Shifting Perspectives

A month into 2017 and I’ve just about quasi abandoned the 85K90 challenge. Well, not so much abandoned, but perhaps put the task on hiatus as the plotting and pondering of the overarching narrative structure and mixing and matching the character (and their exposition baggage)  relationships has taken over (again). The sequence of events in the Grand Scheme of things is the difficult / fun part – as the MASC Chronicles is essentially an epic saga spanning several generations of several (sometimes intertwining) families. Not quite sure at what point in the writing process that decision was made, but for now that’s the way it’s going to be. Keeping track of the families (which not need to be related by blood) and the broad spectrum of their relationships with one another (and within the family unit itself) will require loads of attention and meticulous org charts (or Excel spreadsheets – haven’t used Excel to keep track of things, aside from the running word count of this blog series, which stands at 115, 739 – excluding this entry, obviously). The average word count thus far is 585, which seems a respectable number, as writing blog entries go, especially one where the bulk of its content is quasi-random musings inspired by equally quasi-random events (or Actual Real World Events).

Anyway.

The not-so-quasi-random inspiration behind this week’s entry stems from a recent theater excursion, namely seeing the revival production of Sunset Blvd. music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. It’s one of my favorite musicals, based on the 1950 film of the same name. The story revolves around a faded movie star Norma Desmond) and a jaded writer (Joe Gillis) and the events that happen when they meet; it also comments on the Hollywood system and illusions / delusions of fame and fortune. The production I saw this week was the third production of the musical – the original production and a touring production were the other two. The overall design for each production (sets, lighting and costumes) were different and unique, and in a curious way kind of mirrors (in reverse) the plotting and pondering process for the MASC Chronicles. The first production was opulent and had moments of heightened drama; the second production was haphazard and borderline cheesy, and the current production is stripped down and functional in its overall look.

The narrative perspective in the current production shifts from Norma’s quest to return to “all those people in the dark” to Joe’s journey of self-discovery (though that might be a stretch in generalizing the plot of the film/musical).  Within Sunset are elements of writing and pitching stories to the Studio executives (which is a parallel to authors pitching their stories to publishers).

Wait.

The purpose behind inspiration to write this entry seems to have dissipated as the entry went on. I suppose my quasi-obsessive love for Sunset has distracted me from the point I was attempting to make about the writing process…

Oh wait, there it is (the title of this entry)

Shifting the perspective of the narrative from the main protagonist’s life and relationships to the narrator’s complex exposition has changed elements of the narrative arc. While the protagonist’s exposition is critical to the overall narrative (which is usually the case for most book series), the narrator’s function is mostly to relate to the reader the actions of those around the narrator and not necessarily delve into the narrator’s life (unless the narrator and protagonist are one in the same).

But I digress (slightly).

So that’s the update (of sorts) thus far – the Land of Exposition remains in winter, and the Real Life Brigade remains in devising shenanigans.

Hopefully actual progress will resurface in the coming weeks.

TTFN!

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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.

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.

 

Explanations Through Exposition

First things first.

Rogue One is amazing.

It has the right blend of comedy and drama, with plenty of Easter Eggs and references for dedicated Star Wars fans. While some iconic elements were missing, there were enough of the aforementioned references to ensure the overall tone and narrative story fit in that “galaxy far, far, away”. The film is a side story to the episodic adventures of the Skywalker family, providing some explanations to many of the (apparent?) plot holes and inconsistencies in the Original Trilogy. How events unfold in Rogue One give more depth and understanding to the main story (especially to the opening crawl of A New Hope). While there is little doubt to whether the film’s protagonists fulfill their objective, there is a sense of urgency near the end of the film of the manner in which the task is completed.

Parsing out exposition in this manner is one way enhance the main story and the narrative journey of its protagonists / antagonists. I’m not sure if the explanations provided in Rogue One were outlined in the original plotting of the saga, or if it’s a recent (and reasonable) development, but either way it’s brilliant storytelling.

All the more reason I spend (far too much) time plotting and pondering about the MASC Chronicles, my (epic) series saga, of which some actual!writing has happened (though much of that consisted of editing the 1,400+ words that had already been written for Series One, Book One). Nevertheless, it’s a (tiny) step in the right direction – characters converse and vaguely reference events that may (or may not) have happened in the past that have caused (implied) friction between characters. Starting the narrative concurrently at the beginning and (kind of) in the middle of the “action” (as it were) allows for the characters to dangle tidbits of information that is not fully explained at the moment, but will (hopefully) be at some later point. This opens the door to prequels, and side stories that will focus on the “throwaway” comments uttered in the main narrative.

It also opens the door to a multitude of possibilities and alternate universe scenarios, from the serious to the absurd. With a large(ish) cast of characters, and their separate lineages (some of which may coincide at some point in time), it provides a wider canvas to create a vast world where (almost) anything is possible.

(So in a way, I’m pondering potential fan fiction for the Canon that has yet to be written.)

Not that I’ve plotted that much into each story – most of the plotting and pondering has been “big picture” narrative arcs, as well as incorporating themes and assigning character traits / exposition. As stated before (I think) I have a fairly good idea where the stories start and quasi-good idea how the story will end – it’s the journey in-between that’s the challenge.

It’s a daunting one, but one I hope to complete (when that will happen is anyone’s guess).

I am One with the Force, the Force is with me.

Happy Holidays, on this Christmas Eve (and first night of Hanukkah).

May the Force be with you.

NaNoWriMo (2016) Update #3

So it’s Week Three of the (quasi-non) adventure that is NaNoWriMo, and not much forward momentum in the actual!writing has actually!happened.

Clearly, November is (still) not a good month for me, writing-wise.

The plotting and pondering marches on, albeit in a haphazard fashion, through the reactionary goings-on in the Real World and the covert shenanigans from the Real Life Brigade. As the days turn colder, and grow shorter, it seems things will get worse (quickly) before they can get better (I’m still optimistic that things will get better… eventually).

Winter is coming – though Game of Thrones and (presumably) The Winds of Winter will return next year.

Anyway.

The Mind Writer remains in the mind, as the Muses wander about and the Plot Bunnies plot the Steampunk / fantasy / alternate future world of the MASC Chronicles, the often mentioned yet rarely elaborated epic series saga that will (eventually) be my magnum opus. The (not quite) “straight from the headlines” plot idea vaguely hinted in last week’s entry is bubbling out there (in the dark) and may or may not be incorporated into the elaborate fabric that is the MASC Chronicles universe.

Meanwhile, things in the Land of Exposition have been buzzing with activity, though it’s mostly containing the aftermath of the aforementioned shenanigans, raking up all the fallen leaves and collecting acorns.

Why?

Why not?

These are uncertain times we now live in, with protests and heated words thrown about in the sphere of social media, which is all the more reason why the Arts (in all its forms) is vital. If only (most of) the worlds writers can create with their imaginations can be brought to fruition in the Real World, ones where equality is guaranteed for all, conflicts can be resolved before resorting to abuse (physical, emotional and / or verbal) and where differences can be tolerated (to a certain degree).

Then again, some fictional worlds should remain fictional, lest they become our new Reality.

Off to plot and ponder, whilst stepping off the mini soap box.