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May I Set the Stage?

The biggest difference between real life and a story is that life is created forward, by living each moment as it comes. You can predict what might happen based on observance of patterns, but knowing for sure is not the province of a man.

Within a story, it is the author's privilege and duty to hide the way to the inevitable outcome in every word. The question for this journal is, "How?"

NaNoWriMo 2013: "Wildstar"

I still exist! But I'll be brief...

This is possibly the worst physical shape I have been in at the beginning of any NaNo I have ever attempted, but I am doing better than last month (for those of you who know how I was doing last month -- the headaches have about 99.9% subsided). I am also doing somewhat better with the chronic health issues that caused me to temporarily suspend this blog out of a need to reduce my commitments. This winter will be the real test to see if my current efforts are enough to combat my ongoing muscular problems, and if I can get that well under control, I can think about picking up literary analysis more regularly again. This year's NaNoWriMo novel, however, is one I've really wanted to write since last year (even if I have an enforced bedtime of 11PM instead of being allowed to write until midnight), and I can't stand the thought of not writing it. I'm going to do my best, and try not to be too hard on myself if I'm feeling too ill on any given day to make wordcount. So, I probably won't be daily blogging with excerpts (saving my energy for the book itself), but I'll keep you updated on writing progress as much as I can! Thank you all for your support!

Here's my summary for this year's novel, Wildstar!

"Sometimes, when the world is too harsh, and the system can't be fought, the only thing you can do is dance.

Over a decade ago, the world descended into chaos, with world powers collapsing one by one as the Earth itself seemed to die. The new power that stepped up to fill the chaos makes the laws, holds the weapons, and controls every line of communication tying this haggard new Earth together, and Daniil is content to scrape out whatever life he can in peace. The last thing he wants is to find himself on another battlefront, challenging the ranks who's power he's seen too clearly from the other side. But when he falls in with a small crew of street dancers half a world away, he finds that history isn't so easy to leave behind."

If you're also doing NaNo, and you want to be writing buddies, please feel free to friend me! My username is psiten there.

Best of luck to everyone who's participating!

Officially Going On Hiatus

It seems odd to post a "hiatus" message on a journal I barely ever use, but November/National Novel Writing Month are coming up, which is when I would normally expect to be posting here as close to daily as possible. Unfortunately, this year continues to bring forth new trials as soon as old ones have resolved. I won't have the luxury this November of putting everything on hold to draft the skeleton of a new, original novel. Instead, I will be putting that time towards dealing with my household issues and tying up some of my existing commitments so that next year I'll be able to write the novel concept I had planned on for this year. With any luck, there will be a more manageable level of health, psychiatric, economic and/or household emergencies in 2013. I could use the sleep.

Perhaps a larger regret than not being able to do an original novel for NaNo this year, all of the situations I've got to juggle at the moment have effectively removed from my schedule the research time I'd been using to break down the larger plot structure of Naruto, after the introduction of the Ryuuchidou and Shikkotsurin Sage training grounds led me to believe that this story is not working with a three-act plot structure but rather with a classical five-act plot structure. If that's the case, the story may have 13-15 years to go before it ends, with current events falling very close to the exact middle (most likely the lead-up to the exact middle, which may fall over a range of 40-50 chapters), and there's a solid chance that the Sage Training arc Sasuke (and presumably Sakura) will go through will serve as an opportunity for Sasuke to come to his own conclusions about a fruitful way to address his issues with society, rather than forsaking his own priorities to embrace Naruto's. The persistent bridge imagery, and the concept of Sasuke and Sakura becoming pillars based in each of two "worlds" that Naruto will somehow find a way to link, is a heavy strike against an ending where Sasuke must give up everything that has ever mattered to him and embrace "the Konoha way".

By the time it's done, Kishimoto is almost certain to have drawn in the smaller ninja countries (and possibly non-ninja populations) as factors in our protagonists' worldview: Act I's setting showed a transition from "man as an island", with all people who are not "the self" as untrusted outsiders, to "man as a villager", connecting with a relatively small group of persons who are like the Self (on your own team, from Konoha) while the Outsider remains as those outside the village. In Act II, ending with the declaration of the Fourth Ninja War, the setting has transitioned to include other villages that are like Konoha (part of the Big Five) as allies, while smaller nations remain as Outsiders (as do people who intentionally set themselves apart, embodied here by the three active-if-not-living Uchiha). At any rate, the village is no more an island now than the person is once he has embraced working as a team. Act III has only begun. I don't think we've seen anything yet that would correspond to the introduction of the Five Kage as a motion towards expanding the scope of the setting, but we're also not far enough along that the pattern to date would indicate such an introduction should have occurred. If I had to guess, based on identifiable groups that have been shown to exist in the world of Naruto but have not yet been embraced as "part of the group", 1) Smaller ninja villages such as Rain, 2) more non-ninja countries such as the Land of Iron, and 3) Sasuke/the Uchiha/the Ten-Tails (embodied in the Gedo Mazo, or Statue of the Outer Path) as representative of the "Rogue or Heretical Entity" who has rejected the common answers offered by society. In the movement from the protagonists seeing outsiders as "The Other", judged as a group with almost no knowledge of their individual lives and no active thought, to seeing those segments of the population as "people" who deserve to be treated fairly, those three groups have not yet had "bridges" made to their worlds.

Based on both the greater similarity between a large ninja village and a small one than between a ninja village and a land that pursues a different way of life, and given the fact that much has been made in the past of how smaller ninja villages suffer when large ninja villages thoughtlessly go to war through their territories, my guess would be that we end Act III with some stronger connection to those small villages. I'll be interested to see if Kishimoto delivers on hints that Hidan may come back in time for him to factor into that, as he's from one of those smaller villages. And since the Rogue/Heretical "Other" has been the constant form of the shifting antagonist throughout the series -- Orochimaru, Akatsuki, Tobi (and all associated identities), the Ten-Tails -- and that status designates someone who is essentially antithetical to "the Self or the Like", any attempt to connect with that group (including Sasuke) can't be an unmitigated success until Act V (if then). This leaves the suitably different but not expressly antagonistic "non-ninja people" to become a part of the world the protagonists embrace in Act IV.

I'd love to say more about the personal transformations Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura might make as part of their character development arcs within that broadening spectrum of society, but I've really only had the chance to scratch the surface on issues of revisited themes and how they've changed with regard to how the characters treat issues covered in revisited themes, and without having made enough progress to say anything salient I must put away my notes and books for now -- probably until sometime next year. I just wanted to share the points I'd been working on to date, even if it's not much (and is wholly speculation until chapters 700-750, by which time more concrete hints about how the end of this Act will change the setting must by necessity have begun to appear).

I hope when I return, I find you all well.

NaNo 2011 Final Count: 50609



Given some scheduling decisions that effectively limited my final writing time to about 21 days instead of 30, I'm really pleased that I managed to finish. My protagonist is still stuck in a bit of a tight spot, so the story isn't actually finished, but at least I made my goals. Next year, I'll schedule better, and I hope to actually finish the plot. In the meantime, here's one final snippet from the text:

I thought the trees might shake down from the howling wind, and the skies seemed afire with the red glow of the sunset burning across from the horizon. With the smoke curling out of the stacks of Castle Dracula right before the molten light of the sun, the sky truly did have a feel of all over burning about it.

The silhouetted stones, I think, were a sign to the people. The village must have been placed just in this shadow of the mountain so as the sun set behind the castle built up into the crags, the eye followed it over and stuck on the stark flat darkness. No one could help but to look over at the broken-edged rocks painted in matte black like a specter on top of those golds and pinks and scarlets spiralling out on the clouds and smoke. And when you look at it, there were nothing to think but that a monster lived there, and all who approached were closing in on the gates of hell. Might as well have had a sign posted, "Perdition and pain up this-aways!" It would've been just as clear as the arrows of the sun's sinking rays pointing to the black hole on the horizon.

And that were where we all were bound to go.

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NaNo 2011: Catch-up Post

"Where have you been?!" is probably a valid question right about now. Briefly, "Writing, but not typing." The reason is three-fold:




  1. A two-day break in my normal composition time to make more detailed character profiles, during which my archived story words per day dropped below 1,000. (I obviously don't count the profiles towards my totals, but it was in a good cause. Still, I had to resume writing normally before I was done so that I could get my 50,000. In December, I'll make more profiles.)

  2. Having my computer time taken up by an online scavenger hunt. I probably would not have signed up for GISHWHES had I known it would take place at the end of November, but it was incredibly fun, I connected with a lot of wonderful people, and we did break a world record for largest scavenger hunt in history.

  3. Away from my computer entirely while I was in Texas, visiting my sweetheart's family for the Thanksgiving holidays. My notebook and pens came along, but not my poor, overworked laptop. Besides the fact that computers will fixate all of my attention given the least leeway and I had no intention of spending the weekend ignoring everyone, the TSA clearly has enough issues letting me onto airplanes without it -- their new scanners have decided that my hips are too prominent to be trusted. And no, I'm not kidding. I've been searched every time I've gone through one, and I've seen the "suspicious areas" graphic on the display.


As such, the majority of my wordcount since my last update has been on paper, and isn't yet archived. I'm typing as fast as I can (and still composing, of course -- the paper to computer revision is an integral part of my composition process) to get it all online and verified, and I fully believe I can get it all typed in before the deadline. Here are my statistics based on what I've typed from my notebooks so far:

Archived words: 38,797
Estimated total words: 49,138

By the end of today, my Estimated Total Words will definitely be over 50,000, and with any luck I'll have enough time to get my official archived count up that high as well. Even knowing that I'm (technically speaking) ahead of the curve, it's a bit nervewracking seeing the infographic on my profile page running so far behind.

The DetailsCollapse )

What the heck is GISHWHES?Collapse )

NaNo 2011: Day 12

Words: 1692
Total Words: 24,380
Today's distraction: mini-marathon of Avengers prequel movies

Excerpt:

The gray-haired man turned as pale as could be as she slammed the door, and I couldn't blame him for it. He went straight from dealing with her to trying to stare down the glare Mr. Hijikata saw fit to use on him. Weren't one of his nicer glares either.

"Mr. Braeme. It's a pleasure to see you again. Shall we skip your lecture on how, if we go unnoticed, your superiors won't unleash their best local battalion with flamethrowers and proceed directly to how you're collecting our information to supply to hunters?"

"Mr. Hijikata, there must be some mistake."

"I don't deal well with cowards. I deal less well with cowards who are also liars."


Finally got to the bit where Oda Nobunaga shows up. It's only meant to be a bit part since none of these characters would ever ask him for a favor, but he's likely to involve himself in the end of the book for his own amusement. I also know Sanada Hiroyuki is exactly who'd I'd want to play him in a movie version, should such a thing ever come to exist (not just delusions of grandeur -- casting helps me imagine the scenes). Other known castings include Hongo Kanata for Mori Ranmaru and Fujiwara Tatsuya as a possible Okita (he does have experience). Still stuck for ideas on my perfect casting for Hijikata. Honestly, I'm working with the way he looked in real life. William Moseley would make a fine Roland, of course. For obvious reasons, Katharine Hepburn plays Queen Eleanor in my head, and I'm halfway convinced I've got James McAvoy as Kit Marlowe. Unless research gives me a reason to think otherwise, Dido is being played by Iman in my dream cast. So should I make David Bowie into Caesar? An interesting thought, but the role actually wouldn't favor him that well. I'll have to consider it longer -- him and all the rest. As they have more of a role in the future, I'm sure they'll develop a clearer image.

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NaNo 2011: Days 10 and 11

Well, I didn't think Thursday had any shot at being as annoying as Wednesday, but a bit of never-rains-but-it-pours at the office plus an incident with an entire cup of tea making a nuisance of itself decided to rally -- and killed my word count in the process. Luckily, a bad day is nothing a little Speed Racer can't fix, and Friday had me a bit more on the ball despite needing to get a filling at the dentist... It's been a somewhat less than ideal week. Looking forward to a bit of weekend to clear my head.

Day 10: 845 words
Day 11: 1781 words
Total words: 22,688
Project: "You're Lucky You're Cute"
Music: "The Six Swans" playlist for sumeria's prompt for December's playlist exchange.

Excerpt:

Once we reached the second floor, the three of us ducked into a little white room with some sort of flowery wallpaper pasted just around the top of the wall like a trim. A blonde lady sat behind a desk, tracking me with her eyes as Mr. Okita let me down from his shoulders and we all took chairs. I know because I were watching her back the whole time. Her hazel eyes were a bit red around the sides, and she looked as scared as a bunny I once saw in a picture, looking on a big black cat.

"The... young gentleman isn't... he isn't new, is he?"

"Depends what you mean by 'new'," Mr. Okita answered her back. He'd joke but good and never give a straight answer if you gave him a way out. "We've only recently taken him in."

"He... doesn't need a ... an establishment form? For a local identity?"

Turning to Mr. Hijikata, he asked with as big a smile as you can imagine, "He might not need a new name, but do you think it'd be a good idea? Can't be too safe."

The young lady looked like she were fair ready to die of terror, hoping there weren't no nine-year-old children who'd ever made a successful life as an ageless creature returned from beyond thanks to the blood they drank of the living. Mr. Hijikata, of course, ignored Mr. Okita's joking and told her of me, "He's human. Now, can you bring your employer out here so we can get our business settled?"

Nodding with her eyes as far somewhere else as she could manage in a room so small and bare as that, she picked up the phone on her desk and spun the dial twice.

"Sir, they're here," she says into the wire, and hung it up to start staring at me again. She didn't seem no happier with her lot or mine for knowing I was human, I'll say that for sure. "Mr. Braeme will be out in a moment. May I get you a cup of tea while you wait?"

"No thank you," Mr. Hijikata answered for us all. "We'll sit." The way he held himself with a lazy uprightness and his cane out before him in the chair looked for all the world like a challenge to this blonde and her Mr. Braeme to do their worst, for he was certain he could take it.

I know of a certainty Mr. Hijikata were the type who would see a call as a trap and walk into its mouth anyway.

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NaNo 2011: Days 8 and 9

Well, after a heck of a day involving two calls to a locksmith and a slew of other "fun" (this was what we like to call "One of Those Days"), I'm now ready to post some early Week 2 totals.

Day 8: 1018 words
Day 9: 2457 words
Total words: 20062
Project: "You're Lucky You're Cute"
Reason for stopping (both nights): given strict orders that I had to be in bed by 11PM, since I've been subject to horrible exhaustion recently. Pro tip - NaNo, like a marathon, means pacing yourself is important.

What to excerpt? Gosh. I liked the scene with Okita talking about Hijikata, but that may be a bit of my fannishness showing through. But then again, why the heck not? My fannishness is reminiscent of the usual portrayal of the characters' opinions. It might get edited out of the final draft, but that's all right.

Whenever Mr. Okita talked of someone falling in a battle, he sounded proud. Even if he sounded sad, he were proud, but he had a quiet, glowing pride whenever he spoke of his fellow demon that only grew by half just now. It were like a lantern in his eyes, and his mouth couldn't help his smile -- which were a sight different from when he smiled himself.

"To think of him back then, remembering how things were, how they changed after Kyoto burned... I doubt he was a man who could have been killed by a man at all. He was like the spirit of the age where we belonged, born into flesh to make one last stand against the march of time." If I didn't know better than to think he ever cried, I would have thought his eyes had a tear behind his smile. "It doesn't matter whose bullet that was. History killed him. I would have done anything to be there... but... that was a fight for the living. He'd gone to Hakodate to die -- he told my doctor so. There wasn't a world for us anymore. He went because our world deserved a man to die the way it had lived."

I didn't say nothing, for even if I hadn't liked him I still knew well not to answer back to creatures with my life in their hands. But I wanted to know, and I guess Mr. Okita could see what I was wondering in my eyes.

"So why did he come back here, then? Is that it?"


Like I said, it was a heck of a couple days, and now I'm back to work. Not much more to relate besides, "Picked Oda Nobunaga's pseudonym, and it's an eye-roller."

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NaNo 2011: Day 7

End of Week 1!

Words: 1709
Total Words: 16,587
Project: "You're Lucky You're Cute"
Reason for Stopping: midnight

Maybe I should just remove that last line and substitute 'music' or some other ambient atmospheric? Last night's distraction involved Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi).

Excerpt:

"If Salieri and Roland aren't back from Wallachia, why are we here?"

Drawing the curtain shut quick, Mr. Hijikata looks her straight in the eye. "The man who killed Gilles is in town. Did any of you talk with a man going by Morvay?"

"That old fool killed Gilles?" Kit shook his head at the ceiling, a trace of an odd laugh on his lips. "Do you need me to write him a thank you note? He's got piss-poor taste in music, but I think we can all agree he did us a favor there. Gilles gave serial murderers a bad name."

"If he could kill Gilles, he can kill you," The Count replied.


Still slogging through the workish part of writing -- getting all the personalities motivated to do something interesting and cohesive. Today's excerpt is short and mostly unrepresentative of what went on, since these hash-out sessions always feel wooden and sloggish. Then, I clip and rearrange and tell it like a story ought to be told, but first I need to see the characters interacting and get a sense of what's going on. For example -- this gathering of vampires is, of course, a bit of a Who's Who of world history, skewing towards the bull-headed strong personalities. There's no way they'd all settle in one city to constantly step on each others' toes, and they're pulling heavily toward the European. After yesterday, I know why.

Not sure if that reason counts as a spoiler or as background...

Today's scenes so far are being remarkably cabbage-heady. I'll have to see if I can find something interesting in all of the exposition about vampire society and the ever-present Vampire Rules. Because every kind of vampire has different rules, and these are sure as heck not Nosferatu.

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NaNo 2011: Day 6

Words: 1725
Total Words: 14,878
Project: You're Lucky You're Cute
Reason for stopping: done with the easy part, time to sleep on it. Also, midnight.

Excerpt:

A pale, tall man walked in after a spare few minutes of silence filled only with the scribbling of the young man's pen on his notebook. He sat in a chair as far away from the rest of the group as he could manage. Another man with hair in tight curls and a sour disposition sat at the opposite end of the couch from the man called 'Kit', who turned him a powerful strange look.

"Heaven's teeth, old man. How many times do I have to tell you, it wasn't me who killed you. On stage or otherwise."

"I read your review of that most recent production, Marlowe. Have you lost your mind? He was terrible Brutus."

"I stand by my word. He was the most believable portrayal seen in the last hundred years on a professional stage."

"Not a bit like the man. Although that Mark Antony, I swear -- he was like seeing a ghost walking the halls."

"Must I explain again how the effectiveness of a portrayal on the stage and how it moves the human heart has nothing whatsoever to do with duplicating the historical person to the hair. They take their own lives on stage, man. It's an idea, a message, and it's meant to be different with each actor who steps into the role."

"I'll wager you a cask of my finest you don't feel the same when you start seeing Shakespeare played as a character."

"Bloody Shakespeare," he whispered as he slammed his notebook shut, taking the older man's hand to shake. "I'll lay a part for you in my next play against your finest. It's a bet."

"Leave the arts aside for the moment, boys," Eleanor's voice called from the hallway. She entered not a second later, a grand, dark-skinned lady walking in after her and taking up a stand against the wall near where Mr. Hijikata were still looking out the window. "We have business."


I love all these characters, so I only hope I can do them justice. Now to do some thinking about all their skills, at arms and otherwise, that may come into play in the upcoming Act II.

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NaNo 2011: Day 5

Words: 1092
Total Words: 13,153
Project: "You're Lucky You're Cute"
Reason for stopping: end of scene

Had a bit of a planning/thinking day today (in addition to taking in a play, where I unexpectedly learned the source of the song added for Bernadette Peters to a TV production of the "Cinderella" musical some years back). Didn't quite reach the scene where we're introduced to more of the vampires in the cast, but I managed to work out the plot path over the next while. Next week, I get to figure out how they're getting to Wallachia!

Excerpt:

We had a taxi in well under and hour, and all the clothes and books packed up right quick. Chairs and such, we didn't need none of, they said. Both Mr. Hijikata and Mr. Okita carried their swords with 'em in the cab, hid under their coats while we were walking, and the cabbie didn't bat an eyelash. Maybe he couldn't see 'em, though the blades were long enough, or maybe he was just smart.

I imagine we made a sight, two foreign gentlemen and a small boy carryin' everything they cared to own in the world off in a hurry. A smart man didn't ask no questions over that when Mr. Hijikata is lookin' to give a body hell -- exceptin', 'Where to, guv'nor?' I didn't get to hear what the answer was, and I didn't ask him nothing. I kept quiet and as close to Mr. Okita's side as I could manage.

Mr. Hijikata were proper in a mood. Didn't want to talk to nobody, and there were a sadness in Mr. Okita's eyes that I know had more to it than just leaving some old house. Once they did start talking at all, they were spittin' fair to bust the windows. I never heard them strange words they used sounding so much like knives. The back of that cab were so full of them whispering and hissing the sharpest sounds I ever did know. Those two weren't like other folk ever, but especially when they had a row. Most folk might raise their voices to see who could yell out louder than the other. The two of them were quiet about it, with a venom to 'em that made a body wonder if anger were a solid thing you could pick up and throw like a brick.

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Essays





As I finish and post longer essays, they'll be collected here into virtual books for your convenience.

My Way of the Ninja

Introduction

The Annotated Naruto

Consider this a prequel to My Way of the Ninja, since it turns out the first step in a comprehensive analysis is creating a translation to which I want to refer. After NaNo 2010, I will be starting with Chapter 1, quoting only those parts which are necessary for analysis in accordance with the terms of fair use under Japanese copyright law.

The Charisma and The Pillar:
Constructing Heroic Archtypes by Means of a Handy Chart


Collaboration with sumeria




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