Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Trying to Find an Ending

It's Aug 27th and for over a week I've been stuck trying to finish a story called (at the moment) Ghosts and Shadows.  I composed this little rundown of my problems with this story as a series of tweets, but then I decided to rewrite it as a journal entry.  I don't do enough journal entries -- I've even tweeted at least a couple of times about my recent writing successes and struggles, but I haven't updated this journal in 18 days.

This is my 10th story of the month, part of a series of connected stories where Grandpa Anarchy sets off on an adventure with a new team of magical girls (well, former magical girls, they're all in their twenties now).  They were supposed to be introduced to other magical girl teams and superhero teams around the world, but the story quickly turned into a rescue mission to the moon of Titan orbiting Saturn, because things happening is more interesting.

Part of what I've done over the last 18 days is to rewrite these stories, add dialog, set up future plots, develop character a bit, change story titles, and even insert one story before several other stories I'd already written.  I tweeted about some of this.  As of now, here's what I have:

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Totally Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom
349  Vlog Slog
350  Trapped on Titan
351  Out of Phaeton
352  Starchild
353  Incident on Titan
354  Ghosts and Shadows

proposed stories:

Villain Emporium
Throne Room
Girls Will Be Girls
Goodwill Tour Fairyland

So!  I managed to write nine stories that culminated with them landing on Titan.  None of these stories really has a great punchline, I think, but all of them are passable I guess.  The next step was to detail how they enter the evil queen's castle/lair.

That's what happens next, but that's not necessarily a story itself.  A straightforward break-in and confront the villain doesn't sound like a Grandpa Anarchy story.  So, what's my angle?

I'd also been trying to work on the various characters, and when I'd come to Girlbot 9000, I'd written a long dialog about whether she was a robot or a cyborg.  I called this Ghost in the Machine, because that's literally what she is -- a ghost inhabiting a robot.

The ghost is an old hero named Freem Beam.  He had his body "confiscated" or taken away by aliens, and existed for several years as a disembodied personality.  So he's a ghost or spirit, right?  Isn't that what a ghost or a spirit is?  Well... maybe.  He wasn't a ghost because he'd died -- it was something highly advanced aliens had done to him.  The question is, is she a robot or a cyborg?  And really I don't know.  I'd say she's not a cyborg, there's no physical part of her that is human.  But she's more than just a robot.

For the opposing view, I picked Magical Girl Kin Katy, who I decided did not believe in the existence of souls.  She was a particularly good choice for this point of view because of her own background.  She was created when someone interfaced with an online game that was also an emerging alternate reality -- so she's a mental clone of the person who was playing the game, in a body designed by the game.  She's an MMO avatar come to life.  But the original person still exists.  So, does she have a soul?  How does an MMO game create a soul?  It's not programmed to do that.

In her mind, there's no such thing as a soul.

I wanted to spin this dialog into a story and decided to marry it to the actions of the group breaking into the evil queen's castle on Titan.  I even used Girlbot 9000's unique circumstances to help them get in.  Freem Beam exits the robot body, passes through the walls, and is able to trigger the opening of the airlock.

I liked that, but that itself didn't resolve the argument over man vs. machine or ghost vs. no ghost.  So I came up with a giant stone golem creature for them to fight, and had Freem Beam inhabit that.

And... that wasn't really an ending either, and also didn't seem very suspenseful.

I've been stuck at that point ever since.

I keep trying to imagine what about this would lead to a good ending.  Working from the angle of what they're doing -- breaking into the castle -- I came up with very little.  I could make the confrontation with the golem more interesting and suspenseful, I could have them battle other creatures, but none of that is driving any story narrative.

The central conceit of the story as constructed is the argument is over whether souls exist or not.  I hadn't really resolved the argument -- so, how could I do that in an interesting or funny or surprising way?

One idea I had early on, that I initially dismissed, was to have Magical Girl Kin Katy die.  She's the person who insists she doesn't have a soul, so if she exist as a ghost for a while and STILL refuse to believe she has a soul, that could be funny.  (And to be honest, I think that's the direction I need to go -- just writing this down has convinced me.)

I also had this idea for a random different villain to show up.  In two of the previous stories I'd detailed how Grandpa had raised, or how people he knew had raised, several different "super babies" from destroyed home worlds.  Two or three of them had left earth to become interstellar heroes, so it suddenly occurred to me that, having mentioned these people, I could now have them show up randomly.  Why not?

My idea was to have an interstellar superhero team lead by Super Joe (one of the kids Grandpa sort of raised) show up chasing an interstellar villain, who shows up randomly in the hallway of this castle on the moon of Titan where Grandpa Anarchy is because, why not?  And I imagined it being some kind of Edritch horror from outer space, which lead to me spending a couple of days rereading The Colour Out of Space, which gave me all sorts of ideas for a completely unrelated story that I could write, but didn't really lead to any kind of breakthrough on this particular story I was working on.

I also had dropped a reference in the previous story to an alien robot that Grandpa Anarchy had once fought on a moon around Neptune, with the idea that he'd show up later.  So what if he showed up almost immediately?  This spun off in my head into a series of random villain encounters that could happen one right after the other -- such as the mother of Tia Anne showing up to try and kidnap her daughter (she'd have to be a pretty bad person for them to resist returning a daughter to her mother, of course).  Anyway, all of this I wrote up as a possible separate story because it was far too much to append to the story I was working on.

I considered for a couple of days, trying to think about what funny or surprising thing could happen that would lead to a good ending.  Maybe I needed to scrap most of what I'd written and go back to the point where they're trying to figure out how to get into the castle.  They're stranded on a distant ice moon with no breathable atmosphere, hundreds of millions of miles from earth.  What funny or outrageous thing could happen?

I thought, what if a door to door salesman showed up?  You know, maybe he's a demonic door to door salesman.  Or maybe there's a demonic or inter-dimensional pizza delivery guy.  I like those ideas, they're weird, but they didn't immediately suggest a way to end the story.

Anyway, as I already noted, just writing this out has convinced me of how the story should actually end.  ^_^

Friday, August 9, 2019

Magical Girl Adventures on Titan

No sooner did July end than I actually began to write the stories that I'd planned to write a month ago.

This was intended to be a series of stories involving Grandpa Anarchy and company travelling around the world, being introduced to all of the international heroes and super groups that Grandpa knows.  But as usual things went off the rails almost immediately.  To begin with, since it was a magical girl group that was being introduced to everyone, I thought to reread all of the magical girl stories I wrote for March 2018.

Thanks to this, I decided to set my second story in Denver, CO, where a group of four magical girls who greatly resemble the Sailor Senshi now operate.  And since this was a meeting with them, I decided to have their enemy Queen Sable of Titan intervene.

This led to several stories  where the group flies out into space to the moon Titan, orbiting Saturn.  At this point I think I will be on story seven before the group even gets to the point where they meet a second super group.  >.>

How this all unfolds is a bit convoluted as usual.  My first story, Goodwill Ambassador, was largely written in July, but I managed to finish it in early August.  The second story was titled Just Like Sailor Moon (I'm not too attached to any of these titles though).  In this one I decided they would meet with the Europa Sailor Senshi of Denver.  But what could happen during this meeting, I wondered?  What if their enemy Queen Sable attacked?  What if she kidnapped someone?  That seemed to work and add some drama and a direction to go in, so I went with it.

I penned a third story called Dark Kingdom, which takes place during their fight to Titan about the Anarchy Saucer.  Then I began writing a story about their confrontation with Queen Sable on Titan.  But at this point things were bogging down a bit, and I had to ask myself, why did Queen Sable kidnap this person?  What was her motivation?  And for that matter, isn't that the very question the heroes would ask first?

This led to a bit of backtracking as I wrote a story that takes place immediately after the kidnapping, so that it happens before Dark Kingdom.  It also led to some rewriting of Dark Kingdom, and some new writing on Battle on Titan, my working title for the fourth (now fifth) story.  I've also sketched in a sixth story, and a seventh (where they will actually meet another group).

I have various bits and pieces of other stories that will take place afterwards, but I think the meeting with the second group will also involve several stories and a side quest.  And I want to create an overarching plot that ties everything together, and I have some ideas along those lines but I haven't really written much of that down just yet.

Anyway, for today I've finished a story I titled Motivation, which is story 347.  As of now my new stories look like this:

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Just Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom

in progress:

349  Battle on Titan (working title)
350  Girls Will Be Girls (working title)

Goodwill Tour Fairyland Stop
Ghost In The Machine
In Oz

I also came up with a new story idea that is independant of this current arc, which involves Chinese surveillance equipment in the Anarchy mansion being used by a Chinese villain to spy on Grandpa Anarchy.  I titled it Fox Con for now.  It's kind of a nebulous idea but at the same time, I think I can envision how the entire story should go -- I just need to figure out the exact details like who the Chinese villain is.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Another Camp NaNoWriMo, Another Fail

It's August 1st.  Camp NaNoWriMo for July is passed, and once again I failed to meet my goals.

My original goal was to create an international superhero a day, but this morphed into a planned series of short stories in which Grandpa Anarchy traveled around the world meeting with international heroes and super groups that he already knew, and introducing them to the members of a new super group whose stated goal was to aid and support magical girls.  To this end I wrote most of a first story, and a partial scene for another story, and jotted down notes for 2-3 more stories.  But I didn't complete anything and I got bogged down in working on the back stories of my four former magical girls who made up the super group.  The end result is that I did write some stuff, but not nearly the 20,000 words I set out to write.

This is a common theme for me because I once again have outlined a series of stories that might fill a book, so I placed all of these in a folder called "Book 15 - Just One Punch".  The name of the folder was chosen previously as just a name for a new book once I got to that point, so it doesn't really have anything to do with the stories I put in there.  So basically I have another potential book that's not written.  I have a lot of these -- Book 7 - Serial Anarchy is a planned novel with serial chapters with cliffhangers; Book 12 - The Companions is a planned novel with stories of Kid Anarchy in the 1920's and his various super powered companions; Book 13 - Magical Girl Deathmatch is a planned novel involving a magical girl smartphone rpg that kills people (totally stealing the germ of that idea from a series of light novels, but with a Grandpa Anarchy twist of course); and Book 14 - Anarchy on Vacation was what I ultimately planned to do a year ago for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, a story about Grandpa Anarchy taking a vacation, but with a secret goal to investigate the demon behind the ring that his wife used to use and that his grand-niece now uses.

I don't know when I'll manage to write all of this, considering I haven't written much of anything in the last year, but right now I'm still in the headspace for my magical girl/international hero story, and I've been rereading the stories I wrote back in March 2018 when I was writing a magical girl story a day.  They're better than I remembered -- but the problem is that I'd started working on a document that listed each magical girl and described them, and then as the month went along I got sloppy about it, so it was never finished.  Which is a lot like the document about the 30+ international heroes that I was working on last month, or the document detailing the new super group of former magical girls.  :P

For now, I'm going to continue reading my March 2018 stories, my "Book 10 - Mahou Shoujo Blues" collection.  I'm making minor story corrections and I'm working on filling out the document that details each magical girl, so I can reference them easily when I want to use them again.  That was where I ran into this in the first place -- I wanted to use them in my stories where Grandpa goes around introducing this new super group, and I really didn't have a good writeup on everything.