Friday, February 18, 2011

Identity 6.8 - "The Beast within the Human Heart"

The final act of chapter six on FFN.

It's posted. And it's done. To conclude this chapter is very exciting for me, but on to the next.

Commentary below.

So here we are. The end, at last, of the battle for Phoenix Mountain. It is truly the culmination of the five chapters to come before it. Had Saffron been the Sieve all along, it would've truly seemed pointless either way. If Saffron's taken, so be it. Maybe the Amazons keep pushing, but Ranma doesn't really want to have anything to do with it, despite his moments of disgust with the Sorcerers. Maybe he'd be guilted into helping get him back, but I don't know. It makes for an awkward story, I think, and maybe that's come through. If Saffron had truly been the Sieve, I think that feeling would've crystallized in every reader's mind.

But this is a story about Ranma, and it is only fitting that Ranma be the Sieve. Indeed, this has been the plan of mine since I put pen to paper in the summer of 2009. Always, it was Ranma's power that was important, and the bit with Saffron was merely an extended distraction.

Admittedly, much has changed with this story since I conceived it. I didn't think it would be nearly this long. I thought the whole trilogy would be done by now! But I've long since come to terms with the length of the story. I like the episodic nature of positing an installment on a weekly basis. It feels, more or less, the way that manga is published, and it's made me want to help revive the serial novel as an art form. In the Western world, we have comics and we have imported manga. We have television and radio shows. We have magazines, but storytelling in prose as a periodic art form seems underutilized, at least to me.

With a story as long in writing as this one, some things definitely change as you write, and this scene---the meeting between Ranma and Akane---definitely had to fit the boundary conditions, as we physicists say. I'd long imagined this scene as Akane happening across Ranma as he's in battle against Sorcerers, calling out to him as he pushes them back, a brief distraction that he recovers from to finish them off, and she appears beside him when he's not looking for a bit of a surprise. But beyond that, the scene is much the way I originally envisioned it. The only major change is, possibly, the source of Akane's bleeding. I thought she would bleed cleanly from her forehead, but the human body doesn't work that way. Either Ranma would notice it sooner, or it wouldn't bleed at all.

I'd thought long and hard about how to go about the revelation of Saffron not being Sieve, how much detail was needed and whether it would be plausible that everyone missed it. Does it make sense that Tilaka can sense it, now that he's so close? I don't know. Maybe.

But technical issues aside, I'm very happy with the confrontation scene. It is really gratifying to write a scene like that one, where there's a lot going on but it all flows. When I write scenes with break, break, break one after another, it feels choppy, and I'm very wary of choppy, even when it seems like the only way. This battle between Ranma and Wuya seems to go very smoothly, and I'm happy for that. It's hard to balance introspection versus action, and Tilaka and Wuya give me a really easy outlet to look at both. I dare say I'm as proud of the introspective bits in that scene as the flow of conflict.

But one thing that was important to me was to manage Akane well, to have her be important, and just as Akane saves Ranma for a time, her presence costs him too. Bear in mind, without her, Ranma takes the poisoned knife once again (folks should be getting tired of that by now; I know I was) and we're done with it. With her, he has a good chance of succeeding, but it does still cost him. This, I thought, was the only good balance to be struck.

Beyond all that, I'm glad to have this chapter finished. Hopefully, I can get cracking on the next and get that done in short order (hopefully), and wrap up this first book of the trilogy.

Edit: more comments, since I can't seem to get everything I want to say to come out in a timely manner. All along, to keep suspicion off Ranma being the Sieve, I've tried to avoid things that would cast strong doubt on the conventional wisdom. The Sorcerers thought Saffron was Sieve, and Ranma believed them. He followed that conclusion himself when he met Tilaka in the tower back in chapter two, but none of them knew. And you go back, look at what Kohl thought he felt in chapter three, on the mountain, where he could contact Sindoor so easily because he was in the same place where Akane woke up...well, there you are. I hoped to plant seeds, but only seeds. It actually made for quite the extended plot point. Not even Keema questions the notion that Saffron could be Sieve, and that was a point I had to have Tilaka address with his remark about how Saffron still could be, despite being a child. I didn't even want to explore whether a baby could or couldn't be Sieve and bring up that shadow of doubt, yet I have to admit, it would've been logical for Keema to bring it up and try to get the Sorcerers off her back. Or maybe she wouldn't risk telling them Saffron was defeated and killed, lest that embolden them. Who can say.

I might have more comments later, as reviews come in.

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