Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What Can I Salvage From This?

I had some self restraint last week. I didn't offer to read more of "Rensin's Conquest," and no one asked if I wanted to read more of it, so I left it be. Instead, I talked about how I was prepping for NaNoWriMo already, and then read them the 40-question Dread Character Questionnaire. As I predicted, they all loved the concept of those hard-hitting questions. One comment was actually that it's great that "there's no 'out' for those questions. It's not 'do you have...' it's 'which one do you have...'." I ended up passing the questionnaire to everyone via email.

I also let them know that I was shaking off the dust on "The Race for Destiny" for NaNo. As well as let them know what a disaster the original story was. So, they know the uphill battle I have for reworking it to be more original. Boy, is it ever going to be a battle.

For the original go of the story, I was taking elements from about five different characters each, in order to create my main characters of Natalie and Connor. I assumed that if I did this, then they would Voltron into a new, original character, not quite recognizable as the sum of the fanfiction parts. It didn't quite work out that way because the "stolen" elements were too much in the forefront. Connor's description, for instance, if one were paying even the vaguest of attention, would definitely be Link from the Legend of Zelda series; minus the trademark hat. Natalie's pink-stone pendent heirloom she's never without - that has mysterious powers and great importance in Albion - is clearly Hitomi's necklace from Visions of Escaflowne. Although it never got to that point in the story, Connor's transformation into a feral demon-like beast that only Natalie could calm is pretty much just straight up Kagome and InuYasha when he goes demonic.

I'm trying to figure out how many of those elements do I need to keep for my story. How many SHOULD I keep for my story? Do I just start completely from fresh? It's a bit of a struggle to figure it out. So, I started with filling out more of the questionnaires for Natalie and Connor.

I'm getting further with Connor because he was the one that actually had a bit of a personality the first go. I chose characters with some fire and tragedy to them when I first made Connor, so now I'm trying to figure out how to better meld them together into one personality instead of a patchwork of like-personalities from existing characters.

Connor's overall drive to become a strong hero so he can track down the raiding bandits that slaughtered his hometown, and get his vengeance on them, is full-on Hero from Fable. His transformation into Demon-Form, and why he transforms, is taken from InuYasha, but, unlike InuYasha, Connor fears the transformation and wishes to remain human. His brashness and slight elitism are hand-me-downs from Van from Visions of Escaflowne, but he also has Van's moments of tenderness, compassion, and protectiveness. His looks were Link's, but I think I also originally gave him Link's penchant for minimal talking. Granted, Connor wasn't nearly as "mute" as Link is in the games, but he was a man of few words - except when he was angry, apparently. I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep that trait since it will be just him and Natalie for a large majority of the story. Who knows?

As for the less-developed Natalie? Her main influence was Hitomi from Visions of Escaflowne; a girl who has a mysterious necklace heirloom that teleports her onto a different planet. She is then told that her coming was foreseen via prophecy, and it is her duty to help rid the land of corruption in order to bring peace. Hitomi - and therefore Natalie - is a bit of a loner who isn't terribly happy with her life, anyway, and so a "vacation" from Earth, while scary, doesn't seem that big of a deal. However, she quickly yearns to return to a world she knows, and this tears at her since the love of her life - Van for Hitomi; Connor for Natalie - is on the strange planet she's currently on. Does she stay with him or go back home? Can she survive long enough for that decision to matter?

The second main influence was Kagome from InuYasha, who also got teleported out of her normal life - this time via a time warp into Feudal Japan - and has the same dilemma: only she can help cleanse the land of evil while struggling between returning home and staying with the man she loves. Sensing a theme in Anime? Kagome also lead me to have Natalie be the only one to see the other pieces of the goddess Alrea's magical gemstone, just as only Kagome can see the fragments of the Shikon Jewel. Another Kagome trait is that she shoots cleansing "spirit arrows" to help defeat demons, so naturally, Natalie can only use Albion's magic by using a bow and arrow as conduits. Last Kagome trait: as mentioned above, Natalie is the only one who can calm Connor down when he's in a feral rage. Their connection, and his growing love for her, are the only things reminding him of his humanity.

Natalie, along with a bunch of other anime heroine archetype traits, also has a sprinkling of Miaka from the anime Fushigi Yuugi. Just like Hitomi and Kagome, Miaka was teleported from the modern world to a different one - again in the past, like with Kagome. Once again, the trope of falling in love with a man, and therefore being torn between staying and going home, plays out. The added is that Miaka is believed to be a speaker for one of the four gods due to her coming from a different world/time, and that in completing a quest that would allow Miaka to summon the god, she would be granted a wish. Natalie gets the same treatment: she's speaker for Alrea, and in completing her quest, she can have a wish granted; this is the main reason she goes on the quest in hopes of using the wish to get home.

So, as you can see, Connor's character is a lot more developed; a lot more complex. The elements I grabbed for him were more personality-based with a central drive attached to it. Natalie's character build was more about the similar archetype/trope I was seeing in anime: a girl teleported from her home due to some sort of magic/mysticism about her is told that she's the only one who can complete a task that would bring peace to the land; she begrudgingly does the dangerous quest in hopes of having the power to return home once it's complete; as the quest goes on she becomes more competent and more of an equal to her male counterpart, whom she falls in love with; once the quest is done and the world is saved, she's torn between staying with the man she loves or going home to the life she knows.

Natalie is the plot. Connor is the characterization. I need to balance that out a bit more. And get a bit off the tropey-ness. That's the challenge because while I know I need to completely rework everything, I'm also trying to figure out what parts are alright to keep so that it's still a reboot of my original story instead of stealing Connor and Natalie's names and starting completely fresh.

I'm definitely going to need help with this.....

On a different train of thought.... I completed "Ready Player One" by the close of September. Easily completed it, in fact. Had time to spare.

The ending was both awesome, and a bit aggravating. Much like "Island of the Blue Dolphins," I wanted just ONE more chapter. Just one!

Don't get me wrong, both books had good endings that wrapped things up enough that you could sort of connect the dots a bit to mentally figure out what happened next. No need for the author to spell it out. Still, I wanted like an epilogue or something. Especially with "Ready Player One," I wanted to see the aftermath of everything. Crisis was adverted, social loose ends were quickly tied up, and then that's it! No aftermath info. Nothing about what happened to the world after the crisis ended. No explanation as to what the main characters did once they were able to take a breather, especially since their entire life for the past 5yrs was preventing the crisis presented at the conclusion of the book. Now that they never again have to worry about that, what do they do with their lives that was previously consumed by that quest? How do they handle the world now? Are they now celebrities? Still outcasts? Do they fade into society? Do they help improve society? Do they remain tight friends, especially after everything they've been through? Do they part ways now that they don't have a common goal? Does a new crisis arise to fill the vacuum of the old one?

GAAAAH! Ernest Cline needs to write a sequel! He reportedly has a third book currently in the works, so maybe even though his second novel "Armada" doesn't seem to have anything to do with "Ready Player One," perhaps this third one will? Probably not. So again I proclaim: ERNEST CLINE NEEDS TO WRITE A SEQUEL TO "READY PLAYER ONE"!

In the meantime, I'll have to track down "Armada" and wait for the film adaptation for "Ready Player One" to be complete. It should be good, since Cline apparently sold the film rights literally the day after a bidding war to publish the novel. Cline also made sure that he kept enough creative rights so that he was in charge of the screenplay. THAT'S how you do it! You don't just scoop up the first check written for you for fear that your story will never be a movie if you pass. You wait until a studio will let you write the screenplay so that you KNOW the adaptation will do the book justice. Otherwise both you and your fans just become bitter and grumbly about how inaccurate the movie is.

Anyway, if you haven't noticed from me ranting about it the past couple of weeks, I. LOVED. "READY PLAYER ONE." Definitely one of my top faves. Don't know if it surpassed ALL of the Percy Jackson novels, but it's definitely nestled among the series. I think I'm just a fan of first-person stories because the narrator is allowed to be a snarky smart-ass.

Regardless, if you are a fan of gamer-culture, distopian sci-fi, and/or 80s pop-culture and obscure Atari games, then this book is definitely a must-read for you! I'd actually strongly encourage everyone to read it, but the gaming and 80s culture references are so forefront that if you're not into them it might diminish your interest in the book overall. I mean, Cline has Wade - the narrator/protagonist - explain these movies and games so well that you don't need to know them in order to enjoy the story. I know I never heard of half the stuff referenced. I mean, I watched "Ladyhawke" for the first time on Friday because it was one of Wade's guilty-pleasure favorites, I never heard of it before reading "Ready Player One," and Spink just HAPPENED to have a copy of it. I have to agree with the character Aech, though, it's DEFINITELY reserved for "guilty pleasure" status along with the likes of "Howard the Duck."

My point is, that you don't need to KNOW early video games or 80s culture to like the book, but a penchant for them will help. I know I squeed a bit at work - bouncing up and down in my chair, and giggling like a loon - whenever they got to bits I did know. I nearly lost it when there was a "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" reference.

The characterization was so good, too! My only disappointment was that I thought more shady things were going on with Art3mis, and I was able to quickly figure out why Aech was nervous about meeting Wade in real life. Add those to the calendar confusion that annoyed me; which also continues with the fact that the blurb on the book cover itself stated "in the year 2044..." even though the book - post prologue - actually starts in February of 2045...
Knives from the comic book series Scott Pilgrim
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Anyway, my point is, that Cline losing track of his in-story calendar, and some missed opportunities with character were the only real parts that I didn't like about the book. Those, and a few times where he needlessly repeated himself, but they were few and far between.

All-in-all, I'd give the book an 8.5 out of 10. Go read it! Go! Now!

It will give you something to do while I figure out my own writing....

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