Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Ones 03 - The Sixth Child - Notes

It’s been a long while. In truth, I had the basics of this chapter worked out around a month ago, but the polishing effort has been slow and meticulous. Even then, as usual, I found a number of errors in this chapter after posting, but really, my intention was to get everything done and to a point where I felt I could move on more than anything else.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy writing this chapter. Far from it, I’m quite happy with the result and the balance between Shinji and Nozomi, how they both have grown from this experience.

My first draft of this chapter was pretty similar to what you see before you now up until Shinji wakes up from having tried to synch with the Eva. At that point, he and Asuka would’ve gone through files and realized that Nozomi was a prospective pilot and gone over to the Horaki apartment to talk it over with the family. Asuka considers Hikari a close friend, after all, and such would be a minimal courtesy. It was around that point, however, that I grew unhappy with the draft. It was taking a long time to get to Nozomi at all (this was about 9000 words in), so I decided to rewrite from Nozomi’s perspective instead. I completed that draft and was pleased that I’d been forced to come up with more background for her and her family and her growth—this is where the dynamics of her family and their issues really came together—but I was unhappy with that draft, too, for it made Shinji into a guardian/mentor figure who only served to guide Nozomi. He didn’t have much of a story of his own. So I went back to the original draft and incorporated Nozomi’s growth into that, and that’s what we have now.

The first section of this chapter deals with immediate aftermath from Eisheth’s attack. It should be noted that Misato is the one giving the press conference. Despite her rank, she is one of the most important post-Instrumentality figures in Japan, if not among the human race, and I consider her exact rank within the GSDF to be of little importance. She does what she wants, and few people are really in a position to stop her without incurring great backlash.

Part of the importance of the first section (through the end of the press conference) is to establish the theme of people seeking validation. Asuka shows Shinji affection and takes pride in him over what he did to tell Eisheth off in chapter two. Of course, there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes regarding the overall political situation thanks to this announcement—something I haven’t really explored in detail yet but should be prominent in the next few chapters.

By popular demand, Kyōko returns briefly with tales of debauchery and scientific interests—sometimes with the two more intermingled than the rest of us might find sane.

The second big part of this chapter is Shinji trying to pilot and being forced to take up a more modest role instead. Of course, none of us know why 14-year-olds were chosen to be pilots. I tried to neatly gloss over the why in favor of what Shinji might experience with this connection to the Eva not working nearly as well as it should. Hopefully it was something no one really noticed at that moment.

Nepers are a logarithmic unit similar to decibels. People know decibels, though. Nepers sound appropriately exotic for this, though, and they give a much more logical way to talk about strength of a signal or a connection than very small percentages.

The Hachibuse Mountain Complex was modeled somewhat around Stargate Command. You might notice that the cage is placed on the same level as the gate room, for instance.

In one of my drafts, the children Maeda and Nagase that I mention Shinji interviewing actually died during Eisheth’s attack at the end of the chapter. When I ended up killing the security guard in Nozomi’s building, too, I felt it was inappropriate to show one death on screen and add a couple more from off-screen. Ironically, this made a lot of their background that I introduced less impactful, but I left it in to give the impression that there was much more scope to the program than just Nozomi. And indeed, the way it works out is that it all proves to be part of Shinji realizing he can and should take a proactive role in guiding these children.

Now we’re at Nozomi, the youngest Horaki sister. I’m sure this has been done a lot—taking a minor character that was never really seen or heard from and giving them a personality and motives from scratch. It’s really only one step below creating an original character, but I feel that one step is a big one. There seems to be a general aversion to accepting original characters in a lot of communities, so it does matter. Still, one has to be wary to avoid making the character too perfect or too well-liked (or the opposite—too imperfect to the point of parody). No one wants to read a Mary Sue, after all. In point of fact, I’d originally thought to create up to three pilots—Nozomi, a younger sister for Kensuke, and possibly Tōji’s younger sister, too—but I quickly realized that was too much to develop all at once. Shinji is the main character here. He’s the one who needs someone to bounce off of. One pilot was plenty, and that drove some of the decisions regarding how many Eva there were and so on.

As I said, though, the issues regarding Nozomi’s family and their interactions were something I didn’t have pinned down well until the second draft. Until then, Nozomi’s father didn’t appear at all, and while I could justify not having a mother around, excluding a father was a real oversight on my part. So here, he is a workaholic reporter with some regrets over how long he’s away from his girls, representing the middle ground between Hikari’s desire to shield Nozomi from any burdens and Kodama’s insistence that she pilot. All three of these are really toned down compared to how prevalent they were in the Nozomi-POV draft, and I think not being too overbearing about them helps balance the chapter.

Nozomi herself is an interesting girl. You might notice that she addresses her sisters by “Hikari” and “Kodama”—i.e. without any respectful adornments. Even Shinji is just “Ikari” to her. Though the idea that she looked up to and respected Shinji was always there (she even had a little shrine to him in one draft), it’s something she generally keeps to herself. She may have her interest piqued, as during the interview when Shinji finally speaks up, but she doesn’t go fangirl gush over him.

Nozomi’s interest in art is her defining hobby, and at one point in her draft, there was more of a scene between her as the art club president Sasaki, which would’ve made clear how infatuated he is with her, something that Nozomi is unaware of as yet.

Originally, Nozomi drew Shinji tending to her after she’d slapped him, but when I rewrote the last battle scene, Shinji with the fire extinguisher really won out. It also introduced an error that I had to correct, since in the original drawing, Asuka was in the background half undressed. Clearly she is nowhere in sight for the current version.

How often do people resolve their issues with family in one conversation? Not often. I hope that Nozomi’s failure to find validation from her family initially seems realistic for that reason.

It was important to establish that whatever the Zenunim from chapter two were doing, they wouldn’t be sneaking around into cities to wreak havoc. To me, Eisheth isn’t interested in doing that anyway. She will make narrow attacks on points of targeted interest. Still, you might notice that Misato has some throwaway lines about detectors that Asuka and Kyōko’s work has helped with. This actually allowed me to integrate them more tightly into the whole effort, too. Knowing that, though, it becomes clearer why Eisheth would turn to human followers instead. Just where these followers come from will be explored in chapter four.

I tried to make the security guard in the Horaki family’s building sympathetic enough. This is actually the third version of this battle scene—the first happening without Shinji at all and from Nozomi’s POV, the second from Shinji’s POV with copious SDF support that made him superfluous, and now. A lot of the basic elements are the same: a man breaks into the Horaki apartment, wounds the father, disables Kodama for a time, and Nozomi and Hikari hide out in Nozomi’s room. Nozomi persuades Hikari to listen to her, hears from her father that he does care what she does, and Kodama stabs the attacker with one of her precious knives (remember how Nozomi talked about them with Shinji earlier?), saying that she always believed Nozomi had that kind of courage within her. That’s all the point of what’s going on here. The attacker seeks validation from Eisheth for his deeds, but it’s Nozomi who has those issues resolved instead.

In this draft, I went with something that would keep Shinji involved—he’s the only one who can help Nozomi here once the officer shoots the guard (which I hope came across as logical given that the officer had weapons of his own, if only a stun gun).

All throughout this chapter, Shinji has been trying his best to guide the children, to temper their enthusiasm but also give them hope. It’s a tough balance to strike, and knowing how many children leave the program after Eisheth’s attack, as well as the damage that was done to Nozomi and her family even before Eisheth struck, I hope it’s reasonable that Shinji would feel like perhaps his efforts are better spent elsewhere. Still, this is his story, and Nozomi’s not going to just let him walk away. As she says, what is a hero supposed to be? The grand, implacable person that we might imagine in our fantasies? Or is Shinji that hero now, despite how his looks and demeanor don’t fit with our image of what he should be? Nozomi’s opinion on this is clear, of course, and Shinji, too, has found some validation in his life. That, ultimately, is the theme of this chapter: where Eisheth believed humans were incapable of recognizing each other and giving each other hope, Shinji and Nozomi have proved that it is possible, and that is just one reason why Eisheth must be fought.

In the long run, I look forward to having Nozomi pilot against the most bizarre monstrosities Eisheth can imagine with Shinji in the Hachibuse Mountain control room, looking on and trying to give advice and guidance as best he can. That’s why I’m happy with this draft—it emphasizes that Shinji is in a new position, having to look after someone, rather than enduring trials all by himself. In that sense, Nozomi is a reflection of him. She’s obviously not the same. She’s forward where Shinji might be deferential. She’s a bit odd and has interests that don’t intersect with his own, but they have the same drive inside them throughout this chapter.

Finally, there used to be a hook at the end of this chapter for what would come in chapter four, but I decided against it, preferring an ending that simply concludes this chapter in a more general way. I guess cliffhangers and I have had a falling out, but rest assured, the path from here is clear for me. There are more followers of Eisheth on earth, and mankind will not be safe until they are found and rooted out. The key to that effort will be the Cult of Lilith and Archon Juniper (mentioned in chapter one). Who do you think that person might be?

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