Moonlake’s writing updates- August 2020

I’m now officially into draft 0.8 as I planned but well… things again weren’t proceeding quite as I expected. I am still more in the outlining realm compared to drafting. There’s simply too much gray area for me to fill in for a scene to actually really settle down to real drafting. Having said that, I am still working towards getting a rough draft of 2 chapters done this month. I’ve finished one chapter already and am working towards another as I am writing now. I feel like I need to exert some kind of self discipline else no matter how many decimal drafts I go through, they will always be less than a full rough draft with complete scenes. 

An Internet writer acquaintance recommended me to Rober McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting to me. I’m now reading half to one chapter of it on a daily basis. I feel like it’s giving me useful insights. 

On the side project, that never really went ahead besides basic planning. Instead, I’ve now gone back to doing articles in prose for which I could put in roughly 100 words per day so that I can feel like I’m keeping my writing muscles exercised. 

Overall plan for the WIP for this year remains unchanged: to get draft 0.8 done by end of this year and accept that it will still be less than a rough draft with full scenes but will be a hotch potch of full scenes, partial scenes and outlines of scenes. 

TV and Story Taste

I’ve blogged extensively about my reading taste. I thought today I will do an ‘old wine in new bottle’ trick and turn to my story taste in TV. By TV, I actually mean both TV and movies since I have identical taste in the type of stories I enjoy (plus I’ve always preferred watching a movie at home on a DVD relative to the cinema, I personally never liked the cinema surround sounds etc.). 

First up, I like fast-paced stories because the most I want to get out of a TV series or a movie is entertainment value. So I watch a fair bit of action movies/blockbusters and a new pickup was the spy thriller genre of TV series from mainland China, set in the period of WWII when Japan invaded China. I also tended to enjoy a fair bit of the Hong Kong TV series in the romantic comedy genre that I watched, mainly taking the form of a couple starting off ‘on the wrong foot’ with each other. Basically, there was plenty of witty dialogue where the two bickered with each other and plenty of humour. They are like the equivalent of light reading to me. 

The three types of stories that I really like or really empathise with me, however, remain the following, not in any order:

  • Heartwarming stories: I tend to prefer family love as a theme. For example, I quite liked the Family Man starring Nicholas Cage. 
  • Uplifting stories: They can be the ‘pursuit of a dream story’- I felt like I would be interested in watching The Pursuit of Happyness ever since I heard about its synopsis. Or there is this Hong Kong TV series made in 1989 starring Stephen Chow that I’ve watched three times already- I basically keep watching re-runs of it whenever it comes on. It’s called the Final Combat and is the story of an unlikely hero. I admit I was in it more for the humour and the dynamics between Stephen Chow and the female lead as a child but I also think it speaks to me on a personal level and reinforces my worldview, hence uplifting to me personally. 
  • Insightful stories: I never liked any of the Oscar nominees due to slow pace and sometimes content that I have no personal knowledge like Dances with Wolves (I was in primary school and still living in Hong Kong when it came out). But I enjoy stories that can shed useful insights into life. Nothing springs to mind at the moment but I think that’s because I don’t go out looking for these types of stories, I just encounter them on ‘chance’. 

I’m not sure how close my TV story taste conforms to my book taste, to be honest. At least, I’m not seeing a very close connection. But perhaps my taste does change across different mediums through which I consume a story. What about all of you? 

Serial Reader

Perhaps it comes with the genres I read but I mostly read series, something you probably all know if you’ve read my Moonlake’s Book Tastes series. 

So why do I lean that way? Foremost are two factors: I like familiarity and I like immersion. In some ways, the two are linked. While familiarity is more to do with risk avoidance and comfort loving, it also allows greater immersion into the same setting or the same set of characters. 

I also have a particular quirk in terms of series length. I can read up to n books of the same mystery series (given that they are all standalones essentially, just different cases with the same detective) or standalone fantasy series but my norm is usually just 5 books for a single cohesive fantasy series (i.e. all books in the series need to be read in order to form a single story). At the same time, I can read multiple interconnected fantasy series based on the same world. For example, I had read Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia series all the way from Riftwar to Darkwar which is like about 15 books in total. I’ve also read most of R.A Salvatore’s Drizzt series even though I keep describing his writing in that series as mediocre. I’ve just grown fond of Drizzt as a character and I read about him for comfort. 

And that’s it for today. Feel free to drop a comment if you want to share your little reading quirks for a series. 

Remarkable Women in Ancient China (6)- Liu Ru Shi

Who is she:

  • One of the Eight Beauties of Qin Huai, essentially eight prominent prostitutes of the late Ming era (Qin Huai is the name of a river in Nanjing, it was a red light district back then with brothels operating on boats) famed for poetry, painting and beauty 
  • A highly patriotic woman 

Notable Life Events:

  • Born as Yang Ai in 1618 and adopted by a renowned prostitute at the age of 10 
  • Married to Qian Qian Yi, a government official who was chief of a prominent political faction in late Ming, and continually influenced/forced him towards patriotic acts in the Ming-Qing dynasty swap-over
  • Urged her husband to commit suicide by drowing with her after the Ming government was completely run over and refused to leave Nanjing with her husband when he agreed to become a government official in the Qing dynasty. Consequently, he resigned his position after half a year
  • Encouraged her husband to get into contact with remaining Ming rebels as well as financially sponsoring these rebels
  • Died at the age of 46, straight after her husband’s death, when his relatives and neighbours wanted to rob them. By hanging herself, she successfully drove off the robbers 

Why is she remarkable:

  • Historically, it was her patriotic acts that softened the impression towards her husband Qian Qian Yi who otherwise had a mixed reputation (due to his ‘defection’ to the Qing dynasty)
  • Perhaps it was her identity as a prostitute, but I think she was the only woman in this series so far for whom there is concrete evidence that actually decided who she was going to marry, at least in adulthood (she was the concubine to another government official before she married Qian Qian Yi, when she was 14). For example, there were records of how she dressed in men’s clothing in order to meet Qian Qian Yi before their marriage. 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

I think of all the women I’ve blogged in this series so far, she is the one for which I have the most complete sense of. She has clear ideals and other than selected periods of her life, she is very much in control of her own life. 

Tales of Inspiration (3)

Today I’m going to talk about the inspiration underlying my current WIP. 

I’ve alluded to this before: for many years, I was an active member at a website where you can submit what I call articles in prose on world meta: all the different aspects that make up a world. It was there that I first came up with my fantasy ancient China setting. I had a whole folder of ideas on the setting: some fairly well-formed, others bare snippets. 

It was some time back in 2016; I wanted to start a novel project but was totally out of ideas. Nothing jumped out at me from my idea journal so I flicked through that folder for my setting. And ah ha, straight away I was excited by a document titled cave nomads and that became the setting for my WIP. 

As for the plot, to be honest, for the life of me, I could not remember how they came to me in any details. It felt like they dropped down on me from the sky. But as far as I could make out reading over my early notes, I think they must have been a by-product of me thinking about the history of the cave nomad society and their Chinese roots.

So far, this is all about internal processing. Where’s the external impetus part of this formula that I’ve going on in this serial post? Well, I arrived at the cave nomad concept because I was just randomly thinking about nomads and different terrain types one day. I believe I had a short spell of fascination with nomads as a result of some of my previous attempts at novels and short stories that featured nomads. 

And that’s all for today. Check back in next week for a brand new post under my Remarkable Women in ancient China series.