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.

 

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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.

The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

Lies.

Words can hurt.

Depending on what those words are, who is speaking / writing / tweeting them, and to whom they are addressed, words have the power to induce fear, anger, hate, and (ultimately) suffering. For some, words are the difference between life and death, freedom or incarceration.

On the other hand, words also have the power to inspire and to educate, bringing hope and imparting knowledge to everyone and anyone willing to hear / read them. Choosing the right words to write or say for and about the characters the writer creates helps shape the personality of those characters – their beliefs, quirks and perspective on the world in which they inhabit. The same goes for the universe in which the story is set, the historical events that may or may not have taken place, and the overall atmosphere of the narrative.

How those words are interpreted by the reader is (mostly) subjective – some will be delighted, while others will be disgusted by the content and context of the words released into the (fictional) world. And that’s a good thing – there need not be consensus about everything (though there should be some universal concepts that are acceptable and unacceptable regardless of one’s personal beliefs).

But I digress.

The topic of this week’s entry stems partly from my recent (non-Sunset) experience at the theatre – last night I went to see Indecent, a play by Paula Vogel about the controversy surrounding the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance, which included a love scene between two women. The power of words and the context in which the words are used have an effect – both positive and negative. Words have meaning, and when they (often) are taken out of context, the meaning of those words change, sometimes to suit the agenda of the opposition. The addition or deletion of certain (key) words make all the difference, which is all the reason to choose those words carefully.

Think before you speak / write / tweet, and always check spelling and grammar (unless the words are misspelled for a reason) – everyone is a critic these days, and will remember the mistakes more than the nuggets of wisdom.

Why is that?

I have no idea – human nature, I suppose.

Anyway.

Plotting and pondering, as well as world / alternate universe building is (still) a massive work in progress. Research and creating flow charts on where / when history diverges consumes a lot of time and energy (requiring copious amounts of coffee and energy-laden foodstuffs). How divergent to travel down the alternate history / universe is a valid question, and whether or not to “fix” the timeline in order to return to “real” history is equally questionable. When the fictional world begins in alignment with the Real World, then diverges at some Key Moment in history, the impulse is to continue down that path and speculate how events might unfold if that Key Moment did (or didn’t) happen:

What would change?

Would there be any change?

Would the universe find a way to return to its true path?

Actually, it seems a bit like time travelling into the past, with the hopes of creating a better present / future, but as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits has demonstrated, the Universe seems to have a way to ensure that any interference in that Key Moment is remedied if only to ensure that the time / space continuum remains intact.

But I digress (again).

I think.

On the other hand, a fictional world is just that – fictional, borne out of a imagination fueled by coffee, sugar and binge watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. 

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Stormborn” was fantastic, with unexpected reunions, a great sea battle and the buildup to an epic meeting of two characters to whom (I believe) the novel series refers, i.e. “The Song of Ice and Fire”.

The notion of alternate history leading to a parallel universe remains the central concept of the MASC(D) Chronicles – details of which will be revealed once it’s been properly mapped out.

If all goes according to plan, it should be epic.

Whether or not it’ll make sense is relative.

The Importance of Role Models

The definition of a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated” (definition provided via Google search). It does not specify gender, race or age, nor does it clarify whether the person is good or evil (and depending on one’s point of view, “good” and “evil” are subjective terms). A role model’s job (as it were) is to inspire those around them to be more than they could be (hopefully for the better and not for the worse). A role model can be anyone – a relative, friend, historical figure and / or a celebrity, whether as themselves or as a fictional character, and the expectations that come with the job are monumental and perhaps overwhelming (especially to those who did not expect or intend to be role models).

So this is a quasi-continuation of last week’s entry, written before the revelation of the 13th Doctor and the Season Premiere of Game of Thrones, so there’ll be some quasi-rambling ranting (though always PG-rated) about the former and mild fangirling (Is that a verb? Well, it is now) about the latter, with a dash of how all of this fits into the writing process.

So let’s dive in.

Spoiler alert – if you don’t know who the 13th Doctor will be, watched any of the 12th Doctor’s adventures, or if you haven’t seen the season premiere of Game of Thrones yet

Though at this point, if you care about either or both of these series, you should know by now.

Really.

Where have you been?

Another warning: possible ranting / venting ahead, based on presumptions and inferences drawn from things that have been posted in seriousness (and not satire).

Anyway.

So the 13th Doctor will be a woman – Jodie Whittaker to be precise – the first time the titular character changed genders (though not the first time a Time Lord has changed genders – and when that happened, there wasn’t a massive uproar of disapproval or spiteful comments across social media or in the press). I’m not really familiar with the actress or the roles she’s played prior to the announcement, but I’m sure she’ll do well, or as well as possible, given the backlash from a certain section of the fandom (though their Tweets and comments have made me question their fandom credibility), both male and female. It seems to me (and I know I’m probably making some huge presumptions about these so-called “fans”) that the men are upset that their role model is no longer a White Male, and the women are not happy that their role model is no longer a potential love interest. This presumption is geared more to those who have seen the show since its revival in 2005 and only know the Doctor through David Tennant’s and Matt Smith’s versions of the Time Lord (with further stereotypical presumptions that they “skipped” Christopher Eccleston and thought Peter Capaldi was “too old”).

It’s amusing and a tiny bit frightening to read the  negative, hateful Tweets and comments that have flooded social media since the announcement when the actress has yet to do anything in the role aside from the minute video introducing her as the next Doctor. It’s also quite ironic since the concept of change is central to the show and its titular character – after all, the Doctor is an alien and can regenerate – change the outward appearance, while keeping the core aspects of personality and memory. There have been female Time Lords throughout the series, so it’s not as if it’s an entirely foreign concept.

Doctor Who fans are passionate about the show and have “their Doctor” (for various reasons), and my final thoughts (for the moment) about this is to see what she does with the role before judging and / or condemning her.

The key is in the writing and the direction new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the journey of the Idiot With a Box.

I wish Jodie Whittaker all the luck in the universe in taking on such an iconic character.

Steps off soapbox… for the time being.

Onward to Game of Thrones and its season premiere, which opened with a startling (and awesome) scene, and mostly served as exposition for the events to follow. Now that the TV adaptation has caught up with the existing novels, everyone is on an even playing field – no one (aside from the writers) knows what will happen next.  Another journey into unexplored territory, as almost anything can happen.

OK, so not as much fangirling as expected, but the season’s just started – there will most likely be more in the coming weeks.

The North Remembers.

Back to how all this ties into the Writing Process and to the Works In Progress. It is the responsibility of the writer to create fictional characters (of any gender, age, race, creed, etc.) to whom reader can relate and with whom they can empathize, and maybe in the process of doing so create role models. It’s not an absolute requirement, but it would be a wonder if a fictional character can inspire kindness in real people.

What a world that would be.

Not quite sure if any of this makes any sense, but it is what it is. Hopefully there’ll be more coherent updates on the aforementioned works in progress.

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!

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.

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.