Friday, May 7, 2010

Identity 3.4 - The Nine and the Three

The Nine and the Three on

As per usual, commentary below.

The first thing I should mention is that originally, I planned for this to be act five. "Occupation," the next act, was going to go here and provide some buffer time between "The Amazon Charter" and the final act, "The Last Right." But I felt for a while that any way I did it, I'd have an uncomfortable break. Ultimately, though, I'm hoping the events of "Occupation" better segue into the final act, and that Shampoo's plight is more powerful when "Charter" and "The Nine" are put together (and when they're separated from "Last Right," so we can feel Shampoo's sense of loss drawn out, in the back of our minds, over the course of "Occupation"). I think it works, anyway.

I promised I'd say more about the Council, so let me elaborate on my thought process with them. The Council fills a number of important roles in the story. First, it's the voice of Amazon authority, of which Cologne really isn't a part. What Cologne wants is truly at-odds with what's in the best interests of the Amazons. That's right: Bindi and Thanaka aren't just being dicks for the sake of it (I hope). In fact, it's really important to me that their arguments be logical and, ultimately, correct, or at least partly so. After all, we know that the Sorcerers don't even care what the Amazons are doing. It's not on their radar. Getting tangled with them is just a freak sort of accident. That's dramatic irony for you, and while we want Shampoo and Cologne to prevail, to put the Amazons' resources behind their cause and save Ranma, there's an unavoidable truth: people are going to get hurt (and die) for something that didn't really involve them. And knowing that is going to weigh heavily on how we perceive the Amazons for the rest of the story.

On a more personal level, the Council represents Shampoo's sense of honor and duty, outside (but not entirely distinct from) her quest to make Ranma her husband. If Shampoo can't fix that part of her honor, the least she can do is serve, and fervently so.

R. T. Stephens made a great point in his review: a tribe like the Amazons wouldn't necessarily need a council at all. That many authors give them one anyway is what you might call a particularly common fandom trope or perhaps even a piece of fanon. Ironically, I set out to subvert fanon by not making Cologne an Elder on the Council...but, well, that's not that simple either. In truth, there's a bigger issue (literally) with the size of tribes and villages. How many people are in the tribe? A few hundred? A few thousand? Tens of thousands? Any one of these sizes could conceivably fit in the definition of a village, but we have to imagine it's closer to the low end. Probably two thousand at absolute maximum, which is not really enough to require complex forms of government (sociology people, come correct me). Maybe they would be governed by family matriarchs and that's it. Who knows. The numbers issue really troubles me for a lot of reasons, though. It's hard to have a lot of battles if you stand a risk of wiping out the village population doing it. That goes for the Sorcerers, too, who for reasons yet to be revealed, must be much, much smaller in numbers than the Amazons. Way smaller. Order of magnitude smaller.

Folks might wonder why I made the Council be 12 people with 9 voting and silent but 3 speakers who don't vote. Originally, I wanted to avoid a simple triumvirate, but at the same time, more than about 3 people to deal with would quickly get confusing and too hard to keep track of. As it is, you just have Cologne, Shampoo, Bindi, Thanaka, and Surma. And I like it that way. They each have their sharply distinct personalities. They're well-defined.

The dynamics of the Council evolved over the course of writing, though. Originally, I wanted Bindi to be the warmonger with Thanaka striving for peace, but I soon realized that that wouldn't really be as powerful an obstacle to Cologne as turning it around, making Bindi a combative person but dedicated to a diplomatic solution. Thanka, being bombastic and populist, yet also fairly dignified (aside from his spats with Bindi). I actually went back into "Amazon Charter" at one point, ready to fix the dialogue that implied Bindi wanted war and vice versa, only to realize I'd never said anything of the kind--the dialogue was that vague as to what exactly each of them wanted. Ultimately I left it that way, though, because really, the only important thing was that Bindi was not someone Cologne liked.

I struggled a lot with this chapter in terms of logic and motives, though. In this act, I backed off the Last Right quite a bit, knowing that I wanted it to be the last thing Shampoo tried, having been pushed to it, but it made the pacing and buildup...well, in my mind, a little awkward. The same goes for Surma; when you think about what she does, I'm not sure it makes sense enough. Her explanation at the end of the act was entirely devoted to combating this, yet still I'm not sure. I always wanted Surma to ride the middle, to be impartial even when Cologne wanted her to take Shampoo's side. But, in the end, I could never quite get around why Surma would go to Cologne and not say that the Guide had come early. It made a great twist, I think, at the time, but the reasoning for Surma to keep it secret, even with the threat of censure...I'm not sure. Maybe that's what they call Fridge Logic. I try to avoid it as much as possible. I try to make people's motives and reasoning make sense, even if you disagree with it as being right.

One thing I kind of ignored was Shampoo's relationship with her father. In any other story, this could be a big deal, but having already dealt with Ukyo, I didn't want to basically repeat that story. Ukyo's father also had a lot more room to be interesting, for we really didn't know what happened to him after Ukyo's introductory arc. Shampoo's father, though, is just kind of there.

But I really like the scene that opens this act, even if after reshuffling the repeat of Cologne's words is kind of redundant. I went back into "Charter" and added the bandage there when I first wrote it here. It's just that cool, in my mind, to have Shampoo still wearing it, to remind her of what Ranma did. And I like a lot when Shampoo goes out and tries to school the two little girls, only to get told the same thing that she was telling them. In that way, Shampoo and Cologne are really a lot more similar than they appear. They're stubborn. Cologne's just wise enough, at her age, to deal with it.

Anyway, it should be fun when we get to the final act and see how Shampoo copes with her dishonor.

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