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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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.

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.

The Casting of Characters

 

There are many (figurative and maybe literal) hats a writer wears – he or she is also a casting director, scenic and costume designer and (depending on the genre) stunt coordinator, as well as the executive producer and publicist (though when the final product is completed, I suppose one can hire someone to do the latter tasks).

The concept of creating a story as if it’s a theatrical production (or a major motion picture) is not a new. Visualizing the story and all the components within is a common approach to the art / craft of creating a story. The mental casting of characters, based on real world people (usually well-known personages), or presumed conceptions of those aforementioned people is inevitable. Character development is an integral part of the plotting, pondering, and writing process – who they are, what they look like, where they came from, when they enter/exit, and why they are the way they are  is a vital component of the narrative. Sometimes it shapes the narrative arc, and other times the story dictates the character’s journey. It helps to have a visual point of reference when creating characters, especially when there’s a possibility (however remote)  for a television, film or stage adaptation of said literary work.

Though this would actually work if the people upon whom the character is based is still among the living.

Anyway.

Creating characters based (loosely or not) upon real world and having (the illusion of) control over their actions is both therapeutic and cathartic. Whatever happens to those characters (good or bad) is up to the writer.

Revenge fantasies (so long as they remain in the realm of fantasy) are permissible and perfectly legal.

All the more reason it’s fun to be writing in the mystery genre – it’s a safe (and legal) way to vent one’s frustrations, and right some of the wrongs in the world (or in the potential case in the MASC Chronicles Universe, “fix” some of history’s blunders).

On the other (positive) hand,  basing characters on real people (or the popular conception of those people) is a kind of homage (and not an obsessive, borderline fangirly fixation on said person).

Of course, as time goes by and perceptions change, so might those characters – their personalities and appearance might change, and subsequently their story arc might change as well. Whether or not it’s for the better is up to the writer.

These types of homages (good or bad) are like Easter Eggs, and those who know me well, and my opinions on certain issues will no doubt have fun searching for these Easter Eggs.

The main locale in the Land of Exposition is called the Character Development Inn for a reason, and it’s chock full of different people – of all races, creeds and genders (fictional, factual and some in between).

Brief update on the goings on within the Land of Exposition:

Not too much going on –  the plot bunnies are hopping about, the Muses are amusing themselves and the Real Life Brigade is surprisingly quiet, which is never a good thing.

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) is running smoothly for the most part – there’s the odd giggle every now and then, but all in all, everything’s OK.

Depending on how organized the plotting and pondering goes, there may be revelations about what the MASC Chronicles is all about (and how / if they relate to the copious other works-in-progress that are works in progress).

It’s August, the Dog Days of Summer – when it’s (relatively) quiet and (perpetually) hot and humid (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).

Some actual!writing might actually!happen (really).

I hope.