Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Read to Write: Spark of Inspiration

Before I get going on this week's post, I want to send out a belated birthday wish for one of my high school friends who hit the big 3-0 yesterday!
Happy Birthday, Stargazer! I'm sure your son is making you
feel equal parts young and old right now. :D
Alright, back to business.

I have spent the week keeping myself busy with things that could possibly be RELATED to writing, but actual writing was not done. Again. This is getting tiring.

I'm at a point where I'm mentally blocked again. I want to just write things. I want to spend my downtime at work frantically scribbling off pages and pages of ANYTHING prose. Instead, whenever I sit at work and go "OK, I'm taking my fifteen-minutes-a-day to write.... NOW." I then spend it scribbling in the margins as my mind goes blank. I'm still not entirely sure if it's due to a lack of inspiration, or an overload of it.

I hopped back on Writers’ Huddle late last week. I haven't been on in MONTHS, and I felt that this dry spell is precisely when I would need the group again. While chatting in the forums, I jotted down all the projects I either have in the works, or planned in the back of my head. There's quite a few....
  1. "Please, Let Me Explain" is the story I'm co-writing with my friend Ronoxym, but he disappeared in November. The story is about his character Devon returning to the Xavier school after seemingly abandoning it to their enemy. He tries to win back the trust of my character Willow, but she's not biting. He convinces her to use her telepathic powers to read his mind to prove he isn't lying, but when she does so his Id takes over and manifests itself as a sort of Tour Guide through Devon's brain to keep Willow from finding out his deepest secret: murdering a man in cold blood because Devon believed the man had murdered Willow and the rest of the kids at the Xavier school.
  2. "X-Future: The Second Generation Begins" is my conversion of the X-Future play-by-post role play game story into novelized narrative. I was passionate about this project at first because I love the majority of the story that came out of the gameplay. However, the task has become so daunting that I rarely put in the effort to try to continue it...
  3. "X-Future: Snippets" are simple little one-shots of the X-Future characters to help me character build, work through headcanon that wouldn't work as legit game-canon, or get back into character for the game. I haven't touched this project in a little while either. Everything I think of for the game characters I almost instantly place in the game itself.
  4. "Glitches" is my reworking of X-Future into an original work, most likely a graphic novel series. I'm not decided on the title yet, but instead of "mutants" or "gifted" or "super humans" or whatever else Marvel and the MCU has used, I'm going with the term "Glitches" since their mutations are "glitches" in their DNA. This is the project that grips me the most, but it still has a lot of world building and character building that I need to work on.
  5. "The Divine Legends"/"The People of Gyateara" are two stories dealing with my high-fantasy world building, but I'm just soooo bad at coming up with original versions of D&D gods and mythos and populating a world.... I've been working on Gyateara since, like, 2009.... >_<
  6. "What Is Truly Meant To Be" is a "Hey, Arnold!" fanfic I started around 2010 and sort of abandoned. I do wish to finish it, I just need to find time to rewatch the show in order to re-immerse myself in the source material in order to stay in character. This story is about Arnold, upon graduating high school, realizing he's still in love with Helga. However, when he returns to his childhood hometown to confess his love to her, he discovers that she's now dating her long-time admirer Brainy, whom I believe I renamed Ian. Arnold struggles to deal with losing Helga, while Helga is torn between her current love for Brainy/Ian and her lingering love for Arnold.
  7. "HA! Midsummer..." I don't even have a crafty title yet. It's another "Hey, Arnold!" fanfic idea. Yes, idea, I haven't even started writing this one yet. The concept is a HA! crossover with Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I really liked this idea since the show itself seemed to mimic The Bard's weird love square: Arnie loves Helga, who loves Arnold, who loves Lila, who loves Arnie.... It's trying to figure out which "Hey, Arnold!" characters best fit the rest of the play's cast that's been snagging me.
  8. "A Huntress' Love" or something like that.... Sorry for the pathetic title, I suck at those.... This is - surprise, surprise - another fanfic idea, this time focused on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson universe. I once saw a tweet back and forth between Riordan and a reader asking about what would happen if one of the maiden huntresses of the Greek goddess Artemis fell in love. The thought of an Artemis huntress falling into the greatest Taboo of her mistress really stuck with me. I even wrote out an outline for this tale for my "Master Class with James Patterson" webinar series I did last fall. Trick is, I still haven't even developed the two main characters for this tale. I know the one is a huntress and the other is a demigod. Beyond that? Nothing really.
  9. "Lottie's Tale" another one where I never really even thought of the title, this is just some BS placeholder working title. Anyway, the story is based on a vampire character I created for a live-action role play game I was part of. The concept is that Lottie is on a mission to track down the vampire that killed and diablerized her sire, in other words, ate the vampire's soul; the vampire equivalent to cannibalism. While slaughtering her way through vampire clans, she also follows subtle clues as to why her husband went MIA in WWII, clues that hint that perhaps he's still alive after all. All of this is chaos enough, but poor Lottie is also struggling with the fact that decades of being a vampire, especially an overly murderous one of her own kind, is whittling away at her humanity.
  10. "Best Served Cold" similar to the above story, this one is about another vampire character I created for game. This one has Neghya - pronounced Nia - on the hunt for the vampire that violently raped her and mutilated her before turning her into a vampire all as punishment for embarrassing and wronging him in the most grievous of ways in his eyes. He wanted to literally take everything from her, and then hoped that she wouldn't reawaken before the sun had ashed her. Neghya has no clue about the world she was dumped into, and must learn how to control her new vampiric powers while trying to track down her Sire.
  11. "The Race for Destiny", again, I'm sorry about the terrible titles.... This is a NaNoWriMo story from YEARS back, and it's one of the first stories I had set up on Gyateara. A woman from Earth is magically teleported onto Gyateara and struggles to find a way home. In the meantime, the locals believe that she's a prophesied Chosen One of the main four goddesses of the country. The goddesses each pick a Chosen One that best personifies her favored.... we'll call them personality traits for want of a better term.... and if the Chosen Ones come together, or if one person wins favor with all four goddesses, then they will gain the ability to unlock the divine sword Destiny from its chamber. I know, the sword's name is lame, I plead youth ignorance.... Anyway, any who wield Destiny would have the blessing of the Goddesses, and could use the sword to either bring great prosperity and peace to the land, or drive the country into immense destruction and despair; depending on the wielder's heart. Unfortunately, a villain that could very well bring upon the world this great destruction had managed to win favor of two of the goddesses: strength and strategy. The girl from Earth, who was believed to win the Goddess favor of love, and a young man possessing the Goddess favor of valor, must work together to beat the villain in order to unlock Destiny and finally return peace to the young man's world. Oh, and I bet you can already guess that the two main leads hook up; causing the girl the struggle of wondering if she wants to even return to Earth; cliche....
I feel like there's more I'm forgetting, but you get the idea by now.
So.... yeah... my block is not for want of ideas, it's most likely for want of a direction to go in. Right now I'm scattered all over this above list. Whichever I'm in the mood for, I guess, a little X-Future here, some more world building there, maybe sprinkle in some fanfiction.... You get the idea. It's not a good way of doing things at all. The lack of focus is hurting me more than anything. I just don't know where to aim my focus, since I don't know what story is calling out to me.

Of course, the one that's pulling me the most is the one that not only has the second-to-most world building to do, but also presumably has no conclusion. It's meant to be a comic series. While comics, especially web comics, do run their stories and eventually end, there are more like the main staples - Superman, Batman, X-Men, Captain America, The Avengers, The Justice League, Teen Titans, Fantastic Four, etc - that are still running about half-a-century later. With different writers and illustrators, yes, but they're still going. Heck, even TV shows like The Simpsons are the same way. What if "Glitches" is actually a success? That would be awesome, but there would also presumably be no end in sight. No goal to really work towards, just the telling of the story of characters that I love until they stop telling me their stories anymore.

A sweet sentiment, but not one that really helps me out in whittling down that above list. Sad thing is that most of that list are 20-some chapter novels. Nothing quick to finish off so that I have at least ONE completed long project. The closest I have to that is "Please, Let Me Explain" which should be about seven or so chapters long. Problem is, I can't finish it without Ron, who's been very MIA. I can't really blame him. He's working the overnight shift now, and is prepping for his first-born's arrival next month. Still, both he and Phfylburt; I miss reading their writing, because it always sparked my own creativity. So, yeah, it's kind of selfish of me that I'm bummed at their lack of writing lately. Is that wrong???

Anyway, people on the Writers Huddle forum suggested that I needed to ignore writing for a bit, and find other creative outlets: walking, drawing, watching movies, playing video games, or reading books, that sort of thing. Doing so might spark my muse again. Can't say that they're wrong.

Since I haven't been using my downtime at work for writing, I've been using it for reading. Seven days into this month - but in all reality, let's not count today yet since I literally started writing this right after waking up today - and I'm already 236pages into my book for the month. I'd be nearly done with "Speaker for the Dead" if I was reading that this month instead of last. As it stands, however, I am a little shy of half-way through my current novel.

I decided to just go ahead and read "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. That way Speaker and its characters were still fresh in my mind. I'll use the book to check off the "Owned but never read" category. I mean, technically, HUBBY owns the book, but what's his is mine and vice versa, right? So it counts as me also owning it and never reading it for nearly five years, right? Yeah. I'm going with it.

Much like in Speaker, Card starts off each chapter with a little intro side-story sort of thing before getting into the meat of the chapter. Unlike in Speaker, Xenocide's intro bits aren't nearly as distracting. They are conversations between two unnamed characters. Having read Speaker recently, I recognized the "voices" being used by the two characters, and was able to figure out who is speaking before each chapter starts. It still gets a bit confusing because sometimes the two characters themselves have similar voices, while distinct in relation to the voices of the rest of the book characters, and so it's a challenge to figure out who is saying what in the conversation. A couple of passes and I think I have them sorted out, though.

I really am enjoying the story. Each chapter adds more presumably impossible challenges instead of ever conquering any, and so the stakes just keep getting higher and higher, and the "correct" path becomes harder and harder to see. It follows the theme present in all the Ender Saga books I've read so far, and possibly every story Card ever writes; I haven't read enough of them yet: be empathetic to everyone, because everyone believes their way is the only correct one, and just because those beliefs conflict doesn't mean either is wrong.

I must admit, Card's language is a bit more elevated than I'm used to, and my vocabulary isn't exactly extended enough to understand some of the words he throws in - truthfully, if I wasn't at work, I'd probably have a dictionary on my lap as I read - and he still tosses in untranslated Portuguese a lot. So, yeah, my eyes sort of glaze over in spots. Still, the majority of the story is engaging because it deals so much with the Human Condition and inner turmoil of the characters; something I enjoy greatly. There's just something about Character-driven plots instead of Event-driven plots that really calls out to me. Maybe it's because I'm a people person. Maybe it's because my calling really should have been some sort of therapist or counselor. I did really want to do something like a minor in Psychology in college because it both intrigued me, and it would help with creating more believable characters. Had to drop the idea though because my workload was too much to finish in four years. I might have to go back and Annex a few Psych classes some day.

Sorry, tangent. The point I'm trying to convey is that while the mystery of Speaker, quickly followed by the love of the characters, really drew me in for that story, the real hook for Xenocide is just the characters. How will they handle, and hopefully avoid, their impending doom, or the massive burdens they bear? Is xenocide of SOME species inevitable in order for the other species to survive? I mean, there are at least five species at stake, and who knows how many more Card is going to throw in before the story's done. So many nagging questions and challenges I'm waiting to see results for! At the same time, though, reading Xenocide is making me think more and more of the events of Speaker.

Which brings me full circle: read to write. The more I read "Xenocide" the more I think about the background events of "Speaker for the Dead": what exactly happened during the twenty-odd years it kept the Speaker to get to Lusitania? We know the broad strokes; the basic history. We know the essentials of what happened, but what about the nitty gritty day to day? How did that history play out?

It was late yesterday, and I didn't get very far, and so I don't have anything to post and share, but I did start writing a fanfic about that very subject: what was the day-to-day turmoil on Lusitania like while they unknowingly waited for the Speaker? I don't want to give any spoilers away, and so I'll actually be writing two different versions of this fanfic. One will have the actual character names in true fanfic fashion. That one will be posted on FanFiction.net when I'm done. The other version will be the same exact tale, but with original names. That way when you go into the story cold, you won't know which characters it's talking about. This version will be posted on DeviantArt.com and FictionPress.com when I'm done. Fair warning, though, in order for this tale to work I still need to keep the key fanfiction elements of the character interactions. So, if you read even my "spoiler free" version, if/when you read Speaker you will get the spoilers anyway. Or at least, it should come to you based on the interactions of the characters; you should be able to plug back in who is supposed to be who. In that case, should I bother removing the names????? I'll have to figure that out before officially posting.

Well, I have a lot to do, especially if I'm going to have that story written up in time for Writing Group tonight. I hope to have it all set for the rest of you to read next week. With any luck, more writing inspiration should strike too, and not just more character/plot builds for my D&D campaign like this past week.

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