Time, the Seasons, and Planning

I have not had to think about how time moves in a story quite like I have in Laemmle High. The plot of the story is literally centered around a school calendar, with important plot elements falling on things like homecoming, prom, and winter breaks. More than that, Merton’s lycanthropy is based on a full moon cycle, and I see now why writers dropped that sort of thing. It’s clumsy and forces confrontations to happen on a schedule, which inevitably makes them feel less natural. All of this, combined with the setting, which is another time period (the time period has jumped around a little since the original conception, which explains a few anachronisms, though not all of them). So one day I decided to sit down and work out exactly when things happen, while also marking all the full moons so I have an idea of what state Merton will be in. It’s pretty easy to pull a quick calendar off timeanddate.com (an extremely useful website for any writer’s fact checking), and even easier to pop it into MSPaint and add the information I need. The result is something like this:

1959 calendar events

There are several things I have to keep in mind when plotting this story:

  1. The school year (and thus, the seasons changing)
  2. The full moon (which works out conveniently for me in many places)
  3. The central theme of the story, and how it ties into the kids moving into a new era
  4. The actual plot of the story (not yet revealed)

 

Especially in Merton’s chapter, which had a pretty strict timeline of when he goes into a coma, when he wakes up, when the first full moon is (the reveal), and then the second transformation (confrontation). This gives me a full month between first full moon and second, so I have to escalate conflict. I also have to think about when he has to be in school, and how it lines up with the other conflicts in the story.

That is to say, I don’t think I’ve had a single other story where I’ve had to keep track of the dates this meticulously. Where I mapped out a calendar. I have other school based stories such as Adventurer’s Academy which also rely somewhat on the semester, but I didn’t have a character who every two weeks went through a monumental physical change that also needed to be lined up with other tragedies. Stories like How Like Wolves (one day I’ll get around to editing that) seem to happen in the course of a few days or a few weeks. It’s a bit like a lot of action movies, where the pacing is focused on the action, and thus timelines and travel time doesn’t really have to be negotiated in the same way. Bruce Wayne needs to be in a secret prison outside of the U.S. to explain the backstory of the villain, but in the next scene needs to be inside Gotham fighting said villain. If done well, and the story is good enough, we forgive these little oversights by filling in gaps in our mind. Doesn’t work like that here.

And writing about how the seasons affect story is like writing about how water is wet. We all know that moody pieces are set in winter, when things are dead and the landscape is muted, and warm summer gives us a feeling of nostalgia and of endless escape. Spring is rebirth, fall is watching things fade away. And they all have different sides to them, but I have to keep in mind the story I am writing. Laemmle High is about the future, the things we want from it, the things we fear from it, and how we are changed over time. It’s a little about growing up and a little about not being allowed to grow up. So I know the climate of Whitby. I know by November it’s already snowing and by spring it will be raining, but how does that affect the story? What does it tell our characters? Betty, who isolates herself and feels constantly alone, spends a lot of time in the wintery landscape far away from other people. Johnny’s death happens in the fall because that is the plot, but a lot could be said about a young life fading away. The thunderstorm for his resurrection was just horror movie schlock. But it sets a tone. It tells the reader how to feel about the scene. The characters are miserable, the truth of their dead teammate an overcast on them, and when he returns it is with a lightning strike.

I think writers, including myself, could benefit a lot more for mapping out a timeline. How many weeks does this take place in? How many years? If traveling, how long should it take? What do the characters do in the interim? How does the plot advance even when the next scene has to wait two weeks to arrive? How do you move the days forward without getting repetitive, and without something monumental happening on every page? This set up allowed me to focus more on character relationships and see their growth. Marya and Betty, Johnny and Beverly, even Betty and Johnny, whose initial introduction was so short, we still have to see how the relationship is changed. And how it is not.

Which again, central theme.

I don’t think I’m good at this yet. I think this story forced me to understand what I was doing, which is the sort of thing that makes you a better writer. All of those questions are things I have asked myself. To be a better writer, I have to understand how this works. And I think I’m figuring it out.

Meanwhile, for a brief period I’ll be taking a break. I really need to get back to Deadlands, my old west horror serial I’ve taken a six month break from for lots of reasons. Part three of this story is not yet completed, which means I have to write and edit it before feeling comfortable posting it here. I’m heading full force into a project with friends called the Renegade Library, a pop up LGBT library in Houston, TX. I’m trying to get back to writing regularly and you’ll hopefully see more short stories and concept stuff while I work on these projects. If you’d like, you can buy me a cup of coffee or donate to our library by purchasing something off our Amazon wishlist. I will hopefully be back soon!

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Laemmle High Fake Instas

I was absolutely going to stop making these, but some rearranging of my life recently has led me to focus elsewhere. To get back in the mood of writing my monster teens, I made them their own fake Instagrams, which actually was a big help since I had to sit down and go, “What do these characters like?”

More images stolen shamelessly from Pinterest.

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Adventurer’s Academy

When I started this blog, I posted a few moodboards I’d been playing with, and one of them was Adventurer’s Academy. The idea is there is a school for adventurers to learn their basic skills, focusing either in magic, fighting, or stealth, with a sort of Harry Potter at the RenFaire vibe. I’ve played with the concept a few times, the original version of it being more serious in its fantasy world, while this version steals a few characters from other things I’ve trashed and gives a more lighthearted story. Originally this was going to be the month by month story I planned to post here, but my usual writing anxiety has put its first part in rewrites a few times, with me going back and forth on how I wanted to tell it (which is the sort of process that led Laemmle High to be the thing I’m posting instead).

But I have a lot of fun with these characters and I’ve been trying to flesh them out more. Like with my magical girls and the princesses, giving them their own unique style and influence seemed important, and so I created fake Instagrams for the individual characters as well. Here is the central cast of Adventurer’s Academy, borrowing from D&D’s method of character creation, with images shamelessly stolen from Pinterest.

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Seven Patron Princesses

When I first started this blog, I wrote six short stories in development of a princess project, mentioning I’d gone through a few iterations and adjustments to the ideas. I’m still going though those iterations and figuring out which version of the story is the one I like best, but the thing I do like about fairy tale stories is the idea of “the story” itself. I’ve always been fond of Neil Gaiman’s “Instructions“, or stories like No Rest for the Wicked, which rely on the tropes as part of the world. I’m also fond of “after the golden age” style stories as well, where the great things that have been told in stories have long since passed and another generation is living under their shadow, and all of this came together in the idea for the Seven Patron Princesses.

In Adalandia, continent of a hundred kingdoms, the seven patron princesses are more than the ancestors of the seven largest kingdoms, but icons and saints, worshipped in small ways throughout the land. Each are said to represent a virtue and depict the proper way to live. Snow White, who represents purity, is depicted in red running through the snow as the forest tries to pull her back into darkness, and survived death. Sleeping Beauty, who represents patience, is most often shown in her tower, where she remained until her brave prince saved her. Rapunzel, who represents bravery, remained strong in her tower where she was stolen away by a witch. Cinderella, who represents diligence, is often depicted with fairies as she dances in her golden shoes. The Little Mermaid, who represents honesty, tied together the cliff keepers and the mermaids and became princess of two kingdoms. Beauty and the Beast, who represents kindness, entered the dark forest and tamed the King of Beasts. The Princess and the Frog, who represents humility, depicted often at her well with her frog prince in her hands. They are more than just stories.

But this was all hundreds of years ago, and now there are seven princesses again, each tied to the original seven, and they are all, for the first time, in one place.

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Magical Girl Forever

A study in character development and celebrity.

Instead of doing what I should be doing, which is writing the next few parts of my 1950s monster mash, working on some short stories, or finishing the next chapter in Deadlands, my partner and I have been rewatching a lot of 90s anime, specifically Sailor Moon. I’ve had magical girl based story ideas in the past. One I’d held onto for a while was a next generation style story, where the daughter inherited her mother’s role as magical warrior, along with all the baggage that went with it. But after reading Snot Girl and enjoying the celebrity aspects of Wicked + Divine, a drafted up a quick idea of a girl who’d recently gotten her powers and joined the ranks of several other magical girls. They’re essentially Internet celebrities, girls who differ in style and fashion and motif, but who all essentially serve the same purpose. And, recently rewatching a lot of magical girl and fighting animes, I’ve returned to it and done what I usually do with a small concept and not too many ideas: moodboards. Only this time, since I wanted to focus on the social media aspect, I made them fake social media accounts. Instagrams and Pinterests and Twitters that would reflect real life celebrity. Then I took it a step further, and recreated a sort of Magical Girl magazine (mildly inspired by GDBee’s fake magazines). Beneath this cut is a lot of images that I left watermarked (blame my bank account) and hopefully the start to a fully realized world.

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Moodboards and Concepts Part II

I’m taking a bit of a break to catch up with my other projects like Deadlands and my Fear Street blog. I had so much fun doing the moodboards when I was in my creative slump that I sort of haven’t stopped doing them. I come up with a new story idea every other week and definitely have some ideas I’ve concepted out and then shelved. Here are the further adventures of what goes on in my brain.

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Black Magic Swing

In 1925, Quentin DeLacey attends a seance.

Like Miles to Go, this is sort of the beginning of a larger story. The true secret of this is that I read the origin of Frank and Sadie Doyle in the Thrilling Adventure Hour, mainly that Sadie was intended to be dead at the beginning of the story, with Frank being a bitter and drunk widower. It was the acting of Paget Brewster that kept Sadie alive and made Beyond Belief one of the best segments on the Thrilling Adventure Hour. I liked the idea of an old jaded man dealing with a lot of emotional issues with a lot of younger people running around annoying him. I’ve been looking for many excuses to write something set in the 1920s, so here we are.

black-magic-swing

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