Saturday, August 17, 2013

Identity rewrite notes - Chapter Four: The Matriarch's Burden

Part of the process of streamlining the story in the rewrite was cutting out some of the slower buildup chapters. In the original, Kunō escaped to Japan, and that was how anyone found out about the Sorcerers’ awakening. It gave a good opportunity for Akane to regret her hand in Ranma’s flight to China, but there are plenty of chances to do that in the story already. So that meeting, as well as the subsequent journey to the Amazon village, I cut pretty dramatically. Am I going to be perfect in making the story streamlined and tight? Well, no. I don’t expect so. But I did see an opportunity here.

Another goal I had here was to reveal a bit more about the history, about the story of Ceruse, Bailu, and Yi. I felt I was too cagey about this in the original, giving these details away in too many small chunks. Presenting this much of the story now makes Cologne’s motivations more concrete.

Now, the natural question will be, why Cologne? Why give her this story? In part, because her role as a mentor and observer means that she can see the mistakes Shampoo makes in pursuing Ranma from a more objective position. She is, in this sense, less susceptible to being hated or disliked, when otherwise we might be confined to Shampoo’s perspective, forced to digest her thought processes that may not always conform to the audience’s sentiments. Her limited knowledge of the situation (though a little forced, I admit) also lends itself to discovery in the same time and at the same pace as the audience. I feel that the audience learning things as the characters do is an important and useful technique.

In the short introductory scene, we get a feeling for Bailu’s personality prior to the battle with the Amazons. He’s a nice guy, amiable, dedicated. This is him before the horrors of war claimed him.

Much of this chapter is freshly-written material, even though it largely mirrors the original story in spirit. Some of the subtleties that had to change to fit the plot include the use of the Last Right (here, something Bindi gambits Cologne into using), how Bindi learns that Shampoo isn’t in good standing with Ranma, and how Akane, Ukyō, and the rest enter the picture.

There were actually quite a few drafts regarding how to tell this part of the story. I originally did something much more like the original story, with Akane being approached by Cologne in Japan, and so on. Those ideas were more focused on Akane, in the hopes of going to her first to establish her as a main character, but I just couldn’t find a way to do that that seemed natural, that seemed to fit.

As a result, the overall construction of the chapter has spaced out details about what happened to make Ranma come to China. We get a glimpse of that in one flashback scene here, told from Shampoo’s perspective instead of Ranma’s or Akane’s as the original scenes were. This does lead to the somewhat convoluted backflips I had to do to make it so Cologne didn’t know what Shampoo had done.

Some of the speeches before the Council are lifted from the original, but the differing circumstances demanded that some of that scene be written from scratch. With the change to Marula’s character, she’s already been captured, and we can skip an elaborate return of Amazon scouts to the village to announce that their people (or Ranma) have been taken. Indeed, I spent a good bit of time with this chapter just playing with the timing of it relative to the previous chapter. At one point, the Amazons didn’t get word from Ranma and Kumkum until Shampoo had already been censured. The current timing is much more logical and easier to follow.

I also opted for a private confrontation between Bindi and Cologne, which seemed a better fit with the sensitive nature of that encounter.

In the end, though, this chapter is very similar in spirit to the original content. Cologne’s regret over what happened to Ceruse, and her fears that Shampoo is walking down the same path of putting duty ahead of self-fulfillment, is still present.

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