Friday, April 20, 2012

Identity 8.2 - Enemies

Part of my new model of storytelling is to try to change perspectives less. I grew attached to the notion through writing “Before and After” and The Coin, for first-person perspectives require great awareness of that separation, that barrier between what the character knows and what’s actually going on. I feel that telling a story with limited perspectives allows for the reader to slip into that viewpoint as well. People have to figure things out and analyze the world around them to understand it. Little of what we encounter in the world explains itself, after all. I know that’s all personal preference. Third-person omniscient perspectives are entirely valid from a literary perspective, and indeed, by changing the POV character at will, I get a little bit of the best of both worlds, but only a bit. Some of what people expect in writing isn’t objectively best but merely contemporary trends and fashions. Omniscient was popular in the 19th century, for instance, where limited came into fashion in the 20th. At least, that’s what wikipedia says. Take that for what you will, of course.

So where last act was entirely from Ranma’s perspective, this one is from Ukyō’s. I feel this clean division helps distinguish each act from the others nowadays, even though I always had some idea that acts should have some beginning and end to them, some finality. It’s not a hard and fast rule—little in writing ever is, and I’m going to break it in act five out of necessity—but on the whole, I feel staying in one character’s viewpoint as much as possible gives me better focus on that character’s story. This is something I felt I had become lax in for book one. Ukyō and Shampoo’s stories saw little focus after chapter four, at least, and while the nature of a story with this kind of scope is one of rotating perspectives, I must take care not to neglect a character for too long. So this is the beginning of me trying to remedy that, and with the increased focus on Ranma and Akane’s relationship, Ukyō and Shampoo get more opportunity to respond to that as well. That’s not to say there’s only one way to give them screen time—far from it, part of my task is to give them focus without the Ranma and Akane relationship as the undercurrent—but it’s still a starting point for them.

Now, if you remember from last time, Ranma and Akane were supposed to study, and there was a small reference to Ukyō being there snuck in. A lot of this act overlaps in time with Ranma and Akane’s date, then—a necessary consequence of increased persistence with one perspective.

This act is mostly setup still. Ukyō’s mindset and opinion of Akane is one of general respect, but Ukyō isn’t going to think anything other than that she’s better suited for Ranma, so that colors her perspective. Conversely, while Ranma can see the good in Akane now that she’s calmed down a touch about things, Ukyō remembers some of the things Akane’s done wrong. The “truth” should be somewhere between these depictions, mind you. No one character’s perspective should be believed completely. Almost always, I’m paraphrasing a character’s thoughts or opinions. In that sense, what the narrator says about people could be considered unreliable.

The big, ongoing thing with Ukyō is going to be the clash of opinions with her father. I always wanted Ukyō’s father to represent a less traditional parent compared to usual depictions of Japanese culture that are so honor-based. Ukyō cares enough about getting her due that another voice saying the same thing is pointless. While her father represents a return to old, traditional ways and pursuits, he sees Ranma as a possible distraction, a fruitless exercise that keeps Ukyō from more productive efforts.

Now, we have a bit with Mousse, and this is where limited perspective comes in. Were this from a more omniscient perspective, we could see Shampoo scheming to send Mousse out to Ukyō, to give a message covertly. Instead, we, like Ukyō, have to figure it out a bit. I think this is a much more satisfying exercise.

As Ukyō’s father presents one reason not to go after Ranma, Shampoo represents Ukyō’s reflection—what would happen to her if she let her desire for Ranma go unchecked. Shampoo isn’t stupid. She knows that Ukyō is trying to do things the right way, but when Ukyō presses her buttons, Shampoo’s true desperation comes out. The little details about Shampoo’s necklace and such will be treated in more detail in act four.

Overall, though, this piece is called Identity for a reason. Who is Ukyō? Is she as desperate as Shampoo? Can she be the person her father wants her to be? The person she aspires to be for Ranma? Or maybe it’s none of these things. She’s already rejected the first two, and the last one, well, as we can see, what Ukyō hopes Ranma will want and desire in her just may not be the case. And it’s not her fault; who people fall in love with doesn’t follow logical rules. I hoped to make it clear that Ranma is genuinely conflicted here, that he wants Ukyō to stay and be a friend to her, but he just can’t find a way to make her happy to and stay true to what he feels. And for once, he’s actually trying to confront this stuff instead of letting it fester.

But Ranma is still not particularly adept at handling women, and this is where the question of who Ukyō is comes into play. As she handles the phone, realizing how desperate and wanting she is, she stares right into the darkness within her heart. Ukyō, however, is a good enough person to recognize that it’s there and try to resist it. Ukyō still is intent on having Ranma for herself; that cannot change here, but she will be very cognizant that she has to walk a fine line. She can do that, but it’s going to be painful for her—for everyone, really. I don’t want to make it sound like these growing pains are going to single Ukyō out.

That’s all for now. “The Lady’s Agent” will be here in early May. So far (through one act, anyway) I’ve been able to finish on schedule for maintaining this three-week posting interval, but we’ll see how it goes.

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