Monday, October 3, 2011

The Coin - Chapter Four notes

This is not, I must confess, anything like the first version of the chapter I envisioned. That version was done about two weeks ago and, thankfully, I had the benefit of fellow authors to tell me that it was, in short, a colossal blunder. While I've tried to exercise due caution regarding taking others' opinions too seriously, I've also endeavored to take those criticisms seriously and reconsider what kind of story The Coin would become.

Without getting too much into specific details (as the events that I have planned for the future are still largely the same, though their interpretation and meaning have changed), I had in mind a story about Haruhi realizing that all along she'd been searching for fellow believers like herself more than aliens, time-travelers, or espers themselves. Haruhi would've become isolated from the rest of the brigade in a prison of her own making, so to speak. She'd convince herself (and not without reason) that the people around her she didn't really know and, most egregiously, that they were people who didn't share her vision and, hence, weren't really friends to her at all. To some extent, I think there are elements there I can still use, but the path I had Haruhi working toward--as was pointed out to me and that I understand now--was one just too far off the deep end to make the story work.

Ironically, that's a story that might actually work had it been told, say, from Kyon's perspective. In a tale where Haruhi is more opaque and subject to interpretation, Kyon's narration and attempts to understand her would serve as a mouthpiece for the author's interpretation and ability to give context. When Haruhi herself is the narrator, though, everything said about her motivations and feelings has to be regarded as unreliable and subject to immense bias. Indeed, this is a technique I like quite a bit, for I feel it gives a great deal of depth. A lot of what I've written Haruhi to think and do contains that subtext--a dissonance between what she says her actions mean and what the audience should understand they really signify. That said, there's a big problem if that subtext is too subtle or dwarfed by the actual text. That's a mistake I think I've committed. I gave Haruhi many chances to, for example, cover up her feelings for Kyon, but without some admission that she actually thinks positively of him (and not in some backhanded way), all that subtext had nothing to feed upon.

But let me not dwell too much on what won't be. Let's talk about what is. One of the things I definitely wanted to avoid with this chapter, having so many facts revealed to Haruhi, was the dreaded infodump. Hence, the cafe scene is largely glossed over, with only glimpses of the conversation in detail. I felt this was the best balance of things, as this scene really isn't the focus of the story. It's what Haruhi does with the knowledge that will come into play. Hence, while she will inevitably refer to what she learned there frequently, the natural flow of information is for Haruhi to confront what she's learned and explain why she's confronting it, rather than to do a huge bout of exposition and see what sticks.

Of course, a good bit of this chapter depends on things getting spaced out, on sequencing and timing. Tsuruya's timing in interrupting Kyon and Haruhi is what drives the limousine section of this chapter, and while I like it quite a bit, it would be wrong not to recognize that there is a plot device being used there to drive the story, as opposed to characterization or goals. I consider this acceptable in the sense that it only changes the dramatic nature of how Haruhi is being told instead of what and why, but it still needs to be considered.

Then there's the matter of Tsuruya herself. I struggled for a bit to find Tsuruya, just as I've struggled to find Haruhi because they are so different from the norm. Ironically, while Haruhi can be a source of comic relief and embarrassment from Kyon's point of view, I thought it would be apropos for Tsuruya to be the same from Haruhi's point of view, though clearly not to the same extent.

Nevertheless, though Kyon and the brigade spill the beans here, there are lingering questions. How long would the have kept things under wraps had Haruhi not discovered her powers? Would they ever have told her? If there had been no danger from Asakura? These are big points of contention to me, and while Kyon has no choice but to express considerable faith in Haruhi--faith, I think, he really does have--the question still remains. Personally, I think without some inciting event, the status quo would've held and it would've been quite a while before Haruhi learned anything about who she was or what she could do or what the other brigade members were. And that's a point that can't be avoided. And while the brigade may have trust in Haruhi, there is some aspect of that that's forced. It's the only good thing for them to say. It may be genuine on Kyon's part. As for the others, I think their feelings are more complex. Koizumi has genuine insight into Haruhi's state of mind, but he's also done the most to keep her mindset tame and stable through manipulation. Asahina takes her orders from the future. Nagato has the most freedom thanks to the threat of Haruhi's powers keeping her safe, but remember Disappearance. She didn't just renovate people's memories. She actively tried to push Haruhi away from Kyon.

But, for the moment, Haruhi's journey of discovery doesn't pertain to any of them or to Kyon. Her goal is to make a statement to old enemies, and that she shall.

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