Sunday, April 28, 2013

The canvas

“Chapter I”

A writer paints with words.

Ah! Progress! Getting started today! A little has already been written earlier this month. Two pages, to set the scene. Was written on some downtime. Simple copy'n'paste into this new document to continue on. Has already had some edits to it, make it a lot smoother.

So let's get ready. New project starts getting chopped away chapter-by-chapter.

b write black

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Including the Fourth

Aside from these new characters developing and getting set to act out this new drama, there is the fact that, much like the plot for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, an epic poem will be woven within the narrative fabric of this new project. The themes of this new project and the fourth epic poem weren’t as obvious to me as the parallels between The Son Dial Tone and The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, but the similarities are there. The story for the fourth epic poem doesn’t serve as a past life for the characters that are a part of the main narrative. It’s a guide for them, a mirror. At times they can control the narrative of this story, and at other times it’s there to reflect who they are—for better or worse.

This time around, it’ll be a little easier putting the pieces together. Much of The Son Dial Tone was outlined before it was part of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, as well as much of the verses having already been composed. I had to play around with the poem’s structure to fit what was there into The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn’s narrative. A couple subplots were dropped. Some of the subplots didn’t fit, and some I didn’t have the time for. A lot of cynicism was cut. But much of that cynicism pops up in the fourth epic poem, and is more appropriate to its story. Fitting The Son Dial Tone’s story to The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn helped me to focus the areas where The Son Dial Tone was becoming too big. I don’t believe the final product for The Son Dial Tone would be as long as 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z., but it would’ve been in the vicinity of The Ronin Poetz’s page count if it had been a standalone story, possibly more. On its own, The Son Dial Tone stands around 75 pages.

The fourth epic was etched out in the same brainstorm sessions that, after putting aside What the Ego Said and How the Id Replied, saw the better parts of 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z. and The Son Dial Tone put together. Ah! 1999 and the year 2000. Anyway…the fourth epic was only notes. Lines of ideas jotted down, one after the other, streams of thought. I had the armies of enemies, some points about the villains, and a few lines dedicated to the hero and the hero’s tasks.

So far, the three epic poems I’ve composed have had a set of lessons for their heroes to learn. Maa Kheru had the four lessons of the cup, the wand, the sword, and the word. Kham Noiz in 2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z. has a lesson on seven ancient words of power. And Mojuba Kimoyo had the proper 26 keys of music. Our forth hero will definitely have some learning to do, but his main focus are a set of tasks that must be completed, like Hercules and his labors. There’s also a group of parents in each epic poem. There’s been Father Aquarius and Mother Pisces, Mother Harmony and Father Voice from The Ronin Poetz and The Son Dial Tone, respectively. The fourth epic poem is no different from the other three (2 Enlighten the G.O.D.Z.’s parents will be revealed soon enough). This is one of the areas where the fourth epic poem adopts the abandoned cynical tone and some plot points that were created for The Son Dial Tone.

Because the fourth epic poem only has notes and an outline, overlaying its story onto this new project will be easier, considering nothing has been set in stone for it. The first scene of the epic poem will make its debut in the book’s first act, as has been outlined. This scene has been written. The first scene for the fourth epic poem has been finished, with some fine tuning going on here and there. It’s intense. A disappointed ‘goddess’ or ‘queen’ resigns her ‘firstborn children’ to a terrible fate, written first in stone as a warning, and then within the cosmos as something to be fulfilled. Three armies, consisting of the goddess’ first born children, walking away from a war that is only on an uneasy pause, must face the verbal punishment of this goddess who is named ‘motherland.’ The scene was taken from a manuscript I’d written in the tenth grade, and rewritten in college. In its first form, written in high school, it was a clunky, awkward two pages. When I went to re-write it, it became this grand seven page battle between armies. But it was the beginning of the scene, as it was re-written, that made me go back and look at it. The marching armies are referred to as ‘the last of a failed generation’. The visuals of the marching armies, I liked that. I also liked that after this grand description of three armies, as great as they were, led by demi-gods, with frames extending tall to the sky, they were called ‘The Last of a Failed Generation’. It was like Yoda’s line from The Empire Strikes Back, “Wars don’t make one great” was made visual. As great as these armies were, in number and accomplishment, they were the result of failure. Politics in the world had gone terribly wrong.

I wanted to use this scene somewhere, since the manuscript would never be published, and I always look back at my unpublished works to steal from and sort of cheat my way through a project if I need a scene, character, or dialogue.

The main character to the poem is, for now, outlined to be introduced in the next part. Here, the poem will take on a very fairytale-like quality. As I outline this new project, I’m also looking for the right beats as to where the fourth epic poem comes in. This will be easier once I work out the details of the protagonist’s ability to ‘dive’ into this epic poem and see the story. Horatio had his horn, the musical notes, and his father’s compositions. The first scene, already composed, is given to this new protagonist. But I’m asking myself how does he continue it? I’m still ironing it all out, playing around with ideas. One thing that’s for certain is this time, the protagonist isn’t alone in composing.

The female protagonist plays a key role in the writing of this epic poem, and how it plays out. She too has a character composed within the fourth epic poem that reflects her. I like that. Horatio was alone in completing The Son Dial Tone. Delia waited for his cue to sing the compositions to life, or listen to the story’s music. She was far from playing second fiddle, especially when it comes to her role within their past lives, but I like how this new female protagonist gets in on the composition. It’s hinted that Virginia Tara-Peters helped her husband, Pete Peters, compose his parts of The Son Dial Tone, but we don’t ever get to see that. I like that we’ll witness the love between the male and female protagonist bloom with their equal share in composing this story.

b write black

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reviewing 18+

Going through the eighteen-plus pages of notes I have for the first act of this next project. Everything for the first act is within these notes except the first chapter. I only have a simple line dedicated in my notes for the first chapter. Everything else is in my head. Much like The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, this first chapter is going to be a little intimidating to go through. I won’t be rewriting the opening to a screenplay this time, as I did with the first chapter for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The first chapter for this next project will be about guiding the reader through a neighborhood, its contrast to what surrounds it, and a grim peek inside the to know that despite the magic of the block, all is not well.

Like I’ve said before, it’s a punch in the gut for the reader, and you can’t really plan for that.
The rest of the eighteen-plus pages outlines what I have budgeted as the first 150 pages of the book. I’m setting a budget of 450 for the entire project. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve just started to make a heavy outline for the second act, enough to get a forward motion on that. The longest of the acts will most likely be the second. But it all begins with the first chapter, getting the right words to set the scene. I’ve known how this project was supposed to begin since before The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn, and started to get more and more excited about this project when The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn was in full swing with writing. There is still some bigger news to come. Most likely the bigger news will be moved to Monday. I have to make a video for that.

Until then, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, I shall write.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Literary Schizophrenia

When I was younger, I used to write short stories concerning particular characters in my works. I would write these stories to get a feel for the character. I would write a character into a situation and see how he or she performed in that given situation. The setting of the story didn’t have to be specific to the setting of the greater work the character would debut in, or even tie into the work. Sometimes it would be a scenario that happened before the greater work. Sometimes it was just me dropping the character into a situation that had no relation. I would have gunslingers of the Old West end up in detective tales, or a magician being robbed at a bar in the late 60s in a short story grounded in our reality. The point was to see how the character reacted to their environment and situation, especially as a character before his or her story arc. How would their current personality perform? And deaths, even among main protagonists, were not out of the question. Sometimes I would rewrite the story after the character(s) had gone through his or her story arc. Would things be different? The same? A good number of times I wouldn’t actually rewrite the story. I would simple reread the story and imagine how things could be different. Would he or she [the character] do that now?

Well, writing a group of stories for characters that will later be for use in a greater story is now time consuming. So, I’ve turned to simply either writing dialogue among the characters, or imagining the dialogue when I have the time. Instead of testing a character’s actions, I get to learn his or her personality, and how they will interact with the other characters in the narrative. I started doing this with A Company of Moors, but kicked this practice into high gear when I started writing The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. This current project is no different. This exercise helps me focus on dialogue, and it’s helped me figure out whether a character should express something in words or personality. Some dialogue for GoGH and ACoM was retained, but only very little, especially for The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. I started realizing: “This doesn’t need to be said by [him or her]. This is just their personality coming through. They’re stating their goals or desires for me. I have to find a way to put that into action and movement rather than some kind of expository dialogue.”

Now, don’t get angry at expository dialogue. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. The best advice is to make expository dialogue as conversational as possible. Write it. Stare at it. Reread it. Ultimately, reword it so it doesn’t look too obvious in terms of being expository.

Well, characters have been talking to one another. It’s either in my head (literary schizophrenia) or within a word doc, or on a piece of paper. Most of the conversations have been between one of the many protagonists and one of the two villains. This, mainly, has been for the sake of defining the two villains and the main male protagonist. The villains are a man and a woman, and the characters are old. Not elderly, but, they’ve been on the back burner, waiting for a long time to be used in a story. I created this devious husband and wife team when I was in tenth grade, and constantly refining them as I dropped them into one story after another, trying to find the perfect narrative to fit their deviltry in. They have been featured in many outlines and unpublished works, lifted and transported to another. Each time, their personalities have been tweaked, often times their goals have changed. But they have remained deceptive, dishonest, fraudulent, shifty, and dangerous.

Now I’ve found the proper story, and I’ve had to make their personalities fit just as proper. I didn’t want the cliché baddies. I wanted some depth to these two people. I’m also carefully outlining the narrative so that the parallels between this villainous couple and the heroic couple aren’t too obvious, or they don’t contrast in a blatant way. Yes, one is good and one is bad. One is an older couple. One is a younger couple. One is married. The other couple is just dating. And blah, blah, blah, blah. Of course, there are the parallels with what are the males of each couple doing, or the females of each couple. And so on and so forth. But although the plot and the destinies of these characters are deliberate on my end as the writer, they have to be presented as organic to the audience. Otherwise, the story is predictable, the character’s actions and arc becomes predictable. I mean, there are some things you can expect between characters that oppose one another and how they will interact with, and react to, one another. But it’s always good to have surprises. And one way to have a surprise is by giving villain(s) or hero(es) solid personalities. Make them come to life.

The conversations that I’ve noted have often taken place between the male protagonist and the male antagonist. I’m still wondering if a sit-down between the two can happen, and how it would be without breaking into a fist fight. But as I continue to think about the possibilities, and of course, what could be said between them, the scene turns into these characters defining themselves. Are they talking to each other or the audience? I’ve created some good dialogue that may or may not happen between the male antagonist and an elder. It doesn’t literally state how far the male antagonist has fallen, but it is a great example of his character. That. Might. Stay. That would end up later in the book. In the first chapter, the villain makes a phone call to this same elder, and I’ve rewritten the dialogue over and over until the villain becomes human and less 2-dimensional. I’ve decided to approach the villain’s dialogue as if he’s a recovering drug addict that’s fallen off the wagon after years and years of being straight. He feels good, and he’ll be damned if anyone should let him feel guilty, though there is a hint of remorse in him. But the remorse is more or less the feeling of this atrocious act that he’s ‘assisted’ in committing (that will make sense when you read the book) is done and can’t be undone. There’s a few lines that I know will be in there, and I’ll see where the conversation goes from there.

These ‘screen test’ sessions are where I started to know the villain, and how he could be shaped into a unique character. It makes sense to me, now, why he does the things he does and what his goal is. It was always there, but the goal has been muddled under some clichés of being the stereotypical, mustache-twirling snake of a man. One character that I’m studying to get to know this villain is actually one of the most well-known heroes of all time. Superman. And I’m not looking at Superman in a way where I say, “What if Superman was a bad guy.” That would be too easy. No, there are other elements of his character that many dismiss, and resign Kal-El to cardboard cutout status. One dimensional. I’m looking at other traits to Superman, and I’m asking how these traits would fit properly into a man who is anything but a hero.

In contrast, we have the male protagonist. There are traits about him that come from unused traits concerning Horatio Peters. But of course, it wasn’t just copy and paste, drag and drop. Early in the story, these traits manifest through this particular character’s arc. When I first conceived of this idea years ago, this was a strong element within the story. Now, I get to play with it. And instead of some traits ending up in a character that it didn’t make sense to belong a part of, they rest comfortable with this protagonist.

This character was conceived in 2002-3, along with the female protagonist. Their story was called The Nu Ancients, and it was drafted as a comic book script. This was the same idea that was outlined to have the three generation of women storyline that was written into the final product of The Ghost of Gabriel’s Horn. The cartoony elements of the story have been removed, and what’s left is a palpable reality. I’m not “making Batman realistic,” however. I believe there can be a healthy life for a whimsical fantasy molded into a grounded reality without becoming silly on the whimsical and fantastical side, or self-indulgent on the grounded reality side.

And so, characters are talking, to me, to one another. They are telling me where they fit into this story. They are interacting with one another. They are reacting to one another. And they are getting their lines together to be a part of this next, intense project.

b write black.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Act the First

This isn't just a pile of papers. This is where a journey begins in the physical, born from the mental. Thought turned to action. Literary alchemy. Iron, strong thoughts into gold. This is the grand equation. Mathematics in prose and narrative.

This 'pile of papers' will be translated into Act One of the new project. One section, of that will come toward the end of the first act, has not been completely mapped out. But there are notes written down.

And then of course, there's the first section of the fourth and final epic poem that has to be stuffed into the prose narrative.

A great many details about this new project will come through in the coming weeks. I'll begin actual writing come the end of April.

 b write black