Outline fixings and musings: Character

I’ve been revamping my outline since 1.7 and fixing timeline issues here and there, fleshing out sections that I figure will give me trouble (I mean, the Nao/Mai/Natsuki dialogue gave me trouble because my outline had only major bullet: “small talk”–I don’t even like small talk in real life!). In this process, I’ve been reviewing what sorts of things I’ve been learning about writing fiction. ^_^

I thought a lot about how creators/writers develop characters. In Part 1, I’m concentrating more on practicing mechanics and developing character realism and psychology, so plot ends up being more incidental than it should. I can think of at least two anime that are entirely character-driven and not reliant on particularly strong “plots,” however: Haibane Renmei and Honey and Clover.

What made those poignant, believable, and thoroughly enjoyable for me were the characters. The events around them weren’t particularly special–no grand conspiracies, no soap opera-level tragedies, et cetera. The characters themselves seemed pretty average. I suspect many people would find the pace quite slow and ponderous. But those stories were artful and introspective–qualities I find lacking in the majority all of mass media these days. (:P)

But this normalcy, averageness, and introspection all rolled up artfully give the most important trait to any story, I think: empathy. Well, I suppose since “empathy” is really the responsibility and work of the audience, any story can only plant the seed. This need not be limited to certain genres, of course. An excellent action film, in my book, is still able to be human.

I did realize, however, that I can’t do pure introspection. I’ve seen fanfics out there that are entirely first-person narratives with no interaction. I think that’s fine for a short and pure psychological presentation, but it’s impossible to actually develop anything in this manner, so I’d never use such a method in a story, I suppose.

Develop? To develop requires change–for better or worse. In social terms, this requires interaction with the environment, usually other people. Is it possible to write a compelling story of character development on a person who was left isolated in the wilderness and interacts with the wildnerness creatures in only the basest manners? Perhaps. But there’s still interaction going on somewhere, I suppose. The fact that the human mind can change itself is a little comforting, sometimes.

Now, as I attempt to develop the cast of Mai-HiME in my own way, I realized three things:

(1) Developing my own characters was a lot more difficult than I imagined! I didn’t recognize that the preexisting trajectories of ethos in the old cast towards the end of the series would make writing a believable version of them that much easier. Speaking of development trajectories–

(2) There’s definitely more than one way to write a character post-HiME-festival “in-character” precisely because more than one character trajectory exists per person. Now, some trajectories are more dominant than others depending on how the series ended, of course. In other cases, we never see additional, actual character development despite the addition of major trajectories to certain people (in my mind, this would include Nao if her mom returned). Then it’s my choice which development trajectory to pick and hopefully make it believable.

(3) I like the “thought” mode of writing, certainly, but telling people via third-person “spoonfed” narration how a person has changed isn’t the best way to show development. If development is change and change is borne (mostly) by social interaction, then dialogue is necessary. Communication–or lack of–is difficult, I’ve found. :P Yes, I still dislike the struggle that is dialogue-writing, but it’s practice.

My biggest problem with all the above is my self-imposed, limited timeline. Perhaps I gave myself too great a challenge by having such a limited setting to work with; stretching 12-odd chapters over a 7-day period seems ludicrous. Moreover, I’m forced to use flashbacks or even narrative spoonfeed in some cases to show-and-tell development we never see due to my own pace or the series timeline. Well, the latter is Sunrise’s fault, I suppose, since they did skip several months within episode 26. (Yes, I have an excuse!)

You know, I think literary composition would have been a fun class to take. :)
That, and I need to stop philosophizing before 7:00 am in the mornings.

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8 thoughts on “Outline fixings and musings: Character”

        1. I should have no problem getting 1.8 out the coming week, but I want to try to make that visual post (doctored pics or something of the new characters) around the same time. Hm…

  1. So, I got to thinking (well into the afternoon, but on a day when I’m quite possibly feverishly ill…), and uh… Well, yeah, this is quite possibly a very bad idea. So here goes!

    I think that creating your own characters is both the most fun and most frustrating thing you can do in writing. You have this person that has all these traits and interacts like this or that… and then you have to have a bloody reason for every damn thing they do. If I make two characters, one of them will still feel cardboard until the rewrite (a process where I do my very best Dr Frankenstein impression for best results: Live! Live!). And then they seem… well, a bit dull but not so bad.

    Moving on.
    Haibane Renmei is a beautiful anime. I’ve shown it to a number of people that I wouldn’t show any other part of my collection because (so far as I’ve seen) no one that has the attention span to sit through the whole thing can possibly dislike it. It’s amazing how the extraordinary is made common place and the only consequence is that the ordinary has a chance to be breathtakingly beautiful.

    Last bit, I promise. I’ve been thinking about Nao a lot recently. I’ve been thinking some… very interesting conjectures and theories. I don’t think I’ll share those. I will take a moment to agree with you that Mai HiME left so much room for her to develop and change depending on how you want to interpret the tidbits they scattered before us savage masses.

    1. I haven’t seen it as “fun” yet, but more along the lines as “necessary” for my purposes. I think I need to get out of the mindset of building purpose and motive alongside traits and see them more as whole people. ^_^; That is a challenge.

      Re:HR:
      And how the “commonplace” is made “extraordinary.” :)
      Ah, the ending was so bittersweet. ^_^; But perfect.

      Re:Nao:
      No need to share, but perhaps you’ll write something about it. :P
      I’ve decided there has to be more Nao in Part 2, but it’s going to be so much work.

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