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.

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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.

Interpretation and Perspective

Literature can serve as an escape from the Real World, and also as a cautionary tale, as the boundaries from which the writer creates his / her story is limitless. The truth within the fictional world(s) can be idealistic or harsh, depending on the character’s perspective and the reader’s sensibilities – one person’s tyrant is another person’s savior. Paradise (for the most part) is subjective and open to interpretation. Some will love it, others will hate it, and (inevitably) everyone will complain about it.

I intended to write about something else for this week’s entry (though it was another quasi-rambling thematic essay about… stuff), but the recent goings-on in the Real World have prompted musings on the importance of interpretation and its power to invoke / provoke a response. For those reading this months or years from now, the apparent controversy over the current production of Julius Caesar as part of the Shakespeare in the Park series was the catalyst. Shakespearean plays have been interpreted and adapted in countless ways over the centuries in film, television and (of course) in live theatre. In the 2017 Shakespeare in the Park production, the titular character cast looks similar to the current (American) President, and there have been protests about it mostly from the (far) right wing.

Spoiler Alert for those who may not have ever read or seen Julius Caesar, (though it seems silly to include a spoiler alert for a 400+ year old play): Caesar is assassinated by a group of Roman senators to prevent him from becoming a tyrant. Chaos ensues afterwards.

The choice to put a contemporary interpretation to a historical tragedy (as Caesar was a real person and the events in the play are more or less what really happened) might have been questionable, given the political atmosphere and the knee-jerk reactions in this instantaneous social media driven world, but it was a valid one, and perhaps done to provoke a response. Then again, the play has existed for centuries and presumably there have been other interpretations / adaptations that have used contemporary political figures as its filter. Yet (to my knowledge) there had not been protests about those productions.

The Arts in general have had the ability to invoke a myriad of emotions through its storytelling, giving the audience a glimpse into the perspective of its protagonist (or antagonist, again depending on one’s perspective). The filter through which the protagonist views his / her world and the people within aids in the overall expansion of a world view and can introduce different, sometimes radical ideas to those who may not have had direct access.

It also sparks the potential for change (hopefully for the better), through discussion and debate; though lately protests and threats seems to be the route taken by the right wing, which is their right to do (as freedom of speech is still a basic right for every American). Whether what they’re saying holds any merit is questionable, but should not be ignored or dismissed.

Storytelling is an art (and a craft) that has the power to create controversy as well as change, giving the reader a window into another world, or a different perspective on an existing universe.

It’s up to the reader to interpret its meaning.

The Role of Social Media

Back to blogging at my (quasi) usual time, when I ponder about what to write and how much to share, though admittedly, I really haven’t shared that much about the various works in progress aside from quasi-cryptic musings and semi-frequent updates on the state of the Land of Exposition. There are times I wish it was a real place I can visit (or stay for a while), if only to retreat from the craziness that is the Real World – where the weather is temperate (most of the time), the accommodations calm (usually) and where anything goes (sorta). Where like-minded people mingle with ethereal muses and potentially have time to plot, ponder and actually!write, without interruptions, distractions or drama.

Real Life has a way of consuming time and energy – worrying about things that are (mostly) out of one’s control and what the future might be (and considering the state of world affairs these days, it’s a valid concern). Despite all this, the writing process should continue; though in my case it comes in irregular cycles, much of which gets edited within an inch of its life. Sharing details about the works in progress has been intermittent and (probably) inconsistent, yet I post a blog entry every week and share it on social media, albeit the only social media platform on which I share these posts is on Facebook (both on my personal page and an author page I started shortly after creating this blog.). Granted, I haven’t been as active in sharing much writing-related on social media aside from the weekly entries, though I should. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are useful tools used to share ideas and to promote products to the general public (or at least to those who use these social media outlets).

It’s quasi-ironic that I use Facebook, as I’m quite introverted by nature and rarely share anything insightful about myself or my works in progress on my personal page, author page or in the various groups of which I’m a member (though as an avid photographer, I regularly use Instagram and post photos on a semi-frequent basis).  Sharing such details is a dual edge (light)saber, with a Light side and Dark side – sometimes you can receive constructive criticism and other times you get insidious insults.

Alliteration is alive and all right!

Anyway.

Sorting through the chatter is time consuming – then again so is scrolling through social media. Inspiration and collaboration can occur while reading other people’s posts and comments (careful not to fall for click bait links), though most of the time going through the news feed (and attempting to scroll past the knee-jerk, reactive, and often insulting comments) is distracting to begin with. On the other hand, social media is one avenue aspiring writers can advertise their works, with the hopes of building a fan base at the grassroots level. Going the traditional route of mainstream publishing houses is a difficult and lengthy process. There’s a liberating sense of accomplishment in self / independent publishing, though there’s more work involved – editing the manuscript, creating the cover art and distributing the final product (physical and / or digital copies) to the public.

While costly (time and money wise), it’s possible.

I’m nowhere near that point in the process, but at least I know it’s an option. After all, the journey to the destination is just as important as the destination itself. (I think I paraphrased that correctly).

Back to work (though I’ll be fixated on the new teaser trailer for The Last Jedi for a while, and will watch the series premiere of Doctor Who later).

Creating Conflict

Conflict is a key component in plotting and pondering the narrative structure, giving the characters a reason to act (or to react) in order to bring about change to the status quo, or to restore order in the midst of chaos. There are different types of conflicts upon which the foundation of the story rests – there are the internal, oftentimes philosophical, conflicts a character needs to overcome within themselves in order to complete the task at hand; then there are the external conflicts between characters that drive the narrative. The external conflicts have the uncanny ability to concurrently unite and divide (depending on with which side the characters align), while the internal conflicts a character wrestles with can have repercussions upon the narrative.

Creating conflict for a story is a complex process that needs a great deal of plotting and pondering and deliberating, with flow charts to track the impact to the characters and the world in which they inhabit. It’s akin to tossing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples form upon the surface – a single action disrupting the calm for a period of time until the surface returns to its former state. The time frame from when the conflict arises to when order is restored can vary – it can be resolved in one book, or stretch out across several novels. There can be tangents that take the characters off the main road and lead them to a side quest that can harm or help the main objective. There can also be a false sense of victory wherein the resolved conflict was only a prelude to the main conflict – this tactic is often used in RPGs (role playing games) when the hero thinks he/she has beat the final boss, only to discover the true final boss emerge from the shadows.

The conflict need not be of epic proportions – an argument between characters over a perceived slight or miscommunication can be as riveting, giving the reader an emotional attachment to the characters and a vested interest into its resolution. That is, if there is one. There’s also the possibility that the protagonist fails to complete the quest they set upon, leaving a legacy for others to (hopefully) take up to fight the good fight and carry the banner (so to speak).

In crafting a mystery set in a quasi-alternate historical universe, there are many facets to creating the tension that will ultimately lead to conflict. It’s an intricate puzzle, with subplots to pair off with the main plot, characters that may or may not have ulterior motives in solving the mystery. While the intention is to have each book in the first series to be a standalone novel, there will inevitably be threads that will meander throughout the series, and when pieced together, create an intricate tapestry.

At least, that’s the goal – much of the general plot is generally plotted. The details are proving a bit tricky with the road looking a bit treacherous with all the ice piled about, making travelling slower than usual. The Land of Exposition received an unprecedented amount of snow and unexpected wind gusts that nearly closed down the Character Development Inn, causing a mild case of cabin fever.

Spring is supposed to be ‘just around the corner’ – hopefully things will get better.

Playing With Time

Timing is everything. Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference; choosing to act (or not to act) at a specific moment in time can be beneficial or harmful to varying degrees and influence subsequent actions. Evaluating the past helps plot out the future, with the intent of (hopefully) correcting the mistakes / missteps to secure a better future. Then there are those contemplative moments of wondering “what if?” – the speculations into the different paths life could lead if Action B was taken instead of Action A, leading to Consequence C instead of Consequence E. If time travel were possible, or parallel universes were real (and I vaguely recall reading an online article positing that alternate universes could actually exist – or maybe it had something to do with other dimensions) then there could be the possibility of seeing how events might unfold if different paths were taken.

If only it were possible to go back in the past to make different choices, if only to see how those different choices would shape the future, with little to no consequence to the present.

Nah, that’d be too tense.

The notion of playing the if / then game (as it were) mapping out various scenarios and constructing the outcome is the fun of creating alternate worlds within a narrative structure. Imagination is a powerful thing – the ability to create worlds and characters different from those that exist the Real World, with limitless possibilities is an asset in the writing process. The narrative structure need not be sequential – the order in which things happen can be fluid (wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey) or concurrent. Perspective is a determining factor in the sequence of events, giving the reader a puzzle to solve, with the requisite plot twists and turns. There is the possibility that the disjointed time jumps and such can leave the reader confused and frustrated, but that can be a deliberate choice so that once all the pieces fall into place, it will make sense in the end. This device is employed in many of the story arcs in the recent seasons of Doctor Who (though some may argue it’s used too frequently to have any impact).

With the almost infinite possibilities down which a story or character can take can (and probably will) lead to multiple versions of a single story, told from different points of view and with slightly (?) different outcomes. I’ve contemplated using this method while constructing the story arcs within the MASC Chronicles – telling a few of the stories from different perspectives and / or mapping out different endings, with the notion of having them as quasi- AU (alternate universe) fan fiction. (Yes, I still nurse the fantasy of writing fan fiction of my own work – it’d be hilarious).

Then again, in order to be able to write that speculative fan fiction, I probably should establish the Canon first, deciding the actual sequence of events before skipping about and messing about with the timeline.

But then again, time isn’t strictly a line – it’s well… you know…

Year End Pondering

It’s New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day in some parts of the world), so it’s time for the customary year end assessment of the state of things in the Land of Exposition and general musings about Real World Events, with the equally customary list of hopes and aspirations for the new year. Thus far 2016 has been a relatively lackluster year – an extraordinary number of high profile deaths (many of whom I admired since as far I can remember), an American election year that was not like any other (and hopefully will never happen again), and many other not-so great events that could give the impression that the End of the World is near. There were positive moments in the Real World as well – history making moments and such, but this entry (and this blog for that matter) is not about things in the Real World (though there are times when Real Life is truly stranger than fiction).

Anyway.

Onward back to the Literary World and to the Land of Exposition.

Things on the writing front have stalled (per usual) for most of the year, though the plotting and pondering, (and the blogs about the aforementioned plotting and pondering) has continued at a consistent rate. While the actual!writing about the MASC Chronicles and other works in progress has moved baby steps from this time last year (though the little that had been actually!written had been edited and plot points and character dialogue has tightened a smidgen), the hope for more forward momentum is still there (somewhere). Character development and (alternate?) universe building has expanded every which way, much to the chagrin of the pesky Real Life Brigade and their endless shenanigans and land minds buried in random locations within the Land of Exposition.

With regards to the character development, a copious amount of research has gone into refining exposition, relationships with other characters and (a fair amount of) time spent on Pinterest and various quiz sites to (respectively) assess the overall look and general disposition of the cast of characters. After all, being able to visualize how the characters will (most likely) look like and their basic personality will be of great help when placing them into the situations they find themselves and how they may (or may not) react to the world around them. Outlining their backstory and family history will shape how they see the world and the people within their spheres.

The details are still fuzzy, but the overall narrative structure remains (fairly) sturdy.

Of course, it’s New Year’s Eve (about three hours left for 2016 as I type this), resolutions and such need declaring and stuff – though really, no one really makes good on the resolutions made on New Year’s Eve (or at least not many that I know), so perhaps no resolutions this time ’round.

Just more plotting, pondering and eventual actual!writing.

You know, the same old tune, maybe with different lyrics and in a different key.

Here’s hoping 2017 will be better than 2016.

Happy New Year!