Friday, December 31, 2010

Identity 6.1 - "Down Below the Talon's Edge"

Chapter six, act one on FFN

It's actually been a while since I did this at any length. Let's see if I remember what I'm doing.

(Commentary below)

For the structure of story that I use, and perhaps for every story, the key idea is to setup what happens and follow through with it. I know there are some writers who say that, as I've mentioned before, an author should tell his audience what's going to happen, have it happen, and then tell them what just happened again. Such a repetitious mindset might seem like overkill, but to an author, I'm sure, what we think is clear may not always come across as such. When we think we're being subtle, we're really being incomprehensible. This means that when an author wants to drop hints, perhaps it should be different from what one expects. Maybe the key isn't to make a story that's a puzzle but rather to make a coloring book--let the colors surprise the audience, not the shape and form of things.

As a reader, you may already know what's happening: Akane is still being controlled by Keema. This is where the colors must surprise, or else the "twist" is boring and dull. Why is Keema doing this? That's where subtlety comes in, the subtlety of having another layer to the mystery that is as yet not understood. With Keema's characterization there are a lot of directions to go: is she going to be level-headed and focused? Is she instead angry and vengeful? I think it's a mix of both. Keema is, quite frankly, not a nice person, and she's going to approach her problems with a level of ruthlessness.

In the course of writing fanfiction, it helps always to review your source material, preferably several times. I look back from time to time on the material of the last two volumes for insight into the Phoenix people. I realized they had a specific room for keeping surikomi eggs which I'd forgotten and introduced several complications in act four (I'll talk about that then). I realized, also, that they probably didn't have or didn't use the vast network of tunnels I've depicted here. I can justify that in some ways--being winged creatures, they probably wouldn't use such tunnels very much unless they had to, and now, the Sorcerers have made them with their magical weather anomaly. It stands to reason to have tunnels because being in a mountain is a lot easier to defend than being outside one. All the same, I caught that bit of information a tad too late to want to rewrite everything. Consider it an author's liberty.

I mention the weather; I also justify that in a number of ways, most of which I thought too elaborate to get into in the text. This massive storm keeps the Phoenix from mounting an offensive against the Sorcerers, which I find essential and necessary for Sorcerers to survive. They don't have channelers like they do at Jusenkyo (I figure they're starting to run out of those). It does, however, complicate invading the mountain, and on realizing that, the Sorcerers will make changes, no doubt.

But more than the details of the battle or the aspects of subtlety, this act is about Akane. I wanted to confront the idea that Akane is palpably weaker than the rest of the cast. In some ways, I think it's correct: I think Mousse, Ryoga, and Ranma are all much stronger and much faster. I think Shampoo is likely somewhere in between, and Ukyo and Akane probably near the same level. With all that in mind, how would Akane react to a starkly life-and-death situation where every slipup and mistake can be costly? All in all, I think you look at her character and you realize most of the time her reaction to an obstacle is to press harder: when you say she can't swim, she dives into the deep end. When you say she can't cook, she tries to make a souffle. But there also come times when she admits defeat, and you see some vulnerability in the girl. You see how what she wants is honest and genuine and how it bothers her, what she can't do. I tried to capture both of those elements here, perhaps doing more of the latter than the former because the former is funny (mostly) while the latter is more contemplative.

How other characters interact with Akane is important. Konatsu is respectful, but he outclasses her here in a blunt and obvious way. Shampoo is dismissive and thinks it proves why she's worthy of Ranma instead. Ryoga tries to defend Akane, and so on. Coming off what happened in "Ashes," even Akane should question her idealism, the way she does things, and you see that in how she thinks of Keema--a reluctant ally at best, yet she can admire the determination in her.

This act did undergo some heavy evolution. Originally, I thought to end at a much later point, with Keema's plan going to fruition and Akane's state of mind becoming clear, but that, I realized, felt very ill-timed. Ending as I did became a more natural breakpoint, and the execution of Keema's plot I expended to become act three. The sparring scene I originally intended to be very short, but it grew necessarily to get all I wanted to get across through, and so instead of all the martial artists fighting in pairs simultaneous, it seemed easier to have them square off in sequence. A lot easier to do in writing, anyway.

At any rate, I hope this commentary has provided some insight into the making of this installment and the intentions I had with it. Thanks for reading, and I hope to have you back for "Faeries" next week.

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