Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Coin - Chapter Eight notes

When I was starting this chapter, I found it quite difficult to get going. I’m a big fan of fluidity, so just going to the next action, in my mind, misses the point of a chapter break in some circumstances. That’s why I use this opening device a great deal—starting with an anecdote that seems unrelated textually but is relevant to Haruhi’s state of mind.

Of course, the strange girl Haruhi knew in primary school is Sasaki, here through a somewhat convoluted approach to getting two kids in different classes to work together on a project. In a lot of ways, Haruhi and Sasaki are similar, though, in that they have unique outlooks on the world, but what’s really important is that even they can come to a mutual understanding, respect, and admiration when they were brought together reluctantly. That’s what Haruhi tries to take away from this. And when I made some revisions to the final confrontation of this chapter, I found the perfect place to put Chekhov’s gun.

As Haruhi walks back to class, I tried to avoid having too much reliance on Kyon here, as he threatens to dominate Haruhi’s thoughts if we give him too much of an opportunity. Kyon’s nonchalant confidence can be comforting on one hand, but it’s Sakanaka’s outside perspective that gives Haruhi a concrete idea of how best to act. In writing this scene, I wanted to emphasize how normal Sakanaka is. Her anecdote about cheering up a friend is meant to feel typical—just the sort of thing that happens if you’re not in the SOS Brigade. The names of students are drawn from a thread on AnimeSuki, though the list and class seating chart are associated with first year.

Originally, I didn’t plan for Haruhi to address the brigade after that chat, but as I approached the scene, it seemed an appropriate time to try to make something different, to have a bit of hope and positivity with which to go into her meeting with Taniguchi. Haruhi’s suggestions should show some element of thought, following how she perceives the others and what they want. Kyon, ironically, is the easiest to please.

Haruhi’s visit to Taniguchi here may be a bit overdue. I felt Haruhi would still be a bit nearsighted, as humans are often guilty of being, and not realize that Taniguchi might not even remember what happened (or that he might react strongly to remembering). It’s nearsightedness with the best of intentions, which I hoped would feel somewhat tragic. It’s a fun moment when Taniguchi is suspicious Haruhi would really visit him, but it is hard to see Haruhi be rejected like this,even out of gut reaction, from something Taniguchi didn’t even realize he was doing and didn’t understand in the heat of the moment.

And so, Haruhi walks away, wounded and hurt. Just the idea of Haruhi limping along a sidewalk with no one bothering to ask what’s wrong is a tough image to take but typical of how people tend to stay out of others’ business, particularly—I think—in Japanese culture. Kyon’s seeking her out here is really meant to lift her spirits. It’s a bit roundabout in what he admits, but that’s okay for now. Haruhi can feel the warmth in the deed just as well. And, in deflecting his intentions, Kyon unwittingly leads us to the Piggy planet once more for a final confrontation with Asakura.

When I wrote this segment initially, I went all the way with it. Haruhi erased Asakura and Kimidori, and that was that. Readers of this draft felt it was a bit much, that Haruhi has more imagination than that and wouldn’t reach for the cosmic sledgehammer, so to speak, when she could divine a less drastic solution. There were other issues with the draft, too, as to justify Haruhi’s actions I felt the interfaces needed to know what Rooter had been given before confronting Haruhi. This led to a good moment where Asakura appears to break through Haruhi’s powers in a moment where she should be frozen in time, but for logic, for consistency, and for eliminating that overkill moment above, I settled on this version. It’s 99% as good for punch, in my opinion, as playing up Haruhi’s vindictiveness with eternal punishment is still satisfying, and it’s much better on other fronts.

Of course, I’ve let Nagato’s secret stay secret this long, and a savvy reader probably could tell it would come back to bite in some way. I tried to subvert the expected reaction, with Haruhi doing the right thing even though she feels very betrayed. I tried to make this as understandable as possible—that Kyon feels very sensitive about having chosen this world over Nagato, in particular. We all have our limits, after all. This is something that guides me in my writing: people do make mistakes. They’re not always savvy or do the smartest thing. Writing that without turning people off toward those mistakes is to make them feel like mistakes we could make, or to avoid disproportionate consequences that don’t follow, that make the mistake feel like an excuse. It’s a fine line, and I don’t always get it right. That much I must concede.

No comments: