The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

Lies.

Words can hurt.

Depending on what those words are, who is speaking / writing / tweeting them, and to whom they are addressed, words have the power to induce fear, anger, hate, and (ultimately) suffering. For some, words are the difference between life and death, freedom or incarceration.

On the other hand, words also have the power to inspire and to educate, bringing hope and imparting knowledge to everyone and anyone willing to hear / read them. Choosing the right words to write or say for and about the characters the writer creates helps shape the personality of those characters – their beliefs, quirks and perspective on the world in which they inhabit. The same goes for the universe in which the story is set, the historical events that may or may not have taken place, and the overall atmosphere of the narrative.

How those words are interpreted by the reader is (mostly) subjective – some will be delighted, while others will be disgusted by the content and context of the words released into the (fictional) world. And that’s a good thing – there need not be consensus about everything (though there should be some universal concepts that are acceptable and unacceptable regardless of one’s personal beliefs).

But I digress.

The topic of this week’s entry stems partly from my recent (non-Sunset) experience at the theatre – last night I went to see Indecent, a play by Paula Vogel about the controversy surrounding the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance, which included a love scene between two women. The power of words and the context in which the words are used have an effect – both positive and negative. Words have meaning, and when they (often) are taken out of context, the meaning of those words change, sometimes to suit the agenda of the opposition. The addition or deletion of certain (key) words make all the difference, which is all the reason to choose those words carefully.

Think before you speak / write / tweet, and always check spelling and grammar (unless the words are misspelled for a reason) – everyone is a critic these days, and will remember the mistakes more than the nuggets of wisdom.

Why is that?

I have no idea – human nature, I suppose.

Anyway.

Plotting and pondering, as well as world / alternate universe building is (still) a massive work in progress. Research and creating flow charts on where / when history diverges consumes a lot of time and energy (requiring copious amounts of coffee and energy-laden foodstuffs). How divergent to travel down the alternate history / universe is a valid question, and whether or not to “fix” the timeline in order to return to “real” history is equally questionable. When the fictional world begins in alignment with the Real World, then diverges at some Key Moment in history, the impulse is to continue down that path and speculate how events might unfold if that Key Moment did (or didn’t) happen:

What would change?

Would there be any change?

Would the universe find a way to return to its true path?

Actually, it seems a bit like time travelling into the past, with the hopes of creating a better present / future, but as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits has demonstrated, the Universe seems to have a way to ensure that any interference in that Key Moment is remedied if only to ensure that the time / space continuum remains intact.

But I digress (again).

I think.

On the other hand, a fictional world is just that – fictional, borne out of a imagination fueled by coffee, sugar and binge watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. 

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Stormborn” was fantastic, with unexpected reunions, a great sea battle and the buildup to an epic meeting of two characters to whom (I believe) the novel series refers, i.e. “The Song of Ice and Fire”.

The notion of alternate history leading to a parallel universe remains the central concept of the MASC(D) Chronicles – details of which will be revealed once it’s been properly mapped out.

If all goes according to plan, it should be epic.

Whether or not it’ll make sense is relative.

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The Importance of Role Models

The definition of a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated” (definition provided via Google search). It does not specify gender, race or age, nor does it clarify whether the person is good or evil (and depending on one’s point of view, “good” and “evil” are subjective terms). A role model’s job (as it were) is to inspire those around them to be more than they could be (hopefully for the better and not for the worse). A role model can be anyone – a relative, friend, historical figure and / or a celebrity, whether as themselves or as a fictional character, and the expectations that come with the job are monumental and perhaps overwhelming (especially to those who did not expect or intend to be role models).

So this is a quasi-continuation of last week’s entry, written before the revelation of the 13th Doctor and the Season Premiere of Game of Thrones, so there’ll be some quasi-rambling ranting (though always PG-rated) about the former and mild fangirling (Is that a verb? Well, it is now) about the latter, with a dash of how all of this fits into the writing process.

So let’s dive in.

Spoiler alert – if you don’t know who the 13th Doctor will be, watched any of the 12th Doctor’s adventures, or if you haven’t seen the season premiere of Game of Thrones yet

Though at this point, if you care about either or both of these series, you should know by now.

Really.

Where have you been?

Another warning: possible ranting / venting ahead, based on presumptions and inferences drawn from things that have been posted in seriousness (and not satire).

Anyway.

So the 13th Doctor will be a woman – Jodie Whittaker to be precise – the first time the titular character changed genders (though not the first time a Time Lord has changed genders – and when that happened, there wasn’t a massive uproar of disapproval or spiteful comments across social media or in the press). I’m not really familiar with the actress or the roles she’s played prior to the announcement, but I’m sure she’ll do well, or as well as possible, given the backlash from a certain section of the fandom (though their Tweets and comments have made me question their fandom credibility), both male and female. It seems to me (and I know I’m probably making some huge presumptions about these so-called “fans”) that the men are upset that their role model is no longer a White Male, and the women are not happy that their role model is no longer a potential love interest. This presumption is geared more to those who have seen the show since its revival in 2005 and only know the Doctor through David Tennant’s and Matt Smith’s versions of the Time Lord (with further stereotypical presumptions that they “skipped” Christopher Eccleston and thought Peter Capaldi was “too old”).

It’s amusing and a tiny bit frightening to read the  negative, hateful Tweets and comments that have flooded social media since the announcement when the actress has yet to do anything in the role aside from the minute video introducing her as the next Doctor. It’s also quite ironic since the concept of change is central to the show and its titular character – after all, the Doctor is an alien and can regenerate – change the outward appearance, while keeping the core aspects of personality and memory. There have been female Time Lords throughout the series, so it’s not as if it’s an entirely foreign concept.

Doctor Who fans are passionate about the show and have “their Doctor” (for various reasons), and my final thoughts (for the moment) about this is to see what she does with the role before judging and / or condemning her.

The key is in the writing and the direction new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the journey of the Idiot With a Box.

I wish Jodie Whittaker all the luck in the universe in taking on such an iconic character.

Steps off soapbox… for the time being.

Onward to Game of Thrones and its season premiere, which opened with a startling (and awesome) scene, and mostly served as exposition for the events to follow. Now that the TV adaptation has caught up with the existing novels, everyone is on an even playing field – no one (aside from the writers) knows what will happen next.  Another journey into unexplored territory, as almost anything can happen.

OK, so not as much fangirling as expected, but the season’s just started – there will most likely be more in the coming weeks.

The North Remembers.

Back to how all this ties into the Writing Process and to the Works In Progress. It is the responsibility of the writer to create fictional characters (of any gender, age, race, creed, etc.) to whom reader can relate and with whom they can empathize, and maybe in the process of doing so create role models. It’s not an absolute requirement, but it would be a wonder if a fictional character can inspire kindness in real people.

What a world that would be.

Not quite sure if any of this makes any sense, but it is what it is. Hopefully there’ll be more coherent updates on the aforementioned works in progress.

Questions of Gender and Age

Among the necessary aspects of the character building portion of crafting a story is to assess and decide upon the basics, gender and age to start. The rest usually follow quickly afterward – ethnicity / race (especially when writing science fiction or fantasy), along with the physical features. The genre in which the story is set and the target audience play a factor in that if the story is YA (young adult) or is intended for children (of varying ages), then there’s a set boundary on the age of characters (or at least the protagonist / antagonist) is pretty much set, though the gender can go either which way, depending on the message the story carries and/or the whimsy of the writer. The supporting characters can be of any age or gender, depending on the needs of the narrative arc.

For (most) other genres, determining the characters’ age and gender (and the rest of the internal and external traits) is a bit more flexible, though the audience for which the story is aiming plays its part. Conforming with or challenging established stereotypes also plays its role in the plotting, pondering and (eventual) writing process. Flipping gender roles and / or having the characters be of a non-traditional or non-typical age has its merits: it has the potential to bring a new (or at least creative) angle of on a narrative that has existed for eons (i.e. coming of age, boy meets girl, fish out of water, etc.). Representation matters, as the world is a far more diverse place than it has ever been. This only addresses human characters – inserting non-human (alien or mythical) beings gives the story another layer or nuance, and can bring about a different perspective on things.

The impetus for this topic has more to do with the upcoming announcement of the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who than the political and social debate / discussion of gender identity and omnipresent issue of ageism. I do my best not to delve into political matters here, as it’s not my intention to use this platform as a way of expressing opinions about the Real World and all its issues. This blog is about fictional world(s) – ones I have created / am creating / will create, and those of which I’m a fangirl (of varying degrees). The seventh series of Game of Thrones starts tomorrow too (so next week’s entry will no doubt have more fangirl-ish musings).

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) might need another upgrade after tomorrow – I’m not ready to say goodbye to Twelve just yet (and whoever follows Peter Capaldi will have enormous shoes to fill). It matters not to me whether the new Doctor will be old or young, male or female – so long as the next Doctor is British (or Irish), then I’m all right with that.

Anyway.

Deciding on the gender and age of the protagonist(s) / antagonist(s) shapes the story and the perspective on the characters’ relationships and their overall journey. These days it probably shouldn’t matter whether the hero / villain is a young, old (or somewhere in between); nor should it matter whether they are male or female (or, again somewhere in between – as stated earlier – representation matters). The dynamic between the characters and how they react to the situations in which they find themselves should not hinge upon accepted stereotypes, unless it’s being used to commentate on it.

Different is not (always or necessarily) dangerous.

It’s just another way of looking at the world and those who reside within.

If we can accept that, then the world can be a better place for everyone.

Meta Musings

As the days grow longer and the weather gets hotter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), there’s a slight lull in the Land of Exposition, despite the influx of travelers visiting the Character Development Inn and its first class cuisine. The Land of Exposition and the shenanigans that have occurred over the years was borne out of a meta stream of musings stemming from the endless plotting and pondering about the various works in progress in progress. There might even be a meta (mini) series saga buried within the entries that mention the goings-on in the Land of Exposition, with the quasi-invasion / skirmishes with the Real Life Brigade and the functionality of the FanGirl Meter (patent pending).

So, from a certain point of view, I’ve been writing a quasi-coherent, quasi-consistent narrative via the pantsing methodology; whether or not it makes sense is of some consequence, as just about everything written here is posted as is, with little editing afterwards (and rarely ever reread, though I probably should look over what has been written about the Land of Exposition and see if a series of short stories or an actual novella/novel can be parsed from those quasi-random musings.

Anyway.

So there’s a short(ish) lull in TV viewing, as Doctor Who has ended its 10th (since the revival) series [sans the Christmas Special which will bid the 12th Doctor adieu) and the 7th series of Game of Thrones is due to start next weekend. Quasi-adequate time to recover from one startling (yet inevitable) series/season finale to prepare for the unknown (as the TV series has caught up with the published novels) – so everyone is on somewhat even ground in terms of storytelling (even though the TV adaptation has meandered a bit from its published counterpart).

Yet time enough to postulate, plot and ponder about things to come.

Then again, I should refocus on my epic series saga and the quasi-minor changes made in the preceding weeks, because, well… that’s the main objective of this blog. Though really, the musing that has commenced thus far also qualifies as material for the Main Objective. Plotting and pondering has led to historical research into when / where exactly to diverge from Real History (or at least the history that has been taught in schools). During that time, a new plot twist emerged, one which seemed obvious 30 seconds after thinking about it – while that plot twist doesn’t exactly fit into the quasi-established narrative structure of the MASC(D) Chronicles, it could end up as an off-shoot (spin-off) from that Epic Series Saga.

The day when I finally explain the ins and outs of the MASC(D) Chronicles (and the significance of its name will come.

When, is debatable (and depends on when the actual details are finalized to a point where it will be Canon).

So, not anytime soon.

Someday though.

Meanwhile, I should look over the entries about the Land of Exposition and see if something can be made from that.

TTFN!

Emotions about Epic Sagas

The series finale of Doctor Who, “The Doctor Falls” just aired and it was an emotional roller coaster for many reasons, one of which is the fact that this is Peter Capaldi’s final series as the titular character. I’ve been a fan of the series since it’s revival over ten years ago (though I have watched some of the Classic Who episodes every now and then) and the mythology surrounding the series is extraordinary, especially given the fact that there have been a multitude of writers in its 50+ years of existence. That a (somewhat) coherent narrative arc has flourished (and meandered) centered around a single character is astounding.

For those who may not be familiar with Doctor Who (are there actually people who don’t know something about this series?), the titular character travels the universe searching for adventure, bringing along (usually human) companions and saving the world(s) from threats. Oh, and he pilots (or rather negotiates with) his time machine, called the TARDIS – Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, and can regenerate (change his appearance) when he’s mortally wounded (which is a brilliant way to allow the character to be played by multiple actors, all of whom bring their own interpretation).

That’s a simplistic description, but one that (I hope) is not too confusing. No spoilers here, but ’twas a well crafted episode to conclude this version of the Doctor, referencing themes from episodes / series past. It’s going to be interesting to see who will be the next Doctor, and to see how / where the narrative will continue.

Anyway.

The art (and craft) of creating memorable central character(s) is an ongoing challenge in the midst of a fantastical, mysterious (alternate) universe. Things need to make sense (or at least explained with some sort of logic), and there has to be a level (or several) of emotional attachment / investment for its audience. The audience needs to care about the characters and the situations in which they find themselves, and develop (strong) opinions about them, or else, it won’t work.

There also should be levels of complexity with the overarching narrative flow, with plot twists, red herrings and foreshadowing thrown in to keep the audience guessing / theorizing. The degree of complexity is subjective, but (again) should remain in the realm of (relative) plausibility. The historical context (alternate or actual) is a starting point – establishing the rules and regulations before building up from the foundation with colorful flourishes and accents.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey can only explain so much.

And hitting the Reset button only works every now and then (the “it was all a dream” explanation gets boring after a while).

So, not too much forward momentum in the plotting, pondering or writing process, as the double punch of “The Doctor Falls” and the final performance of Sunset Boulevard (one of my all time favorite musicals) this past Sunday has left me emotionally compromised. But with these emotions churning within gives the muses fodder to create and explore.

Though Doctor Who has ended for now (there’s the Christmas Special to look forward to) the new season of Game of Thrones is set to start in the coming weeks. So even though summer has arrived (in the Northern Hemisphere at least), Winter Has Come to Westeros.

And another opportunity to go on another emotional roller coaster.

And to write about it.