Monday, August 12, 2013

Identity rewrite notes - Chapter Three: "Pride"

“Pride” is a big rewrite and expansion of the original chapter 3, act 5: “Occupation.” Just for a bit of sense of size and scope, the last scene in this chapter is as long as “Occupation” is in total.

This chapter is called “Pride,” and for good reason. I wrote the bulk of this chapter almost a year ago, but part of putting publication of the piece on hold was to figure out the role of Wuya. Now that I’ve done that, I was able to look at this chapter with fresh eyes. I realized that the chapter didn’t have much going on thematically. Ranma struggled with “making a connection to the outside world” and some vagaries about being in touch with feelings. I was able to improve this somewhat by making his struggle more about his overwhelming desire to escape and overcome captivity, to the point that it masked his fear of failure. This point is not overwhelming—sometimes, I fear there’s a tendency to make such thematic elements too much like a hammer that hits the reader at every opportunity—but it’s definitely there. Every time Ranma tries to use powers, the thought of winning is close behind. This theme also plays well with how Ranma manipulates Henna into giving him information: by appealing to her pride.

I redesigned the character of Henna here to be more distinctive from Sindoor. She’s shorter, less imposing, and has that characteristic baldness. I felt it was important to introduce her now, rather than later on in the plot as was done in the original story, because it helped hint at her motives and the motives of the priesthood.

One of the major errors of the original, as well as even in this chapter as first outlined, was the existence of the Guide’s house, which is actually destroyed in volume 38. I missed this despite reading the volume repeatedly because we only see the house destroyed while Ranma and company are inside it, so it’s not even clear that was the place except by exclusion and comparison of exterior shots. This necessitated a major rewrite of the action in the last third of the chapter.

By introducing the Amazon angle earlier, I hoped to set up the fates of Marula and Kumkum (who wasn’t named in the original) a little bit more. The character of Marula still eludes me somewhat, but here I’m able to give her more of a defined role. I like how Kumkum turned out. He’s enjoyable and competent, and that’s a big relief to Ranma.

There are some obstacles toward presenting Ranma’s struggles with learning magic because of the background we don’t yet have, background that will soon come in chapter four and will complete the connection with the original work. The overall process of Ranma learning magic is fleshed out a bit more here, and I like that I ultimately made it so Ranma struggled and struggled until he found the breakthrough, the way of thinking about it that allowed him to do something more sophisticated than merely throwing ki bolts around.

I feel overall this chapter is a little more modest, more focused on action-reaction than the previous two, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to settle in a bit and read with a bag of popcorn, so to speak, every once in a while.

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