Monday, June 20, 2011

Before and After 07 - "After Armisael"

Now released on FFN

Commentary below.

I had difficulty writing this chapter. When I started, I didn't know if I would be writing it as "Before Tabris," encompassing all of what transpires up until Shinji kills Kaworu in Terminal Dogma, or something else. Eventually (and I don't know when this happened) I decided otherwise, and I went ahead with something more like in my original outline.On balance, I think this was partly motivated by some comments I received from bluepencil on The Fanfiction Forum--that in his mind, Rei's manner of writing did not come across as completely authentic, that I'd failed to adequately capture her voice. And while this indeed, in Da-Guru's words, could be attributed to artistic license, I thought this was a good opportunity to reshape Rei's voice as well.

My original outline was somewhat shorter than this chapter. To give it the right sense of pacing, I added the scenes in which Rei walks about the ruined city back home amidst the chaos and looting and meets Hikari. I wavered for some time whether to have Hikari leave without knowing Rei's forgotten her or do as I did, with Rei making it clear. I thought showing how shocked and hurt Hikari would be, even though she understands it, was the more effective choice.

Of course, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. There are a lot of choices I made here. That Rei remembers nothing of her personal life is an artistic choice. It's the dramatic choice. It could be considered unfair. I know there is some debate as to how much or how little Rei remembers after being reborn in episode 23. I don't intend this to be a point of logical argument or reasoning but rather an exploration as to how one interpretation could be consistent with the indusputable facts. Rei's behavior is markedly different here. Her attitudes are different. Taking away everything she knows, leaving a person with just the barest of conceptions, is one way to do that. I won't say it's the only way, but it's one way.

Again, in part from bluepencil's comments, I made Rei's writing style more choppy, though I still believe a good balance of variety in sentence structure is necessary to make a work readable and not come off entirely flat. Rei can be flat in speaking and manner, but in the written word, it can only go so far, and to an extent, I think her flatness is overstated. That said, it makes sense to me that any fluidity she might've gained over time is lost now, that she would be bare and minimal at this point in her new life. She wakes up, and she's hardly treated like a person. Gendo gets his jollies thinking about how he's going to use her to bring back Yui, and Ritsuko, while attentive to her job, is jealous over Gendo's attentions, which in her eyes seem fixed on Rei. While Ritsuko is helpful to Rei here, there are moments where she lets her pleasant mask slip: sending Rei alone with just an unfixed map, telling Gendo how he should look at her, not Rei, when she compliments her.

Fluidity between sentences aside, though, I had a major concern over the fluidity between events in this chapter. In the initial draft, they seemed to come together far too quickly, without adequate time to digest and think about what had come before. I added about 500 words to pad things out a little bit, to make each section come across with the proper sense of timing. It's very important to do so, or else the narrative comes across as merely telling what's happened without giving those events any meaning.

I really enjoyed writing the rebirth scene, as it hits home the abject horror of Rei's existence. She's treated and examined almost in an assembly-line-like manner, and Gendo's indifference to her long-term well-being should feel damning. I definitely wanted the only casual, humane perspective here to be Maya's. She's an empathetic character, she gets squeamish at the sight of blood and guts (which we see so often)--it made sense to me that she would be digusted at how Ritsuko and Gendo treat Rei like a piece of flesh to be mended, not a huamn being.

I didn't want Shinji's role in this chapter to be too big, so I added little to his meeting with Rei that wasn't already in the episode, just perspective in Rei's eyes on how Shinji expected someone else and got her instead.

Misato and Rei in the end is something I'd been driving toward for a while, and like I said last chapter, I was hesistant to give them such a strong scene then when I knew this was coming now. Nevertheless, I liked it then, and I like it now. Misato gives a good counterpoint to Rei's line of thinking. Misato is driven and focused (when she wants to be). Rei's obeyed with little thought to what she wanted. I had some trouble with this scene, as I felt like Misato didn't have or express a strong enough reason to be there at first, but in adding some transition material, I got it the way I wanted, and I ended it on a much more fitting note, too. Initially, Misato encouraged Rei to stay alive, saying that she had friends in both Misato and Shinji. It was a touching line, but it also felt off--Misato's coldness when Shinji kills Kaworu, which this was meant to mirror in some way, made that line feel very inappropriate. Misato's not that warm when it comes to death. Here, she stops Rei because in some sense she feels responsible, because it reminds her of what she almost did before, but in the end, she has the same world view: those who live deserve to live, and those who die (especially those who choose it) don't. Strong encouragement is the most she can give.

And that's really what sets up the end. Rei's decision to live, if only for a while, comes from within herself. She's not wholly sold on it. She still wonders if the best thing to do is to die. For now, though, she will move on, so next time she can meet Kaworu and realize just what she is.

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