Creating a Mystery

In the midst of all the plotting and pondering about the process of the various works in progress (and its glacial-paced forward momentum), there hasn’t been (that) much discussion of the genres in which the stories are set, aside from the entries revolving around the Game of Genres (it’d be fun to write about that someday – personifying genres in a quasi- Game of Thrones narrative arc…)

And there goes another plot bunny carrying another brilliant idea to add to the list of Other Tales to Tell.

Fun!

Anyway.

The primary genre for the MASC Chronicles has been in Mystery, with sprinklings of fantasy and science fiction mixed in with a sort of Steampunk twist. I’ve always been an avid mystery reader and recently dipped my literary toe into reading fantasy and science fiction (some of which have had Steampunk elements). I enjoy reading mainly Golden Era cozy mysteries – mystery stories written in the early 20th Century by British authors which were usually set in rural locales and focused more on the investigation of the crime and less on the gritty violence of the crime itself. Most of these stories had as its protagonist a private detective, reliable associates to assist in the investigation, and law enforcement officers who have a begrudging yet respectful working relationship with the private detective.

It’s a formula that has worked for decades and one I attempt to emulate, though with some tweaks and twists with the inclusion of the aforementioned genres.

In creating a mystery tale there are a myriad of hidden elements to consider and a multitude of angles to outline to ensure plausibility in its narrative structure and the pacing of the action before the crimes takes place, and the investigation afterwards. Some tales start with the crime occurring “off stage” and it’s through the investigation where details of the events beforehand are pieced together. Other stories let the reader glimpse into the lives of the characters before the crime so that there is a level of emotional connection already established by the time the crime occurs. The denouement when the guilty party is revealed is often when the story ends – rarely does the narrative continue beyond that point, though there are times when the legal procedure is integral to the overall narrative.

One aspect of the story that is never really touched upon (at least to my knowledge and based on the various mystery novels I’ve read over the years) is the lives of the characters long after the criminal is apprehended and how they cope with the effects of the crime. Mystery novels are mainly stand-alone stories, and while sometimes the protagonists might reference something from a previous case, more times than not, the characters that are not the main protagonists are never heard from again.

It is my intention to fill that void with my (humble) attempt to craft a series saga that shows the consequences of the actions taken in the past / present and its effects in the (near and far) future.

I’m not quite sure if it can work (or if I’ve explained it as clearly as I hoped, but it’s still a daunting (and exciting) task to attempt to undertake. It involves a LOT of plotting and pondering exposition and character development, and perhaps some complex org chart making.

I might need to invest in a whiteboard and colorful markers to keep track of the timelines and its causes and effects.

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Sorting Out The Details

The plotting and pondering continues, as the world (real and fictional) changes from what it was into what it will be. How things will play out in the (near) future is yet to be determined; needless to say it’s going to be interesting (if not frustrating) from here on out. Making sense of the sequence of events and the character choices made through the narrative has become a challenge. Sorting through the myriad of character and narrative exposition and their possible connections, both overt and covert, almost requires flow charts and spreadsheets. Admittedly, the series saga has grown exponentially in a relative short amount of time, with interwoven, generational stories. Actions taken (or not taken) in the past / present have potential consequences in the future (after much internal deliberation, and mostly to save what little literary sanity I have left, time travel has been removed from the grand narrative scheme of things). Though that decision might change in the future (or in the past, however wibbly-wobbly things get).

Anyway.

While much of the big picture planning has been plotted – titles and general themes sketched out, the details remain quasi-fuzzy. Even though the series saga has a generational element, each book within each series will (mostly) be stand-alone stories. At least that is / was / is the intention when the expansion started – the initial structure was a trilogy (as most series are), with several decades elapsing between them. How it stands now (and for the foreseeable future) is a trilogy of multiple stories within each series, with several centuries elapsing between each series.

The depth of that exponential expansion might have been a slight understatement.

Little actual!writing has actually!happened (in the sense that the actual narrative has been typed into a Word document) – the internal narrative writing never stops (and often gets rewritten on a daily basis, often filed away to potentially be used at some later date and time). Pondering about the characters is an ongoing process, with attempts to understand their actions, motives and overall disposition to their surroundings, all the while attempting to keep them unique and real, and not become a caricature or a cliche.

The journey continues, even as the world landscape shifts and changes loom upon the horizon. What will happen going forward will questionable and unpredictable – the road may splinter, leading to imminent danger; or the path may be gilded with prosperity.

Either way, it will be a journey worth telling.

Someday.

Progress in the Writing Process

Actual!writing has actually happened after months of plotting and pondering and pondering about the plotting. Though not that much actually writing has actually happened since the last blog entry, due to the few dormant land minds unexpectedly reactivating with a time sensitive detonator which could have spelled doom for the Land of Exposition. Tensions were high with an invisible yet audible ticker was counting down to Zero Hour.Efforts of the Muses, plot bunnies and imported cavalry of plot ninjas to halt a mini maelstrom of havoc proved successful for the most part – there was some minor damage and a wave of confusion amid the fallout.

Rebuilding (in all its forms) is in the works, though the aftershocks from the fallout will still linger in the days to come. A grander sweep of the Land of Exposition (especially the nooks and crannies shrouded in quasi-darkness) will need to re-examined, with greater efforts to locate and destroy (or at least deactivate) any land minds.

Needless to say, it’s been a long week, and it’s only two weeks into 2017.

Once a thorough sweep of each centimeter of the landscape is completed, more actual!writing can continue, with the hopes of completing the first leg of the 85K90 challenge. The Land of Exposition is still under a blanket of snow, with a fresh powdering falling once again. While this round of snowfall might hinder the cleanup efforts (as the accumulation has the ability to conceal and distract), the bulk of the snowfall is expected to melt in the coming days.

Then the plotting, pondering and actual!writing will continue afresh. Thus far a quasi-new character has emerged, shifting the relationship dynamic of the narrator to the characters introduced thus far, and shuffling about some character exposition and creating (relatively) new relationship webs.

Everyone (and almost everything) is connected.

The main work in progress is Book One of Series One of the MASC Chronicles, entitled One More Angel in Heaven. Each series in the MASC Chronicles has its own subtitle, and had, at one point in time, been the title of the trilogy of novels (which had been the original conceit of the series). As mentioned in past entries, the original idea started from a short story written as a class assignment, and kept growing as time went on from a short story to a full length novel (with a brief sojourn as a one act play) then to a trilogy of novels, ending up in its final, current state – a three part, multi-book series saga.

It’s still an ambitious endeavor to undertake, most of which has been generally outlined (with all the book titles and series subtitles) already decided. The order may shift and characters swapped between series, but the themes will remain intact.

At least for now – things have a way of changing over time. Sometimes for the better, and in unexpected ways.

So buckle up – it’s going to be a long ride.

And the final destination is anyone’s guess.

Back to the plotting, pondering and actual!writing.

 

New Year, (Quasi) New Challenge

One week into 2017 and the writing journey goes on, though the pace at which it moves remains questionable. Resolutions are quasi-made and usually forgotten / discarded as the days go by. While I’ve sworn off all versions of NaNoWriMo this year, as that brief time frame is not compatible with the pace at which I plot, ponder and write my stories (which basically comes and goes at random intervals at any given moment), I’ve undertaken another writing challenge, one that is a bit more flexible and takes into account my writing “schedule”.

This writing challenge, suggested by a fellow writer, is called “85K90” which spans an entire year, divided into four cycles (as stated on their site) – write, edit, prep, publish. The first cycle is to write 85,000 words in 90 days (which seems more manageable than the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days). Psychologically (for me, at least) this timetable is more realistic, given the unexpected events that could pop up (especially from the Real Life Brigade) and dispels the “pressure” to meet daily word count quotas. Having signed up to undertake this challenge, I’ve made progress (albeit a tiny one) in actually!writing Book One of Series One of the MASC Chronicles. The overall narrative framework remains intact, though a minor character switch was made to accommodate an exposition change – one I hope will be for the better and add some dramatic undertones.

I’m fairly optimistic that I could complete this task, or at least potentially get more actually!written in the allotted time frame, though I’m already “behind”, according to the word count tracker, which is included in the 85K90 site. Then again, it’s only a week into the new year, and there are 83 days, a few hours and bunches of minutes left.

There’s a handy countdown clock too.

It’s snowing in the Land of Exposition. It started slow, snowflakes dancing about haphazardly with the chilling wind – some floated up and away while others landed on various structure and plotted with one another to build magnificent (fluffy) structures. As the day progressed, more of the flakes decided to rest from their choreography and join their landed brethren in their works of art. The Character Development Inn is stocked with enough foodstuffs and firewood to keep those within warm for days to come (the central heating system is also fully functional for the more practical). The Muses and plot bunnies have burrowed into their respective spaces, musing and plotting whilst partaking in warm drinks and comfort food. The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) is under maintenance, with new updates pending approval (and waiting for the fandoms that had been on hiatus in 2016 to return).

2016 was a year of drama and loss, though mostly in the Real World, as the Fictional Universe was in quasi-hiatus mode.

2017 is a year of change and uncertainty in the Real World as well as the Fictional Universe.

No one really knows what the future holds, and while it’s looking bleak thus far, maybe a sliver of hope can survive and thrive.