Series discoveries: mid-season follies

As a lead up to my fall 2015 series discoveries post, I thought I’d talk about the series I’ve been watching in the mid-season and what happened to the few I was watching that dropped off my radar.

From fall 2014:

I stopped watching Gotham (I know, people love it, but not me) and Stalker (just couldn’t get into it) after a couple of episodes each.

Followed Forever to the end of the season, but it doesn’t look like it will be back (at this point).

Watched Sleepy Hollow through to the end of its season, as well, but the writers kind of lost their way toward the end with the whole dark Katrina/time travel thing. When they resume, I hope they get their collective shit together.

Sad that Constantine wasn’t renewed, but I have to admit the series had its issues. The season story arc never really solidified.

Stuck with Once Upon a Time, Castle, The Flash, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Criminal Minds, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, Grimm, and Doctor Who. I found, though, with the exception of AoS and HtGAwM, I could really take or leave any series. If I missed an episode, I wasn’t sad.

I’m still getting used to the new Doctor (more on that when I get to fall 2015). I love Nathan Fillion enough that I can’t abandon Castle altogether, The Flash was a little cotton candy, but I’m good with that, and the last few eps of Grey’s were gripping.

Arrow’s a little dark and convoluted. OUaT and Criminal Minds were okay, but just that.

I liked the AoS plot, moving forward (Inhumans—yay) and as the HtGAwM mystery unfolded, I really had to watch every episode.

Telling the tale in two directions (inciting incident forward and climax backward) was an interesting technique that I hadn’t seen done well in TV. It can work really well in books (The Dispossessed, anyone?) but it’s imperfect in a television series. A lot of shows start at the climax and then rewind to tell the story leading up to it, but HtGAwM was the first show that I’ve seen that stretches the technique over a whole season.

It was tasty television. Emmy-winning, even. Viola Davis rawks.

Mid-season:

I liked Agent Peggy Carter enough to give it another view if/when it returns.

I loved, loved, LOVED the conclusion of Outlander and am so sad that I have to wait until 2016 for the second season. It was so well written and so well acted. Kudos to the entire cast and crew for making one of my favourite novel series in to my absolute favourite television series ever. Evar.

Game of Thrones, while still well-acted (as evidenced by the large numbers of Emmy wins), diverged from the novels in what I can only call a cluster of epic fails. I’ve written about these briefly in my Tipsday curations as the controversies hit the interwebz. My reaction was profound disappointment. Too much rapey, misogynistic shit. We’ll see if the show runners can pull their collective ass out of the fire this year.

I have been watching Vikings since its beginning. I love this show. The characters are compelling, the history is fairly accurate, and the writing is superb. This show surprises me. There are plot twists that I didn’t see coming.

The acting is great, too.

I stopped watching The Following when season two dropped. It just wasn’t my thing. I do watch thrillers and cops dramas, but something about The Following turned me off. I checked out a few episodes in season three, but it was more of the same. Really. Although they were different characters, the baddies of each season were all the same underneath. It was like one guy trying on different human skin suits. Blah.

Orphan Black was phenomenal from the moment it started. Tatiana Maslany is amazeballs as an actor playing multiple Leda clones. Ari Millen hasn’t done too badly playing a cast of Castors, either. Great characters, dark storylines with awesome, light fun, and incredible, technical wizardry.

Side note: Leda is a figure from Greek myth, impregnated by Zeus in the form of a swan (awkweird) who bore four children: Helen (yes, that Helen) and Polydeuces by Zeus, and Castor and Clytemnestra by her human husband. So the female clones would more properly be Helens (yawn) or Clytemnestras (ick), or the male clones Polydeuces (double ick), so I forgive the writers for messing the mythology up. Leda and Castor work just fine, thank you.

Bitten. I didn’t mention this series last year, but I should have. Enjoyed it quite a bit. Differences from the books aside, the second season didn’t disappoint. The only male witch fights the only female werewolf. Wackiness ensues.

Killjoys was fun. It’s one of those SF series that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Bounty Hunters in space? I’m in. Intrigue me with a solid season story arc? Done and done.

Dark Matter wasn’t as good. The series is built around a gimmick. Six people wake up from hypersleep (or whatever) and have no memory of who they are or what they’re doing on the ship. The first season is all about discovering bits and pieces of the puzzle, but by the time something really interesting started to happen, I was yawning.

The Good Witch movies have now become a series. This one’s a guilty pleasure. Not heavy on the magic, it’s a sweet, romantic drama. Come on, it’s from Hallmark (!)

Side note: one of the actors in Dark Matter, Anthony Lemke, who plays an asshole (Three) on that show, also plays a character on The Good Witch. He’s a real estate agent and the hapless love interest of the title character, Cassie Nightingale. It’s interesting to see the two back to back. They are really different characters.

iZombie was great. Phil and I just finished watching the first season a week or so ago. Interesting take on zombies. Also, the comic book frame is really suitable. The main character, a med student turned coroner, named Liv, by virtue of being able to take on the memories and abilities of the people whose brains she eats, helps to solve crimes. She’s kind of like a zombie superhero.

Also, the series is full of word play and homage (like one of my other favourite zombie movies, Shaun of the Dead). There isn’t an episode that doesn’t make a clever pop culture reference. Easter eggs galore. Full on zombie? Oh, yeah. I’m there.

Phil and I picked up on Hemlock Grove, which we’d abandoned in favour of anime last year, and it was okay. I wasn’t blown away with either the first or the second seasons, though I did think some of the different takes on vampires and werewolves were interesting, and a number of the plot twists were actually cool.

Speaking of Netflix series . . . We thought Daredevil’s first season was pretty good. It was definitely dark, but well done. Tortured hero, check. Doubly tortured villain, check. Murphy’s law applied liberally, check. Matt Murdock is like a Timex. Takes a licking . . .

Sens8. Loved. It may have been a “slow burn,” but we felt that something pivotal happened in each episode and we watched the first season in short order. Excellent writing. The character development was fabulous. Everything came together really well. You’ll have to watch it to see the intended pun in that last sentence 😀

Phil and I are on tenterhooks waiting to see if the second season will get the green light. Due to the sexual and cultural diversity of the characters, a lot of people didn’t like Sens8. Really? We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

And my true guilty pleasure (and the only reality TV I watch), So You Think You Can Dance, just finished. I like how the judges aren’t mean and everyone is really trying to help the competitors become the best dancers they can be. No manufactured drama.

Yeah, so that’s what I’ve been doing with myself for the last few months, TV-wise.

I’ve getting into the new and returning fall season shows and I’ll have something for you in October, probably. I’ll do an anime update as well, though we’ve eased back on watching it a bit. There’s a story of intrigue that goes with the anime post, so I’ll leave you with that teaser 🙂

Hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend!

Series Discoveries

Series discoveries

I haven’t posted about my television viewing since the fall. At that time, I wrote of my disappointments with various television series in the past.

I had some fairly high hopes for some of the new series. That’s what I’m going to spend a little time on today.

First, I’ll remind you that I do watch television and movies with a writer’s eye. That is, I look at the plot lines and the story overall, the character development, and I try to analyze why I like watching it, and not simply accept that I do and blank out on the couch for an hour.

I’m a critical thinker. What can I say?

So the new shows I’ve watched and liked this season are:

Almost Human

When I saw this one listed and read the preview, I thought that it would be a take on I, Robot, the novel by Asimov, not the Will Smith interpretation, which I must say was entertaining, but had as much to do with the text upon which it was based as Blade Runner had with Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Plus, there was the added attraction of Karl Urban. Hey, I don’t always have to be deep and thought-y, do I?

I’m enjoying AH, though it has been basically police procedural with a small twist for the most part. I’m waiting for the pay off of the Detective Kennex’s inciting incident: the failed assault which resulted in the deaths of his squad, the loss of his leg, and a 17 month coma.

Kennex bears the responsibility for the failure of the assault and the loss of his squad. He is teamed with a DRN android whose line has a history for going crazy. So two pariahs in arms. A buddy drama.

Bitten

This one is a mid-season offering from Space based on the Kelly Armstrong novel of the same name. It’s about werewolves, in the broad sense.

I’ve only seen a few episodes so far, and while the main plot continues through each episode, the cast is still in the character development stage. After establishing the crisis (murders of humans by renegade werewolves, or mutts), the series has gone into backstory mode.

The jury’s out on this one.

Dracula

I’m enjoying Dracula far less than I thought I would.

I appreciate the reengineering of the story and the tie in with Tesla (Greyson, Dracula’s American Industrialist cover is developing a new energy source that threatens the oil and coal interests of the wealthy in Britain). I like the strong(ish) women characters.

It’s too easy to dislike Harker, though, and the highlight of the show (for me) is Renfield, the voice of reason in a howling vortex of loose plot threads.

It’s hard to admit I like Renfield better than Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’s Dracula.

The concept isn’t strong enough to breathe life into the undead. Eye-candy aside, if I miss a week, I find I don’t really mind.

Intelligence

This is another mid-season offering and I like the premise, but I’m not certain about it yet.

An agent named Gabriel, with a special genetic affinity, has a computer chip installed in his brain. He can access the internet anytime he wants. The project is called “Clockwork.”

He’s not only a kick-ass spy, but he is also an asset, and so must be protected. They bring in a secret service operative to do this, and though Riley does prove herself, I was left wondering at the choice.

There seems to be a lot of potential in the series, but there is also a lot of potential for bad science and plot holes.

In the first episode, another person has the chip implanted. This, of course, becomes Gabriel’s nemesis. His wife ends up being a terrorist and she kills herself in a suicide bombing. Almost immediately, sparks seem to be flying between Gabriel and Riley, and I was disappointed in how they handled the whole situation. Gabriel was initially so devastated by his wife’s defection and death that he tried to hide in a bottle.

In any case. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, too.

Once upon a time in Wonderland

Like its parent show, Once Upon a Time, OUaTiW turns the Disney standard on its head and does a bizarre bit of a mash-up with the main character.

In this version, Alice is a young woman, having survived both her adventures in Wonderland, and the battle in the “real” world against those who believe her to be insane, including her family.

The mash-up comes from her love interest, a genie named Cyrus, and the two antagonists battling for control of him, the Queen of Hearts, and Jafar (from Aladdin).

Alice is helped by the Knave of Hearts (the Queen’s former love), and the unreliable White Rabbit, voiced by John Lithgow.

I haven’t seen any cross-over action yet, and don’t anticipate it, given the disparate settings (Victorian England vs. modern day North America).

While I enjoy the quirkiness of the story and the visual oddities of Wonderland, I’m wondering where the plot will go. As of the last episode, the Knave, having helped Alice and Cyrus reunite, is now the new genie in the bottle.

It’s a bit of a ramble, but I’m willing to indulge the writers a while yet. Sometimes an interesting concept will trump a good plot (for a while).

Sleepy Hollow

Another reboot, this time of the Washington Irving story. It’s a favourite of mine, so on the strength of that alone, I’m willing to indulge the series for a while.

In this incarnation, Ichabod Crane is not a school teacher, but an Oxford professor who enlisted in the British Army against his father’s wishes. Fighting against the Americans in the War of Independence, Crane defects and ends up serving as an agent for General Washington himself.

In his final battle, he faces a soldier known only as “The Hessian” and decapitates his foe even as he is dealt a killing blow. The two die and their blood mingles. Crane’s wife Katrina, a witch, casts a spell which will awaken Crane if ever the Hessian comes back from the dead.

In modern times, Crane wakes, and has to adjust to life in the 21st century while trying to defeat the Hessian, who, it is revealed, is Death of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

With him are Detective Abbie Mills, her sister Jenny, and Chief of Police Irving, played by Orlando Jones.

The writing for SH has been a lot tighter than for some of the other series and the plot is far more intricate.

Death, it is revealed, is Crane’s old friend, turned competitor for the woman they both love, Katrina.

In the last episode I saw, War is a man Crane and Mills thought of as a friend, but who is, in fact, Crane’s son and in a jaw-dropping final scene, Death rides off with Katrina, recently released from limbo.

Crane is devastated.

There’s a lot more to the story than what I’ve written here. Every character has a stake in the plot beyond the obvious (save the world). So far, I find it very well done.

Then again, I like intricate plots that engage my brain.

A note on reboots/mash-ups

Phil has lamented the state of television (and movies) for some time now, declaring that Hollywood doesn’t have an original thought in its collective head.

I tend to agree, but I also find that if I can set aside the obvious complaint (could they not have written an original story with these elements and have done equally well, or better?), I can enjoy the story and series.

He also dislikes the tendency of North American studios to copy British or French shows of better quality. The British version of Being Human is far superior to the North American, in my opinion. And both are shown, sometimes on the same network. Why show up one series as a shoddy copy of the other?

Bonus: Homeland

I’ve watched season one of Homeland on Netflix and am now catching up on season two courtesy of Bravo.

This is an original series, and I really like it. It’s clever, and gives its characters a lot to deal with.

Carrie Mathison is manic depressive, a disease she’s hidden from her employer and coworkers. She’s an intelligence analyst for the CIA and she is obsessed with the terrorist Abu Nasir. She discovers that Nasir has “turned” an American soldier, though she doesn’t know who.

When US marine Nick Brody is rescued after eight years as a prisoner of al-Qaeda, Carrie immediately suspects him.

It’s very well-written, and extremely well-acted. I love Clair Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin.

The plot is so complex, with so many unexpected turns, I can’t even attempt to give you a summary that will do it justice, and the characters are so well-drawn that their actions are always logical in context.

I know that they’re already into the fourth season, but we don’t receive Showtime here, so I have to wait for Netflix, or put out for the DVDs.

So that’s what I’m watching these days.

Series discoveries

How about you? Have you seen a new series that gives you the frissons (shivers)? One that makes you sigh and give up hope for originality or quality programming? Have you learned anything from these series that you could apply to your writing?

It’s all good.

Series Disappointments

As a writer, I look to many different sources for inspiration and for learning about my craft.  Most professional writers will tell you that screen writing informs fiction writing, whether it’s episodic television to short stories or chapters, or full length movies to novellas and novels.

I love television.  I know that there are some writers out there that vilify the medium as a time-waster and brain killer, but I try to look at the quality of the story, the plausibility of scientific elements in sci-fi, the depiction and development of character, and so forth.

I’ve told you how I read as a writer in the past.  I’ve also reviewed a few movies on here and the lessons I’ve taken away from them, well, now I’m going to talk about television series.

Phil and I are fairly critical in our television watching.  If something doesn’t make sense, one of us will be the first to lambaste it 😛

This year, we’ve unsubscribed from the movie network cable package.  It was the one that allowed us to watch Game of Thrones and True Blood.  But now, we’re just not interested in what’s on offer.

The past

Phil holds up Babylon 5 as his favourite series.  I agree that J. Michael Straczynski is a masterful storyteller and B5 is one of the best series I’ve seen, but I’m also a little more critical about B5 than Phil is.

I know that JMS planned the entire 5 year arc of the show before he started working on it, but it’s fairly obvious where real life events required accommodation and revision.  Still, until the rights struggle, of which I shall not speak, started to affect things, the show was fabulous.

The fifth season was less than stellar, though, because of the afore-mentioned struggle, I think, Excalibur, the series that was intended to fill in some of the detail pre-B5 only lasted one season, and the hoped for Tales of the Rangers never got off the ground.

In the end, I was disappointed, but not because of JMS—he’s brilliant—but because of the creative differences that prevented the world he created from being explored further.

One of my favourite series of all time is Buffy the Vampire SlayerJoss Whedon took a slightly different tack, creating seasonal arcs, because of the fickle nature of network television.  Buffy changed networks, mid-run, but managed to revive.

The title character’s death at the end of season 5 was to have been the end of the story, but somehow, two more seasons were wrangled.

There are inconsistencies in Buffy.  I’ve watched the series enough to know, but they make the overall story no less enjoyable.  The way in which details from earlier seasons eventually led to lovely pay-offs in later seasons spoke to how well Whedon understood his creation.

When Angel got his spin-off after the third season of Buffy, I also watched it.  Phil is a little fonder of Angel than of Buffy, but both series were made of similar stuff.  Whedon is a very different kind of storyteller than JMS, but no less compelling.

Again, Whedon seems to have had poor luck with the networks after Buffy and Angel.  Firefly did not even have a full season aired (except on Space and Syfy) and Dollhouse was dropped after a second season.

A more long-standing love for both of us is Doctor Who.  We’ve both been fans for years and although Phil has, on principle, a problem with time-travel stories, the writing behind Doctor Who allows him to suspend even his hefty disbelief and enjoy the story.

Other than those few series, many of the shows Phil and I hopefully latched onto over the years seem to have lost their storytelling ways.

Phil and I loved the first season of Heroes.  We were avid fans and shared our DVD’s with everyone we could think of.

Then the second season aired with plot holes big enough to consume the entire cast.  Even George Takei couldn’t save the show.

We were sceptical about the remake of Battlestar Galactica, but once we started watching the series, we were taken in.

Which is why we were also severely disappointed by the last 2 seasons and though we watched Caprica, we couldn’t regret its demise either.  The “ending” answered fewer questions than BSG’s.

Lost lost me as a viewer before the second season ended.  I could see the ridiculous factor increasing, and the writers withheld information when they should have revealed it, and revealed information that had no importance to the plot in the long term.

Phil never watched Lost at all.

Supernatural turned out to be mostly monster-of-the-week and Sam and Dean never really evolved as characters.

There was the short-lived Dresden Files series, which we both loved, but then it went out of production.

I was enjoying the adaptation of Tanya Huff’s Blood Books, Blood Ties, but it, too, was dropped.

The present

I’ve continued to follow the adventures of Buffy and Angel through Joss Whedon’s graphic

Trade paperback cover of Buffy: Season Eight V...

Trade paperback cover of Buffy: Season Eight Volume One, written by Joss Whedon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

novel continuations of both stories.

Phil and I are both happy enough with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and hope that it breaks the television curse for Whedon.  We’d like to see more of his wit and style on television.

Phil and I continue to watch and enjoy Doctor Who.

True Blood was okay to begin with, but after the first season again, we found the story wandering and not necessarily in a good direction.  Unlike some other books turned into series, TB departs fairly distinctly from the Sookie Stackhouse novels on which it is based.

We have, so far, come back for the next season and each season seems to begin well enough, but then certain events are just drawn out for far too long only to end precipitously and in many cases, in a dissatisfying manner.

Consistency isn’t the best, either.

We knew, when Russell Edgington was encased in cement rather than shown the true death, that he’d be back, but we couldn’t stand it when he did.

The ending of this season left us completely cold.  Sookie’s waffling and bemoaning of her fate got old very quickly.  And Eric sunbathing instead of trying to stop the distribution of the Hep-V tainted True Blood?  It made so little sense.  If he did burn, he deserved to.

Mind you, not having seen the ashes, I’ll assume that he and Pam will be back, if not next season, then at some point thereafter.

Being Human.  My advice: watch the British version.  It was always better.

We are quite happy with Game of Thrones.  Now this is a different bit of storytelling, because the novels have already been written by George R. R. Martin.  The artistry of GoT is that the show runners have to pick and choose what bits to show and how to show them in a way that is truthful to GRRM.

And he’s consulting to keep them as much on script as possible 😉

Phil was enjoying The Walking Dead, but found that it too, was getting a little lack-lustre in its plot by the end of the last season.  He’ll be happy to watch it in reruns when we re-subscribe to the movie package in the spring.

We watched the Netflix series Hemlock Grove and were impressed, though admittedly, the denouement  seemed a little rushed.  We are hopeful that future seasons will be at least as good.

Once Upon a Time.  Not Phil’s bag, but I like retellings of fairy tales.  So far, so good for me, but they are in danger of losing me if they get to far off track.

Grimm.  More fairy tale-related shenanigans.  I like the German take, but was so not impressed with how long it took Julia to deal with her recovered memories last season.  Seriously?  Plus, I wanted to see more of Nick’s mom.  She kicked ass.

Lost Girl.  Again, this is something that Phil doesn’t go in for, but I’ve been enjoying.  I’m glad that it continues to be in production.

Arrow was another surprise for me.  Though I enjoyed Smallville, I watched most of the episodes in rerun.  Plus, Smallville started to draw out the origin story of Superman far too long.  I was irritated with that.

Arrow is not taking the Green Arrow from Smallville, but focusing on the character independent of Superman.  It’s a bit grittier and darker.  I like it.

Orphan Black.  This one was a surprise for me, but I definitely like it.  Don’t have any other clone/genetic engineering conspiracy stories out there at the moment.  Phil wasn’t so impressed, but I’m willing to give it a go again next year.

Defiance was a show that Phil got hold of by virtue of his interests in gaming.  The concept was unique: a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG, or MMO) and a television series developed concurrently in the same world.

The game would start up earlier, feed into the hype, but when the series started, the developers promised weekly game upgrades based on story developments in the series.  It sounded interesting, so we both tuned in.

Phil quickly tired of the game, in which the promised content was not made available.  He gave up some time in the summer when none of the series-based content had yet been added.

The depiction of the alien people were different between the game and the series as well.

The Irathients were analogous to indigenous peoples in terms of spirituality in the series, but good warriors and tactical thinkers in the game.  Not that they couldn’t be both, but both were not clearly options in the game and the series.

The Indogenes in the game were similar to Vulcans, dominantly logical and emotionally repressed, while in the series, they turned out to be political schemers and shape-shifters.

The last straw for Phil was that for two episodes in a row, they played the “s/he’s an Indogene” card.  He cited it as derivative of the equally irritating “s/he’s a cylon” ploy in BSG.

Story-wise, it’s about as satisfying as “it was all a dream,” or an ending where the big bad, after waging war, and having the subjects of his rage in his sights, commits suicide instead (another BSG disappointment).

Sleepy Hollow.  I’m liking the angle the writers have chosen and tying it all in with the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the end of days.  We’ll see if it lasts more than a season.

The future

Right now, the only thing we’re both looking forward to is JMS’s Sense8, his Netflix series.

I’m going to check out Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, just ‘cause, but I’ve learned not to pin too many hopes on new network series.

I’m also going to check out the Tomorrow People and Almost Human.  We’ll see if either of those series live up to my expectations.

What series have you loved?  Which have you hated?  What are you looking forward to?  And what shows have you learned from as a writer?

Continuous learning 🙂  That’s what it’s all about.

World-building: Where do you start?

This is a sample constructed-world as seen fro...

Confession time

I’m a pantser.  I write through first, and restructure later, but I do extensive mapping using my trusty bulletin board, and as I’m getting to know the inner workings of Microsoft Word better, I’m learning to use headings to organize my chapters and sections, making outline view a useful tool too.  I have Office 2007 right now, so that’s the best I can do.  When I have blocked some time to learn more about it, I intend to use a master document to further organize my novel.  I’ll probably start using OneNote to organize a lot of my research, world-building, character sketches, and other resources.  More on that in the future.

Process, process, process

Where to start, indeed?  Really, this all depends on how you write and what your process is.  If you’ve been reading Writerly Goodness, you know my process is organic and holistic.  Some writers might see that as a cop-out, an excuse for a sloppy and ill-defined (dare I say undisciplined?) process.  Really, it’s process as a way of life.

Life = process

That demands a lot of dedication, organization, awareness, and the ability to think, not only on your feet, but sitting, laying down, at work, watching TV, eating …  In short, it means thinking all the time.

Plot leads to setting

If you’re a plot-based writer, that is, if you start with the story, then that will be your jumping off point for your world-building.

Example:

Hard-boiled detective?  Then you’ll have to create that milieu, and that means research.  Add Hammett and Chandler to your reading list, watch the classics of the movie genre, and then once you’ve got the flavour, go for the meat.  What time will you set your story in?  Just because the genre evolved in the 1920’s and 30’s doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself.  As long as you can evoke the feeling of the hard-boiled detective, you can play.  William Gibson plays elements of the hard-boiled into some of his science fiction.

Once you have your setting, then you have direction.  Research the heck out of it.  Dream about it.  Start mining your life.  Have you ever done or seen anything that is distinctively “hard-boiled”?  Chances are, if you’re attracted to the genre, there’s a reason.  Dig.  You can find it.

But that’s where you’d start, in the Writerly Goodness universe 🙂

Character leads to plot/setting/theme (sometimes simultaneously)

If you’re a character-based writer though, it’s a little tougher.  You write the character, or characters, first, and the story emerges from them.  Sometimes, you don’t even know where or when the story will be set when you start out.

That’s the way it is for me.

If the story is the plot-based writer’s place to start, then character is the character-based writer’s place to start.

Do character sketches, written ones, and maybe actual sketches, if you’re so talented.  If not, find pictures of actors that might fit the bill.  Have them fully developed as people: their back-stories, their personal quirks, their convictions and beliefs.  Invite your writers’ group, or just some writer friends over for coffee, and have them quiz you on your characters, quick-fire style (it’s in the post, about half-way through).  And, of course, keep writing in the meantime.  Only once your characters are real people to you will their stories start to emerge and direct your plot.  Only once you have a developed plot, will your setting and themes become apparent.  Only then will you be able to truly start developing your world.

You may have some ideas when you begin to write, and by all means, start your research as soon as possible.  If you’re going for a contemporary setting, or a historical one, immerse yourself in the time or place.  It might inform your writing as you go and help you develop your setting with crystalline clarity.  If you’re trying to create a truly original fantasy or science fiction milieu, however, those details might have to wait for you to discover them through writing.  The best you may be able to do at the outset is read in your chosen genre.  If nothing else, do that.

Other options

Ultimately, how you write will determine where and when you start to build your world.  Plot- and character-based writers aren’t the only kinds either.  They’re the only kinds I can provide any guidance for, however.  If you’re another kind of writer, then go with your strengths.  Does your theme emerge first?  Or maybe you can’t write in a world that you don’t know and start off with the world first.  It’s all good.  The point is that no matter what you write, you have to put your characters and their stories in a time and a place and you have to know that world as intimately as you know your characters and plot.  It’s the only way to roll 🙂

Coming up

In the next weeks, I propose to post some of my character sketches and the plot lines that developed from them, along with pictures (though I have started to draw some of them, I’m not finished and they wouldn’t come through in a scan well … also, they’re not very good).

In the future, I’ll move on to other aspects of world-building, including a number of print resources on the subject.

Are you a pantser, or a plotter?  Are you a plot-based, or a character-based writer?  Are you something else entirely?  Where do you start in your world building?  Please, comment, like, share!