Sunday Small Talk

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Happy World Kindness Day.

I wanted to talk a little bit about something I need to inject more into my current nano: raising the stakes for the character, giving them something to overcome.

I was thinking on two manga in particular I thought did this very well. A lot of manga I like for the art and the fun characters but many are just ‘beach reads.’ Some however are much deeper than that (not that there is anything wrong with entertaining beach reads). Some are truly transformative and their stories truly stand out (and it’s a shame in a way that the younger manga reading crowd jump from one thing to another so fast that stories are often quickly forgotten before they’re even finished).

Fullmetal Alchemist is one such read. Not only does it have the fantastic art and fun characters, it’s storyline is so very well done. I would prop it up against any fantasy novel as one of my favorite all time reads. We have several characters for whom the character stakes keep getting raised. Ed and Al start out trying to recover their bodies from the alchemical mistake they’ve made. This draws them in Roy Mustang’s military world and into a huge drama that threatens their entire country, if not the world, and has roots in their father’s past. Worse, Al’s soul is showing signs of becoming unanchored from his metal body so there in the stakes are upped. They must reach their goal before the last remnants of Alphonse are lost.

Roy has his own goals of becoming the leader of the country because he sees the corruption and wants it gone. He doesn’t want to ever be forced into another war like the one he was in in his youth. But this is no ordinary corruption and the alchemical monsters he’s fighting think nothing of threatening his ‘queen’ and his family and have already cost him his best friend. Then there is young Ling, one of the potential heirs to the throne in Xing. He wants something to make him the best emperor he can be but when he gets it, he faces the loss of all that makes him human. All the way to the end of the manga you felt there was a chance that not all of them would make it (and some did not).

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And there is one I’m reading now Noragami: Stray God that is shaping up to be equally good story wise (with very good art too), which surprising story arcs and huge stakes for the characters. In a nutshell Hiyori is a school girl who has a problem, her soul keeps slipping free, leaving her comatose. Her path crosses Yato’s, the titular stray god. He’s a war god (in reality a calamity god) who is struggling to keep his name in the consciousness of the people by doing odd jobs for them. His most desperate wish is to have his own shrine. He agrees to help Hiyori with her problem and soon they meet the soul a dead boy, Yukine who becomes Yato’s shiki, sort of a spiritual weapon and together they fight corrupt spirits. Simple enough, not even really unique in the world of manga.

But quickly the stakes begin to rise. Hiyori faces being lost in the world of spirits if she doesn’t find a way to keep her soul in place but she always wants so much to help Yato and Yukine that she’s putting herself at risk. Yato wants to help her but knows if he does, he could be forgotten entirely and if that happens, Yato will fade from existence. Yukine doesn’t want to be with Yato but his path quickly changes, escalates and has very high stakes indeed. And as if fading his own death, Yato wants something more. He wants to switch from being a god of calamity and destruction to one of happiness. It’s these sorts of stories that drag you in because it’s not a sure thing that all three of them will be happy or even survive.

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Then I have my story and yes it is a nano and will of course require much revision but the stakes are slow in coming and that’s not really a good thing.

For Cam, this is somewhat clear. He wants his freedom. He’s been in thrall to the war goddess for so long he can’t remember (it’s been centuries). Equally important to him is to keep free of those who have had him imprisoned for nearly that long (a cabal of mages but he doesn’t know that as his mind is clouded with magic). He’s at risk of being lost both back to the cabal, someone who wants to replace the cabal and to the goddess herself. His stakes are fairly high.

For Tenaldi there really aren’t any stakes yet. He’s happy as a journeyman poison gardener for the queen, content to make poisons and healing potions for his ruler. His only real ambition is to take over the garden as a master gardener some day but he’s too young for that. So…not the most compelling of stakes in what should be one of the three main characters. However, his stakes will come and I know that. Caught up with Cam and the drama, he’ll be fighting for his life.

It’s Solan who is giving me fights. She’s supposed to be the third main character and so far she’s not really holding up her own end. All I really know about her is that she wants to be a general (or whatever I’ll be calling them) in the Queen’s cadre of warrior mages and she’s well on her way. I know she’ll be caught up with Cam and Tenaldi but I really have no separate stakes for her and that is a problem. It’s something I need to work on.

The nano is going slowly too between depression and a lack of time. I have learned something rather depressing about my writing. If I have no competition, no goal to beat no stakes of my own I just wander about. Give me a word war against friends and I’ll crank out 2K in an hour. I don’t like this about myself. It’s something I need to work on. I’m closing in on 18K though.

No news on any of my other projects other than we’ll have the links for Once Upon a Time in the Weird West soon.

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