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.

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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.

 

Revisiting The Land of Exposition

With all the musing about the State of Things in the Real World (with brief quasi-rambling segues about Doctor Who and Game of Thrones), not (too) much time has been spent on the results of the plotting and pondering (and researching about the plotting and pondering) happening in the various sectors within the Land of Exposition.

Actually, it’s been a while since the last (official) visit into that mythical, magical place where plot bunnies plot, and Muses wander about quasi-aimlessly musing about anything and everything. A place where the weather is ideal (which can vary depending on a majority vote), supplies (of every kind) are abundant, and where tolerance and empathy is the standard. It’s a safe haven for writers to escape from the less than ideal conditions of the Real World and plot, ponder, research and (eventually) write. The overall acreage of this fantastical land has never been measured, as it exists on an ever changing dimension in time and space. There are no (real) set borders, though the invading contingent that is/was the Real Life Brigade built a Wall to keep themselves separate from the rest of the land (for reasons not entirely explained). However, the “Wall” ended up being a tall fence that crisscrosses the southern plain, the Babbling Brook of Quasi-Rambling Musings flows through its center. Even though it has no real function, it is a geometrically pleasing piece of architecture (which might have been the real reason it was constructed in the first place).

But I digress.

Anyway.

Among the landmarks within the Land of Exposition is the Character Development Inn is always bustling with muses, writers and other creative types, collaborating and partaking in gourmet cuisine. The vast library occupies nearly half the building, with a fully stocked bar (and corner coffee bar). A quasi-newly renovated theater, with plush, roomy seats, and proscenium stage that can easily be modified into a thrust stage; there’s also a state-of-the-art movie screen that descends from the stage for the occasional film marathons.

Things with the land itself have been calm, with the aforementioned Real Life Brigade ceasing their shenanigans (at least for the time being) and the Land Minds neutralized (though the omnipresent aroma of maple syrup and vanilla still linger in the air, which is not really a bad thing). The Muses and Plot Bunnies (and Plot Ninjas) have used their time to muse and plot, sifting through historical records and Other Known Facts with the hopes of mapping how the (quasi) alternate (historical) universe that is the MASC(D) Chronicles will unfold.

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) continues to work its own brand of mystical magic, as potential alternative universes are calculated based on the causality brought about from the stealthy minds of the Muses and Plot Beings calculating their alternate universes. Pondering alternative universes from Canon that has not yet been established might be foolhardy and counterproductive, but it’s still fun to potentially plot out fan fiction of a literary work that has yet to exist.

The MASC(D) Chronicles is the primary work in progress, though stray thoughts wander to the other quasi-developed works in progress, and how they could possibly fit within the primary epic saga. Working in themes and Easter eggs (based on my other interests) will be part of the process, as the narrative is sorted out and the characters developed.

A fascinating journey upon which to embark – the Meta saga of How it Happened is quasi- happening right now (I think).

That’s where the fun begins.

On Character Diversity

As a quasi-continuation of the musings surrounding character development and world building,  another vital component is deciding upon race and ethnicity of the characters. The gender and age of those characters was mused upon fairly in depth in a previous entry, so there won’t be as much here, and race and ethnicity was briefly mentioned in that entry as well. Gender, age, race and ethnicity are among the primary pillars upon which define the external characteristics, which can also influence the character’s perspective on the world and on others, and their overall personality. The environment in which the characters live and the circumstances in which they endure play a role in character development. How they are perceived by the general public (whether it’s positive, negative or indifferent) affects how they act (and react) to those around them.

This impromptu entry is a modest (and hopefully political-free) stream of thought stemmed from Current Events happening in the Real World. I tend not to be overly political in these entries, as this blog is meant to chronicle a writer’s journey in creating an epic series saga (with brief segues into discussions / rants / musings about certain television shows). While quasi-rambling thoughts about Real World events seep in every now and then, they are mostly (I hope) fairly harmless, as I am not qualified in any way to talk / write about anything political, as my perspective and opinions are shaped by my personal experiences. My life and experiences are different from others; having said / written that, I can still empathize with the struggles and obstacles endured by others, both near and far.

But I digress.

Kinda.

As mentioned in the entry about gender and age, race and ethnicity should reflect as much diversity as possible, unless the fictional world in which the story takes place is inhabited by beings that are of a single race or ethnicity. This would not necessarily make for an interesting read, unless there is some kind of disruption to that (seemly) singular, hive-mind world…

… and there goes another plot bunny, hopping about high on coffee and jelly beans.

Perhaps that particular plot bunny will find a home in the latter part(s) of the MASC(D) Chronicles.

Anyway.

Diversity exists, and representation matters – whether conforming to established stereotypes (positive or negative) or skewing the aforementioned stereotypes. Regardless on how the characters are created and how they act within the confines of the story, there will be critics. In this hyper politically correct / reactionary world, where social media can swiftly impact the finished product, there will be those who will condemn any (and probably all) deviation to the “accepted” norm of how a race or ethnicity (as well as gender and / or age) is “supposed to be”.  There will also be others who “complain” that the deviation is “not enough” to shatter said stereotypes; needless to say, it seems easier for people to criticize than to praise.

Human nature, I suppose.

Diversity is important in the writing process – there needs to be conflict in order for things to change (hopefully for the better, though change for the worse is a part of the quest to right the wrong and to bring about character development). Conformity can be an end goal, but without different points of view, the story can be bland and ultimately uneventful.

If the protagonist does not have an adversary to fight, what is the purpose of a protagonist?

Is there a point to being a protagonist?

Deep thoughts to ponder while the plotting unfurls once again.

Researching History

Amid the plotting and pondering (and mental writing), a great deal of research goes into crafting a fictional universe – deciding on how much (if any) of it will be based on the Real World, what themes and perspectives to undertake, and the pacing of the overall story. If the tale is set in a wholly alien world (literally on another planet in a galaxy far, far away) or in another dimension, the writer is in full control in deciding on every aspect of that world – its climate(s), the beings who inhabit it, and the (practical) rules that govern the ways things are (or at least supposed to be). If the tale is set in the Real World, whether it be in the near (or distant) past or present, the writer is bound (to a certain degree) to ensure a level of historical and geographical accuracy, lest the reader nitpick on the credibility of the story and its characters. If the tale is set somewhere in between fact and fiction, the writer needs to decide the realty / fantasy ratio and follow through accordingly. In this context, fantasy need not refer to Fantasy, where wizards, dragons, elves, and such exist along side humanity (though it could, depending on the needs of the narrative).

For any of these scenarios, a whole lot of research is required, whether in creating the absolutes in that wholly fictional world, fact checking historical documents (seeking as objective sources as possible) and finding the happy balance between the first two options, when melding reality and fantasy.

Thus far, the MASC(D) Chronicles finds itself quasi-rooted in the third option – a world where history takes a left turn and travels down a path where reality as we know it is quite different. How different remains to be seen (or in this case, plotted and pondered); there is a very specific (historical) time (and place) this will occur, though the alternate history / universe that will unfold due to this disruption in the time/space continuum is (still) a work in progress. There are a few possible paths this divergence can travel, and figuring out which one is the most plausible and would entice a reader to become invested in it (and the characters within) is the (fun) challenging part.

With all this plotting and pondering comes actual research, via (gasp!) actual books, credible, objective tomes that impart the social and political history of the world, as well as online sources, i.e. Wikipedia (though more for quick / reduced version of a specific topic) and watching episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, the genealogy series that explores the family history of Well Known People – actors, writers, singers and entertainers. The series was among the inspirations for the inter-connectivity of the three series that make up the MASC(D) Chronicles, albeit plotted and pondered in chronological order.

As the song goes, starting at the beginning is a very good place to start, though where and when to start is the question to answer.

I have a fair inkling on where and when to start, though sometimes I wonder if working backwards, travelling through time in that manner will solve some of the aforementioned questions.

After all, time doesn’t strictly need to be linear – it’s a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball of stuff, bouncing about quasi-aimlessly in search for a place to land.

The plotting and pondering (and researching) continues.

Questions of Gender and Age

Among the necessary aspects of the character building portion of crafting a story is to assess and decide upon the basics, gender and age to start. The rest usually follow quickly afterward – ethnicity / race (especially when writing science fiction or fantasy), along with the physical features. The genre in which the story is set and the target audience play a factor in that if the story is YA (young adult) or is intended for children (of varying ages), then there’s a set boundary on the age of characters (or at least the protagonist / antagonist) is pretty much set, though the gender can go either which way, depending on the message the story carries and/or the whimsy of the writer. The supporting characters can be of any age or gender, depending on the needs of the narrative arc.

For (most) other genres, determining the characters’ age and gender (and the rest of the internal and external traits) is a bit more flexible, though the audience for which the story is aiming plays its part. Conforming with or challenging established stereotypes also plays its role in the plotting, pondering and (eventual) writing process. Flipping gender roles and / or having the characters be of a non-traditional or non-typical age has its merits: it has the potential to bring a new (or at least creative) angle of on a narrative that has existed for eons (i.e. coming of age, boy meets girl, fish out of water, etc.). Representation matters, as the world is a far more diverse place than it has ever been. This only addresses human characters – inserting non-human (alien or mythical) beings gives the story another layer or nuance, and can bring about a different perspective on things.

The impetus for this topic has more to do with the upcoming announcement of the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who than the political and social debate / discussion of gender identity and omnipresent issue of ageism. I do my best not to delve into political matters here, as it’s not my intention to use this platform as a way of expressing opinions about the Real World and all its issues. This blog is about fictional world(s) – ones I have created / am creating / will create, and those of which I’m a fangirl (of varying degrees). The seventh series of Game of Thrones starts tomorrow too (so next week’s entry will no doubt have more fangirl-ish musings).

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) might need another upgrade after tomorrow – I’m not ready to say goodbye to Twelve just yet (and whoever follows Peter Capaldi will have enormous shoes to fill). It matters not to me whether the new Doctor will be old or young, male or female – so long as the next Doctor is British (or Irish), then I’m all right with that.

Anyway.

Deciding on the gender and age of the protagonist(s) / antagonist(s) shapes the story and the perspective on the characters’ relationships and their overall journey. These days it probably shouldn’t matter whether the hero / villain is a young, old (or somewhere in between); nor should it matter whether they are male or female (or, again somewhere in between – as stated earlier – representation matters). The dynamic between the characters and how they react to the situations in which they find themselves should not hinge upon accepted stereotypes, unless it’s being used to commentate on it.

Different is not (always or necessarily) dangerous.

It’s just another way of looking at the world and those who reside within.

If we can accept that, then the world can be a better place for everyone.

Meta Musings

As the days grow longer and the weather gets hotter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), there’s a slight lull in the Land of Exposition, despite the influx of travelers visiting the Character Development Inn and its first class cuisine. The Land of Exposition and the shenanigans that have occurred over the years was borne out of a meta stream of musings stemming from the endless plotting and pondering about the various works in progress in progress. There might even be a meta (mini) series saga buried within the entries that mention the goings-on in the Land of Exposition, with the quasi-invasion / skirmishes with the Real Life Brigade and the functionality of the FanGirl Meter (patent pending).

So, from a certain point of view, I’ve been writing a quasi-coherent, quasi-consistent narrative via the pantsing methodology; whether or not it makes sense is of some consequence, as just about everything written here is posted as is, with little editing afterwards (and rarely ever reread, though I probably should look over what has been written about the Land of Exposition and see if a series of short stories or an actual novella/novel can be parsed from those quasi-random musings.

Anyway.

So there’s a short(ish) lull in TV viewing, as Doctor Who has ended its 10th (since the revival) series [sans the Christmas Special which will bid the 12th Doctor adieu) and the 7th series of Game of Thrones is due to start next weekend. Quasi-adequate time to recover from one startling (yet inevitable) series/season finale to prepare for the unknown (as the TV series has caught up with the published novels) – so everyone is on somewhat even ground in terms of storytelling (even though the TV adaptation has meandered a bit from its published counterpart).

Yet time enough to postulate, plot and ponder about things to come.

Then again, I should refocus on my epic series saga and the quasi-minor changes made in the preceding weeks, because, well… that’s the main objective of this blog. Though really, the musing that has commenced thus far also qualifies as material for the Main Objective. Plotting and pondering has led to historical research into when / where exactly to diverge from Real History (or at least the history that has been taught in schools). During that time, a new plot twist emerged, one which seemed obvious 30 seconds after thinking about it – while that plot twist doesn’t exactly fit into the quasi-established narrative structure of the MASC(D) Chronicles, it could end up as an off-shoot (spin-off) from that Epic Series Saga.

The day when I finally explain the ins and outs of the MASC(D) Chronicles (and the significance of its name will come.

When, is debatable (and depends on when the actual details are finalized to a point where it will be Canon).

So, not anytime soon.

Someday though.

Meanwhile, I should look over the entries about the Land of Exposition and see if something can be made from that.

TTFN!