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Writing Anime: Land of Gods and Monsters

  • Posted on January 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

Noragami is a sensational series that gives whole new definition to Gods and Demons. Or rather, in this case, Kami and Ayakashi (Phantoms). The series follows Yato, a down-on-his-luck god, who in general seems to have no real power. In fact, he’s honestly a god-for-hire, who will “Grant any wish for just 5 yen!” as he so cheerfully exclaims all over media networks. Seriously, this guy has a TWITTER.

Poor guy only has two followers though.

Along with him are Yukine, a spirit that he has allowed second life to serve him as a Regalia (a system that will be explained later), and Yatori, a human girl whom made a wish, and Yato is having trouble granting it. All in all a beautiful story with great characters and a lovely, multi-faceted protagonist.

So why is it so interesting? Well, because of the fact that the WORLD in which it is built is so very interesting. As normal humans, this world isn’t something WE would be able to see, but none the less, might exist along side us anyway.

Today, we’ll be exploring that world in detail, as well as the various ways we could use these details in our own writing.

In the world of Noragami, there are approximately four types of spirits. Gods known as Kami, Humans from the Near Shore, which are just regular people like you and me, Spirits which can be either human shaped or corrupted into Ayakashi, and Regalia (or Shinki) which are used by gods to cleanse and purify Ayakashi.

Of the various classes, Kami are perhaps the oddly vulnerable powerhouses of the series. One of the major arc-words of the series is “A god can do no wrong.” An article by Martin Wisse explains why this might not be such a good thing. Gods are unchangeable, eternal beings. So much so in fact that when one dies, if they have followers, they are immediately reborn, sans memories and in a childlike form. If they do not have followers… Well.

To that end, Gods are tasked with removing Ayakashi from existence, cleansing them sometimes, or destroying them others. Ayakashi are what happens when a soul stays too long on the Near Side (I.E. Our world) and gets corrupted by negative emotion, fear, doubt, or by other Ayakashi. These spirits turn into giant monstrous beasts that cause misfortune, unrest, and negative emotions in humans. If one were strong enough, it might even cause a human to fall into such deep depression that they could decide to kill themselves, thus feeding the Ayakashi following them.

Before an Ayakashi forms, however, it is most likely a Near Side Soul, or basically, a ghost. These are spirits that linger, and these are the spirits that can be turned into Shinki, or Regalia. Regalia are the most important thing for a god to have, when dealing with Ayakashi. As gods will become corrupted and suffer blight if they touch or get near an Ayakashi for too long, Shinki allow the gods to combat and purify the phantoms. Shinki act as weapons, or sometimes objects, that are intermediaries between the gods and the world around them. In fact, Regalia are so important that THEY themselves choose what their god can strike at.

If a god can get to a Near-Side Soul before it turns into Ayakashi, they can choose to send it on to the next life, or take it on as a Regalia. Shinki, however, are not easy to maintain. They are essentially human, and so each negative emotion they have affects their God. Lying, stealing, cheating, all of it physically HURTS the god they are tied to. In fact, if it goes on long enough and the human doesn’t repent, it can actually cause the god so much illness that the god has to die to be set arights. But again, a god with followers has nothing to fear from being killed, except that they would lose their current selves and start over as a child.

What we, as writers, can take from this is that magic systems are sometimes extremely complex. If your magic system is as complex as this, it MUST impact not just the plot, but the characters entirely! Yato is entirely absorbed in his role as a God. In fact, it’s what DRIVES him as the main character, and what drives him to change. The problem is, as a Kami, Yato CANNOT change on his own. He requires external forces to enact change in him. There comes in Yukine and Hiyori. But it is the Magic System that requires such measures.

To enact this sort of magic system, however, you have to think of it as a sort of ecosystem. If there is one section of the ecosystem, it must serve another, as the Kami serve the humans to get prayers and worship, and the shinki serve the Kami as a way to gain a second life. Generally, however, your story won’t work unless this ecosystem IS the central plot, when tied into the characters. A few tips for implementing it:

  • Have one character from each section of the ecosystem, so as to show how they interact.
  • Make sure that each section has drawbacks as well as gains from the other sections.
  • Clearly delineate how this ecosystem would fall apart if one part were removed.
    • For example, if the Kami are removed, the Ayakashi overrun humanity, and if the Shinki are removed, the Gods would fall to blight.
  • Show how the ecosystem works even when one or more of the pieces is missing. Don’t just leave it to chance, work it into your plot.
  • Make it a part of the characters. Don’t SAY the character is in this part of the ecosystem, SHOW it in their actions.

If you were to adapt this to another culture, say, norse gods, it could still work on the fundamental basis. Change ‘Shinki’ to Valkyries. Change gods to Aesir. Change Ayakashi to Giants, or Aelfs, or any other number of norse nasties. You could easily tell the story of Noragami with Loki instead of Yato. Just be careful, because that could be copyright infringement.

 

Writing Anime – Colorful

  • Posted on January 24, 2016 at 3:52 pm

There are very few movies that have managed to reduce me to tears. One I can name was A.I., the movie that was basically a pinocchio parallel except with robots. This movie, Colorful? It reduced me to tears halfway through the movie, and then just kept them coming. I recommend this movie for anyone who is going through hard times, suffering depression, or any sort of problem with belief in oneself.

The premise of the movie is simple. A soul is given a second chance, and that second chance requires that they figure out the crime they committed in their past life, as well as why the boy who’s body they inhabit killed himself. The ending is staggering. I definately didn’t see it coming. But what really did it for me was how it drew me in. The first sequence of the movie is entirely in first person. That is, the characters talk to YOU directly, and there is a beautiful falling sequence that just plain made me sigh with happiness.

Then, after a heart-wrenching scene where the family greets you, and then hands you a mirror to see yourself, it switches from first person into third, but you continue to hold onto that connection. You’re STILL that person, and you’ve STILL got the wonder and the fear and the anxiety that the opening instilled in you. It’s a wonderful technique that often isn’t pulled off well. However, this movie does it masterfully.

How can we translate this work into a literary practice? Well, let’s take a look at a few authors who make regular changes in point of view, and what delineates how well it is done. One of my favorite books that I read recently was Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore. In the book, his two main characters, an old man named Nakata and a young boy named Kafka have different point of views. When the book speaks of Kafka’s adventures, they’re all first person. Nakata’s part of the story however, is always in third person.

The way this ends up working is very different from what you might think. In fact, in even more jarring, and therefore attention grabbing, parts in Kafka’s sections, parts of it drop into second person, telling me what is occuring to ME while I read it. Those parts were designed to make one uncomfortable, and they did. It was very uncomfortable reading those parts, but again, it drew you in.

Here are a few things you might consider when doing POV switches:

  • Consider which point of view is necessary for which character
  • if you do switch point of view, make sure it is clearly outlined who is using what pov.
  • if you switch points of view with the same character, only do so when the section needs to be unsettling or paid very close attention to.

Another book that did Point of View changes is one of my favorites, Patricia Briggs‘ Dragon Blood. The sequel to her Dragon Bones, Dragon Blood is told in a different way than her first book. In the first book, it was entirely from her main character, Ward’s perspective. Although we were privy to bits of excitement that happened to other people when Ward wasn’t present, it was clearly presented in a way of “Ward is telling the story, and adding parts he was told after the fact”. In Dragon Blood, however, it’s very clear that the Main Character-ship was shared between Tisala and Ward.

The way this was done was very simple. Each chapter had a denotation of WHO was the perspective character. This made it easy to follow, and also kept the linearness that Briggs is so exemplary for. I would definitely emulate her, were I writing something so straight forward.

These three examples prove that no matter what your medium, you’re going to have to keep an eye out for your POV. It’s not something you should spend only a few seconds considering. And if you get stuck? Well, try a new perspective!

Ab Ovo – A review of a Literary Term

  • Posted on January 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that my writing mentor, Chris Votey, is someone who inspires and encourages me to go beyond what I already know in the world of literary writing. This month, he’s assigned me to read one of his articles on a literary term and respond to it. He chose for me Ab Ovo, a term I had never heard before, much less considered writing on. To be honest, most of the literary theory I know comes from Tumblr’s various teardowns and theory discussions on various manga, anime and shows.

I found this particular literary term to be quite rudimentary. In other words, it’s a word I should have already known, but didn’t KNOW it was tied to something. What Ab Ovo is, is simply this: A story that starts at the beginning. It’s a latin term that means ‘In Egg’, or at the beginning.

Now, you’re most likely considering the fact that all stories start at the beginning. But no, not all do. In the article, he explains stories like Star Wars: A New Hope and Shaun of the Dead are both In Media Res (or Starting in the Middle). So I had to go out of my way to find stories that start Ab Ovo. I started off by thinking of as many stories as I knew, anime, manga, books I’d read, various other things as well, and I found a lot of them are In Media Res. In fact, it got me to thinking about how all of these stories start.

It began to get a bit frustrating after a while, and when I finally found one that actually ISN’T In Media Res, I almost laughed. One of the few Ab Ovo stories I found was actually a story we all know and love. Thumbelina. The story starts with the BIRTH of our main character, the most important character, and goes from there. There is no previous conflict, other than the old woman wanting a child, and that’s solved with Thumbelina’s arrival.

Most fairy tales start this way too. Sleeping Beauty starts with the birth of the princess. Snow white, the original tales anyway, start with the Queen wishing for a baby, and spilling two drops of blood on her sewing. Pinocchio starts with Gepetto wishing for a child on the blue star, and getting a moving puppet instead.

The moral of the story here is, I suppose, if you want to give your story a fairy-tale like quality, have it start Ab Ovo.

Now, the original article that Chris wrote mentioned that it was also possible for the story to be Ab Ovo if it began with the Beginning Conflict. Not the conflict the character themselves face, as most of the time that would be In Media Res, but rather with a larger conflict, such as War or Famine, something that CAUSES the conflicts the character later faces.

For examples of that, I could only really find a technical example. In “A Journey To the West”, it is generally accepted that The Monkey King is the most important character (or at least, he’s the fan favorite), where as the MAIN character is in fact the Priest that he accompanies on the eponymous Journey. However, the story BEGINS with the Monkey King getting himself thrown in Monkey Jail for arguing with God. (There are numerous versions of this story, including but not limited to Saiyuki, two TV series’ in both 1986 and 1996, and my personal favorite: Patalliro Saiyuki. More examples can be found here. )

Now, if the Monkey King had minded his own damned business and stayed in his lane, he might have been able to stop the Ox King’s rampage, which is what caused the Priest to have to set out in the first place. So, by that definition, this story would start Ab Ovo.

This doesn’t seem to discredit the theory that you should perhaps only use Ab Ovo in your story if you wish it to be fairy-tale like in quality. In fact, it gives it more credence. Really, it’s very difficult to hold an audience’s attention with a story that begins before the main character is even born. That’s why it’s generally considered rude to have a prologue, and many writers tell you not to bother with it, and to just turn it into later exposition. However, if the story is compelling enough (or culturally known well enough), you can most likely get away with it.

Weekly Writing Update – 1/11/16

  • Posted on January 11, 2016 at 7:03 pm

It’s been quite a long time since we’ve done one of these! A weekly writing update is when I take a look back over the last week and determine what goals I’ve met and what goals I haven’t. Sometimes I’m proud of myself, and sometimes I’m not, and I find lately that that feels wrong. I should ALWAYS be proud of what I achieve, even if it isn’t what I wanted to achieve.  Trying to be more grateful for myself and my works is one of my goals!

Word Counts

Knight of Kuryle – Unknown wordcount (still need to download and use Scrivener to edit)

Ashes and Ink – The New Kaimi Rowe book – 25997 words – First draft

The Faery King’s Bride – A fanfic project I started a few days ago – 2702 words

Blog Posts

Pet Peeves – 07/16/15

Half a Year Gone By – 12/04/16

ISWG – New Years Resolutions – 01/06/16

Books Read

The Time MachineH.G. Wells

Kafka on the ShoreHaruki Murakami

Goals

Read:

Get a new job (my current one is disagreeable)

Finish Fafsa

File Taxes

Download Scrivener (if I can on this thing)

 

IWSG – New Years Resolutions

  • Posted on January 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

It’s January, and that’s the time to make new goals and to give yourself new resolution. Not only that, it’s the time of the year when people rest after lots of stressful holiday planning, and lots of gift-giving, and lots and lots of family interaction. It’s a time to retrace out steps, refresh ourselves with our successes and failures of the last year, and to plan out a new strategy.

Which, of course, means it’s time to break out all those old snacks and eat them already!

All joking aside, January, and new years in specific, are a very stressful time for me. I often find myself falling prey to my anxiety. In fact, I spent the entirety of the day of new years eve plagued by anxiety so intense that I literally couldn’t do anything other than  surf the internet. I had to fight myself for two hours to get out of bed. I was litereally paralyzed with fear at the thought of making plans and preparing for the new year. I couldn’t think of anything else.

Of course, it was silly, but when one lives with depression and anxiety, silly things tend to make your day worse. So, I ended up spending new years cowering, rather than partying. It was the lowest point I’ve ever experienced in my life. Okay, well, maybe not THE lowest. But it sure felt like it at the time.

Fully recovered now, I feel as though I have to work harder, to try and set up plans, so that if I feel like that again, at least I’ll have time to recover without also neglecting everything I’ve set up. Plus, with my medicaid now, I can afford the medicine that’ll help manage it. That will be nice too.

Basically, Finding ways to fill in for the gaps in my motivation and mental illnesses is first and foremost in my mind. I’m going to be attempting a lot this year, what with going back to school, and trying to save up, and I have to make sure that I don’t slack on anything. Which can be very difficult. Holding myself to a higher level is hard.

For anyone else who suffers through this, I wish I could tell you everything turns out okay. I wish I could take over for you when your illnesses kick in. I wish I could say that there was something to look forward to, a day when all of it would end and you’re capable of doing what needs to be done. For anyone else who suffers through this, I can only say, you’re amazing. I know you are, because I am, and I’m stronger than I think I am. I know you’re strong too.

If you want to see other posts like this, other posts from writers struggling with these sorts of feelings, go to the Insecure Writers Support Group. We’re all friends there, and I know we’ll welcome you too!

We're here for you.

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