Content vs. Consistency

Not too much by way of forward momentum in this journey since (roughly) this time last week, but as I’ve continually posted each week since starting this blog, I might as well continue.

But should this be the case?

There are times when I scramble for a topic or theme to write and end up with quasi-rambling musings on random things. Then again, as the entries are written directly into WordPress and posted with minimal edits, while the content may not be substantial (or make any sense to the casual reader – is anyone there?) the consistency of posting something is met. There are other times when ideas and musings flow readily, often inspired from Real World events, or the handful of television shows I watch, which (usually) segue into (vague) tidbits about my works-in-progress.

Then there are those rare times when the Muses weave their magic, and interesting (I hope) paragraphs of literary work emerges. There was a time when I had attempted (twice) to use writing prompts as a launching pad for story ideas – the momentum didn’t last (too) long, yet those samples remain posted within this blog.

Regardless of which scenario happens each week (thus far), actual!writing happens on a weekly basis, which keeps the literary engine running, to use a somewhat cliche metaphor. Then again, (to continue with the aforementioned metaphor) if the fuel that feeds the engine is not of the highest quality, is there a point to keep using it? If the gasoline is watered down to ensure the tank is always full, then the journey stalls until the engine reaches a station where there is actual fuel to produce some forward momentum.

This metaphor actually makes sense in the context of my blog writing journey thus far – and it was one I just thought up as I was writing it (and would make for an interesting side story to that fabled Meta Series).

Anyway.

Distractions and Real Life tend to get in the way of the plotting and pondering and eventual writing, even though the mental writing chugs along at a rate too complex to jot down. The infinite variables and the consequences that occur from those variables blend into something Completely Different, and keeping track of the who, what, where, when, why and how gets complicated. Sometimes as soon as the thought (masquerading as a quasi-epic epiphany) emerges, several other tangents flutter about, helping and / or hindering the original idea.

There may be some value to write an entry when I have something meaningful to share. Then again, I’m not sure if there are any followers out there who look forward to reading these weekly entries. Comments are few and far between, so I’m not certain if anyone will notice, given Real World events, and the billions (?) of other bloggers out there.

So, the consistency of writing blog entries each week may cease, but hopefully when the next entry does emerge, there will be content that will bring about some actual forward momentum.

Until next time.

Whenever that may be.

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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.

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.

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.

 

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!