Especially if it comes with the girl.

I need to start balancing out my reading habits.

If I were to be categorized into a broad fan archetype, I'd most certainly be in the "fanfiction writer" class, albeit dabbling into "blogger" (quite obviously). I've been thinking about it for over a decade now, about as long as I've been an anime fan (actually rather longer, since I started writing non-anime fanfics), and I still can't figure out if my writing of fanfics can be considered to be by choice. Blogging is most certainly a choice: I have lots of things to say about various stuff related to anime, but actually taking the time to type it all out is something that is a conscious decision. In fact, my actual posting schedule (the two-posts-per-week turning up both on Saturday at the last possible moment) might indicate that it's become a sort of self-imposed obligation, a challenge to see how long I can keep this charade up.

Writing stories is another matter: I am forever struck by the impression that if I don't write out the plot ideas that swirl around in my skull, my head will explode. It will be messy.

Currently I'm hammering out yet another story that involves Magical Girls. I've started and abandoned this genre so many times that it's more like I'm waiting for an extended period of maybe a year or so where I can really get to work on just writing, without all the bothersome Real Life stuff getting in the way. Maybe after I've written my mandatory million words of crap in this genre, I can start turning out something of actual substance and value.

The problem I'm facing now is not the old one of cultural bias. I figure that I may as well write everything with Westernized names, and call it "localization". Any complaints that I should have used Japanese names and cultural situations I shall weave together into a banner of I Told You So.

Rather, I am having difficulties in thinking in prose.

Manga, or at least the manga that I read, has an interesting visual flow: the situation is presented to us by means of the panel layouts and their contents, with the text reserved for dialogue and offhand explanations when absolutely necessary. The bigger text boxes and balloons seem to be largely for infodumps, which complement the action on the page. Compare this to many modern Western superhero comics (I have to qualify all of that because invariably someone will probably come up with something beyond my experience), where the panels contain the characters in some dramatic pose or other, while the page is filled with text. The characters just kind of stand there, letting the exposition flow around them. The same amount of dialogue in a single comic book panel will likely be spread out through several much smaller panels in manga; I suspect that the black-and-white nature of most manga has something to do with this.

In any case, I find myself thinking of this story in terms of manga. Here, we have a beat panel, to set up a gag about how the viewpoint character is tailed by his rather odd girlfriend. (Yes, it may be considered a wish-fulfilment story. So it goes.) There, we have a jumpy sort rant about soemthing or other, while another deadpan character does something nonchalant and decidedly bizarre in the background. It's not easy to translate imagery like this into prose, where just about anything that is pointed out in the text should have a reason for being there. Hanging a great big neon sign saying "HERE IS THE JOKE, LAUGH AT THIS" kind of kills the humour.

But since I've run out of shelf space to buy more books, and I've read most of the local library's selection already (not that they have that large a selection), my fiction reading material these days is limited to scanlations and such, which take up little physical space. (I do buy the manga if I like them; I'm waiting for the next Negima Del Rey release, for example.) This may be the source of the problem.

To attempt to correct this, I've been digging out all my old books from dusty boxes to figure out why they're in dusty boxes instead of on my shelves. A cursory reading often reminds me why, as with E. E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary:

While not essentially bloodthirsty — that is, not loving bloodshed for its own sweet sake — they were no more averse to blood-letting than they were in favour of it. Any amount of killing which would or which might advance an Eddorian towards his goal was commendable; useless slaughter was frowned upon, not because it was slaughter, but because it was useless — and this inefficient.

And, instead of the multiplicity of goals sought by the various entities of any race of Civilization, each and every Eddorian had only one. The same one: power. Power! P-O-W-E-R!!

I realize that styles have changed over the decades and the Lensman saga is a classic, but it's kind of hard to read something as overblown as that and maintain dramatic tension. Then again, another Dramatic option I seem to have unearthed is Tolkien's Silmarillion, which would probably finish off what's left of my writing style.

Strangely, my current habit of thinking in manga panels does not help me with GamerS: for a gag to be pulled off, the scenes need to be set exactly, with little deviation. Since I am working with pre-existing images, I find that my ad-libbing abilities have been getting the workout more than anything planned. All the GamerS jokes, funny or otherwise, are almost always conceived of about ten to fifteen minutes after I browse through the screenshot collection. So much for planning.

3 Responses to “Panels And Prose”
  1. Irishninja says:

    Apropos of not much…

    (I do buy the manga if I like them; I'm waiting for the next Negima Del Rey release, for example.)

    I was fortunate enough that Amazon got volume 23 to me on the release date (I assume that's the one you mean), and I devoured it shortly thereafter. It's pretty good, with plenty of screen time for Evangeline (although a little too much of Evangeline for my tastes) and the return of Asuna to the storyline (thankfully!). And, of course, Negi is awesome as always. :) The volume mainly focuses on Yue, though, and even touches on the girls who were Left Behind, so there's a little bit for everyone in it. I hope you enjoy it if you haven't already read it! :)

    Fanboying aside…

    Have you thought about writing those stories in your head as manga, using the comic creator software you do for GamerS? I understand that the visuals might be the challenge, but if the story is a fan fic, presumably images of the characters already exist? Possibly as fan art if nothing else?

    And if you DO go through that long process of creating fan manga, will you share it with us? :D

  2. thenightsshadow says:

    I wouldn't be ashamed if I were you regarding the whole "comes as you go". Despite the type of personality you have, each person's writing style is pretty much a guarantee. If you do have the whole "need to plan" sort of personality but have a "write as you go" writing style, the style should always take precedence. It's not exactly the best way, but you want quality work more than you want nitpicked work.

  3. Akira says:

    If I could make a suggestion:

    Perhaps you should write a first draft of your fanfic (even a half-assed first draft) and have someone else critique it. You might discover the "issues" your having aren't as big a deal as you first thought.