Friday, July 9, 2010

Identity 4.5 - "The Red Sign"

"The Red Sign" on FFN

I've been a little quiet over the past week and struggled to get things moving on act two of chapter five, but I should have a post about June stats for Identity in the next couple of days.

Commentary below.

This was an act that I knew, after I'd written it, I'd want to go back and fix things. I actually commented into the LaTeX source about five different things I was concerned about. As it turned out upon rereading, some of those things weren't worth trying to modify when they were pretty good on their own, but one thing about this act I really felt needed polishing, and that was the whole confrontation between Shampoo and Ukyo.

This was actually one of those moments I've talked about, one of the few scenes that you know you want to write even before all or even most of the plot's been laid out. It's...formative to the narrative as a whole. It drives the directions you want character conflicts to go. But all too often, there's a temptation to hold those early conceptions of a scene sacrosanct, when in reality, it's no different from any other scene, and you have to be willing to change it, modify it, make it fit with the rest of the piece, rather than treating it as something all-important.

Early on, then, I knew I wanted Shampoo and Ukyo to come to a major confrontation, but I'd thought, at the time, that it would be Shampoo's sinister nature of conspiring against Akane that would prompt Ukyo to retaliate--nay, even to try blackmailing Shampoo in some way to get her to do the right thing. As you can see, the final scene didn't turn out that way at all and is much better integrated into the theme of weakness for this chapter. Shampoo's willingness to abandon Ranma and leave him to Akane is an expression of despair. Shampoo can't bring herself to actually give up on pursuing Ranma, so hiding behind this veil of logic, of what's best to be done, is what she uses to justify her action, but she too is aware of what's going on, and exactly as she says, it's too painful to her to think of sending people to die when it's for the person she hates most in this world, the person who stands between her and Ranma's love.

In the first real draft of this act, Ukyo was the one who was much more paranoid about it, accusing Shampoo of hanging Akane out to dry first. All along, I felt something was wrong with that. It made Ukyo out to be self-righteous and...again, paranoid. The leap she made just didn't make sense, but hearing it come from Shampoo's lips first, the overall confrontation became much more logical in progression. Even so, there's always this juxtaposition between what's right for people to do and what they want to do. Make no mistake: Shampoo was initially right here. They don't have the resources to mount another attack. They have no way in, and they have no way to ensure or even hope for victory. To go back into the Maze like that would be absurd, and while Ukyo isn't wrong to want to keep considering the issue, in the end, the logical conclusions don't change. What Ryoga does changes the facts, and in doing so, Shampoo regains her courage, her sliver of hope for glory, to save Ranma.

You might notice I haven't talked about the beginning sequence of the act at all. As you can tell, its significance is really only twofold: to give Shampoo a bitter defeat and to show Ryoga's importance to this story. Both are critical, but I want to make a greater point: the action serves a purpose, and the consequences are vital to shaping what happens after. Without a doubt it was a difficult sequence to write, what with a lot going on in a lot of different perspectives, but it needed to happen. The Amazons needed to be utterly defeated here, spared only by the casualties the Sorcerers inflict upon themselves.

I really enjoyed writing the Ryoga passage here, though. Sure, I exaggerated his propensity to get lost, but it was fun. A Stephen Hawking cameo was fun, and the shout out to TNG? That was fun, too. It's the kind of levity I find natural, and it had the bonus of being relevant to the plot to follow, too. Ever since chapter two (chapter one, even, when Ranma notices Wuya can understand him), there's been a question of how these Sorcerers know Japanese. Not a very relevant question to some, considering other tribes have known more for less justification, but I've intended for a while that Ryoga's father be the one who did it, and maybe in book two he'll come back to help with these Sorcerers. We'll see. Truthfully, I haven't made up my mind on that one, so we really will see.

One thing I do regret is that the natural evolution of this act really put less emphasis on Konatsu and Mousse than I wanted. They're in the act, but in terms of providing emotional support to Ukyo and Shampoo, it just isn't there. They're too fixated on Ranma. Neither one of them have really come to doubt that they should look elsewhere, and while I really don't intend for Shampoo to go that route, Ukyo, I'd thought, really needed some counterbalance. Maybe it's because I'm finding the Ukyo/Shampoo dynamic more interesting in terms of opposite mindsets, but that's not meant to be anything other than opposition, to so speak.

One last thing: yes, the "red sign" is Shampoo's choker. To me, it seems like a really appealing symbol, to her anyway, of her responsibility as a member of the tribe, her duty and desire to marry Ranma and to lead her people to victory, and as either of those purposes comes into doubt, the need to remind herself of her mission, to compensate for her failures, will rise. At least, that's the way I think people work.

But anyway, now the stage is finally set for the last two acts, for a battle over the mountain that, at least in my mind, will be pretty crazy. But you might understand by now that for me, crazy is fun, so we'll see how that goes.

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