After a long hiatus from writing Haruhi, I at last decided to start this piece.
It was a bit of a process, and it took me a long time to figure out just what kind of story I wanted to tell. I posted a couple outlines on Soulriders for people to pick over and criticize. I got a lot of good feedback about the problems those outlines had and how to address them, but even after I felt I had done so, I was dissatisfied.
Those early outlines were, for the most part, centered on something more like the novels—written from Kyon’s perspective, with more development for Kyon and Haruhi and, ironically, less for Nagato. That, I realized after many months, was the big issue: this piece was supposed to be my Nagato piece, the same way The Coin is my Haruhi-centric piece. As those outlines were constructed, I really wasn’t focusing on her enough. This was an easy mistake because Nagato is so subtle as a person and a character.
So I put those outlines away. I shelved some nice scenes I had imagined, like Haruhi shrugging off an otherwise mortal wound and mistaking Kyon for John Smith while confessing her feelings. Will I ever use that scene? Perhaps not, but that’s part of writing: murdering your darlings.
Instead of those pieces, then, I decided to write this one. I came up with the idea almost entirely from scratch in just the short bit of time before actually writing the first chapter. It actually came quite quickly, and I was relieved that it was so uncomplicated I didn’t feel the need to present an outline for it. It’s not one of those plotty stories that requires a lot of attention to internal consistency and continuity. It’s a character piece, and I’m excited with the prospects of writing it.
One of the big challenges in writing this piece is the first-person POV with Nagato as a narrator. I actually considered writing the piece from Kyon’s POV as a future narrator who sat down with Nagato to write her memoirs, so it would be Kyon telling the story but with insight into Nagato’s thoughts. I eventually dismissed the idea as cumbersome, but I was sold on the idea of a first-person POV.
I spent a lot of time reading Nagato’s writing in book 8. This was what really made the piece click for me: she’s not robotic in her writing. She’s very fluid, and she has a solid emphasis on figurative language. With these points in mind, I could write Nagato as considerably more capable with language than one might otherwise expect. I also made the decision to have the story be told from a future Nagato’s perspective, which gives me even more leeway to tell the story with a less artificial voice.
The use of epithets (the Witch, the Man, etc.) was also inspired by those poems in book 8. Kyon speculates there that Nagato was referring to Asahina as a “Ghost” there, and I chose to extend that system to the rest of the cast, as well as to offer simple explanations for those choices in epithets. I feel it contributes an otherworldly quality to the piece and to Nagato’s narration. You may notice that (unless I’ve made mistakes) only Nagato is referred to by name.
That Nagato would be separated from the IDSE was a recurring element in several outlines. The difference here is that this is pursued as a mutually agreeable course, rather than something forcibly taken up by one side or the other. This, to me, deemphasizes conflict in favor of Nagato exploring her humanity.
I wanted that exploration to be about something different than just discovering emotions. Thus, Nagato is well aware of her emotions in-story.
Kuyō’s role in this story so far is merely as an inciting event, but I plan to visit her again and to explore her motivations and how they are similar to Nagato’s.
The extended metaphor of the Choir was actually more substantial in an initial draft, with Haruhi being compared to a conductor. It is, unfortunately, also rather coincident with the metaphor Brian Randall uses in Kyon: Big Damn Hero for Kuyō’s people.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with this first chapter, and while the rest is as yet unwritten, I hope Nagato’s journey through life, and her exploration of humanity, is something that will prove entertaining and touching.