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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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.

 

Mid-Year Review

June is upon us, as it the quasi-customary mid-year review of the state of things within the Land of Exposition and its various works in progress. Though really the works in progress are mostly components of a greater whole, one which I sincerely hope makes some semblance of sense when all is said and done (or rather, written and published). That greater whole, the epic saga that has been mentioned quasi-frequently and rarely elaborated upon is (of course) the MASC Chronicles, the three part, multiple book series spanning across time and a quasi-alternate universe.

Or at least it was called the MASC Chronicles until fairly recently – as many writers can attest, ideas flutter about haphazardly, dropping epiphanies and floating away to conspire to create other forms of mischief. The mind has the ability and capacity to run many concurrent scenarios and filter out the absurd (most of the time), as well as compartmentalize real life / world information and fictional imaginings, ensuring the thought streams do not cross.

Well, most minds can do that, separate facts from “fake news”, while others revel in alternate facts and their own bubble of reality. But this is a writing blog and not a political one, and I have no qualifications to comment on the goings on in the world today (and even if I had, this is not the place to do so)

Anyway.

As the muses work their magic on giving the plot bunnies fodder for their efforts, thoughts wander on making sense of the overall layout of the epic saga – the practical world and character building aspects mentioned a few entries ago. As the combination of muses, plot bunnies and a copious amount of Cold Brew coffee (with a side of binge watching Doctor Who) another dimension of possibility has been added which gives some clarity to the process of (alternate) universe building for the Epic Saga.

And all it took was adding one letter.

And it happened three nights ago, at that not-so-convenient point in time that is as one is drifting off to sleep, just before the REM cycle starts.

So the building begins quasi-anew as the extra dimension turns the perspective of the storytelling structure just a little to the left – more possibilities arise, and the fog lifts slightly, though it still rolls along creating its enigmatic effect.

More ripples upon the time / space continuum where fixed points vanish, only to be replaced by new fixed points where Everything Changes – whether or not those changes are positive, negative or neutral remains to be seen.

What is certain is that the mid-year mark is a good time to refresh, rethink, and review all that has come before. Summer hasn’t officially started yet (even though it’s past Memorial Day, the traditional threshold ushering a new season), but there has been a shift in the wind, and a (climate) change in the air.

Time to do something about it.

It’ll all make sense in the end.

I hope.

 

Discovering Characters

In setting off on a journey to creating a compelling story with complex characters, aspects of the plot change over time, with varying degrees of coherency. Elements are added, changed and / or removed (only to be replaced or reinstated at some later point in time) in efforts to make the story better (albeit that’s a subjective term). Change is inevitable during the plotting, pondering and writing process, and it’s almost mandatory when editing. The finished product may (or may not) be exactly what was outlined at the beginning, and that’s a good thing (I think).

The shape of the primary (epic) work in progress and the characters within has changed over the years, both in size and complexity. Characters are created, with their unique set of baggage and archetypes – their role in the overall story varies, from major to minor; they disappear for a while, or get relegated to another story arc (or series altogether). Knowing who these characters are and what motivates them to do the things they do influences the direction down which the story travels. The focus on the narrative structure and the atmosphere of the world in which the story takes place should be concurrent with the development of its characters.

The topic of character development has been discussed here before (and no doubt I’ll be repeating things I’ve written before). It’s been a process of discovering everything about the characters I’ve created, though at first that might sound odd, as the writer should know every aspect of those characters. After all, the writer is responsible for their very existence (tenuous as it might be at times) – their appearance, their personality and their perspective of their world. Then again, drafting exposition and creating a list of statistics is the starting point – once the characters are placed into a room together and dealing with whatever situation is unfolding, the predetermined aspects of the characters will change depending on what happens.

Outlines are fine when plotting out the basic structure of the story, and its place in the series (if it’s part of a larger saga), but things change when there’s a deep(er) dive into the details. The twists and turns come out of nowhere and can (sometimes) lead to greater things, or at least more fantastical things (hopefully). There’s no guarantee that the original story line will remain intact, or if the characters created for that story will remain the same (or remain at all).

Uncertainty is the only certainty when creating a story.

One day, perhaps in the future, I’ll be confident enough to share some of the details of the MASC Chronicles and its main characters.

But for now, it’s back (again) to the plotting and pondering..

Shifting Realities

So it’s April Fool’s Day. A day of practical jokes and elaborate hoaxes, when the line between fact and fiction blur. Many of the jokes / hoaxes are reused and recycled over the years (which is always good for the environment), so “everyone” knows that they’re fake; then again, there are some that are unexpected that it’s difficult to discern its validity. The setup and delivery of the “news” article  / post / tweet needs to be crafted in a way that makes you second-guess whether or not it’s true. The one that comes to my mind on this day was the “news” article announcing that George Takei was going to run for public office. It seemed plausible (and possible), and almost too good to be true – and it turned out not to be true (which is a shame, really, given the political climate in America these days).

Needless to say, it’s wise to not trust anything or anyone on this day.

Oh, that rhymes (sort of) – and I’m not so much of a poet (and I know it).

Anyway.

The (shifting) line(s) between fact and fiction within a story is a tricky path to take, considering the fact that fiction is essentially not true to begin with – every aspect of the story is made up from the writer’s imagination. Truth within the fictional world is subjective and potentially questionable as well, depending on the perspective from which the narrative unfolds. The protagonist and antagonist often have opposing viewpoints as to their role in the story, and will believe their motives are “right”. With that said/written, the same story could (potentially) be told multiple times and still be different, depending on who is narrating the story (if it’s told first person perspective), or in the cast of third person perspective (omniscient or limited), which character is prominently featured.

Since I’ve committed myself to writing a series saga worth of stories (many of which have been loosely sketched out), the urge to consolidate and condensify the number of stories is tempting. To tell one long story from several (different) points of view so that each novel is a puzzle piece when put together creates an intricate work or art (or at least an interesting mosaic). Refining and moving about all those pieces will take time and a white board (at least) with different colored markers (because colors make everything make sense). The sequence of events (from every angle) will need to be analyzed for its plausibility, and the potential offshoot tangents created (which might create spin-off series or AU fan fiction).

I’m (probably) overthinking all of this, but that’s the planning, plotting and pondering part before the actual!writing part gets underway. The pantsing approach won’t help (as much) as the planning approach, though they could (should?) work concurrently. The reality in the fictional world can be whatever the writer wants it to be, whether it’s based on real world events (past or present), an imagined future, or a world not like any other.

What is real and what is not is for the writer to decide, though I wonder if there are stories out there based on an April Fool’s prank. It’d be interesting to write stories based around various holidays (though technically speaking April Fool’s Day isn’t an official holiday, though some might argue otherwise).

Then again, I should probably stick to the quasi-established works in progress first.

Spring has sprung in the Land of Exposition. Time to get writing. Again.

The State of the Land of Exposition

Extract from The Tales from the Land of Exposition – Journal of Plot Monitor #9

Celestial Time Stamp: Later Than Anticipated

Weather: Suspiciously mild, with bouts of random musings

So it’s been a while since the last update, but the state of things in the Land of Exposition are fairly stable, though rumblings from the Real Life Brigade could possibly be of some concern in the near future. Perhaps the most significant change within (or rather without) the Land of Exposition was the fundraising and subsequent construction of a massive, environmentally friendly dome encompassing the Land of Exposition. With all the adverse shenanigans from the Real Life Brigade and the state of things beyond the borders of the Land of Exposition posing a potential threat to the very existence of the services offered within its borders, proactive action was essential. Questions of validity and dubious comments about the future state have pushed for the need to act to preserve the quasi-status quo. A clinical evaluation of the environs of within the Land of Exposition resulted in an inventory of sustainable resources and a separate list of export goods necessary for the well-being of the citizens of the Land.

Travel between the Land of Exposition and the Outside World has been frantic yet organized. Those seeking asylum within the Land (and residence at the Character Development Inn) underwent precise screening, and with few exceptions, were granted entry. A treaty (of sorts) with the denizens from the Real Life Brigade materialized faster than expected, with minimal concessions, though autonomy within a defined area within the Land was granted begrudgingly.

Harmony is a fragile thing to broker (especially with those who are tone deaf).

The air quality within the Land has improved, though faint aromas of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch linger every now and then. The Character Development Inn introduced an eclectic menu of fusion cuisine, with its aroma permeating the dining area and kitchen. With the growing population within the land, the Character Development expanded height and width wise, with each added wing designed to economically (and comfortably) house as many as possible, at little to no cost to the established residents.

Inspirational ideas continue to pour in, as more different perspectives and genres collaborate and debate over narrative arcs, character development and such. The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) still has occasional glitches (and habitual giggle fits) yet still provides (somewhat) an objective counterpoint to the more absurd flights of fancy and/or delusions of grandeur, though heightened melodrama keeps the Meter on its toes (so to speak). The Library of Inspiration grows at an exponential rate, with much cross-genre plots plotted and pondered. The Vault of Archives has moved to the Cloud, and the WiFi signal secured with the best security software firmly in place.

The quasi-rambling musings continue as plots are pondered and ponders are plotted. Characters remain in quasi-hibernation, their true form still under review, and their motivations lurk in that murky fog of uncertainty.

Time will prove to be the deciding factor upon which everything rests.

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.