Thursday, July 18, 2013

Identity rewrite notes - Chapter Two: "The Village"

I originally had this chapter written several months ago, but between other projects, I had little time to review it for publication. I’m trying to get several projects back on track here, so here we go.

I’ve made several major changes to this chapter compared to the pre-rewrite version. Most notably, the chaaracter of Kohl, and his position as the Advisor, has been cut. Those who you who know of the original version will probably understand when I say that Kohl and his position really served no purpose from the standpoint of the plot. What was interesting was the character development he went through, but that can be handled in other ways.

So instead I decided to focus on just Ranma, Wuya, and Sindoor. I felt this simplified and tightened things up considerably. We actually learn quite a bit about Wuya and her sense of honor, of debt. She is less overtly hostile to Ranma in this version than in the pre-rewrite. I originally had her written as a prideful person, and a little of that sneaks in when she boasts about her skills, but I felt it better here to conceive of her more consistently with how she will come off later: sympathetic and reasonable, a counterpoint to Sindoor, who is colder and very driven. Wuya is doing what she must, not because she likes it but for, in her opinion, the greater good of her people. There is a disregard for Ranma’s wellbeing that she acknowledges, but she hopes that this ends up being little more than an inconvenience for him. His help can save the village, after all.

That’s not to say Ranma and Wuya get along. Wuya is a serious person; Ranma is, at times, anything but. Ranma has this perpetual knack for getting on people’s nerves and irritating them. It’s not wholly intentional—he surely mustn’t want to insult Akane at some times that he ends up doing so—but I think he lets himself speak a little more freely around Wuya knowing that he will grate on her and keep her off balance. Ranma’s displeased with the situation, and he’s going to let Wuya know it even when it would be unwise to throw a punch. That said, I think Ranma can sense there’s a core of honesty within her, of nobility. Even when Wuya lies, it’s not out of an inherently sinsiter nature or maliciousness. The same cannot be said for Sindoor.

One of the major goals of the rewrite is to streamline things, and that’s accomplished here by cutting out two big sequences: Ranma’s walk around the village (which is condensed into his single foray to the market after speaking with Sindoor) and the ritual at the spring. The latter in particular had set up the revelation of another way the Sorcerers tried to combat their uncontrolled magic, but I wanted to keep this chapter from getting too complicated. To be honest, I contemplated cutting out that plot point altogether—the story would be much different then! But I couldn’t do that. One of Wuya’s main character conflicts is exactly that. It’s what makes her more like Ranma and more of a foil for him. Even though the Sieve ended up being much more of an important aspect of Sorcerer life than what the ritual at the spring does, what the “bodies they were born with” signify, it’s something I just couldn’t bring myself to remove.

I spent a lot of time struggling over the problem of Ranma’s logical thought process in this chapter. It was always something that bothered me in the pre-rewrite version. I tried to pin down his logic as best as I could. He tries to escape; that’s fair. Wuya catches him and he reasons he can’t escape, so he might as well try to hear them out. That’s fair. He listens to Sindoor’s story and tells them Saffron is wounded, but he doesn’t tell them he killed Saffron. Why? As written now, it’s because he senses the importance of the question, and also because he doesn’t really want to admit that he killed Saffron at all, not even to himself. It represents the unbridled rage in him that came out that day, a rage he’s not totally comfortable with. But I really gloss over that point; it’s not the time to focus on it. I really, really had to tweak everything to get Ranma’s logic here to be believable. Even then, is there a good reason for him to visit Tilaka? To see what the Sieve is, perhaps. This might be when Ranma’s sense of morality, which he tends to downplay even to himself, comes out. Ranma doesn’t tend to go around talking like a self-righteous person. He doesn’t usually get in other people’s business. But if you thrust something in his face and he has to deal with it, he’s not going to let it go if he doesn’t like it. That, to me, is Ranma here: the idea of the human Sieve creeps him the hell out. He doesn’t like it, and he wants to see what it really means before he makes his move.

Without the revelation of “bodies they were born with” in this chapter, I let the big reveal be that Wuya is the one Tilaka was talking about. I like this moment a lot; it makes Wuya’s sense of personal responsibility and honor really shine, even as she stands for something so obviously immoral and repugnant. It is what will make her a worthy foe for Ranma in the chapters to come.

Lastly, I improved the scene with Ranma going to stop the channelers by rewriting it mostly from scratch. Again, the significance of the water and what it does to Sorcerer magic is hinted at but not fully explored. That will have to wait for chapter six. When we end this chapter, compared to the pre-rewrite version, there are several subtle differences: Ranma knows exactly what the Sieve does to people and how “soulless” his presence makes the villagers. And while he’s not explicitly opposing the Sorcerers for that reason, for what is right vs. what is wrong, it’s a big part of it. He cannot suppress his distate for what they are doing, and with no other options, he strings them along, hoping for an opportunity to escape and not be a part of their madness anymore.

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