Marco Mañalac is a lover of fantasy and science fiction, a fanboy of combat sports and professional wrestling, and a self-diagnosed stranger to the real world. With more than ten years of corporate experience in Marketing and Public Relations, he is now trying to resurrect his long-gone creative juices by playing video games, reviewing comic books, and starting his own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. When he needs to clear his mind, he is usually boxing or sidelining as a Ring Announcer for fights. He also cosplays every now and then when he’s in a particularly good mood. “THE HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD BY THE LEAGUE OF RESEARCHERS” is his first published short story and our featured story for March, and he happily shares with us his journey.
Where did the story idea for THE HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD BY THE LEAGUE OF RESEARCHERS come from?
The story idea actually originated from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I was tasked to come up with, in preparation for a Halloween session last year. It was supposed to be my first time to be a Dungeon Master, and my girlfriend wanted to do a one-shot with family and friends. Because of circumstances totally outside of our control, it never pushed through, unfortunately. But nevertheless, by the time we had to cancel our Halloween plans, I already had a whole backstory for the campaign. I wanted to do a fantasy, post-apocalyptic adventure, so I pretty much had the entire setting and history written down already. Since I didn’t want to waste my ideas, I thought of converting it into a short story.
So, in terms of coming up with the story’s flow, I just brainstormed a bit on how to create the perfect storm that would eventually lead to the end of a fantasy world. I wanted all bases covered. I wanted outside, external, alien forces to play a factor. I also wanted everybody who actually lived in the world to screw up, as well. I wanted everything that could go wrong to go wrong. I wanted to give some hope and then take it all away. Hopefully, in the process, my readers can see some similarities between my fantasy world and the real world. And maybe some lessons can be learned, or at the very least, perhaps some reflections can be made.
In terms of style, I was always a huge fan of horror science fiction in space. And I love the scenes where the characters have to record themselves detailing the day’s events. I also really enjoy finding tapes or recordings of scientists or crew members that log all their activities in video games. I always thought reading notes and journals or watching and listening to recordings acted as very engaging ways to bring in and immerse your audience into whatever kind of hellish scenario you have in store for them when everything hits the fan, whether it be a written story, something you’re watching on the screen, or a game you are playing.
So that’s why I decided to format the story in a way that it felt like you were reading journal entries from those who were able to document the world’s demise.
What came easy to you when it came to writing this story?
Honestly, coming up with the story was the easy part. I knew what kind of personal and spiritual journey I wanted the party of my Dungeons & Dragons campaign to experience. I already had a grasp of what kind of world I wanted them to find themselves in, but it was adding the details that proved much more challenging.
What was the most challenging thing you had to overcome to complete this story, and how did you deal with that?
While conjuring up the ideas in my head came pretty easily to me, it was giving life and depth to each and every character that truly proved challenging. My struggle was how to make each of the researchers unique. I had to give them each their own voice and personality. At first, they all sounded like the same person. But with the generous help and support of the PGS editorial team, I think I was able to better flesh out the different time periods and the researchers that reported on them.
I was also very prone to using cliché terms, words and phrases, if you can’t tell by now, from some of my answers in this interview. The PGS team was also able to help me do away with those overused lines and focus more on creating a complete, detailed world with more unique and diverse characters.
What are the top three writing tips you would like to share with all aspiring storytellers out there?
Just speaking from my very little experience as a newbie short story writer, here are my three tips that people might be able to use, precisely because they might find themselves in the same position of just “trying it out”:
- Don’t be afraid to just put everything down first. Make sure you put pen to paper and write down all your ideas so that nothing is lost. You can worry about refinement and trimming down later on, but the important part is really brainstorming internally, then dumping it all down so you can really see what you can use versus what you can throw in the trash. Again, it may not look great at first glance, but there is a hidden gem somewhere there among all your crazy ideas and stories.
- Always listen to tips, edits, and just overall feedback, really. At first, I was intimidated because I wasn’t so sure that I had something worthy of being reviewed by professionals and experts. But I learned that it doesn’t actually really matter. What matters is that you have a story that you want to tell, and there are people and publications out there who want to help you share that story, and make it the best possible final product for your audience. What I’m trying to say is that it might not matter so much if your story is “good” or not. Just go out of your comfort zone and give it a shot, because there will always be somebody willing to give a helping hand. Thank you so much to the PGS team for being patient with me, and giving this aspiring short story writer a shot.
- This is somewhat related to my earlier answers to earlier questions, but here is another tip: always be as detailed as possible. Whether it is in creating your world, or fleshing out your characters, it always helps to put as much detail as possible when writing them down. The worst-case scenario is that you have TOO much detail, but that is easily fixed by a little editing and trimming. What you really want to avoid is having a story that feels too generic or plain, and characters that strike readers as flat or just the same as everybody else in your work. This tip of being detailed also relates to my other weakness, which was using cliches. If you really want to make your story personal and nuanced, give it your own voice, and don’t rely on what everybody else says or uses.
What’s the one thing not mentioned in your profile that you would like people to know about you?
I am actually extremely introverted, but I did manage to play the lead role in a Repertory Philippines production of Equus, many years ago. It was totally out-of-character for me to act in a play, but it ended up being one of the highlights and milestones of my life.