (the end of daylight savings is approaching, I think), and the countdown to November, and all the changes that will happen within the month, begins.

May The Force Be With Us and the Odds Ever in Our Favor.

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The Return of NaNoWriMo

November looms just over the horizon, and writers of all ages, genders, and genres are in the midst of preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), wherein the objective is to write a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. It doesn’t really matter (too much) whether or not the output makes sense, as the editing and revising process takes place after month’s end; the point is to actually actually!write and meet the word count threshold. I’ve been a (fairly) regular participant in NaNoWriMo (and participated last year in the two Camp NaNoWriMo sessions in April and July) and have blogged about my less-than-stellar attempts at actual!writing. After yet another failed attempt to meet the minimum word count threshold, due to a myriad of reasonable circumstances, I quasi-officially “retired” from all things NaNoWriMo. Though shortly before coming to this conclusion, I realized I had been abbreviating NaNoWriMo incorrectly, adding a “t” to the “Wri” portion, thinking that “Writ” was the logical abbreviation, which if you think about it, does make some semblance of sense, right?

Anyway.

Since the declaration was quasi-official, it’s perfectly fine to rescind that declaration and (once again) rejoin the fun that is NaNoWriMo. Also, it provides blog topics for November and a timed challenge to undertake, one that has no (actual) adverse consequences. I’m not quite sure whether to attempt to actually!write one of the (many) novels within the MASC Chronicles, focus on another work in progress, or (attempt to) write something completely original (and unrelated to the MASC Chronicles). Previous attempts at NaNoWriMo using each scenario have (figuratively) crashed and burned, though the “trouble” with these attempts (aside from interruptions from the Real World) is that I tend to (over)plan, plot and ponder everything. Thinking takes precedence over doing, and while plotting, pondering and planning have its merits – after all, one can’t get to Point B from Point A without a road map – perhaps that strategy needs to be put aside for the month of November.

Then again, most of my best “writing” (exposition, dialogue, etc.) happens in my head, consistently and constantly, with quasi-formed characters delivering interesting inner monologues and reaching quasi-grand epiphanies. There needs to be an app (or something akin to one) that can extract literary thoughts on to paper (or into the Cloud), and whoever gets around to creating such a thing will no doubt be a very, very rich person.

Wait a minute.

That’d make for an interesting story for NaNoWriMo…

Well, that’s (quasi-settled) then.

Heroes and Villains

Whilst plotting the ponders and pondering the plots in an effort to build the narrative arc down which the characters must travel (whether they want to or not), the question of casting the characters into the various (quasi-traditional) roles arises. The designation of the Hero, the Villain, and their respective associates shapes how the story unfolds, and the potential plot twists and epiphanies. The relationship between these two archetypes is the foundation upon which the story rests, though the perception of that dynamic can (and often does) vary. It could be proactive, where the Hero and Villain are playing an intricate game of Cat and Mouse, with one (temporarily) gaining the upper hand over the other,  or it could be reactive, where the Hero is staving off relentless assaults (physical, mental, emotional or a combination thereof) of the Villain (or vice versa). Or, it could be a combination of both, with layers and levels the Hero (or Villain) has to go through before getting to that Final Showdown.

Traditionally, the Hero is on the “good” side and the Villain is (naturally) on the “evil” side, though having these designations as their sole attribute leads to implausible, two-dimensional characters. Heroes can have flaws, and villains can have redeeming qualities, whether or not they are acknowledged, and these variants on the norm create complex, three-dimensional characters. The perspective from which the story is told also provides a filter as to who is “good” and who is “evil”, especially if the narration is told in first person (from which Series One of the MASC Chronicles is still told). It’s a well-known saying (though I have no idea who said it in the first place) that “history is written by the winners”, so whichever side the Narrator is on (usually) dictates the focus of the story.

Maybe.

The casting of characters and their role(s) for Series One (subtitled Tainted Blood) remains ongoing, as definitively defining (try saying that five times fast) the Heroes and Villains is complicated and complex, with the potential plot twists that percolate in the midst of building characters’ exposition, specifically the circumstances that brought them to the point at which the characters are introduced.

Yes, I’m still being super vague about all of this, as the concrete has not settled yet, and details not yet ironed out, relative to the other (moving) parts in the process of (alternate / parallel) universe / history building. It would seem more logical that the world in which these characters live and interact with one another should be created first, so the “rules” are definitively defined. The Game of Genres has made a slight comeback return, as the potential for more Science Fiction / Fantasy has increased with the new Rogue One trailer.

But that’s a tale for another time.

Perspective of Uncertainty

In a strange, paradoxical way, there is a degree of certainty with uncertainty in that degrees of uncertainty are certain to occur and the knowledge of uncertainty is certainty. Throw in the (remote) possibility of alternate timelines and parallel universes, and even a seasoned (or unseasoned) time traveler can and will encounter degrees of uncertainty, turning everything into that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of… stuff.

The concept of uncertainty is a component in the plotting, pondering and writing process, wherein all the elements of a story – the characters, the setting and circumstances that happen within that (fictional) reality is a nebulous… nebula of ideas (random and / or precise) that eventually coalesce into a substantial thing of substance that (hopefully) makes some semblance of sense. Uncertainty exists in very literary genre in varying degrees, giving the reader the opportunity to attempt to figure out the results of the uncertainty thrown (literally or figuratively – or both) at the characters. Cliffhangers and other elements of suspense play a role in developing, enhancing and (maybe even) complicating those elements of uncertainty until (almost) all is revealed at the end.

Or is it?

It’s uncertain.

Anyway.

The prompt for this quasi-roundabout and possibly confusing concept is my recent theater excursion to see Heisenberg, a new play by Simon Stephens (about which I’ll write soon) which indirectly references the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states that the more you know about one element of something, the less you know about another aspect of that something. Or, in the context of quantum mechanics, (pulled directly from the Wikipedia page), the principle states that “the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.” The subjective nature of perspective and the presumptions built upon it are key – there will (almost always) be two sides to every story, told from specific points of view. Every character has their own journey to undertake separate (or not) from the main narrative arc, and their opinions (right, wrong or neutral) about the events happening around them.

Life (fictional or otherwise) does not exist in a vacuum. Everything and everyone is connected even if the individuals are not directly linked to one another, every action has a consequence which can cause a ripple effect that can change the course of reality as we know it. Obviously, right now in the United States, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty in the political arena, which is common in any Presidential election year, but it seems this time ’round, it’s become an actual (literal) arena where both candidates are equally loved and loathed by the respective supporters and both have controversies swarming around them.

But this entry is not going to delve into politics (as it’s the other topic one should never really discuss openly without unsolicited feedback – usually negative) but return back to the certainty of uncertainty in the entirety of the writing (and editing) process. The interweaving of the characters and their personal perspectives and (pre)conceived notions they carry as they meander about (or in some cases, get thrown into) the thrust of the narrative is the “fun” part of the creative process. Too many (major) characters result in over complicated plot lines and the danger or paradoxes that might rip the very fabric of that universe.

Then you’d have to start all over again, with the hopes of not repeating history. Or maybe in the process of repeating history lies the real meaning of 42 (which, of course is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything).

There is some sort of comfort in certainly knowing that uncertainty exists – it adds to the Mystery that is Life As We Know It, which might be the product of someone’s vivid imagination.

That would make for an interesting story.

Maybe.

Developing Characters

The task of casting the characters and developing them to be plausible and three dimensional is as daunting (if not more so) as creating and developing a narrative arc that is compelling and entertaining (though it’s mostly subjective). The characters within the story are the puzzle pieces that fill the world of the Story; the setting (time and location) are backdrops to that tableau. As the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon once wrote:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts

It’s (almost) too easy to create character archetypes that perpetuate long standing stereotypes in the hopes of appealing to the mass market of readers – those types of characters “sell” and are identifiable to the general public. As mentioned in a fairly early entry, subtle variations on character archetypes (the Chosen One, The Rouge with the Heart of Gold, The Damsel in Distress, etc.) exist and are unique in their own fictional universe. They’re also familiar enough to keep the reader interested in their journey, and those differences are nuanced so no one author can accuse another of plagiarism.

Anyway.

The characters that populate (at least on paper as paragraphs of character traits and general exposition) my epic saga are loose extensions / exaggerations (?) of my own perceptions and perspectives of life as I know it, with dashes of idealism and catharsis. After all, fictional characters are at the mercy of their creator – they can be the Hero or the Scapegoat – and are bound to endure any and all trials and tribulations bestowed upon them (whether they want it or not). The exposition for the characters, their life experiences and the relationships they’ve had (or not had) shape their perception of their world, and give them motivation to do what they do. Shaping the unique personalities takes effort and creativity, and I will admit I’ve turned to online personality quizzes to help in this endeavor, along with character outlines to aid in visualizing the characters (as well as dream casting them when the stage / film / TV adaptation happens).

Thinking ahead is a good thing, even if it’s far flung and perhaps far-fetched – dreams can become reality… eventually.

Starting with the core four characters already mentioned in an earlier entry, their roles in the series saga (or at least the first part of the proposed three part series saga) remains murky, as their allegiances are (still) set in wet concrete. Though in the course of pondering and plotting their eventual place in this alternate historical universe, a quasi-major epiphany occurred involving one of the Core Four, which opened up a new possibility for that character’s journey and shifted the character’s personality and purpose within the narrative. Needless to say, the act of letting go of the one overarching character traits for this character (which had lived through many drafts of the plotting process) has made things a tiny bit clearer yet at the same time, created another set of almost infinite possibilities.

This can be a good thing or a bad thing (depending on your perspective).

Who knows.

Cooler weather has returned (along with misty rain), and the change of season has also arrived in the Land of Exposition. The foliage has turned to amber and pumpkins have mysteriously dotted the landscape; they’re being examined to ensure that they’re not land minds in disguise.

Change is in the air, and it’s all (fairly) good in the Land of Exposition, and the MASC Chronicles continues to be a solid Work (that is actually) In Progress.

Details to follow (as soon as the concrete settles).