The last few times I've posted about my odd ideas, I've been pretty specific about the idea and gave a rundown of how it came to be. Uhler and the 5 stages of zombiness are a good example of this. This post, however, is more on the side of the beginning of the beginning...if that makes sense.
I like to build off of mythology and existing ideas. Not for the sake of stealing them, but because in a strange way, they feel more real than something I could come up with myself. For example, vampires. Vampires are something that the majority of the world has an idea about. It's part of our culture, it's something that takes no explination and is easily digestable to whoever is reading it. It's the same idea as "sampling" in music. Take something everyone's heard, that conveys a feeling and reuse it to bring about that feeling again, but with a new layer added in...hopefully.
I like taking mythology and digging through it. Let's take the vampire example. There are dozens of origins for the vampire they all have simillar characteristics, but still vary greatly from one region to the next. Just off wikipedia, the Greek origin: "The Greeks traditionally believed that a person could become a vrykolakas after death due to a sacrilegious way of life, anexcommunication, a burial in unconsecrated ground, or eating the meat of a sheep which had been wounded by a wolf or a werewolf. Some believed that a werewolf itself could become a powerful vampire after being killed, and would retain the wolf-like fangs, hairy palms, and glowing eyes it formerly possessed." - not the usual origin we hear in the USA!
It's not so much that I pick the most interesting origin and go with it. I prefer to take a oddly logical approach to it. Assuming a vampire is real, why would there be so many different stories of their origins? Are they different subspecies? Is it a series of different curses that result in the same monster? Is it the same origin, but at different stages (as I did with Uhler)...who knows...that's the fun part. I like to take what's available and come up with the most realistic idea I can with what I have.
The most recent one, and something I'm currently writing, is the legend of the Chupacabra. Don't worry, its not a spoiler. If you follow me on Pinterest, you already know this is coming. It's not so much the origin that I'm concerned with, but how the heck it manages to be seen and yet not been seen. In this world of science, magic, mythology and craziness I've built, how can I make sense of this creature so that it works in the stories, is compelling and somehow believable enough that the reader might go "You know...that is a possibility." Something bizarre that can be made believable is what true thrills and horror is all about. I'm not looking to scare anyone, but if I can get someone to 2nd guess their belief in an obscure idea like the Chupacabra and the rest of you to keep reading, then I've done my job. It's all about you suckers....I mean readers :P
By the way, the octopus tree in book 3....that was all me and it'll be a much more awesome idea when I build into it. For now, it's just something M has seen and...well...read Hitori when it's published and you'll have a glimpse of what's to come.
As I'm working on book 4 of the man series, I've been recapping a lot of the info from the previous trilogy. At the moment I'm going over M's ability to step out of time and talk to, what I call, himselves. Basically, it's the versions of M in alternate realities, places created by the choices he didn't make. This is a fairly normal topic in science fiction that usually doesn't get too detailed, or even explained and I find that to be sort of disappointing, usually.
Writers like to bring up big ideas and glaze over them enough to get the reader/view by. Sometimes it's done to keep the mystery and make it interesting (The Force). Other times, it's explained and then it loses its appeal, making it almost laughable (Again, The Foce - midichlorians).
In the case of M's ability, I feel it's at least semi-important to understand how it works. It isn't evident right now why it's important, but as the story progresses and M figures out more and more about his powers (at the same time the reader does) and certain events take place, his/your understanding of this "out of time" ability will be more important. To me, it's more fun that way. It's not as though I'm citing things prior to the books and giving the reader a slow trickle of info that I could have given from the first sentence, I'm giving it to you as the character figures it out. His experiences in the books are what demonstrate and build his understanding of his power. Sometimes accurately, sometimes not.
I'm not giving you every little detail with this blog posting, that would defeat the purpose of writing the way I am and take the fun away from you. I will give you the basic theory from the wiki and that will at least give you an idea of what us science fiction folk have been basing off of. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation
I will say that the way I'm handling this topic is only shallowly based on this theory, but it's sill an interesting read that all of us know on some level because it's been used so much in books, tv, movies, etc.
Someday I should give my bs theory a name so that someone can post a wiki of it. :P
I would like to start off by saying that at no point has anyone, at all, complained. It has been mentioned in a few reviews, but the reviews never came off as negative. They only ever seemed to be letting people know and that it is. For that, I thank you. That tells me two things: you're okay with it (at least the fans and the reviewers are) and it's working. Now, to explain what the heck that paragraph was about.
For those of you who haven't read any of the books, I'll explain from the beginning. The Chronicles of M series is mostly written in first person perspective. For a lot of people, this is odd. Most books are written in a narrative style and that's okay. Book 4 "Hitori" is written in such a way, but there's reasons for this that I'll get into in a bit. As far as the previous 3 books, and mostly like the next 2 trilogies where M is central to the story, it'll remain first person, most of the time. Here's why.
When I started this series I KNEW I wanted to go first person with it. I wanted them to tell their own stories and be more than just some weirdos on paper to laugh at. Certain back stories would have fallen flat, or maybe never happened had I told it from a third person view. Uhler's story (I won't spoil it) would have been completely worthless from any other point of view. It HAD to be told from his own. Had I done it differently, then the entire purpose of his backstory would have been lost out on. You simply can't understand the personal hell he went through during his transformation without seeing it as he saw it. If that isn't enough, knowing his back story the way the reader does, it becomes pretty clear why he's taken this direction with his life in the present. After all, his story is the BEST case situation. The worst case, the things horror movies are made of, are why he does what he does.
The second reason for first person is, in a way, a two-for-one deal. I knew these characters would change over time. These stories aren't a small section of their lives, it's their entire lives. Sure, there will be gaps of time I won't cover, but it doesn't mean that time missed didn't effect the character. So, by doing it from their point of view I can really show how much they change. Sometimes characters will do the same actions over and over again, but for different reasons. I feel this is a negative to modern cinema that I'd like to avoid, if I can. I'm getting off point here.
The other reason is simple. I'm new to writing. I'm not going to say this was planned. In truth, it was a happy accident. It wasn't until was 1/2 through writing the 2nd book that I realized just how much my writing had changed. Some of it was simply more experience, some of it was experimentation with style (camera angles and such, there's a blog posting on it), but either way it had changed. Even in the third book the style has changed. I feel it's more of a mesh of 1 and 2's style, but we'll see how the reviews come back. What first person allows me to do is to develop my own style through the character's perspectives. Since they are growing/changing as well, so too would their perspective. Where M may take a more poetic noir style now, he may take a more clean, logical style later. It all depends on him and me.
As for Hitori, I went with first person for a couple reasons, but for this topic only one matters - the reader doesn't need to be in her head to get her. In this book, she is (roughly) in her 90's. Since she was 14 years old, she has been the ward and hunter-in-training to Bishamon, god of war. So, for the majority of her life, she has been singlely minded. Her actions speak far louder than her words. When she does speak, she speaks plainly. As such, there's no reason to be in her mind.
By the way, since this has come up a couple times now. Hitori IS Mai. You really think a 1400 year old demon slayer hasn't had a few names in her lifetime? The real question should be WHY is it Hitori, why not her given name and where did Mai come from? Hmmm... :P
Lately I've been considering the idea of doing some sort of hardback edition at the end of each trilogy. I probably will, but I haven't decided yet. Part of what is keeping from going with it is something that many authors (myself included) have to deal with every time they sit down and write: character continuity. Is this how the character would say this, or do that? Would s/he think that? For a lot of authors this is a HUGE problem. Not because they aren't great writers, but because there seems to be a desire to keep our main characters static. We like seeing our characters fight the good fight, but we really don't want them to grow from it...not much anyways.
I do realize that is a very general statement and just about everyone reading this is thinking "nu uh, I like my character's to grow!" On some level I'm sure you believe that, but then look at what is popular on television and tell me that's true. That being said, we DO like to see characters grow and change over time, but it has to be handled correctly and in the right circumstances.
For example, take something like Farscape (if you don't know, it's a sci-fi show from a while back) where the characters basically didn't know each other, didn't like each other, but because of better options were stuck together for years. By the end of the show these character's had been through so much hell that there wasn't even a question anymore of how they would work as a team and each other's roles in, for instance, a gun fight. They went from a bunch of individuals putting up with eachother to a full on team. The character's didnt simply trust eachother, they knew eachother. Most shows don't do that.
My issue is that i KNOW there's a lack of cohesion in my main characters. They say one thing, and think another in a very different manner. M starts off as..well...a giant a-hole, by the end of book 2 he's a man out of time and a little on-edge and in book 3 he's a very different person still. I wanted these characters to be as real as possible and so far, I think I've done that. The issue is: what happens when you read the books in order, one right after the other? Will the character development come off as development, or will it come off as a jumbled, kerfuffle of a mess?
There is a passage in Book 2 that I felt needed a bit of explaining. So, here it is.
There's a scene where Thomas is talking to his less-than-nice brother A'loc about WW2 and how it's more, or less A'locs fault. The reason it's his is fault is due to A'loc tampering with some "German Philosopher" and driving him nuts in the process. The idea in the book is that altering a persons mind too much can make the subject unstable, even insane. This is touched on briefly before...but that is not my point here.
Friedrich Nietzsche, for those of you who don't know, was a German philosopher. He lived from 1844 to 1900. He's the one who most people when the word nhilist comes up. I won't go into some crazy rant about Will to power, or any other such thing that makes people roll their eyes at me...it doesn't matter here. What does matter is there is a chance that Nietzsche's writings were influential on the ideas the Nazi's were so proud of.
Let me state right now. I don't know this to be fact. I dug around for a while before writing this for citations and ended up finding it's a decently argued subject with no agreed upon answer (like I said, argued :P ) The idea was actually brought to me years ago in school during a high level philo class I was taking at the time - the professor believed it to be true. Personally, I can see that, there's a lot of similarities.
Now then, where did I come up with this "driving him nuts" idea? I really didn't, I merely fudged reality a bit. When Nietzche died, he was not all there. Initially, it was believed to be syphilis, then it was challanged as periodic psychosis, then it was offered that it could have been dementia....needless to say...a screw was loose. From what I've read, it's believed that his sanity handicap did not effect his writing...for my purposes it makes for better storytelling that it did.
The idea is that A'loc had this great idea to help lead humanity in to a better tomorrow, so he tried to share it through a proxy, Nietzsche. The spell worked, the idea was written down, but ended up becoming twisted and foul because of his deteriorating mentality... then another crazy got a hold of it and... you know /end rant
This example might fall on deaf ears, but I'll explain it because I cannot ask for a better example. There's a game for the PS3 called "Metal Gear Solid 4:Guns of the Patriots" that has a TON of cut scenes and in a lot of cases, at the worst times.
One such example that sticks in my head is at this point in the game where you're getting ready to sneak into this compound to do bla bla bla. Well, a nice little voice in the character's ear tells you to follow a bulldozer in that's about to bust the front gate down. Simple enough and oddly convenient let's do this. Oh, cut scene time...alright, let's have a video chat now....I guess.
This cut scene lasts a good 10-15 minutes and it's mostly about how your boss (more or less) is now married to the widow of someone you knew and she's a psychologist for soliders and bla bla bla who cares. All the while I'm watching this, I keep thinking "wasn't I supposed to be following a bulldozer in to that compound? That bulldozer was right in front of me when this video started...5, 10 minutes ago?"
It's things like this that bother me in books, games, everything. I appreciate a good back story, don't get me wrong. I understand these things are needed to give the world some depth, to explain some things that need explaining and sometimes just to add a bit of filler. I get it, no biggie. What I don't like is that sort of thing interrupting a good plot. Don't stop in the middle of a huge battle to tell me about something that may or may not be important. Furthermore, do the audience a favor and figure out a way to allude to it and give that info later, when it's not distracting. This way, it doesn't just add depth, it also adds a bit of suspense.
For those of you reading (or have read) Book 1, I want you to be aware of what I did here. Chapters 1 and 2 bring up some "Mad Baker Incident" a few times in conversation. During those 2 chapters, all I give is that it's somehow important to what is going on. Chapter 3 is that incident in its fullest. This happens again -chapters 4 and 5 give a main plot and 6 explains things that didn't make a lot of sense. I did it this way for 2 reasons.
1. The back story is NOT interrupting the main plot. In fact, it's written in as a segue to the next set of main plot.
2. If you go back to re-read the book at some later date (this is looking to be a 10 book series right now, I know I re-read long series like that) you can completely skip those back story chapters and miss out on ZERO main plot.
There you have it, it's a bit of an experiment, but it seems that those who have read it and gotten back to me have loved this idea and its execution. Hope you enjoy it as well. :-)
There are points in my life where I'm completely aware that I think too much. This topic is one of them moments (really...the past several blog postings, but anyways).
Something I've always enjoyed in Science Fiction are the gadgets. From the replicator to the light saber, its all pretty neat. For the most part, these gadgets are taken for granted as working standards and they neither enjoyed nor interesting to the main cast. Really, that's fair. I have a 3 year old computer sitting next to me with a 12gig ram drive that i dump games on for load-less awesomeness...not terribly exciting anymore.
What rarely happens in shows are the prototypes. Sure, once in a while an episode of something will have a fancy new prototype that just happens to work exactly when they need it to and now the plot is complete. yay, roll credits.
I don't want to see the first prototype, where it explodes the moment they turn it on (okay, once in a while I do). I want to see the first working prototype, something that is just so odd that it doesn't even resemble the end product for a science fiction show. So, I bring you replicators...more or less.
I tend to ponder a lot, if you hadn't noticed. At some point I wondered what the first replicator would have been like. Surely they weren't the in-wall unit that exists in Star Trek. If it's like everything else in this world, it would have been massive, clumsy and next to useless.
Given certain elements in my series, I decided to come up with a similar solution to food. However, since this story starts in modern times, I started the technology at the prototype level. Food is processed in large vats where the core elements are broken down into a sludge. Then, through the magic of behind-the-scenes, the vats of sludge are broken down into atoms and recombined to make basic foods. all the while, the scientists involved in this project take turns running the kitchen, to make sure foods tastes the way should. when they dont, they can tweak here and there and taste again.
Is this how replicators in star trek work? i have absolutely no idea. I just looked at the idea, realized that it was the ONLY reasonable, logical idea for long distance space travel, came up with my own concept and then set to writing it from the beginning. I also plan to do this with a great deal of other things.