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P – Paranoia Agent (Mousou Dairinin)

  • Posted on April 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Written by the god of Mindscrews, Satoshi Kon, the famous Paranoia Agent is one of those anime that you either love or hate. Mostly I adore it. I’ve seen it six times now, and the story just keeps on giving. A huge cast of characters, all interconnected through the introduction of Li’l Slugger (Shounen Bat), a paranormal young boy who rides on golden inline skates and provides deliverance at the end of a twisted golden bat.

Why I recommend it for Writers:  The series is a masterful art of connecting interwoven storylines and character archs. Watch if you want to learn from one of the best.

Warnings: This anime is kind of fucked up. Suicide, incestuous fantasies, murder, and assault.

For the rest of the articles in this series, please visit this page.

Have you seen this anime? What about it made you want to be a better writer? Do you intend to go shotgun this anime now that I’ve shown it to you? Comment below and tell me what you think!

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

  • Posted on March 20, 2017 at 7:01 am

This year, I’ll be participating in the A-To-Z-Challenge. Which, if you don’t know, is a huge blog-hop where everyone participating posts daily during the month of April. These posts have to be titled from A to Z, and go along with a theme chosen before the month begins! Normally, people choose themes that work well for them, as it’s a very tough thing to maintain a post a day.

I’ve decided to do small posts of only about a hundred words each, in order to make sure that my writing stamina remains pure for my lovely books. But that doesn’t mean my reveal isn’t worthwhile, oh no! If you are a writer yourself, or maybe just a nerd/geek/dork, you’ll jump for joy at the theme I’ve chosen!

 

Official Image – Not Mine

ANIME!

That is to say, I’ll be reviewing animes that all writers should watch. I’ll give a short blurb about what the anime is about, and then about why I’m recommending it to writers specifically. After that, I’ll be providing a short list of warnings, if necessary, for the anime itself. This way you can avoid unpleasantness if you don’t want to see it.

I’ve had a love of anime and manga ever since I was introduced at the tender age of nine to Sailor Moon, Digimon, and Pokemon. After that, the love affair continued with Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star, both of which are great space operas. You should try them out! (No they aren’t on my list! You’ll have to wait and see what anime made the Alphabet!)

The anime I’ve watched and the manga I’ve read have really shaped who I am as a person and what I write. So I want to share this list with everyone so that anime can continue to improve the world! Join me, and we’ll learn together!

Have you ever watched an anime and thought to yourself ‘this is a great story! How did they do it?’ Are you new to the anime scene? Do you have a favorite anime you think should be on the list?  Comment below and let us know!

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Writing Anime: An Interview

  • Posted on August 21, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Today, instead of lecturing you on what to cherry-pick from certain animes, I’ve met with and interviewed an individual who knows his stuff. Cuchallain has a long career of analysing and reviewing anime, manga and video games. So much so in fact that I greatly respect his opinions on most of the review videos I’ve watched. He also happens to have my favorite Let’s Play of Tales of Zestiria on the entirety of the internet, so let’s put that out there too.

As the first interview I ever conducted, Cu and I started with just a few questions, and while he didn’t exactly consider himself an expert to start with, it quickly became apparent to me that he was, in fact, quite knowledgeable. An avid anime fan since the age of ten years old, a convention-goer on the regular, and now the personality behind a youtube channel with over five thousand subscribers, Cu is also incredibly humble.

When asked what goes into his writing for his typical reviews, he explained that he’s actually very unscripted with them. At most, he takes a few notes, generally about the speech of the characters and the themes behind the videos. He in fact, doesn’t even script his theory videos. Then, unfortunately, we devolved into a discussion about his online name, and then that devolved into a conversation on fanfiction and the wonders of Inuyasha as a gateway drug.

Writing Anime: Pokemon Go

  • Posted on July 23, 2016 at 5:13 pm

So, like most others, my life has been taken over by Pokemon Go, an altered reality game where you catch cute as hell pokemon and run around like a crazy person. Altered Reality Games are defined as ” an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.” What this means is, it’s interactive and fully user-based. In this case, it involves walking and jogging around town to different landmarks, collecting items from those landmarks, and catching cute pokemon that spawn through out town.

Now, what does this have to do with Writing? Well, it explains a lot about fandom and how interacting with it works. We’ve seen a lot of examples of fandom interactions between those of us who create, and those who consume. Often times, those that interact with their fans generally make more sales, and also have more material with which to work. After all, what better engine of creation than several hundred rabid fans all coming up with theories like breathing?

In fact, some artists interact with their fandoms solely for this reason. Others, however, have fun with it, and generally just interact with their fans for entertainment. Then there are those who fuck it up royally while interacting, and somehow get accused of being predatory towards their fanbase (here’s looking at you, John Greene).

One of my favorite examples of an author who interacts with their fanbase is Andrew Hussie, creator of modern day Illiad Homestuck and Problem Sleuth. This is a man whose work has garnered him a fanbase capable of pulling together 1.2 million dollars in TWO. WEEKS. I saw the kickstarter (and donated to it myself) go from 0 dollars to $500,000 in 24 hours, all in anticipation of a videogame.

How did he do it? In-jokes. Good writing. MASSIVE character base. He opened his twitter and several other places for questions to his fanbase. He allowed them to interact with him, and they did. It was massive. In fact, there’s an entire in-joke within the fandom (Fat Vriska, for anyone who knows it) that was started when someone on Formspring asked him about the weight of one of his characters. Eventually, he was asked about Vriska. Which concluded in this glorious manner:

In one of the most glorious fuck-you’s I’ve ever seen, he declared this, and the fandom ran with it.

For more of these absolutely hilarious happenings, you can, of course go to Knowyourmeme.com, and read up on all of them. Or, you can attempt to track them all down. That could be a fun scavenger hunt!

Speaking of scavenger hunts, have you heard of CipherHunt? Well, the fandom of Gravity Falls has. You see, Gravity Falls is a disney show that made it’s fandom massive through the use of ciphers, mysteries and the sorts of things that make those particular fans go crazy. That is, an omniscient Dorito demon who makes bad deals. CipherHunt is creator Alex Hirsch‘s way of making his fans happy one last time. Even though the series has ended, he’s provided them a series of clues, and told them, go on, get hunting.

At the end of each clue is a souvenir/next clue. Now, this isn’t possible for ALL authors, obviously, especially if you don’t have DISNEY backing you. But the fact that he allows it, even though his series is over, shows you what kind of person ends up with a fandom that large. Playful people who love what they’re doing.

Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, is another playful person who loves what she’s doing, and in so doing, interacts with her fandom. But she does it quite a bit less than the others on this list. Honestly, she just keeps an eye on what her fandom creates and says, and then sometimes makes nods to it in her show. This is the bare minimum, but because of the way her show works, it does wonders.

So, you might be asking, how can I become this sort of creator? What do I need to do to woo my fandom beast? Well, first of all, find the fans. If you have work out already, look at who bought it, and who likes it. Encourage these people to talk to you. Encourage them to create, whether fanfiction, fanart, or fanmusic. Encourage creation, and it’ll create itself around you.

Then, remember, no matter what you do, it’s not going to be perfect. Laugh about your mistakes with those who point them out. Or, like Hussie does, make them into injokes. Have a sense of humour, and openly enjoy the community growing around your works. Even if it’s only a few people.

And finally, be accessible. Don’t hide yourself away, because while that may work for people like Steven King, or George R.R. Martin, when you’re writing for the sort of demographic that likes Anime and Manga, you really can’t afford to.

Who knows, if you succeed, you just might end up like Ishida-sensei, the creator of Tokyo Ghoul, who got to share his joy at his new Pokemon with the fans of his work.

 

Writing Anime: Valentine’s Edition!

  • Posted on February 15, 2016 at 1:13 am

It is Valentine’s Day for most of us, February 14th, a day when we celebrate romance and love (and sex) in all it’s myriad forms. From the loving married couple giving each other lovingly prepared gifts, to the cute young lovebirds declaring their affections with homemade cards, to the cute japanese schoolgirl baring her feelings with homemade chocolates. Lately, we also celebrate the other half of that dichotomy, the lonely single sitting on their couch eating chocolates bought with their own money, the friend who gives his single friend a rose so she won’t feel bad about valentines day, the guy desperate for love who decides to do valentine’s blind dates.

So today, we’re going to celebrate writing love! In fact, I have an example for you of REALLY well done romance. Oddly enough, the story it finds itself in, is quite literally, a tragedy. The story? Katanagatari. The couple? Shichika Yasuri and his wielder (this is explained in the series.) Tougame, the self-proclaimed Strategian. First thing I’d like to point out, Shichika is absolutely the youngest of the two, which in and of itself in literature, is rare. I’ll give you a breakdown of the series a little bit before going into the actual relationship.

Katanagatari started as a series of light novels, twelve in total, by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Take.  These novels depicted the journey of Shichika Yasuri and his attempts to recover the Deviant Blades. The swordmaster Kiki Shikizaki made 1000 swords in his lifetime, and the shogunate has managed to find 988 of them. HOWEVER, the final twelve are the most dangerous. These Deviant Blades turn their wielders mad, and give them immense strength. Togame has been tasked with this mission.

Shogunate strategist Togame has been ordered to recover them. She first hired a ninja…but the worth of the swords is so great that the entire ninja clan defected the moment they recovered one. Then she hired a swordsman… but he kept the sword for himself after finding it and went rogue.

Her last hope is Shichika Yasuri, the seventh head and last practitioner of Kyotouryuu, the No Sword School. He and his elder sister live on an island cut off from civilization, and as such they need no money. His fighting style doesn’t use a sword, so the famous weapons are useless to him

TvTropes page on Katanagatari

The true story here, however, is how Shichika and Togame fall in love. One of the iconic quotes of the series is Togame’s first orders to Shichika on how he is to conduct himself during the journey. Her exact words I’ll leave for when you to discover, but suffice to say, they’re very sweet, if one thinks about it. Through the course of the series, we see her slowly teach Shichika more about humanity, more about himself, and, without meaning to, more about herself.

Part of what makes this series so well written, however, and this romance specifically, is that while outright STATED that the romance will go down, (“Fall for me!” – Togame) it is also shown in all the small things. There are scenes of Shichika dressing Togame. Scenes of her allowing him to wrap himself in her hair, to learn her scent. Scenes of the two of them holding one another, and depending on one another.

The progression is rational, and slow. Fair warning, however, this anime is a tragedy. So don’t go into this expecting it all to be feel good feelings and love. But then again, when is love like that? And you can see that too, with Shichika growing a little cruel when he thinks Togame has gone to far, and with Togame crying and being cruel herself when Shichika seems interested in another woman. The series makes sure to show the ups and the downs.

Another brilliant thing depicted is how each partner supports the other in times of sadness. Just a warning, there are a few spoilers here, but the series is relatively old, so any look up of it will definitely yield these spoilers anyway. Now that you’ve been fairly warned, I’ll be happy to go into more detail.

Later in the series, we find out that Shichika’s older sister is a little… Well. She’s nuts. She goes and finds one of the deviant blades in order to force Shichika to fight her, and hopefully, kill her. Togame stands by his side (And in fact is way too close to the battle) while he fights the only other person he’s known for his entire life, and at the end, lets him grieve as he needs to.

We see something very similar later on in the series, when in the search of another deviant blade, they meet the Sage. He forces Togame to confront the death of her father, and his last words to her, and it takes a long, long time for that to happen, along with a lot of manual labor in the form of digging. But Shichika is not the one doing the manual labor this time. Togame digs from day until night, and Shichika stays by her side as much as he can, as well as serving as a place where she can rest at the end of a hard day.

I meant literally a place for her to rest, by the way.

These sorts of scenes are necessary to show us the love that has blossomed between them. The trust and the camaraderie between them is more important than any outward romantic display of any kiss or hand-holding. These little moments, they’re more of a love story than fifty shades of grey and twilight put together.

To make it simple, here are a few points to make sure your romance doesn’t fall flat, or worse, turn into a farce.

  • Show the small moments. The things that aren’t ROMANCE per se, but are, in fact, companionship.
  • Make the romance about the PEOPLE, not the sex.
  • Make memories for them. Beautiful memories that we as the reader can share in the intimacy of.
  • Try not to push your version of romance on them. Let it grow. Let them be people.
  • Above all, make sure that there is story to surround the romance. Even in Romance Novels this is paramount.

Remember, the story in and of itself is about the people, and if these people happen to be in love, show us that! In love, show-don’t-tell is essential. So go out there and tell the best love story you possibly can!

 

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!

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