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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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.

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.

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.

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!