Rewriting History

Well that was a dramatic way to end the season.

Spoiler Alert: This entry contains mild spoilers for the Game of Thrones television series, specifically for the season seven finale. As the eighth (and final) season will air sometime in 2019, there will be time enough to (re)watch the series and analyze the narrative and character arcs to speculate how the epic series saga will conclude.

Anyway.

There were loads of game changing events within the seventh season itself, the bulk of which happened in the 80 minute season finale, many of which have the potential to alter everything that is true within the Game of Thrones universe. The viewers are privy to certain knowledge that shifts the perception of certain characters, and will no doubt have immense impact on the Great War against the Night King, who now has his own dragon that blasted away a part of the Wall, and the army of the dead. The motivation behind the Night King’s quest to invade Westeros is (still?) unknown, which makes this enemy difficult to decipher, and thus is an adversary with whom the protagonists cannot reason. Also, Littlefinger’s “trial” and subsequent death were wholly satisfying and long overdue.

The season seven finale also revealed that the perception of history and of those involved can be distorted to suit those who write and tell it. After all, it’s been said that “history is written by the winners”, and the winners would obviously want to cast themselves (and their actions) in a favorable light, if only to justify those actions (which are almost always negative if seen from an objective vantage point). There will be those who cling to the lies and half-truths to the bitter end, even if they’re told the truth, and there are those who knew (and told) the truth, but were labeled as being delusional for doing so, who will feel validated once others believe that truth. (The ranger of the Night’s Watch who survived the White Walkers’ attack, only to be executed for desertion, deserves an apology for telling the truth).

But I digress.

The notion of rewriting history to fit the perspective of the victors is not a new concept in the writing process – telling a story from a different point of view is a staple in storytelling. Another popular saying (though I don’t know who coined the phrase) is that there are always two sides to every story – though I’d argue that there are three sides: “your” side, “their” side, and the truth (which can be a either of the aforementioned sides, a hybrid of those two sides, or something completely different). Depending on whose version of the truth you believe (or choose to believe), one will be the hero, the other the villain.

Or both can be heroic or villainous, depending on the situation.

As seen in the Game of Thrones series, the characters are complex – not one of them are exclusively “good” or “evil”, though Ramsay Snow Bolton, Walder Frey and Joffrey Lannister Baratheon (to name but a few) are exceptions to this notion.  History (and those who write and tell their story) will cast its characters accordingly, even though history (and historians) should be objective, despite the attempts to whitewash or exclude certain aspects of history for the advancement of a social or political agenda.

As the MASC(D) Chronicles (my novel series saga that has been oft-mentioned yet hardly ever elaborated upon) will 96.8% be set in an alternate universe based off changing one historical point in time, the perspective from which to tell the story, and the perspective from which to impart that version of history will be a challenge. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive – the narrator’s perspective and opinions need not match those that are accepted by society (and probably should not, as the friction between the two opposing forces adds tension to the overall narrative).

Researching real history and plotting and pondering the causality from the aforementioned divergence has occupied my time, though internal writing never stops (writing and rewriting scenes and scenarios is exhausting within the head space, and would consume scores of notebooks, notepads and a flash drive or two). The main characters are developing, with their allegiances and opinions shifting from one side to the other.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it all, taking a simple (ghost) story and morphing it into a complex (alternate historical) puzzle, but aren’t all the best stories complex and full of twists and turns?

The challenge begins, and the (long) wait for Season eight of Game of Thrones continues (and I think the wait for the next series of Doctor Who with Thirteen is a long one too)

Might as well spend the time plotting, pondering, researching and writing.

Advertisements

Alliances and Ambiguity

In crafting characters and plots within which to fling them or to carefully place them (depending if you’re a pantser or plotter),  figuring out where they (and with whom) stand in the story is critical. The character’s perspective, influenced both by nature (surroundings) and nurture (upbringing), affects how they (re)act (or not) to the events and environments around them. Knowing who the characters are and with whom they choose to associate helps with the overall telling of the story, regardless if they are the protagonists or antagonists (though it’s often been said that the villain is the hero of their own story).

Then again, if everything is divided in absolutes, the characters and the narrative could fall into the Pit of Predictability and / or Sphere or Stereotypes, rendering the story and its characters unbelievable and unremarkable. On the other hand, there is a need for the reader to know (or at least ascertain) which characters are on the “good” side and which are on the “bad” side – “good” and “bad” being subjective, depending on the character’s perspective, and the readers’ interpretation of the story. Grouping characters in this way is convenient in drawing a (figurative) line between the two sides, though each side need not have member(s) who adhere to the ideals adopted by the group as a whole.

That’s where / when the (shocking?) plot twist drops.

The somewhat quasi-random inspiration for this entry is how the current (seventh) season of Game of Thrones is unfolding; the final episode of the season will air tomorrow, and considering what has happen thus far, the alliances that have been forged thus far may break, only to be refashioned out of expediency to battle against a common enemy. Loyalty and trust dwell on a slippery slope in Westeros, and the elaborate schemes within schemes, coupled with personal agendas could doom the characters who are still alive (or in some cases characters who died and subsequently brought back to life).

The moral ambiguity that lies within the world of Game of Thrones (and in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that inspired the TV series) and the complexity of its characters is among the inspirations for my journey in attempting to (and eventually succeeding in) creating an epic series saga. Not everything is simply “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”, though there are instances where it’s clear whether something or someone is right or wrong – there may be those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the label, but they’ll learn (hopefully) they’re on the “wrong” side of history. Then again, without the presence of an opposition, how could anyone know when they’re on the right side?

But I digress.

Plotting and pondering all the angles (or as many as can plausibly exist) in the MASC(D) Chronicles is an ongoing process as the plots within plots grow exponentially with the seemingly infinite possibilities brought about by establishing alternate history, thus creating an alternate universe where (just about) anything can happen.

(I do hope that last sentence makes sense, and is somewhat grammatically correct.)

Anyway.

Having the power (as it were) to devise an alternate universe (with its alternative history) is overwhelming and loads of fun, though it can’t all be rainbows and unicorns traipsing about the landscape. I’m sure there’s a well-known quotation (by someone) that light cannot exist without darkness – the laws of Time and Space (relative as they may be in any dimension) dictate that there are Fixed Points in history, events that need to happen in order for the universe to remain intact. So certain Dark moments in history will still happen in the Alternate Universe of the MASC(D) Chronicles, though perhaps not in the same time and place or under the same conditions due to the Left Turn taken from One Key Moment in World History.

Seems the quasi-rambling musings within this entry have meandered a bit – the original title was “Allies and Enemies”, and was to ponder the fragility of grouping certain characters – a quasi-direct reflection on last week’s episode of Game of Thrones “Beyond the Wall” and the alliance between Houses Targaryen / Martell / Tyrell / Greyjoy against House Lannister (spoiler alert – it does not bode well for either side, as military strategy and dragons play a significant role).

Ambiguity quickly became the emerging theme, and a degree of uncertainty is sometimes necessary.

Next week’s entry will no doubt contain reactions and insight into the season finale airing tomorrow night.

Valar Morghulis.

Valar Dohaeris.

 

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.

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.

Structure and Pacing In Storytelling

Spoiler alert for Season Six of Game of Thrones (and the series in general).

 

 

 

Well that was an explosive season finale – literally – and perhaps the most satisfying one to date, wherein main characters die (most of whom deserved the end they got, others victims of circumstance), new alliances are formed (utilizing the logic that the enemy of my enemy is my friend… for now), and the most popular (and obvious) fan theory is confirmed as canon (of course R+L = J, but now what if A+J = T? There are  three dragons, and each should have its own rider…) . Winter has come, and the political landscape has shifted, leading the narrative arc (at least for the TV adaptation) into a world where women are in positions of power, and where anything can happen. While much of the series has focused on the War of the Five Kings (all of whom are now dead), it seems now that the story going forward will become the Battle of the Two Queens (Ceresi and Daenerys) and the War Against the Dead.

As the series has overtaken the narrative from the books, it’ll be interesting to see how the series will play out, and how it could affect the structure of the yet to be published next novel The Winds of Winter (which was also the name of the season six finale episode). Of course, the novels have far more details about some major/minor characters not included in the series due to time constraints, and some plotlines diverge from the TV adaptation – it’s understandable that not every detail from the books can be included in the TV series, though it might raise the question of which version would be/should be deemed the “official” canon.

But I digress.

The overall narrative structure and non-adherence to “traditional” storytelling in the Game of Thrones series, and its source material A Song of Ice and Fire series has certainly inspired the quasi-official restructuring of the MASC Chronicles, and the perspective from which (most of) the tales will be told. Fantasy and mystery (as well as the mystery of fantasy) will be explored, using alternate history as the foundation upon which the MASC Chronicles world will sit. Given the current world events as they are, there will no doubt be metaphors baked into the narrative arc, and pointed commentary on the state of things in the Real World. Multiple story arcs will collide, though there will most likely be only one (maybe two) point of view perspectives for each series within the (epic) saga – the use of multiple third person limited narration in the A Song of Ice and Fire series was dizzy and distracting to remember from which character’s perspective the story was being told, and keeping track of all the goings-on within.

Pacing the action will be a challenge, even though the (original) intent was that the core narrative for each novel would be a contained story, with some plot points interwoven to give each series a narrative flow. The novels were intended to be stand-alone, yet be read in a specific order so certain revelations would not end up as spoilers. Then again, it seems impossible (if not improbable) that a book series can both be one narrative flow and be stand-alone (read in any order).

Perhaps that’s the next (general) challenge / dilemma for the MASC Chronicles: should it be one long story split up into multiple parts (episodes) or multiple stories which make up one long story?

More to ponder (and plot).

 

 

 

 

Plotting and Pondering (revisited)

More plotting and pondering about the plotting and pondering about the plots and plotting the ponders. As the Game of Genres winds down (as the 6th season of Game of Thrones nears the end) the path of coordinating the complicated compromise continues. The dust has settled within the Land of Exposition, though the Real Life Brigade blithely deny any involvement in the latest round of shenanigans, preferring to go about their business as usual. The Muses and Plot Bunnies are in deep discussions about next steps and sorting through the Archives.

The meta quality of the blog entries thus far blur when the story about writing the story becomes a story in and of itself, one (for the most part) created spontaneously and with little editing before its thrust out into the (cyber) world… Does anyone really use the word “cyber” anymore when writing about things online? I have no idea.

Anyway.

The (quasi-solid) decision to blend the different genres to tell the Epic Saga that is the MASC Chronicles has brought forth a melding of (somewhat) old ideas with (relatively) new ideas, including some (recent) happenings taken from the Real World. The foundation remains (mostly) within the Mystery camp, straddling between the borderline between Cozy and Hard Boiled, with tinges of fantasy, a smidgen of science fiction and a foothold into Steampunk; a (tiny) hint of romance might creep in (the “fade to black” route, with subtext and innuendo – I’ll leave it up to the fan fiction writers to pen the NC-17 versions), along with some (plausible) melodrama and a cliffhanger or several.

Clearly, Game of Thrones has been an influence in this not-so-unexpected (plot) twist in structuring the narrative, though the MASC Chronicles will (probably) not be as violent or heart-wrenching, though that can change, depending on the needs of the narrative, and the character’s journeys to self-discovery and to their destiny.

Slight digression (spoiler alert): Got around to watching “The Battle of the Bastards” and it did NOT disappoint. House Stark has reclaimed Winterfell (though RIP Rickon – I suppose his death was inevitable, but he should have zigzagged, instead of running straight across an open field, with archers behind him ready to shoot him down) and House Bolton is no more. Though, despicable as he was, Ramsay Snow Bolton was a master of the mind games, and used it to his advantage; he deserved to be killed in that manner – poetic justice, for once in the Game of Thrones universe. As for his (paraphrased) comment to Sansa that “he’s a part of her”, I think it’s figurative and not literal (or at least I hope it’s not literal). Sansa has changed a LOT since the beginning of the series, and it’ll be interesting to see if it’s truly a change for the better, or a pawn in the machinations of the original master manipulator Petyr Baelish / Littlefinger, who of course, was the catalyst for (almost) everything that has happened in Westeros thus far. I’m looking forward to “The Winds of Winter” (the episode, and eventually the next novel, whenever it’s published) – since season 6 has been the Return/Revenge of House Stark, I’m really hoping for Arya make it back to Westeros to cross off more names on her list. If Lady Stoneheart doesn’t appear (I’m still holding out hope she will) I’d love to see Arya, as a former Faceless Man-in-training, use her newly acquired skills to infiltrate House Frey as a version of Lady Stoneheart (a la the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, which would be fittingly Shakespearean). King’s Landing will most likely burn – Cersei is mad (in every sense of the word) enough to use all that wildfire to be rid of the High Sparrow (who is, quite the Engineer). Also, I really, really hope we find out where Gendry ended up (though given the fate of the characters who returned to the series after a long absence, maybe it’s better if he’s still rowing in the open seas…)

End of digression (for now, at least).

The urge to write a variation of Game of Thrones (or rather the A Song of Ice and Fire series) is strong, as it’s an archetype used in many epic sagas – the hero’s journey to battle the forces of Evil, overcoming impossible odds (never tell me the odds!) and restore Order to the Universe. It’s been used countless times in every media, with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, I’m hoping the (slight) twist in perspective in the MASC Chronicles will render the archetype a new and (hopefully) exciting Saga.

I also intend to actually!write several volumes before going through the rigors of publishing, so the readers will not have to wait (too) long for the next installment.

In closing: a milestone crossed with the writing of this entry: the word count for the weekly ramblings and musings has crossed the 100K mark. So, had this blog been an actual narrative story (in a way it could be interpreted as such), it would have been two or three full length novels (or a host of short stories/novellas).

And it took a little over three years to reach this point.

Here’s to the next 100K (maybe I’ll get around to actually!writing it and writing about it here).

TTFN!

 

 

Game of Genres (Part 3)

The plotting and pondering ponders and plots on – the pieces are falling into place (kinda) as the Grand Mashup shakes up the battle ground / playing field of the (meta) Game of Genres (as the track “The Wars to Come” from the Game of Thrones Season 5 score plays as I write). The proposal of a compromise between the feuding Genres to co-exist is a welcome relief for all, though the logistics of coordinating the peace is the tricky part.

And the quasi “fun” part, as it’s become quite evident to those following my quasi-random musings and meta ruminations during this (rather) long journey through the Land of Exposition that I have a penchant of complicating things when it comes to the art/craft of  storytelling. After all, the epic saga that is the MASC Chronicles began its life as a short story and grew to a 3 part, 36 book series, all of which is (still) in various stages of development.In the end it’ll all make sense, and will hopefully be one that will be worth all my plotting, pondering and quasi-random (often meta) musings.

The Land of Exposition is in a state of quasi-normalcy, with the Real Life Brigade making (somewhat reasonable) demands that keep the staff at the Character Development Inn working past normal hours, expecting their needs to be satisfied over all others. Other than their propensity for persnickety petulance (alliteration has returned!), they have been keeping to themselves (though the veiled threat of undiscovered land minds is omnipresent).

Anyway, I’ve quasi-caught up with watching the Game of Thrones episodes I missed (though the Tony Awards were AMAZING – fantastic musical numbers, heartfelt speeches, and an absolutely brilliant host – I hope James Corden is a regular host for the Tonys (and YAY Hamlet  Hamilton!). The narrative arc of Season 6 thus far is shaping up well, with loose ends being picked up and address (well, except Gendry – is he still rowing? Where is he? Rickon finally reappeared, albeit for a few minutes, though now a hostage of Ramsey Bolton). I do hope the remainder of the series as a whole) is the Return/Revenge of House Stark. Once again, I’ll miss seeing the next episode “The Battle of the Bastards” as it airs due to another great clash of titans (i.e. Game 7 of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors), As the only cable-equipped TV will be preoccupied, I will be watching Series 3 of Endeavour (on PBS) instead, which aired in the UK  months ago, a (welcome) return to my Mystery! roots.

But I digress.

Clearly, I should be actually!writing instead of blathering on about TV shows, but then again, scripted dramas are a kind of storytelling, with its twists and turns. The “problem” is that I’m much more of a plotter than a pantser so a whole lot of strategy and use of flow charts and such needs to take place before any actual!writing actually!happens.

The journey has been long, and I like to know (relatively) where I (and the narrative arc) is headed.

It should all make sense in the end.

And it should be a good ending (or beginning, depending on one’s perspective.)

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.