Year End Pondering

It’s New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day in some parts of the world), so it’s time for the customary year end assessment of the state of things in the Land of Exposition and general musings about Real World Events, with the equally customary list of hopes and aspirations for the new year. Thus far 2016 has been a relatively lackluster year – an extraordinary number of high profile deaths (many of whom I admired since as far I can remember), an American election year that was not like any other (and hopefully will never happen again), and many other not-so great events that could give the impression that the End of the World is near. There were positive moments in the Real World as well – history making moments and such, but this entry (and this blog for that matter) is not about things in the Real World (though there are times when Real Life is truly stranger than fiction).

Anyway.

Onward back to the Literary World and to the Land of Exposition.

Things on the writing front have stalled (per usual) for most of the year, though the plotting and pondering, (and the blogs about the aforementioned plotting and pondering) has continued at a consistent rate. While the actual!writing about the MASC Chronicles and other works in progress has moved baby steps from this time last year (though the little that had been actually!written had been edited and plot points and character dialogue has tightened a smidgen), the hope for more forward momentum is still there (somewhere). Character development and (alternate?) universe building has expanded every which way, much to the chagrin of the pesky Real Life Brigade and their endless shenanigans and land minds buried in random locations within the Land of Exposition.

With regards to the character development, a copious amount of research has gone into refining exposition, relationships with other characters and (a fair amount of) time spent on Pinterest and various quiz sites to (respectively) assess the overall look and general disposition of the cast of characters. After all, being able to visualize how the characters will (most likely) look like and their basic personality will be of great help when placing them into the situations they find themselves and how they may (or may not) react to the world around them. Outlining their backstory and family history will shape how they see the world and the people within their spheres.

The details are still fuzzy, but the overall narrative structure remains (fairly) sturdy.

Of course, it’s New Year’s Eve (about three hours left for 2016 as I type this), resolutions and such need declaring and stuff – though really, no one really makes good on the resolutions made on New Year’s Eve (or at least not many that I know), so perhaps no resolutions this time ’round.

Just more plotting, pondering and eventual actual!writing.

You know, the same old tune, maybe with different lyrics and in a different key.

Here’s hoping 2017 will be better than 2016.

Happy New Year!

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Explanations Through Exposition

First things first.

Rogue One is amazing.

It has the right blend of comedy and drama, with plenty of Easter Eggs and references for dedicated Star Wars fans. While some iconic elements were missing, there were enough of the aforementioned references to ensure the overall tone and narrative story fit in that “galaxy far, far, away”. The film is a side story to the episodic adventures of the Skywalker family, providing some explanations to many of the (apparent?) plot holes and inconsistencies in the Original Trilogy. How events unfold in Rogue One give more depth and understanding to the main story (especially to the opening crawl of A New Hope). While there is little doubt to whether the film’s protagonists fulfill their objective, there is a sense of urgency near the end of the film of the manner in which the task is completed.

Parsing out exposition in this manner is one way enhance the main story and the narrative journey of its protagonists / antagonists. I’m not sure if the explanations provided in Rogue One were outlined in the original plotting of the saga, or if it’s a recent (and reasonable) development, but either way it’s brilliant storytelling.

All the more reason I spend (far too much) time plotting and pondering about the MASC Chronicles, my (epic) series saga, of which some actual!writing has happened (though much of that consisted of editing the 1,400+ words that had already been written for Series One, Book One). Nevertheless, it’s a (tiny) step in the right direction – characters converse and vaguely reference events that may (or may not) have happened in the past that have caused (implied) friction between characters. Starting the narrative concurrently at the beginning and (kind of) in the middle of the “action” (as it were) allows for the characters to dangle tidbits of information that is not fully explained at the moment, but will (hopefully) be at some later point. This opens the door to prequels, and side stories that will focus on the “throwaway” comments uttered in the main narrative.

It also opens the door to a multitude of possibilities and alternate universe scenarios, from the serious to the absurd. With a large(ish) cast of characters, and their separate lineages (some of which may coincide at some point in time), it provides a wider canvas to create a vast world where (almost) anything is possible.

(So in a way, I’m pondering potential fan fiction for the Canon that has yet to be written.)

Not that I’ve plotted that much into each story – most of the plotting and pondering has been “big picture” narrative arcs, as well as incorporating themes and assigning character traits / exposition. As stated before (I think) I have a fairly good idea where the stories start and quasi-good idea how the story will end – it’s the journey in-between that’s the challenge.

It’s a daunting one, but one I hope to complete (when that will happen is anyone’s guess).

I am One with the Force, the Force is with me.

Happy Holidays, on this Christmas Eve (and first night of Hanukkah).

May the Force be with you.

Fixing the Narrative Structure

Change is in the air.

Even though it’s technically not winter yet, snow has fallen and accumulated in its slushy glory, leaving hidden ice patches in its wake. The temperature has fallen and the roads are treacherous – all the more reason to stay indoors, whip up some cafe mocha, and return to the Plotting and Pondering Zone. Much of the plotting has been outlined, and the pondering has been considered, so the next steps are to finalize the sequence of events and actually!write.

As the title of this entry indicates, the task for this chilly day has been to figure out the narrative structure (and to fix the sequence of events). The order in which events happen, or at least the manner in which they are related, is important in the overall telling of the story; what the reader knows and what the characters know, and at which point certain revelations are revealed is equally important. The reader can be privy to events “unseen” by the characters or the characters may have foreknowledge of events not yet discussed in the narrative. This withholding of information (as it were) builds suspense, heightens expectations and creates the potential for speculation, all of which gives the reader a vested interest in the goings on in the story.

It also gives the author the opportunity to write interwoven, stories supplemental to the main narrative (perhaps from different perspectives) – not to mention potential prequels, sequels and / or alternate universe (AU) fan fiction.

I’m already thinking of the possible off shoots of the main narrative even before I finish writing the main narrative – that’s how jam packed and caffeine wired that writer’s cave that is my brain is. The (Steampunk) cogs are always moving.

Another task I’ve returned to undertaking is tightening and (re)shuffling character exposition – the cast of characters (or at least the main ones) are still in place, but a bit of backstory swapping has happened. Whether or not that will remain as such is anyone’s guess.

(My guess it’ll return to the way it was, only to change at least twelve more times)

Anyway.

I do have a fair assessment of the situation at hand for Series One, Book One of the MASC Chronicles – how it begins and (roughly) how it ends. It’s the middle part and its pacing that needs some work.

The Game of Genres amid the Land of Exposition continues (kinda) – the Real Life Brigade have gone underground (literally and figuratively), off to plot and ponder their own plots and ponder the plausibility of those plots.

Alliteration never takes a vacation, thought it comes and goes as it pleases.

The Muses have taken out their flannel and fuzzy slippers in preparation of potentially being of any use in the next phase of this writing process.

Haven’t seen Rogue One yet, though I’ve listened to its score; even though it’s not written by the Maestro (John Williams), there are references to the iconic themes from the Star Wars universe that it feels as if we’re in that galaxy far, far away.

Off to plot, ponder and potentially write about the universe buried in a parallel timeline where things are odd yet no one thinks it’s strange.

Scoring A Saga

Inspiration comes in many forms, and music is one that casts a large shadow among them.

As briefly mentioned in last week’s entry, music plays a vital component during the writing process. Music is the muse that helps in the process, providing the atmosphere in which to plot, ponder, and actually!write the narrative and character arcs. While I’m sure there are some writers who prefer complete silence whilst in their creative space, I’m equally sure there are writers who create unique playlists for specific works in progress. It’s a way to “shut off” the Real World and dive into the fictional universe, if only for a short period of time, creating a world that (may or may not) be better / worse / different than our own. To that effect, among my iTunes playlists is one aptly named “Music for the Muses”, comprised mostly of instrumental music – classical pieces, film and TV series scores. While most of the music in this playlist are associated with a specific series (among the pieces in this playlist are selections from Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who), its music provides a springboard from which my works in process can launch.

The inspiration for this (mini) segue (back) to influences in the writing process stems from the pantsing element in the writing of these entries, also mentioned in the previous entry. As the antics of the Real Life Brigade have (once again) been contained (if only for a short span of time), focus can return to the MASC Chronicles (or at least Series One of that three-part series saga). Its foundation is somewhat set, the characters somewhat developed (a bit of exposition swapping ensued) and the sequence of events (and perspective) of the (minuscule) narrative actually!written for Series One, Book One have been tweaked.

Of course, most of this has happened in the head and not actually written down / typed out, but the Mind (mostly) remembers, and things need to be sorted out in there before it travels down to my fingertips. It’s how my fictional process works, which might explain the lack of actual forward momentum in the overall journey, but there’s some hope left in the settling of the narrative and characters, and eventually all will be sorted and written.

Most of the skeletal outline for most of the novels in each of the three series is there – the overarching narrative arc and the character relationships are sketched out.

It’s all about filling in the details at this point.

It’s time to find the harmony and counterpoint to the base melody.

Finding Focus

Farewell to November (and to the non-participation in NaNoWriMo), and a hearty (albeit chilly) welcome to December (and to the reflective reminiscences of the past eleven months – I’ll get to those later). An autumn / winter weather hybrid has descended upon the Land of Exposition, with the fallen leaves scattered across the landscape, and perpetual fog lingering across the horizon. Hibernation mode has not quite been activated yet, though fleece has made a comeback  return to the Character Development Inn, the spry chimney sweeps have done their duty (with perfect coordination), and the pantry is stocked with comfort foodstuffs (and plenty of coffee).

Time to regroup, refocus and reflect.

Real Life (and its wily Brigade) has had its grip on the goings-on in the Land of Exposition, and the Metaphor Realm – the Muses and Plot Bunnies attempting to keep order and clean up the messes made in the wake of the distractions and digressions caused by their shenanigans. Things coming out of both left and  right (though rarely ever from center) field lead to a whole lot of improvisation and renewed pondering of the ponders already pondered for the oft-mentioned yet rarely elaborated MASC Chronicles.

For those who have diligently followed (and actually) read all (or even some) of the entries over the past few years, this may seem like deja vu  (all over again), and in a way it is (kinda, sorta, maybe). I expound on ideas, ponder the plots and ramble on about quasi-random musings about the works-in-progress, with little (if any) forward momentum. Characters are developed, narratives are structured, and yet not-so-much actual!writing actually gets written (at least written outside the brain space). As past experience has shown me, as far as writing fiction goes, I’m forever a Plotter, whereas in writing blog entries, I have no issue with pantsing them – most everything written here thus far (aside from the handful of writing prompt pieces, which I should get around to either editing or using as a source to incorporate into the aforementioned works-in-progress) is written in real time, with little (to no) forethought.

It’s odd that I can plot and pants for different writing scenarios, yet the pantsing and plotting rarely cross pollinate. Then again, constructing a fictional narrative takes time and nuance to plant the plot twists in the right place so they have maximum impact for the characters and for the readers. On the other hand, the blog entries are (for the most part) quasi-non-fiction in that they’re thoughts I think at the time of writing and written as they are formed, and therefore don’t necessarily require a formal structure that writing a linear narrative would require.

This, as “The Greatest Story Never Told” plays on my iTunes – there are times when my “Music for the Muses” playlist eerily syncs with whatever I’m expounding on this blog…

Music plays a significant role in the writing process, a topic to which I will (no doubt) devote a future entry. But for now, the plots will be plotted, the sequence of events will be sequenced, and the characters will be developed (with tweaks here and there).

Oh, and cliffhangers will be considered, if only to create levels of excitement, and spark debate on what might happen next.

Like those Final Four Words in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – fine storytelling with its full circle (of life) resolution which leaves with more questions than answers.

TTFN!