Sunday, November 15, 2009

Identity notes and commentary - General

I thought it would be handy to make some general notes and remarks about the story for things that aren't strictly related to the first chapter.

My introduction to Ranma 1/2 came on tvtropes, a website for documenting (and deriving massive amounts of amusement) from the conventions and tools of fiction writing, not just television. Across many pages, I read anecdotes about this anime and manga that, in their words, "defies simple explanation, but one can approximate its general gist as 'martial arts/urban low fantasy/slapstick comedy/sex farce/romance...' yeah." And sometime last spring, I finally caved in.

I caved in by clicking a link to The Bitter End.

Now, even at the time, I knew there were things exaggerated, perhaps even to epic proportions, but to Zen's credit, what he did in terms of taking a slightly more serious look at the series and trying to expound upon logical consequences, is what I try to do as well. I don't agree with some of his interpretations; indeed, I think there's plenty of room to both praise and condemn all of the characters. That's why I find the series interesting.

Eventually, I found my way to uploaded episodes of the anime and fan-translated scans of the manga (the New Ranma Project). I understand that, for these "scanlations," some of the exact translations are not perfect, but this is largely the only basis I have to work with. Where detail is not needed, broad strokes are appropriate. Where it is, however, that's where I go to.

My aim with Identity perhaps too ambitious: an attempt to wrap up the manga while having a significant plot of its own. In that respect, like I say in the notes for the first chapter, that chapter may not be representative of the whole, but there is much, much more to Ranma than just his relationships with his girls. While that conflict is very central to the series, it strikes me as a way to develop a greater dissonance between who people are and who they want to be. That applies to everyone--Ranma, Akane, Shampoo, Ukyou--and to other character that will be involved or introduced.

The story is, at this moment, planned to be a trilogy. Each book has 8-10 chapters (no, I hope they won't all be as long as chapter 1). The first book, though I didn't say it on the chapter uploaded to FFN, is called Tribe of the Ki Sorcerers. Each chapter is subdivided into sections (I call them acts) which are numbered and meant to, by themselves, advance the story significantly while still being part of a greater whole. Chapter breaks in this way are much more significant, analogous to something like an episode in a series or miniseries. This structure I derived from television, from Babylon 5 in particular, being "a novel for television," but I understand the differences in the media, in what you can and can't do. Still the structure remains, though I can't say how it will morph or evolve over the course of the novel. I just came up with it partway through my last project, after all.

Most acts have several scenes; each is typically told only from one character's point of view (rarely, though, like the end of chapter 1, act 4, I will switch POV's when the scene needed is very brief). While narrative voice and character's thoughts are ordinarily separate (quoted thoughts in italics), I may still summarize thoughts without quoting them word for word. Such should not be confused with absolute truth as the narrator sees it but with truth as the character sees it; hence, the narrator may say the moon is made of cheese, as long as it's really what the character perceives.

There are a couple other dry, esoteric conventions I want to make note of. To characters who know his curse, Ranma is usually male in narrative, even though a change of pronoun may be used for emphasis or effect. Sometimes, I remind that Ranma is in female form, usually by calling him "the pigtailed girl" or something similar. Names of Japanese origin have associated macrons for long vowels in romanization, and simple honorifics are used (but not the extensive system of semi-familial titles, like onee-chan for one's older sister, which Akane uses for Nabiki and Kasumi). I chose this convention to reduce the number of opaque Japanese words appearing in narrative that, while usually clear from context, may still be jarring to an English audience. The other honorifics stand, however, because I felt the indications of levels of respect was too important to drop. Akane usually affixes -kun to Ryouga's name, for example, and if she were to stop, that would be highly indicative. The system of honorifics serves to remind where different characters stand with each other. Finally, for unrelated reasons, I choose to preserve Japanese name order as well. It's possible that, to indicate dialogue occurs in Chinese, I may transcribe some of the Amazon's names less loosely, but as yet I am undecided.

That does it for this quick introduction. Now for the chapter 1 notes.

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