Foreign Friday: The Amazing End…of Part One

I HAVE FINISHED MY WORK IN PROGRESS!

*CONFETTI*

Naruto_Kurama_ModeI feel this awesome right now.

Yes, I am now the proud author of another brilliant manuscript! 358 pages of sheer literary genius, with an ending that demands a sequel! Dazzling characters, a flawless plot, lifelike settings! Never mind that I slightly feel as though I’ve only finished part one of a long series! I AM AN AUTHOR!!!!

WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

YEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

HUZZAAAAAAHH!!!

Please excuse me as I drift happily along in the Clouds of Contentment until the Gravity of Editing pulls me back down to reality….

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Foreign Friday: Environmental Influences

Reading manga has really taught me to keep my horizons wide, since Japanese culture is not the same as American culture. Things that the characters do or say reflect the environment of the author, and if I’m not paying attention I won’t understand. But only recently have I considered the effect of my own environment upon READING.

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Have you ever read a book or watched a movie, and then forever related it to the events or location during which you first read/watched it? Pride and Prejudice in the summer. Cardcaptor Sakura in the spring. The Lord of the Rings at Christmas time. The Hunger Games in a windowless room with dry snack food. Harry Potter in the back of a minivan. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with my brothers, watching them play and reading out the strategy guide for the Water Temple. Can’t read Redwall without cheese and iced tea. Final Fantasy XIII at a friend’s, trying to figure out the plot and debating the pros and cons of Xbox vs PlayStation.

I’ve found that those environmental relations tend to color how I remember the story (hot, cold, fun, lousy).  Starting Naruto Shippuden was super exciting, but it could have been because I started reading it at Easter after having given up manga for Lent. I hated The Hunger Games, but perhaps it had something to do with the institutional room and substandard food I was eating, making me feel a little too sympathetic. Final Fantasy is awesome and intricate, but it may be colored by the pleasure of playing it with my friend.

These are the fun observations that can lead to brilliant character development! And it all started because I wanted to finish a video game…

 

 

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Foreign Friday: Prologue

“What is past is prologue.” – The Tempest

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One of the best things about summer is that I have a lot of free time. One of the worst things about summer is that every else knows I have a lot of free time. The end result is that all my free time gets planned out for me with (albeit fun) activities that don’t leave a lot of…free time. Good for my social life, bad for my writing. Well, that’s just how it goes.

One of these fun activities was to go and see Shakespeare’s The Tempest performed in an outdoor theater. Brilliant production! If you’ve never seen Shakespeare acted out by people who know what they’re doing, you’re really missing out! Wooden O has been performing “Shakespeare in the Park” for 20 years in my area, and they are truly to be commended.

There is a famous line in The Tempest (which I quoted above), which gave me writing food for thought. Prologues (or so I’ve been told by my personal critic whom I respect most) are often useless, poorly written, and actually miss what a prologue should really be. What should I prologue really be? I haven’t reached that peak yet, but I’m scaling that mountain.

I know for myself that while I always felt that prologues are a waste of paper (because usually the information they give is either marginally irrelevant, or could easily be summed up in a paragraph in the main story), I find myself writing them anyway. There is something about prologues that makes me want to put something down. But is it the sort of information that needs to be placed in a prologue? Is it really the first thing I want readers to experience in the story?

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I know that if done well, prologues can be very tantalizing, or very frustrating. Take the first page of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle – that is a prologue of events to come. There are no words, but the action and the desperate emotion jump of the page at you. Yet the events they are prologue-ing don’t occur until THE LAST VOLUME! You plow your way through the series trying to find out how that single page fits into the story! I’d say that is an excellent use of a prologue (and yes, I am a CLAMP fan.) Another great use of the idea of prologue is the series Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki. While there isn’t actually a prologue, the whole vibe of the story is centered on things in the past. It’s almost as if the main character’s life was a prologue to the events that follow in the series.

What do you think? Ever read a great – or terrible – prologue? Any prologue writing tips out there?

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Foreign Friday: Special Powers

I love fantasy and science fiction, mostly because I love the idea of special powers. Whether its magic or mutation, I am drawn to people who are “special.” However, through my vast readership of novels and manga, I have noticed that a truly clever writer can make a super power out of anything.

Of course, the flashy abilities are very impressive. It’s handy to have a character who can fly, or see through walls, or become invisible, or put his/herself into a special charged up state (often complete with a costume change and an equally flashy weapon.) But it can be just as impressive to read about a character whose real ‘special power’ is something more human. What about a hero whose empathic heart allows him to reach out to the hearts of others? Couple that with a daunting will, and you have the incredibly popular Naruto.

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I love special powers, and have used them with cheerful abandon through many of my stories, but I’ve found that an amazing ability is not enough to make a character truly special, or even memorable. The choices they make, the way they use their powers, that creates a stronger impression of the character than the special power alone.

Take Rose Tyler from the BBC series Doctor Who. She’s a perfectly normal girl, whose determination to protect the person she cares for most led her to obtaining incredible power. But its not the power that leaves an impression on your mind when then episode is over. You’re left to contemplate the strength of her will, and the consequences of her choices. If that is what you walk away with, then the writers did well.

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Special powers are awesome, but they should really be special because of the characters who possess them!

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Foreign Friday: America!

I’ve been watching the BBC show Doctor Who, and every time an American shows up, I have to laugh. The playboy. The power-hungry millionaire. The presidential jerk. The stereotypes are hilarious. It’s often the same in manga, American’s are usually oddly dressed, pushy, and power hungry. The Japanese obvious don’t have any higher opinion of us than the British do.

Of course, we do the same to them…

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(If all Americans were like Captain Jack, I think we’d be in trouble.)

Stereotypes and preconceptions are often wrong, but they are enlightening. If this is what is being noticed, there must be a reason. What do we do that makes this impression, despite the fact that most of us in the good old US are far from millionaires, and love to bash our government and debate the jerkiness of our president? What shows?

As writers, there are a lot of character stereotypes that can be drawn from. The naive heroine. The dark, brooding antihero, etc. But if we leave them as stereotypes, how can we get the truth across? What are they really like? If you dig deep enough, you can break through the stereotype and create a real person.

What sort of crazy stereotypes have you heard of?

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Foreign Friday: Going Back to Fix Things

Yesterday I read a wonderful blog by Kristen Lamb about not going back to edit/fix manuscript until you’ve reached the end of the story. This advice is incredibly valuable, following my new mantra of DON’T LOOK BACK. I have not yet mastered this skill.

Of course, Kristen Lamb is not the only one to have given such good advice. Moving forward while resisting the urge to go back and correct things before the end is something I’ve learned from such manga epics as Fullmetal Alchemist and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. 

Edward and Alphonse Elric wish to bring their dead mother back to life. Not the best idea. Can they go back and correct the consequence (losing of limbs/body)?

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Syaoran….well, let’s just say that the whole point of Tsubasa is ‘don’t screw with time.’ Innumerable consequences follow from a wish to go back and change something. And even if the change is successful, the act of changing it twisted the entire fabric of the universe, screwing with just about everything.

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DON’T LOOK BACK is a good motto to have when just trying to finish your WIP. Of course, if Ed or Syaoran had followed that advice, then there wouldn’t have been a story, would there?

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TSUBASA photo by (http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net)

Foreign Friday: Rainy Thoughts

Sometimes, I wish I could be like the rain. If I were, would I have a way to connect two hearts together, the way the rain connects the earth and the sky, even though the two never touch?

  – Bleach

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Rain can often make me melancholy and introspective. I blame the falling rain for my lack of focus on my WIP, and my increase in daydreaming. Although, daydreaming can arguably become a way of harnessing new ideas, or a way to get into the head of a melancholy or introspective character. Despite my issues with the plot of Bleach, this is one thing that Tite Kubo does rather well; with just a few lines, he can set the mood and thoughts of a character whose thought process is usually abstract, changing her from amusing to poignantly insightful.

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