The Tricksters’ War a Starting Point for writing a Novel

First sorry I missed last week, I had a busy time exploring my world and working on other projects. I am back this week though with a blog on how I came up with my current project and the ideas behind it.

For those of you who know me you know, I am a big lover of comic books. I grew up using books and comics as an escapist art. I had always dreamed of creating my own comic, but all attempts went here and there and in the end nowhere. I am not artist enough to really create the comic I would love to create. The idea of exploring the topics of the day through a semi-science fiction means is a beautiful thing. The comic medium uses stories to explore philosophical ideas, myths, societal struggles, senses of self, among other ideas. The widely-accepted absurdity mixed with a rather common reality is a paramount key to comic stories. Over the top characters such as superheroes, legendary creatures, and mutants living among day to day people and dealing with the same issues are part and parcel to the medium.

I love to paint and create art, but creating an ongoing comic or even a graphic novel is beyond my style. My real dream is to tell the stories. But what kind of stories do I want to tell? I have dreamed of superhero-style stories, but in the end, they do not always hold the epic quality of more legendary and mythic stories found within the genre. The mixing of cultural boundaries to create characters based on those myths in a modern way is fascinating to me. The ability to create a history intertwined with longstanding ideas that the story revolves around and builds upon. What could be better to explore in storytelling?

In comics, the lone hero is often a common idea. The struggle of one person against the world creates a dynamic of survival and personal choices not found elsewhere. I personally always enjoyed team stories. Groups like X-Men really explored dynamics between groups trying to work together usually under a teacher or mentor. They not only have to deal with the enemies at the gates, but they also must face team relationships and their mentor keeping them in the dark.

The back and forth of how they interact is often more important than who they are fighting. They build long story arcs that intermix periods of activity with periods of trying to become a team. They build up as characters through interplaying off each other and trying to do the most human of things which is make a connection. The characters build up relationships and learn to work together while accomplishing goals they often have little explanation of why they are achieving.

This lack of knowledge is usually because of the mentor figure. This figure usually has hidden histories and does not fully explain the intricacies of the agenda being pursued. The team then slowly discovers the mentor’s agenda over time. They either come to support what they are doing or learn that they are fighting for a cause they may not have fully understood. The initial trust in the mentor either eventually pays off or slips away. The final goal is that the students become equals to their mentor. The build in the tension between the team and the mentor is often a fascinating undercurrent to such team stories.

The interplay of the human element often relegated to side themes in lone hero stories is much more central to a team story. I have always found those the best part of the interplay. The interesting exploration of how people fit together. Rivals and love affairs, friendships and animosities, loyalty and betrayal. These are the workings of the great stories. The characters all have reasons to be who they are and how they act.

My first step was to decide to write a team story so that I could explore all these intricacies I wanted to explore. But I love the singular hero and wanted to write from the perspective of a single person. That person would not be a lone hero though, they would instead be part of the greater team. They would first be striving to join a team while still trying to find themselves as an individual. Their point of view would inform the reader, highlighting their lack of knowledge and allowing the reader to learn with the character. A slow reveal of the bigger picture starting from a point of complete ignorance and semi-trust.

Adding to this I have always been fascinated with the monsters and villains of stories I read. A Dr. Doom or Lex Luther is so much more complete and interesting characters than a Fantastic Four or Superman ever could be. They have deep reasoning’s to justify what they are doing rather than simple ideologies of the heroes they combat. Dr. Doom dreams of making a better world albeit in his own image, but still a utopia of his making. He is a long-term dreamer with flaws. Those flaws are intensely personal even as he covers them with grandiose ideas and sociopathic tendencies. He chooses to take the world on his terms and no one else’s.

This is the kind of characters I wish to explore. Reading about sociopaths and their ilk one can become fascinated with how they see the world. Reading Alcibiades Anon’s classic or ME Thomas, their minds are twists and happy accidents. They lack a connection with themselves and others, and yet formulate goals and join groups. They live in a state of freedom that is terrifying to behold while being in the envious position of keeping to the truth of themselves the rest of us will never know. Add to this their lack of a true self but instead a host of many masks they use to cover up all the things they are missing. They walk a line between humanity and the monster without being torn up about it. Their drive for freedom over most other things allows a story to be told about the fight for what that means. What happens then when they interact? How does a Villains Inc. function and what do they fight for?

The story needs history though, a foundation to build on. A world for the character to learn and explore. It needs its own mythology to play with. Legends to tell lies about the past that can be uncovered and recovered as the story moves forward. The use of gods and myths in a good story always adds so much more built-in depth to chew on. I love to chew on it all, it makes for a good night lying in bed exploring a new world. Stories are like that. They give us new worlds mixed with old words to form vistas into the mind. It is why I have always wanted to create stories and share them, to give something so delectable to the world.

To craft my story, I wanted gods I could relate to. Creatures of a myth that instead of being all-powerful they instead were formed from all too human weakness. Beings that may have more power, and sometimes more wisdom, but still they are fallible in ways that we all are. They are driven by jealousy and love just like the rest of us. They want the things we want, only on a grander scale. These were the kinds of gods I grew up with and my favorites were always the tricksters of the world. Coyote, Kitsune, Raven, Loki, Anasazi, Hermes, and all the greats which seemed to always seem to almost move through whimsy and clumsy enjoyment of life.

The trickster archetype is a boundary crosser (in both the physical and societal sense) who uses tricks and cleverness to get what they want. I loved their stories as a kid because you never knew if they would succeed or not. You see for those of you who do not read the stories it is common for the tricksters to fail. My favorite though was when they semi-succeeded in interesting ways and unintended consequences. They started out trying to steal a needle and ended up letting the moon and stars out of their boxes. It is true they at times worked for greater goods, but they were also often driven by wants as simple as hunger or greed or just trying to get away from those chasing them. They at times did wise and remarkable things, and other times they are the butt of the story due to idiocy. These were not the heroes and villains that had it all together, though in their own way they did have it all figured out.

They are unique in cultures in that they are not along the sides of the heroes or the villains but on their own side. They are neutral to the overarching ethics and sides within their respective cultures. They help or hinder those around them on what seems like a whim. They are usually portrayed as honorable creatures. Most of them having the distinction of not being able of lying (using half-truths and misleading facts) and having an obsessive requirement to fulfill any agreement they make to the letter (if not the intent). They are also often scandalous by breaking rules and boundaries of society in their search of what they want. Their lack of restraints very often makes them catalysts for change in the world in which they find themselves, often for the better (though that was not always their goal). They are the epitome of freedom and whimsy across cultures.

Tricksters would be something I would want to explore, not one or two but a pantheon of them. I would use common names, but I wanted the freedom to invent my own pantheon. I would use mixtures of the beings I had heard in stories and the archetype they represent. I did not want to appropriate a single view of them but create my twists on beings that shaped their world. The tricksters would represent the past and ideology of my team. Stories of them could create the history and background I wanted in the world building. They would be Zordon to my team, though a mostly silent version.

With tricksters as the symbol of our hero, they would need an enemy to fight, and that enemy must be the antithesis of the freedom the tricksters represented. They would be the forces I must create for the team to fight and struggle against. The enemies at the gates if you will. But these will be a discussion for another a day. The great enemy that binds.

I hope you have enjoyed the musings I have written on my process and how I came to find my way through to the story I have begun to tell through my first novel which will be coming out shortly. I am currently in the middle of editing it, and attempting to find the perfect cover (for all you artists out their hint-hint).

Join me next week Thu when I revisit the lessons I get from cooking with my post going over my Kimchi recipe.

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