Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writing Fantasy: Learning from a Younger Me

This post started as a Facebook status. I got shamefully distracted writing it, but I think I just helped myself a lot. If you snoop around this blog long enough, you'll find evidence (even excerpts) of all three of the complete stories I mention here.

(TL;DR at end)

Writing a Fantasy...

Age 14: "So there's this kind, shy, princess who eventually gets kidnapped, and two guys (her best friend and a foreign prince) work to rescue her... but first, let's get a smaller conflict in there, to introduce the characters..."

(Less than a year later, the story was finished at 65,000 words. I developed cultural stuff as necessary, mostly so I wouldn't forget what I'd imagined. It was just structured make believe. I wrote what I wanted to experience.)

Age 14 to 15: "This seems like a cool place to start: A captive loner with special powers and a social, generous guy who turns out to be a prince. They'll start a revolution... These characters are funny together... this is great, like playing make believe!"

(Started prologue in May, finished 50,000-word manuscript in October same year, with no deadlines or pressure. Developed characters and political climate as necessary and conducted some research on weaponry.)

Age 17: "Okay, this is a fun story idea. Let's play with some stereotypes, just for fun!"

(Finished 130,000 words age 18, a year and nine months later, much more serious than when I began... It was set in our world, so I only had to work on developing a subculture, not a complete culture.)

Now, Age 21: "This idea could be cool... alright, I've got a few short character bios down, and I don't think they're too flat. Their relationships aren't too boringly stereotypical, are they? What's the agricultural situation? Climate? Uh-oh, I don't know this kingdom's religious or moral history. The culture needs more roots. Do I want to use our months and days, or does this world need a different calendar? Should I base it, at least loosely, around a particular culture and date the weapons and clothing accordingly? But I don't have time to research that right now... Oh snap. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?" (Started playing with ideas January, started rough draft last week, complete screenplay due end of April)

Actually, remembering how I wrote as a young teen helps me. Sure, looking back, the political and social structures could use some help, but that meant that I could focus on the characters and their main conflict. I didn't get distracted from that, and I had fun with the story. Was the plot itself fairly typical? Yeah. But the internal development in one of the characters worked pretty well, if I do say so myself, especially considering I was just 15 and undeveloped myself. My writing was immature, but I understood the basics about story development even then. I need to forget about the audience in my professor and classmates and just let myself play again.  


- As a young teen: "Yay fantasy, let's play with magic, adventure, and charming boys!"

- As 21-year-old creative writing student: SNAP. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?!

- Wait, maybe young me had the right idea after all. Relax, write, and stop to brainstorm when necessary. You can go back and change things if you discover new things about your characters and the culture. Stop thinking about your professor and classmates and just play a bit, okay?

If I could write a novel at 14 years old, complete with all the basic structure of a decent story (albeit immature in content, character understanding, and writing style), then with my maturing skills, I can write a screenplay up to snuff for an undergraduate class... yes, even a fantasy screenplay.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ramblings about Manga, Magical Love, and Crazy Akashi

Wow. It's Friday night again already? I know I don't have time for Rewind posts anymore, but I'm just not ready to let go. So I won't. Instead, let's talk... manga.

I don't read manga very often, because it's not easy to get ahold of freely and legally. But Crunchyroll recently made their manga collection accessible to all premium members, including us just-anime members. Previously, most of the manga was only available for the all-access folk. So I downloaded the app on my phone and browsed the inventory.

I'm now on the 15th chapter of Kiss Him, Not Me. I probably should be embarrassed admitting that, but it makes me laugh... a lot. At first, half the reason I laughed was its cheesier elements. I mean, it's a reverse harem manga, and that genre is hit-and-miss, but often miss. Plus, the main character, Serinuma, lost a lot of weight within a week while she mourned the death of her favorite anime character. There was never a chance I'd take this seriously... which is partly why I'm reading it.

The heroine is a fujoshi who has four guys (and, it appears, one girl?!) fall in love with her. She fantasizes a lot about BL, something I usually avoid, but oh well. I identify with the rest of her otaku habits to at least some extent. And some of the guys are really cool. They don't just tolerate her otakudom—they start to learn more about the anime and manga she likes. One of them has been particularly great in recent chapters, borrowing manga after manga. Dream guy, right there. He's won me over. I still wouldn't call this an amazing manga, but I don't think I'll drop it anytime soon.

Eventually, I'd like to read Attack on Titan and Space Brothers, as well as some of the other serious and decent-looking manga available on Crunchyroll. But for now, I need humor. I have a lot on my plate, so I favor lighthearted anime and manga.

Speaking of lighthearted, cheesy anime... I decided to keep watching Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!. It's still fun. Some of its elements imply inappropriate humor, though. Like a lot of magical characters, the Defense Club boys use English words to describe their magical deeds. I'm 99.99% sure that the resulting puns are intentional and understood by most Japanese fans. For example, when the boys transform into their magical selves, Yumoto yells "Love Making!" —meaning, of course, that they're made into Magical Boys who defeat evil with the power of Love. Perfectly innocent love. Yeah. And I'm pretty sure that when the innocent, childish Yumoto cuddles Wombat (the alien who gave them their powers), it's supposed to look a bit like molestation—especially in episode 6. That, I'm not okay with. But obviously I'm not bothered enough to quit watching.

What else is going on in my anime world... Last Saturday, when I deluded myself into believing I didn't need to do homework, I watched several shows, both anime and not. Kuroko's Basketball continues to enthrall me. I know the new episode comes out in less than twelve hours, but let's return to episode 6 for a minute to talk about Akashi.

Dude, you are not God. You're rich and talented, and you're doing a fine job of subjugating some of the greatest young basketball players in Japan, but you are not absolute. And I think Kuroko and Kagami will prove it to you. Somehow. Within the next 16 episodes, anime logic will humble you... I hope.

Also, you should never promise to gouge your eyeballs out if you lose. What if something unexpected happened, like half your teammates twisted their ankles and had to be taken out? Or all of your opponents got into The Zone? Besides, that's just a nasty image. So chill, your majesty. You can inspire your subjects without getting gory.

I like to imagine meeting Akashi in real life. He'd be a short sixteen-year-old... though he might just appear short compared to his teammates, it which he could be my height (about average for a woman). He has muscles, but he's still not a grown man. He'd look rather ridiculous in his pink hair, trying to bend me and my friends to his will. I might offer him a cookie, and if he stuck around, my big-sister-urges might eventually take over, and I'd start to meddle about how he treats Midorima and the rest.


Aaaannnd I rambled too long. I should have stopped after talking manga. I'd best scramble to do something responsible before bed.

Anyway, do you read manga on Crunchyroll? Are there any titles on there you recommend?

Also, if you watch Kurobas, do you have any thoughts now that we've finally watched Akashi play a game?

Monday, February 16, 2015

BtT—Annalyn's Corner: Free to Love

The second installment of my column at Beneath the Tangles is up! This week, I revisit Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth. Love and Freedom are important themes in Croisée. This got me thinking about the freedom Christians have, and how it affects our interactions with others.

Link: Annalyn's Corner: Free to Love

I'm probably going to stop linking to Annalyn's Corner here. I already share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and I'm usually pretty busy with homework on Mondays. If you want to keep up with my column at BtT, I hope you'll follow me on any of the media listed above, or, better yet, follow Beneath the Tangles!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Swamped: Changes, Magical Boys, Kuroko, and Other Thoughts

The Change is here! Last Monday, I started my weekly column at Beneath the Tangles. I can't balance both that and my Rewind posts. In fact, I won't even call these other posts "Swamped" anymore. I might still write the occasional Rewind post, and I have one series I might adapt from an essay, which might work better here than at BtT. But none of that is happening this week.

Instead, a few quick responses to the anime I've been watching lately...

Hakone Yumoto attacks the chikuwabu monster with a loving kick,
soon to be followed by love-powered magic. (ep 1)
I just watched the first episode of Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (aka Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!), because I wanted to laugh. I went to the right anime. It's a parody of magical girl anime, and wow... those magical boys are downright ridiculous. I'm not sure if I'll watch more, but I had fun with the first episode. Their serious discussion about oden reminded me of food discussions in Lucky Star. And the chikuwabu (an oden ingredient) that came to life reminded me a little of the vegetables in Dai Mahou Touge.

It occurs to me that I've watched more magical girl parodies than magical girl anime that take themselves seriously.

Kuroko's Basketball continues to excite me. Also, I am still convinced that Akashi is secretly an alpha dragon. Or a vampire. He has hypnotic cat eyes. That's not natural! Anyway, this dude is scary. I kind of expected him to be a decent fellow, despite the scissors incident in the second season. Kuroko followed him for a long time, after all. But now...
Akashi orders his opponent to lower his head. Look at that shadowed
face and those feline eyes... (ep 5)

Akashi, kiddo, you need an attitude adjustment. For your own good, I hope Kuroko and Kagami manage to defeat you. This whole "emperor" act won't fly in the workplace. Just saying.

I'm trudging through Log Horizon 2. I'm six episodes behind, and it'll be a while before I catch up. I really like the world building and the scenarios. I like learning more about the characters' RL pasts, too. But something about it just doesn't excite me. It's probably the pacing. I mean, one secondary character spent an entire episode reflecting on his past and then giving a speech about it—a long, stereotypical, rally-the-troops and reflect-on-our-friendship speech.

I'm caught up on Daiya no Ace again. My favorite thing about this show is the team and the way they rally together. Not much more for me to say on that front right now.

I just watched the first four episodes of Death Parade so that I could read Japesland's post about it at Beneath the Tangles. So far, I'm not a huge fan. But I'm intrigued by the way they portray human nature. Every episode, people are put into extreme circumstances, and their true nature comes out. The fear, deceit, suspicions, and warped self-images come to the forefront, and it can paint a disgusting picture (the husband in the first episode had a few particularly unflattering close-ups, involving sweat, tears, and saliva, I believe). As I watched, I thought, "Yep. This is what sin looks like."

I finally finished Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance). I went a couple months between the tenth and eleventh episodes. It's a serious, rather dark anime, and I wanted a break from such things. But I still like it. The story and characters are intriguing, and my mind actively works to pull the puzzle pieces together. And the animation is great. If you watch the edges of the screen, you'll realize that "camera" is unsteady... in fact, it seems to be resonating with something, like the air after an explosion.

I'm also watching Shirobako and Durarara x2, but I've written enough for today. What's your favorite anime this season?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Post at Beneath the Tangles: Aiming for the Championships

I've begun my column at Beneath the Tangles! We're calling it "Annalyn's Corner." Yeah, I know—the name choice isn't a stellar example of creativity. But I like corners, both real and metaphorical. They're comfortable and make great thinking spots. And sometimes people join me in my corners, and that's nice, too.

My first post is called "Aiming for the Championships." I want to aim high in many things, especially how I approach my faith. I'm inspired by sports anime characters, but there's one problem: I don't have their kind of focus. As I wrote this post, I asked, “How the blazes am I supposed to be a faithful, disciplined anything when the only thing I manage to do consistently is be late?”

Between sports anime and the Bible, I think I found the beginning of an answer. At the very least, I've felt a bit encouraged.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Rewind: Ping Pong The Animation

I have to be honest: I'm dragging my feet about this blog post. Ping Pong evokes neither excitement nor annoyance. Its style is unusual, but that's about all it has going for it. I wrote the following about Ping Pong back in May, when I was less than halfway through it:
This is the oddball on my watching list. It's different in almost every way, starting with the visual style. Then there's the sport... who'd have thought you could make an interesting anime about ping pong? The characters are different, too. Tsukimoto (aka Smile), never smiles. He lacks aspiration, even though he's an amazing ping pong player. The supporting cast is a bit off-klter, too. This anime will never be my favorite, but I enjoy its uniqueness. 
Meet "Peco," Tsukimoto's friend. Also, meet Ping Pong's color
scheme. There are a few other colors, but they're all the same
faded tone. (Episode 1)
I repeat: the uniqueness is pretty much all I enjoyed. Sure, Tsukimoto's skill level was cool, and I appreciated the specifics about ping pong paddles and shoes—details like that add depth to an anime. Characters' fantasies and perspectives were shown in unique ways, too. 

I guess the plot should have moved me at least a tiny bit. They addressed the balance of values such as loyalty, admiration, and competitiveness. But the anime felt fractured, and not just because of the visuals. The way it jumped between characters, settings, and even times... I never felt attached to a single character, never felt more than passive curiosity about their fate. To me, this anime was just an artistic experience with a soul I didn't care enough to grasp. This sounds harsh, I know, but it's true.

I wanted to get a different screenshot for this post, but my computer is lagging again, and it's getting late (or early, or... yeah). If you want more information or would like to check out Ping Pong yourself, you can find its Anime-Planet entry here

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Update and Rambling

On Friday, at the end of my Rewind post, I mentioned that I was writing a post for Beneath the Tangles. It went up yesterday. I just realized that I've linked to it on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr... but not here. So, allow me to remedy that:

I still haven't begun my column, but that, too, will come earlier than I originally planned. 

I have a lot of ideas rolling around my head and journal relating Kurobas and to sports anime in general. I'll try to break from that theme before long. I want BtT readers to know I do have a more well-rounded taste in anime... it's just that my time is limited, and I'm excited about Kuroko's Basketball right now. If I think about something long enough, either I bring it into the depths of my mind and heart, to mingle with faith and studies, or I grow bored and abandon it. Obviously, Kurobas fits into the first class. 

But, for now, I must force my brain away from aniblogging and focus on studying. I have a lot of reading to catch up on, among other things. I've already spent some time today reading Jane Eyre, and I can hear Bronte's style echo in my mind. Her affect on my word choice may wear off soon, but I suspect it will affect the mood of my fictional writing for the duration of the semester, at the very least—and probably longer.