Friday, April 8, 2011

Identity 7.2 - "The Summit of Potsdam"

The latest installment on FFN

Maybe one of these days I'll get around to, you know, writing those other posts I keep talking about. Anyway, commentary below.

This week, we return to the politics of the Amazons, a subject that, though I couldn't have really anticipated going into before writing this story, is something I've wholeheartedly embraced. It's something I see as different and exciting, a counterpoint Ranma's struggle and the goals of the Sorcerers.

I admit, I worried over this chapter and its focus on Cologne. In absence of Ranma, Shampoo's struggle is one of finding value in herself, in her position as a warrior of the tribe. That's not really what's at stake here, for Cologne is the driving force on the larger scale of things. It does make me want to make up the difference, though: when things start going back to normal, it's my hope that Shampoo will have a larger role to play once more, especially in trying to win Ranma's heart (or, if nothing else, in keeping him from another). But this installment is more Cologne-centric, focused on an old woman's cold thirst for retribution than a young girl's angst and fears.

More than once in this act I had to remind myself of the ground rules--that Cologne couldn't overtly act against any Phoenix tribesman. It's easier than one might think to slip up, in that respect. The original opening had her shooting one down, even, and only later did I realize my mistake. This also formed the basis of a major edit in the second-to-last scene. Initially, Cologne and Shampoo confronted Keema directly, and Cologne "found the will" to stand by and watch Keema die. While this was strong, I also thought it too convenient, and that was something that'd nagged at me for quite a while. Eventually, as you can see, I decided the plot was better served with Cologne crafting that ingenious, three-tiered plan. It may lack some of the immediate tension of the scene as originally written, but I think it's more satisfying from a logical perspective, and that's always something to weigh.

I also found myself trying to tell, tell, and tell some more about how trustworthy Surma is and why her deception would be believed without question. That, of course, is a dangerous thing, as you can tell and tell and never really convince the reader that that's the case, only pointing out what it is you hope to patch. As a result, I scaled back some of the narration that tried to explain things and simply hoped to let the events stand as they were. Bindi is merely shocked. Surma cuts through Cologne's argument at the beginning to commit, essentially, perjury to save her at the end.

The act is a bit dialogue-heavy. I could tell because the "storyboard" (in which most of the dialogue is actually written and it's narration that I tend to skip over) was around 20k characters and the final act as was about 38 (compare to act 1, which was the same word length but outlined in about 15k). In words, these values correspond to about 3500 words to outline act two versus 6600 words as written. Hence, the actual writing of the piece didn't take too long, as I needed only paste in the dialogue, touch it up, and add narration around it for flow and emphasis.

Is Cologne and Surma's ruse something that would be bought? Well, this isn't the US Army we're talking about; it's a tribal structure, it doesn't have the records that a more substantial bureaucracy would. I think it at least plausible, especially when the "dead" themselves are complicit.

Should we applaud Cologne for pulling off this ruse, for doing what it took to get to Ranma and discover the truth behind her granddaughter's disappearance? Should we condemn her instead for subverting the rule of law, for achieving her ends based on lies and murder? I think that's an open question, and it cannot be simply answered. But if that's a puzzle that appeals to you, I do ask you to think: remember that Mousse had the water meant to poison Keema. Remember that he also gave supplies to the men who were the pretext for the new war party. Perhaps the question of whether we should admire or condemn Cologne rides on that issue: do we believe her so ruthless, so depraved to...well, let me not spell that one out too much. It is exactly as Surma says, after all. The Amazons march on the Sorcerers, whether for good or ill. Little can be done about that now. Let us all hope something good comes of it.

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