Friday, June 18, 2010

Identity 4.2 - "The Flood"

"The Flood" on FFN

As usual, commentary below.

I knew when I started writing this chapter that I had a difficult task in front of me. When there are several isolated groups, each dealing with their own plots, you can easily get a fairly tangled mess, and you have to choose carefully how you want to introduce their stories and sequence them. I decided somewhat quickly that I couldn't write the opening scene of "The Flood" and put that anywhere else. As much as I wanted the act to deal principally with the search for Akane, the scene where she goes missing is just as important.

I made a lot of late changes to this act, in particular the fight scene where Shampoo gets clocked by the flying Sorcerer before the springs go. That was something I knew I'd wanted to fix for a while because the scene just felt really off. Originally, Shampoo defeated the Sorcerer with Mousse's help. Now, Mousse does it roughly single-handedly, albeit with a new trick no one's seen before (the remark that he wanted to save it for Ranma was my attempt to justify that). And once that was in place, Shampoo's behavior for the rest of the chapter--her seeming indifference and deatchment, make a lot more sense. Her remark that she won't be beaten again, which I knew I wanted, makes a crapton more sense. Sometimes, you know what you want, and you just make a small mistake trying to get there on the first trip. That's what revision is for.

Something I didn't expect but just sort of came out that way was the conversation between Ukyo and Mousse. Originally, I wanted Konatsu to be the one for Ukyo to confide in and work out her feelings with, but Mousse just seemed very right for this scene, particularly with his insight regarding the surikomi egg and lost chances. That conflict Ukyo has between taking what she wants and being a moral, decent person is what's driving her now. It's something I worry about from time to time, hoping that the events that kicked off that mentality in chapter one are still pertinent and relevant and justify what I see as a major break from the character in canon. But the Ukyo and Mousse scene really works the way it is, I think, even if it stretches a little to think why Mousse cares. Maybe he wants to see Ukyo seize Ranma; maybe he's just curious.

Do you remember the Spring of Drowned Akane? I did. It's actually a plot point I really like using, being a central component of the next big Ranma story I plan to write, The Color Red, but I won't spill too many details of that here. I figured, even turned into a person, a squirrel would still act like a squirrel. Even if it knew how to work that body, it wouldn't be intelligent. It wouldn't be human. And, if you knew there was an Akane spring around, you, like Mousse, might suspect it wasn't human at all. And it wasn't.

But, you know, if you wanted someone to think you'd killed Akane and didn't have the stomach to go through with it, it sure would be convenient to have some of that water around, no?

There's a major theme of vulnerability and helplessness in this whole chapter (not just act two), but there's also a theme of chance and happenstance. That a cursed Sorcerer wandered into the Amazons' camp is happenstance. That Cologne's Shark Fist caused the springs to blow up is chance; nobody knew that would happen. And while chance can be an author's friend to steer events in the direction they want, you still have to have the characters act believably. You still have to have them retain their motives and do what they'd naturally do. Ryoga won't leave Akane alone unless he's dragged off kicking and screaming, and he'll be damn ashamed of doing so even if he was forced. It can be a crutch to rely on chance to steer plot, but I think it can be done if you still have characters react in a sensible manner, especially if chance and fate being oppressive, being a foe in and of themselves, is a major theme of the story. It's not here, though. And that I can only view as a structural weakness.

This act, like the one before and the one after it, is almost all setup. And that's okay. I'm working on act seven right now (it's a doozy, even after I split six into two, it's a doozy), and I can say with confidence that the conclusion to chapter four is jam-packed and delivers on all of this setup. I merely hope that the wait is bearable. Thanks for reading.

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