So here we are again, starting from the beginning, except the beginning is very different from what came before. In a lot of ways, this first chapter is a microcosm of the whole rewrite project—I’ve found it more natural to be liberal with changes, rather than to be minimal. This rewrite is far more than a tweaking; it’s more like an entirely new writing process. This makes the process a laborious and long, but I feel the end result will be much better for it.
This is the first chapter of the new version, and as such, a lot rides on it being representative of the work as a whole. I felt like the old version didn’t really do that, and so damage was done in causing a misleading expectation. That is a big part of what I wanted to correct with the rewrite. I can comfortably say that this new version sets a tone much more in line with the overall tenor of the piece, and I’m glad for that.
By the same token, it also discards a lot of stuff that was in the original first “chapter,” and so, while I’ve had this chapter written for a while, I was hesitant to push forward with it and publish until I had a comfortable idea of where all that background would come back in. I feel like that’s done now, so I can go ahead with this.
So now, what do we have? A slightly different take on the Sorcerers arriving at Jusenkyō. I always felt it was too coincidental that they arrived just when Ranma did; in a way, I still couldn’t avoid that, even with them coming two days prior. The timing with Ranma having to leave China, go through the wedding disaster, other stuff, and come back still made it really quite convenient. I hoped two days between would just retain enough suspension of disbelief to work, but it still bothers me. Any longer, however, would make things very problematic. How long can the Guide keep quiet? How long can Plum survive on her own?
Note that Ranma’s call comes in just as the Sorcerers are attacking, also. This is more a matter of convenience than the plot hinging on it, as if Ranma hadn’t been cut-off mid-call, he would still come to the same ultimate conclusion. It just gives a little more punch being able to see it happen.
What’s changed in the three years since I started this story is that I’ve largely shed the minimalist approach I had back then, feeling that I had a tendency to try to do very complicated stories without enough scaffolding to keep people anchored. The result is less dialogue heavy and should require a lot less reading into things. On the whole, I feel it’s better to say what I mean early and often, to make sure it’s not missed or overlooked. It’s not going to be perfect, though.
One thing I tried to do this time was start off with the Sorcerers having a much better and more cohesive set of powers. The Captain, for instance, now boasts a much more impressive array of abilities, focusing on abstract ki manipulation as opposed to the more concrete powers of her men. I felt that this would make her more distinctive and unique.
Otherwise, most of this chapter really took shpae on its own. Based on feedback from pre-readers, I toned down some hijinks between Ranma and Kunō that made Ranma come off a bit sociopathic, as well as drawing out the timeline to give Ranma and company adequate time to get back home from China in the first place. I added a scene where Ranma contemplates killing a partridge, which I hoped would serve to better setup his decision to spare the Captain. It’s not that killing her, after she’d done so much damage, would be wrong per se, but Ranma is afraid he’s become too callous, too bloodthirsty, and to err on the side of caution, to show mercy, makes him more sure he’s a good man.
Because a lot of the details of Ranma’s motivations are deferred to later, I think the chapter is well-focused, and the personal story, while it can be understood, does not overwhelm the action. In other words, I’m happy with the balance here. It’s not appropriate to balloon the story too large too fast.
It’s my hope that the first chapter provides a digestible introduction to the story now, one that raises questions. Who are these Sorcerers? What do they want, and what does it have to do with Saffron? How will Ranma escape? What spurred him on to return to China, even though he clearly doesn’t want to be there, and claim his cure? What curse does the Captain bear?
That is the role of an introduction, after all—to raise questions, hopefully intriguing ones.