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.

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.

Crafting Alternate History

The beauty of fiction is that the writer can imagine just about any kind of scenario for his/her story. It can be populated by mythical creatures, aliens or normal humans, where anything goes, and it’s (for the most part) believable to the reader, so long as there’s enough exposition to explain the difference(s) from the Real World. Time is relative, and history can be whatever the writer deems to be true in the world he/she has created.

The possibilities are endless, which is also the challenge when travelling down the path of the alternate universe. The degree to which to skew fact is among the factors to take into account, along with determining at what point in time to diverge from actual history and distinguishing the Fixed Points that cannot be changed. As a way to help with the process of determining these salient issues, I’ve binged watched select episodes of Doctor Who. The current series is amazing thus far, and it’s a shame that it’s Peter Capaldi’s final run as The Doctor – he’s by far the finest modern incarnation. I’m liking the new companion, Bill, who is a refreshing change from the recent companions.

But I digress.

The ripples from changing a (perceived) Fixed Point can cause a multitude of alternate universes where the status quo could be better, worse or just different from reality (though these days with all that talk of “alternative facts”, it can be difficult to know what is real and what isn’t). Then there’s the option of creating a secondary alternate universe within the primary one, where things get really complicated.

Of course, among the requirements in creating an alternate universe with its alternate history is to have a firm (or as firm as possible) grasp of Actual History (or at least the history that’s been recorded and taught in school) and choosing a key moment (or several) to diverge from and creating a plausible divergence from that point. After all, it’d be too complicated and complex (not to mention frustrating) for the reader to have to research actual history to be able to understand the difference from the alternate history from the actual one.

The use of alternate history remains a component for the foundation upon which the MASC Chronicles sits, along with a bunch of other other-worldly elements. The point at which history diverges is one that (at least to my knowledge) hasn’t been employed before, and whether or not history is “restored” to its original state remains to be seen.

Onward to research, plot and ponder.

Something Different Altogether

Maybe.

For all my pondering and plotting, and the quasi-random musing about my plotting and pondering, with brief sojourns into that super awesome, elusive and fantastical place that is the Land of Exposition, not much by the way of substance (at least in the form of credible and coherent narrative) has emerged.

The above impossibly elaborate and possibly grammatically incorrect run-on sentence is/was confusing and nonsensical, as much of my writing here has probably been. Then again, I’m dealing with the process of processing the various emotions that have emerged during this time of year. Not only am I’m talking/writing about the annual Doctor Who Christmas special, but also of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and (to a somewhat lesser degree) the final (Christmas Special) episode  of  Downton Abbey (and only because the 6th and final series has yet to air on the US, though I’ve skimmed some of the spoilers – because I couldn’t help myself – for the final series and no doubt there’ll be another round of tears when it airs in the new year).

[Yes, more quasi-run-on sentences with parenthesis galore – by now you should know that’s how I roll write.]

But I digress.

[I do that a lot too.]

Having recently watched the Series 9 Doctor Who Christmas Special “The Husbands of River Song” (and re-watched “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” for the obvious reasons) and somewhat recently watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s difficult to grasp the various (conflicting) emotions swirling about within my head, which has imploded a few times during the past week. There were moments of laughter, moments of shock and moments of sadness. Tears were unabashedly shed amid the laughter and screams – and I was not alone in this respect. For that’s the true power of storytelling, regardless of the genre and the medium. Even though the stories are fictional, drawn from the imagination(s) of the writers, actualized by the director and the various production specialists (costume, make-up, visual effects, etc.), underscored by the composer and imparted by the actors – they have the unique ability to play on the emotions of its audience and bring about feelings perhaps they long buried or nearly forgotten.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, and I’m a fairly new Whovian, but nevertheless, it’s the overall narrative arc and the (inside) references to the past that has me feeling all the feelings. It’s the characters with whom I (and many, many others) have grown up, watching their story unfold, amid the plot twists and revelations.

Note: there will be no spoilers for either of the aforementioned – I don’t want to be that person who ruins the story for anyone. That’s just plain rude and annoying. Avoiding spoilers has been a challenge, given the omnipresence of social media these days (with the exception of my reading spoiler summaries for Downton Abbey  – for whatever reason, that doesn’t bother me as much. Then again, my emotional attachment to that series is newer than that for Star Wars and Doctor Who). All I will say that both the aforementioned are fantastic and are a credit to their respective fandoms.

But I digress. Again.

I suppose the point of this week’s entry (as it’s the final one for 2015) is to reaffirm my fledgling commitment/promise/objective to actually!write my magnum opus, otherwise known as the epic saga that is the MASC Chronicles. I just keep getting distracted by all these feelings, and pondering ideas. It should be a fairly straightforward task – plot out a story, create a cast of characters and set them loose in a world in which they live.

Then there are the plot twists, character arcs, and exposition with which to contend – stories within stories, crisscrossing narrative arcs and (most importantly) ensuring it all makes some semblance of (logical) sense.

Things in the Land of Exposition have finally (!) calmed down a bit, with the antics  of the Real Life Brigade contained (at least for the time being) – the contracts sorted out, the Muses and Minions calling a tentative truce, not unlike the original peace agreement between the Humans and the Zygons, before the madness that was The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion happened… Hopefully any drama will be contained before it gets out of hand, which might happen in the New Year, but that’s in the future.

Let’s focus on Now, and not on  Then, because we’ve already past Then. Just now. We’re looking at Now Now, and we can’t go back to Then. Or worry about Later, because Later is not Now. Now is Now).

Anyway.

To which, I offer as a late holiday treat, and an early preview (subject to change at any given moment): a snippet of actual!writing, made up (like everything that has come before it) right off the top of my head in real time. I have no idea where/when it will fit or whether it’ll survive the numerous rewrites, edits and plot twists.

Without further ado, some actual!writing:

The job was straightforward and easy. Retrieve a jewelry box from a certain vault and deliver it to Miss Rosalind Udine within a fortnight. Complete the task within the specified time, and the reward would be $100,000, guaranteed. Complete the task within a week and the reward doubled. It was an irresistible offer, which Malcolm Hayes and Brandon Stolle accepted without hesitation. They asked Miss Udine no questions and offered no explanation on how they would complete the task. The less anyone knew, the better. Too much knowledge was a dangerous thing. They maintained a quiet reputation as professional adventurers, discreet and reliable. Their methods were unorthodox, but in the end, they always got the job done.

Until now.

Happy Holidays everyone, and see you all in 2016!

May the Force be with you.

A (Quasi) Different Kind of Writing

So here we are (once again) nearing the end of another year, and this writer’s journey has moved a snail’s pace, at least in terms of actual!writing – a smattering of plotting and pondering has happened intermittently, with inadvertent digressions, inevitable distractions and illuminating diversions. There are only so many hours in a day, and there’s never enough time to get the things that need to get done done before other things start to appear to that take up time to get done.

In short, it’s a perpetual cycle of deadlines and diversions on all fronts. Between the Real Life Brigade causing organized chaos, causing the Muses and Plot Bunnies to scramble about in an effort to find some order amid the chaos, and the newly discovered (?) bugs in the FanGirl Meter (patent pending) causing glitches in its basic programming and letting melodrama and smut pass through unnoticed, things in the Land of Exposition are… interesting. It’s also the odd sensation that there isn’t a new episode of Doctor Who this week from where to draw inspiration or insight, which has happened every now and then in the past few weeks (though there’ll be the Christmas Special in a few weeks’ time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how River Song interacts with Twelve).

Anyway.

As I’ve kept up with writing for the blog throughout the trials and tribulations that is the attempt to actually!write, there have been many (well, one person thus far) who have pointed out that I’m quite good at writing essays (or whatever the heck these quasi-random musings are called) – they’re not quite fiction, not quite non-fiction, but they’re (apparently) amusing and entertaining. There are metaphors amid the meta-ness of whatever travels that (seemingly long) distance from my head through my fingers and on to WordPress – as I’ve always written these entries directly into the site itself and rarely ever edit/reread before hitting “publish” (unless it’s a blatant spelling/grammatical error). If I spent less time plotting and pondering and actually!wrote my stories the way I write this blog, then I’d have a several novels written (albeit probably not ready for Prime Time, as they’d be quasi-random streams of thought which would need a whole lot of editing and stuff like that.

[Like editing the “stuff like that” stuff – it’s almost like writing the way I talk, with bouts of repetition, non-sequitur and quasi-random musical / pop culture references.]

Then again, writing is an art and a science [scientific art, artistic science? Who knows?] and it’s crafty and it’s precise. It’s a jumble of words stung together with imagination and wit. Even though I haven’t written as much as I would have hope to have written, it’s still an objective towards which I would like to aspire – to write something of value (whether it be entertainment, inspirational or maybe sentimental remains to be seen).

Six days until The Force Awakens.

May the Force Be With Us All.

Plot Twists and Red Herrings

“So what happens now?”

Now that I’ve quasi-decided/declared to stop participating in NaNoWriMo and return to my usual writing schedule, which happens whenever the Muses confer with the plot bunnies and make sense of whatever is lying about in the cluttered Vault of Plot Points, Character Exposition and Narrative Arcs [or the VOPPCENA – I make up acronyms now, – acronyms are cool] hidden deep within the Land of Exposition. While much of the data stored in the VOPPCENA lies within an intricate electronic database, guarded by the Phantom Shadows (with their swishy cloaks and Force-like abilities), a great deal of data is still in paper form, collated, date and time stamped, written in different colored ink, mostly in cursive writing). It’s a hodgepodge of discarded notions, recycled concepts, and (to be perfectly honest) stolen borrowed ideas from existing (published) material. Of course any of the latter would need to be filed away, never to be used (or at best, modified to the extent where no one would ever have reason to sue me).

“So what happens now?”

Now that NaNoWriMo is behind me (and now forever in my past), thus begins (restarts) my journey to plotting, pondering and actually!writing that which is (still) called the MASC Chronicles. The Good News is that I have had fleeting thoughts about the PPCENA [plot points, character exposition and narrative arcs], and have made quasi-sense of the sheer depth, breadth and volume of the daunting task I set for myself when I first thought to create this universe of things. There are plot twists amid plot twists, red herrings that might not be red herrings and other literary metaphors consistent when working on an epic saga. The science fiction elements mixed with mystery and fantasy are omnipresent, and make quasi- sense in my head – at least the general overall narrative arc does.

The “Bad” News is that time is not on my side – the demands from the Real Life Brigade, with its time sensitive demands and concurrent events and processes, have taken up almost all of my time and concentration, which has left little time for the aforementioned Muses to present their ideas to the Literary Administration who would be the ones to make sense of the narrative arc so actual!writing can commence.

[Yes, the quasi-Meta drama that is the Land of Exposition continues to grow, and will warrant its own epic saga of sagas… It’s on the (long) list of Things to Write.]

“Where am I going to?”

Again, the notion of plot twists and red herrings is influenced by the Series/Season Nine finale of Doctor Who “Hell Bent”, which I rightly predicted would be a mind-imploding experience, full of plot twists, misdirection and red herrings. (not to mention loads of throwback references to the series’ rich history). Presumptions are made and shattered in an instant, while at the same time, take their time to reveal themselves, which makes sense since time is a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of … stuff. The lengths a person (or Time Lord) would go to save the people they care for show the true measure of the person.

But I (slightly) digress.

The ideas are there, quasi-set in some sense of order, the characters are (for the most part) developed enough, and the (general) narrative arc is somewhat set in stone (or at least in wet cement). All that need to be figured out are the actual details – and a TARDIS so I can find the time to get at least some of this completed.

But when will that actually happen?

“Don’t ask anymore…”