As usual, I was overthinking. Grade A big time overthinking. I remembered that j00licious had begun her Russian mob universe by pondering a seasoned assassin who was also a devoted family man. So I started over with the bare minimum basics of what I do want to write - the story of a modern day Cao Cao. Ambitious, ruthless in some regards, yet more sympathetic than not to pragmatic audiences.
Funny how a fresh start, a long chat with a friend, and some luck in setting research can break open those flood gates.
My first problem was fear of being One of Those who writes the same thing over and over again. I'm working with Three Kingdoms archetypes I already characterized in an everyday modern sense. The solution - push them in a rougher, grittier direction, delving into the harsher aspects of their personalities and having them overcome more challenges of back story. They're still likable people, just with more edge and verve to their presence - rock star businessmen, possibly assassins if the story goes underground. I'm damn happy with how they're all coming together.
Setting-wise, I looked into a variety of Chinese cities until Nanjing jumped up at me. It's huge and eclectic and ultramodern in places, with shopping districts of neon extravagance and blended traditional and European classic architecture. It has an industrial climate suited to corporate intrigue and takeovers. And it's one of the oldest cities in China, with special bonus awesome for being Sun Quan's capital of Eastern Wu, and a more laid-back vibe compared to the likes of Shanghai. I was already sold on Nanjing before I started digging for pictures. Now? I'm pretty much knocked off my feet. This city is amazing already, and I've only started to gather the visuals.
Most importantly, I'm beginning to envision the story. I can imagine the characters, feel the kinetic yet plausible vibe. Scenes, hooks, and conversation snippets are popping into my head. Two weeks ago, I was standing on the edge of a blurry dream fruitlessly grasping for specifics. Now I'm actually exploring it, and it all makes solid researched sense. I welcome the challenge of writing within such a different setting. I've been immersing myself in travel journals and articles on Chinese culture, and I'm a long-term member of a forum that can help me check for Westerner mistakes. I'm doing my best to understand the relevant mindsets and influences, not just slapping paper lanterns on some generic Everycity because OOH EAST ASIA IS LIKE TOTALLY ~EXOTIC~. I feel that my best intentions will prevail, and I'll take the newspaper whack on my nose for whatever I do get wrong.
Oh, and since I'm heavily inspired by soundtracks, I've been having too much fun with YouTube. Enjoy this traditional song done in '80s pop style.
And now for some rock and/or roll.