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.

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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.

Journeys and Quests

The subtitle for this blog is “A Writer’s Journey” so might as well elaborate on the status of that journey thus far. Admittedly, it hasn’t progressed as far as I would have expected, but then again, there were meandering diversions along the way, resulting in exploring paths otherwise hidden. Some have yielded brilliant concepts that have since been incorporated into the narrative arc that is (at least for the time being) the MASC(D) Chronicles, while others were filed away for (possible) future use (whether in the main series saga or another work in progress). Careful consideration of character relationships, narrative structure takes time and research to craft, along with the overall pacing of the plot (critical in the long run of a series).

It’s a complex process.

The journey can be a quest, and the quest can be a journey – to (self) discovery or to vanquish the enemy or righting a wrong (perceived or otherwise). Multiple quests / journeys can occur, with the characters’ separate narrative arcs collaborating or conflicting with one another (i.e. the objectives of the protagonist and antagonist are essentially in opposition with one another), though keeping track of every step, twist and turn is the (fun) challenge.

Then there are the cliffhangers.

So not (too) long ago I watched the penultimate episode of Doctor Who “World Enough and Time” (though really I should have been writing this entry), which was frightening (in a good way) and astounding. The intricate storytelling and the character development has led to the start of a emotional ending. I still wish this wasn’t Peter Capaldi’s final series as the Doctor, as I feel no other actor (male or female) can capture the nuances of the character. “The Doctor Falls” will no doubt be a fitting finale for this incarnation of the Doctor.

But I digress.

The journey of crafting a sprawling series saga is (as frequently mentioned) is long and the road is riddled with distractions, diversions and doubt. The journey of writing about the journey of crafting a sprawling series saga is equally complex, especially with the historical diversions and intricate speculation of what might happen if a certain historical (fixed point) event didn’t happen the way it did.

How would the world be different? Would it be different? The ripples of time (and space) offer infinite possibilities.

If only reality can be (re)written as such – the world might be a better place. Or then again it might (if episodes in The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits could attest)

The Journey of the MASC(D) Chronicles moves on, albeit slowly (though perhaps in some alternate universe it’s fully formed and as madcap as I imagined it at the onset).

The Journey of the creation of the MASC(D) Chronicles is (literally) another story.

Interpretation and Perspective

Literature can serve as an escape from the Real World, and also as a cautionary tale, as the boundaries from which the writer creates his / her story is limitless. The truth within the fictional world(s) can be idealistic or harsh, depending on the character’s perspective and the reader’s sensibilities – one person’s tyrant is another person’s savior. Paradise (for the most part) is subjective and open to interpretation. Some will love it, others will hate it, and (inevitably) everyone will complain about it.

I intended to write about something else for this week’s entry (though it was another quasi-rambling thematic essay about… stuff), but the recent goings-on in the Real World have prompted musings on the importance of interpretation and its power to invoke / provoke a response. For those reading this months or years from now, the apparent controversy over the current production of Julius Caesar as part of the Shakespeare in the Park series was the catalyst. Shakespearean plays have been interpreted and adapted in countless ways over the centuries in film, television and (of course) in live theatre. In the 2017 Shakespeare in the Park production, the titular character cast looks similar to the current (American) President, and there have been protests about it mostly from the (far) right wing.

Spoiler Alert for those who may not have ever read or seen Julius Caesar, (though it seems silly to include a spoiler alert for a 400+ year old play): Caesar is assassinated by a group of Roman senators to prevent him from becoming a tyrant. Chaos ensues afterwards.

The choice to put a contemporary interpretation to a historical tragedy (as Caesar was a real person and the events in the play are more or less what really happened) might have been questionable, given the political atmosphere and the knee-jerk reactions in this instantaneous social media driven world, but it was a valid one, and perhaps done to provoke a response. Then again, the play has existed for centuries and presumably there have been other interpretations / adaptations that have used contemporary political figures as its filter. Yet (to my knowledge) there had not been protests about those productions.

The Arts in general have had the ability to invoke a myriad of emotions through its storytelling, giving the audience a glimpse into the perspective of its protagonist (or antagonist, again depending on one’s perspective). The filter through which the protagonist views his / her world and the people within aids in the overall expansion of a world view and can introduce different, sometimes radical ideas to those who may not have had direct access.

It also sparks the potential for change (hopefully for the better), through discussion and debate; though lately protests and threats seems to be the route taken by the right wing, which is their right to do (as freedom of speech is still a basic right for every American). Whether what they’re saying holds any merit is questionable, but should not be ignored or dismissed.

Storytelling is an art (and a craft) that has the power to create controversy as well as change, giving the reader a window into another world, or a different perspective on an existing universe.

It’s up to the reader to interpret its meaning.

The Purpose of Blogging

So this week’s entry is another (?) quasi-meta jumble of words which may or may not contain insight into the writing process and its (lack of?) progress thus far. Amid the plotting and pondering with regards to the narrative structure, character development and overarching themes, not too much actual!writing has taken place (though a fair amount of editing of the little that had been written has happened, so that’s progress, right?)

While the narrative for Book One of Series One of the MASC(D) Chronicles has been written (mostly in my head) for a while, quasi-plotted out, albeit with some changes here and there to accommodate the constant (and quasi-consistent) epiphanies related to the aforementioned series saga, the writing around it has continued, as has these weekly blog entries. Granted, there might not be too much (useful?) substance within the weekly entries, and may come across as quasi-rambling musings as a way of fulfilling a weekly quota, but this type of writing remains ongoing (often written a few hours almost nonstop). As mentioned before (and will most likely be mentioned in future entries), a high percentage of the content in these entries are spontaneous and unedited (not that they would need any editing as there is no questionable content that could potentially offend anyone – or at least I don’t think so).

The inspiration behind this week’s blog title is the notification (via Facebook and here on WordPress) that I first embarked on this blogging journey five years ago, with Close Encounters of the Theatrical Kind, with the initial entry about my experience seeing One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway. I’m an ardent supporter of live theater and have been most of my life, and I should have started that blog sooner (as I’ve attended many fantastic musicals, plays and other theatre-related events) but writing for that blog is different than writing for this one. I think I may have mentioned this before, in entries where dual blogging occurred (which in and of itself is a rare occasion). This blog is more free form and spontaneous, written entirely within the WordPress site; for the theatre blog, there is more structure and a bit more forethought, written without WordPress site. Other differences between the two blogs are that there is not set specific timeline / deadline in writing the theatre blog, its frequency fluctuates, and  the fact that it’s quasi-factual writing (with some rambling personal opinions thrown in for good measure).

Very different from the goings on in this realm with its imaginary cast of characters residing in a mythical land. Both kinds of writing help in the overall craft (and art) of writing  – the fictional and the factual, and the distinction between them, and the potential to blur the lines.

Even though fictional writing isn’t happening as frequently as possible, and factual writing comes in waves (i.e. whenever I attend a theatrical show or event – though there is a vast backlog of shows I’ve seen prior to starting the blog which I could and should jot down for posterity), at least some kind of writing is happening on a weekly basis.

So that’s some kind of progress in the process.