Random Thoughts

As the title suggests, there is no overarching theme or topic to this week’s entry, or much forward momentum with regards to the various works in progress (at least none jotted down into Word or scribbled on paper). Real Life and its perpetual existence occupy a significant chunk of time and energy that could otherwise be used to focus on universe / history building and keeping track of all the source material I intent to homage in the MASC Chronicles (and other works in progress which may or may not have some sort of connection to the aforementioned epic series saga). It shouldn’t be this complicated to craft and narrate a story from beginning to end, or from the end backwards, or time hopping from one perspective to another giving the reader an additional layer to puzzle out.

Oh wait.

Maybe it is complicated, even when it shouldn’t be.

Or should it be?

I have no idea.

On the surface it seems an easy task – develop some Characters, categorize them in the classic (vintage?) archetypes (Protagonist, Antagonist, Sidekick, Love Interest, Authority Figure, Rogue, etc.) and create the Plot (a Quest or Task to complete, a Problem or Mystery to solve or an Obstacle or Challenge to overcome).

The rest is window dressing, right?

Well, no.

Not really.

Complexity within a story (and its characters) has its moments – if a story is as straightforward as outlined above, then there would be only a handful of stories to tell and it would be predicable and dull. The differences in time, location, cultures, and / or species (if venturing into Fantasy, Science Fiction or Horror) allows for the same (basic) plot and its archetypes to be recycled and reinvented for all time. I’ve touched upon this notion in a past entry (I don’t recall which one at the moment), and it allows for those general ideas to be reinterpreted and retold from a certain different point of view.

It’s concurrently new and familiar, which might be a paradox waiting to tear a hole in the time / space continuum leading to the Universe resetting itself on its axis…

A few more weeks until Doctor Who returns (and a few months until Game of Thrones returns).

Anyway.

The Art (and Craft) of creating stories is important and Arts and Craft are integral components of Life, the Universe and Everything – a method to commentate on Current Events and speculate on what Could Happen in the near (and far) future. The flourishing of Ideas and discussing different (and possibly contradictory) points of view further develop Society, Culture and (hopefully) aim to unite and not divide.

I didn’t intend to imply any quasi-political allusions in some of the recent posts, but considering all that has happened in the past few months, perhaps now is the time to speak up (as it were)

Attention must be paid, lest history (and not the good kind) repeats itself.

Again, there wasn’t an objective to this entry, just more of the quasi-rambling (somewhat coherent?) musings rumbling in the brain.

Finding the time to allay the anxiety and attempt to tune out the negativity (to a point) from the (External) Real World and focus on the possibilities of the (Internal) Fictional World is the Task to accomplish.

That Meta story might write itself after all – the process of creating a story and its characters will in turn create a ‘behind the scenes’ story about the process of creating a story and its characters.

Or something to that effect.

I’m not (so) sure when I’ll be able to share any concrete details about the MASC Chronicles as it’s still in a perpetual state of nebulous uncertainty, its foundation fluctuating on a sandy beach adhering to unpredictable weather patterns.

The fact that I can blather on for 500+ words about all of this is astounding.

I should go plot and ponder and create.

TTFN!

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Creating Conflict

Conflict is a key component in plotting and pondering the narrative structure, giving the characters a reason to act (or to react) in order to bring about change to the status quo, or to restore order in the midst of chaos. There are different types of conflicts upon which the foundation of the story rests – there are the internal, oftentimes philosophical, conflicts a character needs to overcome within themselves in order to complete the task at hand; then there are the external conflicts between characters that drive the narrative. The external conflicts have the uncanny ability to concurrently unite and divide (depending on with which side the characters align), while the internal conflicts a character wrestles with can have repercussions upon the narrative.

Creating conflict for a story is a complex process that needs a great deal of plotting and pondering and deliberating, with flow charts to track the impact to the characters and the world in which they inhabit. It’s akin to tossing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples form upon the surface – a single action disrupting the calm for a period of time until the surface returns to its former state. The time frame from when the conflict arises to when order is restored can vary – it can be resolved in one book, or stretch out across several novels. There can be tangents that take the characters off the main road and lead them to a side quest that can harm or help the main objective. There can also be a false sense of victory wherein the resolved conflict was only a prelude to the main conflict – this tactic is often used in RPGs (role playing games) when the hero thinks he/she has beat the final boss, only to discover the true final boss emerge from the shadows.

The conflict need not be of epic proportions – an argument between characters over a perceived slight or miscommunication can be as riveting, giving the reader an emotional attachment to the characters and a vested interest into its resolution. That is, if there is one. There’s also the possibility that the protagonist fails to complete the quest they set upon, leaving a legacy for others to (hopefully) take up to fight the good fight and carry the banner (so to speak).

In crafting a mystery set in a quasi-alternate historical universe, there are many facets to creating the tension that will ultimately lead to conflict. It’s an intricate puzzle, with subplots to pair off with the main plot, characters that may or may not have ulterior motives in solving the mystery. While the intention is to have each book in the first series to be a standalone novel, there will inevitably be threads that will meander throughout the series, and when pieced together, create an intricate tapestry.

At least, that’s the goal – much of the general plot is generally plotted. The details are proving a bit tricky with the road looking a bit treacherous with all the ice piled about, making travelling slower than usual. The Land of Exposition received an unprecedented amount of snow and unexpected wind gusts that nearly closed down the Character Development Inn, causing a mild case of cabin fever.

Spring is supposed to be ‘just around the corner’ – hopefully things will get better.

Playing With Time

Timing is everything. Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference; choosing to act (or not to act) at a specific moment in time can be beneficial or harmful to varying degrees and influence subsequent actions. Evaluating the past helps plot out the future, with the intent of (hopefully) correcting the mistakes / missteps to secure a better future. Then there are those contemplative moments of wondering “what if?” – the speculations into the different paths life could lead if Action B was taken instead of Action A, leading to Consequence C instead of Consequence E. If time travel were possible, or parallel universes were real (and I vaguely recall reading an online article positing that alternate universes could actually exist – or maybe it had something to do with other dimensions) then there could be the possibility of seeing how events might unfold if different paths were taken.

If only it were possible to go back in the past to make different choices, if only to see how those different choices would shape the future, with little to no consequence to the present.

Nah, that’d be too tense.

The notion of playing the if / then game (as it were) mapping out various scenarios and constructing the outcome is the fun of creating alternate worlds within a narrative structure. Imagination is a powerful thing – the ability to create worlds and characters different from those that exist the Real World, with limitless possibilities is an asset in the writing process. The narrative structure need not be sequential – the order in which things happen can be fluid (wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey) or concurrent. Perspective is a determining factor in the sequence of events, giving the reader a puzzle to solve, with the requisite plot twists and turns. There is the possibility that the disjointed time jumps and such can leave the reader confused and frustrated, but that can be a deliberate choice so that once all the pieces fall into place, it will make sense in the end. This device is employed in many of the story arcs in the recent seasons of Doctor Who (though some may argue it’s used too frequently to have any impact).

With the almost infinite possibilities down which a story or character can take can (and probably will) lead to multiple versions of a single story, told from different points of view and with slightly (?) different outcomes. I’ve contemplated using this method while constructing the story arcs within the MASC Chronicles – telling a few of the stories from different perspectives and / or mapping out different endings, with the notion of having them as quasi- AU (alternate universe) fan fiction. (Yes, I still nurse the fantasy of writing fan fiction of my own work – it’d be hilarious).

Then again, in order to be able to write that speculative fan fiction, I probably should establish the Canon first, deciding the actual sequence of events before skipping about and messing about with the timeline.

But then again, time isn’t strictly a line – it’s well… you know…

Refining Dialogue

In the midst of plotting, pondering, and (alternate?) world building, actual!writing, albeit within the confines of the mind, marches forth on this March Fourth.

Pun quite intended.

Amid the scene setting and character building is crafting the dialogue between the characters (spoken or implied) from which the narrative unfolds. It’s still an aspect of the writing process with which I struggle, to ensure it sounds believable and true to the time frame in which it is spoken (though given the recent developments, the parallel / alternate universe angle might render the historical accuracy of the cadence a moot point. Then again, how characters speak and what they say (or what is implied) need not be entirely accurate – it’s how the characters (and the readers) interpret the words and the meaning behind the words (if applicable). These days, words (spoken or written) are important, and the implications behind them can be interpreted differently depending on the perspective of those receiving it.

Truth within and behind the words should be absolute and clear, but in some instances, the truth can be subjective and ambiguous in order to lead (or mislead) the protagonist (and perhaps the reader) into believing one interpretation to be true when the antithesis is the true truth (if that makes any sense). Misdirection and red herrings are the foundation of twisty plot twists, and the source of the information provided to the characters (and by extension) to the readers is key, especially with a story told in first person perspective. The narrator essentially controls the pace and tone of the narrative, supplying the lens from which the plot unfolds; with third person perspective (limited or omniscient), the control is more abstract and broad, as a more detached, objective vantage point established.

The content and context of dialogue is also paramount in the telling of the story and the shaping of its characters – words (and actions) tend to be taken out of context and its content skewed in a way that leads to consequences unforeseen, resulting in (hopefully) a dramatic climax or a startling resolution. Well-crafted dialogue has the potential to entice and captivate, with the intention of conveying a interesting and intriguing story. The meaning of the message and the rationale behind it can change depending on its speaker, to whom they are spoken and who hears it – bias and perspective can change the intent of the words spoken. Choosing what to say, how to say it, when and where to say it, to whom to say it to, and why to say it is as important to any story as the exposition and world building.

Words matter more than ever.