Journeys and Quests

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

It’s a complex process.

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

Then there are the cliffhangers.

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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.

Education and Knowledge

Knowledge is power.

It’s a phrase that has been used for as long as anyone can remember, and implies a correlation between knowledge and success – knowledgeable people are successful, and successful people are knowledgeable…. Usually.  Sometimes, it’s not so much what one knows, but who one knows – networking and interpersonal relationships can compensate for a lack of knowledge in a given situation or profession. The level of education is not always a guarantee of success – the aforementioned interpersonal / social aspect has its merits – thought a certain level of fundamental information is critical. Timing is also a critical factor – when one knows someone / something can be as important (or more) than the other two factors, and can be the difference between success and failure, life or death.

I had thought to write about something else for this week’s entry, but as I plotted and pondered that other topic, I noticed that today (May 20th) is the anniversary of graduating from college. Hence the quasi-rambling about knowledge and education, and it’s relevance to the writing process (though these days it’s more plotting and pondering process than actual!writing).

Anyway.

In relation to the previous blog entry, which dealt with the practical aspects of world and character building, along with deciding upon the professions the characters hold (and what types of professions are viable, respectable and obtainable in the fictional world in which the character reside), the question of what type and level of education would be available for the characters arises, along with the importance of gaining certain levels of education (and the knowledge that goes along with it).

(I think that’s the longest non run-on (?) sentence I’ve written in a long while. I hope it makes sense. But if it didn’t, a short(er) translation)

In crafting the fictional world in which the narrative takes place, the presence (or absence) of educational systems and access to them is another practical aspect to take into account. Also, from a storytelling standpoint, there would a need for exposition to educate the reader, especially if the world in which the story is set is not readily familiar to the average reader. Then again, what the reader knows and is told may or may not be different than what certain characters know, which can heighten the suspense / drama in the narrative.

This imbalance of knowledge between the reader and character(s) happens more in stories told in third person perspective, as the (usually) omniscient narrator is relating the story objectively, while a first person perspective narrator chooses to tell the story at their own pace, and tells as much as he/she can or wants to. Of course, the writer holds all the cards (so to speak) and is the final decision maker as to the pacing and access of knowledge; then again, in the pantsing world, plot twists have a sneaky way of showing up and creating its own brand of chaos of which the writer needs to stage manage.

All the time.

Which is the fun part of creating a fictional world and the characters within.

Roles and Responsibilities

One of the more practical aspects in the writing process is the development of the roles and responsibilities as well as the “rules” that govern the fictional world in which the characters reside and interact. This is a necessary evil (?) when writing within the fantasy and science fiction genres (and its sub-genres), where anything is possible (elves, vampires. wizards, etc.). As that fictional world is not like any other that actually exists (at least as far as anyone is aware – I firmly believe that there has to be some other life out in the universe, or maybe a parallel / alternate universe), there’s a need for some kind of structure so the reader can follow along. Even if the setting is a variant of the real world (whether it’s set in the near or distant past or in present day). there a need for exposition (liberally sprinkled throughout the narrative) so there’s a level of familiarity so the reader can relate to the narrative arc:

  • Power – who or what is in charge? Who / what makes the rules to maintain law and order?  This can range from a dictatorship to a democracy, and anything in between. The pursuit for power (and the retention of that power) drives the characters and moves the narrative along its path.
  • Professions – what do the characters do for a living? Characters should have some sort of job that he / she does to maintain their lifestyle. The profession the characters can play a significant role in the situations they find themselves in, and the relationships they have with one another.

There are probably many more practical elements to address but I can’t think of them at the moment (so there might be a follow-up entry).

Anyway.

This topic popped into my head as I continue the (internal) plotting and pondering for my work in progress (which admittedly hasn’t progress as far as I thought it would at this point). Along with (re)defining the characters and designing the quasi-alternate / parallel universe of the MASC Chronicles (one day I’ll devote a series of entries about the series, but this is not that day), figuring out all the details (or at least as much as I can at this point) is exhaustive. This is in conjunction with the world building and its alternative history (of which I’m still making an effort to adhere) – the decision to set the MASC Chronicles in an alternate (possibly parallel) universe where there’s a divergence at a key point in World History. Figuring out how this alternate history plays out has its own challenges, as causality can create unexpected ripples in the time / space continuum.

And time travel hasn’t entirely been ruled out either (though that presents with additional headaches and countless flow charts). It’s quite an overwhelming and ambitious task to undertake, given the complexity of the entire series, though I do believe if I can pull it off convincingly. it’ll be epic and different (I hope) from anything that has been written already.

So the roles and responsibilities for me to make sense of all the quasi-rambling musings and plot bunnies bouncing about, waiting to be developed into Something Extraordinary.

Onward and upward!

Collaboration and Feedback

Writing is a collaborative effort.

While the elements within the story – characters, setting, narrative arc, etc. – are created by a (usually) solitary author, there are other collaborators behind the scenes who have had a hand in the final product. Those are the names listed in the acknowledgments, and sometimes those mentioned in the dedication. Then there are various forms of collaborative writing, from two (or more) writers creating a structured story to a group of writers creating an improvised story. The former has a defined plotted out narrative, characters and resolution, while the latter has infinite possibilities with regards to the narrative, characters and resolution. Another form of collaboration is writing on a common theme or topic (often published as a collection of short stories or essays).

In all of the aforementioned variations on the writing process, the element of feedback from beta readers, editors and critics (oh my!) is vital. Writing groups (in-person or online) can be helpful or harmful to the writing process, depending on the members in those groups. Some may genuinely want to help, giving constructive criticism, while others just nitpick and argue. While I have not joined any in-person writing groups (I’m too introverted to do so), I have joined a few online (via Facebook) writing groups, to which I’m a passive participant (mostly because of the aforementioned introvert nature, so I don’t really have the confidence to post anything for critique). One needs to have thick (lizard) skin to post musings online and deal with the inevitable feedback from the general public…

Oh wait.

This is a form of public writing, I suppose, but then again, there isn’t that much feedback and collaboration in this forum, as it’s quasi-one sided, and it’s not strictly fictional (though it’s not quite factual either, as the majority of these entries are essentially improvised essays).

Anyway.

After the first draft of the story is completed, the editing process begins, which can include recruiting beta readers (or friends / family) to read, with the hope of receiving constructive criticism and not just blanket praise (as many friends and family member are apt to do). Several drafts may result from this, along with a new round of beta readers. Once the final version is set (for the most part) then the task of deciding the publishing method begins, along with the cover design. These days self-publishing is a viable (and probably cost effective) option, and with the rise of e-readers (while convenient and lighter in terms of portability, I still like the feel of a real book in my hand, not to mention the new / old book smell) getting the completed book out and into the public is easier. With the presence of online sites such as Amazon and Goodreads (to name but two of many out there in cyberspace…. does anyone use “cyberspace” anymore?), submitting feedback is instantaneous and (for better and for worse) public.

While there may be one name on the book cover (real or otherwise), there are many people who have a hand in getting the story from the writer’s imagination into a reader’s hands.