Q & A – A Conversation Part III (final)

Click here for the first part of this conversation and here for the second part.

In this part, we discuss narrative and format.

   Did the nature of the journal format determine the narrative, or was having Syndi-Jean relate the story determine the Journal format? Which came first?

Way prior to even the idea of chronicling Syndi-Jean’s life in this way, there was the idea of doing a story in the journal format, and I did try it out. There’s a draft of a journal entry in my files that’s set a few nights before she leaves home where she’s deciding if she’s doing the right thing, and she ends up having a conversation with Karen about a few things. Parts of it did end up in the books.

But as to the format, it was the idea of posting everything via a blog site, and this was done back in back in the ‘noughties’, when Yahoo GeoCities still existed. When that closed down, I continued on another site called Multiply, but that one shut down its blog function a few years later and became some kind of trading site. So the blog option ended up determining the journal format, allowing a semi-daily frequency for posting updates. I ended up completing the first book in just under 11 months, and the second book kept pace for the year. I figured if I managed a page or two per update, give or take half a page, it easily gave me between 350 – 400 pages per book.

   So, a fictional journal as a blog.

Yeah, every other day, Jeannie would be reporting to her mom about what was going on, and anyone could read it. That also led to the secrecy within the first year, and opening up to everything else as part of the plot by the second year.

   And those parts where Syndi-Jean couldn’t ‘write’ her reports?

It was an experiment to see if the narrative could continue if she were incapacitated, but part of the narrative early on was Remington’s efforts not to incur the wrath of Syndi-Jean’s mother, so to speak. It also allowed for different forms of narrative, so I could do phone transcripts, and this gave more depth to Syndi-Jean’s ‘voice’. The way she wrote and the way she spoke was different, as it would be with almost anybody else.

   Yes, there’s not a lot of dialogue going on, or at least, it’s used very sparingly.

That was part and parcel of the Journal format, and something even Syndi-Jean tried to address and experiments with. It still kept to the formality of writing tho, at least for her. The phone transcripts in Year Two allowed for more leeway in Year Three to have different kinds of transcripts, as well as having Remington take over with the writing in some parts.

   You got into script writing while writing Year Three, right?

Yeah, and that led to Year Three taking close to three years to get completed too since the paying jobs took precedence. It was really nice to see those scripts I wrote coming to life as cartoons.

   Are you going to do a Syndi-Jean story as a script or screenplay?

It is an enticing possibility, but probably not right now. I have other things to work on. I was in the midst of developing an animated series, a kind of junior adventure in an imaginary fantasy realm… but that fell through. Spent a long while trying to get it to work. I have other things to work on, a screenplay to finish up and another long form story to churn out.

   So no movie for Syndi-Jean.

I don’t think the books would work as movies as there’s a lot of internalising going on. Translating that would be a difficult thing to adapt. That being said, the nature of the journal might lend itself to a serial adaptation instead, like a TV series. The occasional ‘job’ or ‘mission’ thrown her way might make a decent movie, but you’d have to establish a lot.

   Then, the next thing to ask would be, will Syndi-Jean return?

That’s a possibility although I think she got a lot resolved towards the end of Year Three, even if there’s room for more. After all, life’s like that, right? You never know what the future might bring around. Current friends may leave, old friends may return, new people might come in and your life could head into a whole new direction. Or I might go back and do a new adventure featuring her mother instead, back to the old stomping grounds that started it all.

   Stepping back a bit, you mentioned writing the Journal back in the mid-2000s, but the first book didn’t come out until 2014. Assuming the whole blog thing was the first draft, then the editing of it…

Yeah, that took a while, and I didn’t really start until Year Three was completed, printing out that first edit consumed about a ream and a half of paper. Never did that again. The first book was in edit mode for about four years plus, going through about five or six drafts in the end. On my computer, I think it got slimmed down the most. After that, it was a matter of trying to keep the subsequent books to a specific page count or thereabouts. It made editing Year Two and Three pretty tough with one or two narratives getting removed.

   ‘Narratives’, not plots or subplots?

Yeah, narratives related more to either her friends or her classes, things that had to be condensed into other narratives just to tighten a few avenues and slim things down without losing too much. Kill a few darlings so to speak. It was way into book three that I figured I could slim down the first book even more. It was literally learning on the go.

   Now, about those pop culture references.

Specifically?

   Pop culture references tend to date the material and it’s also clear that some of those references were current during the initial writing, and likely not so much now.

The basic idea was that I didn’t want Syndi-Jean to exist in a vacuum, so making some references showed she had time for a life outside of the narrative. Naturally, most of them would be my own references, taking what I loved about certain movies, shows, anime series and such, and applying them to this situation or imagining what the next step might be. It also helped to define the actions of certain characters, that they learned and were inspired or influenced by the comics they read or the movies they watched and enjoyed.

   Like Sophie being into comics, and Keitaro being into giant robots and anime. 

That’s where Keitaro’s background and culture comes into play. At least, some of it, playing quite a bit into some of Jeannie’s plans and actions, as well as his own actions.

   So are you worried the pop culture references may fix the story to a specific time?

I think the references are classic enough to stand the test of time, I hope.

   As they say, only time will tell. Just perhaps The Syndi-Jean Journal may be one of those that may join the realm of pop-culture too.
And with that, I’d say we’re done. Going in depth on anything else may run the risk of spoilers, but if anyone has any questions, drop them off in the comments section and we’ll get back to as soon as possible. Thanks for taking the time to join us in this.

– chris stewart and bck kwan


The Syndi-Jean Journals are available via online books stores such as Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon (Book 1 ~ Year 2 Year 3) and even the Google Play Store.

If you’re looking form something closer or would like to compare prices on the individual books, try ISBNS.net. (Book 1 Year 2 Year 3).

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