Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Recently, someone familiar with my writing compared some aspects of my story with anime. This, for me, was a huge compliment, because I am a hee-yuge fan of anime and manga. I’ve read and watched more series than I can count, and I consider some of the stories I’ve read over the years as having a very beneficial influence on my writing style, allowing for better storytelling and characterization. And I believe wholeheartedly that anime and manga can up the game of other fiction writers out there, even experienced ones with plenty of novels or short stories under their belts.

“But wait,” I hear my readers saying, “how can silly Japanese cartoons up my writing game?” Well, my dear Followers of Fear, just like Harry Potter is more than just children’s fantasy stories, and just like I’m more than a dude who enjoys scaring people silly (I actually have a growing doll/figurine collection and enjoy the ballet and the theater), don’t let first impressions about the media get in the way of looking a bit deeper. Anime and manga have so much more to them than meets the eye:

1. It’s an art form. We see literature as important creative works that are a reflection of and an influence on society. So is painting and illustration. But for some reason, the combination of the two mediums are never treated as highly, even when they lead to huge box office and critical success with movie adaptations. And in my opinion, that’s just wrong. Creating decent literature or decent art is extremely difficult, no matter the genre or what is being portrayed. Imagine what must go into doing both well at the same time! If one is good but the other is bad, the series, comic book or animation, will suffer, so these artists are basically combining the two art forms in order to create something appealing to audiences. That is worthy of respect (especially when you consider that manga and anime don’t always get to rely on characters that have lasted 80+ years and have established fanbases).

That being said…

2. There are a multitude of stories to choose from. Despite often going into very deep subject matter, comic books and animation have this reputation for being more family or child-oriented than adult-oriented. And although comic books have been recognized for their serious and mature themes and content, for the most part it’s hard to find animation that, even when aimed at adults, isn’t comedy or relies a lot on comedy. I can only think of one or two off the top of my head.

Anime and manga, on the other hand, span a wide multitude of genres and age ranges. Yes, some are comedic or have lots of comedy elements, but there are plenty of stories that are extremely serious or even plain portrayals of normal lives. Death Note (not the crappy American version) goes deeply into questions of whether the ends justify the means, especially in terms of curing societal ills, all while presented as a psychological cat-and-mouse thriller. Great Detective Conan (or Case Closed, as it’s known in the US), has nearly a thousand chapters/episodes focusing on a kid solving murders a la Sherlock Holmes observation and deduction. With the Light tells the story of a family raising a child with autism. Tell me if any of that sounds like silly cartoons for children.

And that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg. There are all sorts of stories out there, romantic to comedic to scary to inspirational to musical to educational to even some where you wonder who was mad or indecent enough to make them (I’m looking at Makura no Danshi for the former and Kodomo no Jikan for the latter. Google at your own risk). If you can think of it, there’s a chance there’s an anime or manga based around it.

So if you’re looking for inspiration for a new story, try the Japanese. Chances are, there’s a story that could inspire your next work.

3. Characterization. In Western stories, characters are often pretty much defined from the moment you meet them as good or bad guys. Within a few minutes, you not only have a pretty good idea of where they align, but how you feel about them: love, hate, support, fear, root for them to get the girl. This doesn’t usually change, except perhaps if they’re a twist villain revealed in the third act. Rarely do you see a character whom you aren’t sure whether to love or hate, whether they’re good or bad. A character who straddles the fence, in other words, and you’re never sure where they stand until near the end.

If a medium can make me wear this sweatshirt 25 years after a show’s premiere, shouldn’t you at least consider checking it out?

Anime and manga, however, do this very well. They’re very good at telling stories about characters whom you’re not sure how to feel about them, because they’re able to take the time with these characters and show various sides of them over the course of the episodes or chapters. Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto is a prime example: at various points he’s a hero, a villain, a tragic antihero, etc. And you’re never sure whether to hate him or cry for him or what (generally I don’t like him, but that’s just me). And even when a character isn’t given this treatment, they’re often given great character development. Often characters are all good with a few flaws, or all evil with a few good qualities, but anime tends to branch out. You’ve got protagonists who are defined by their anxieties, or heroes who do horrible things but are doing it for good reasons you even sympathize with.  It ranges quite a bit, and it’s done quite well.

4. And finally, it’s entertaining. We all write stories for a variety of reasons, but at the core of it, we want to engage and show people a character worth following, a story worth getting into. And anime and manga do that a majority of the time. Sure, some stories do fail in that regard (looking at you, Clannad), but the vast majority have been tales that have endured the test of time and continue to pull in new audiences. Pokemon is twenty years old and Sailor Moon is twenty-five, but they still continue to entertain and even produce new content. Clearly, there’s something about these mediums that pull people from around the world in far past childhood.

And any medium that can have that sort of influence is worth checking out, if you ask me. Even if it’s not normally up your alley.

 

And that’s just a few of the reasons writers should check out anime (there may be a Part 2 someday). But tell me, were there any reasons I missed? What series do you find entertaining or influential? Or do you need a recommendation on where to enter the medium? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares.

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I’ve been away from the blog for the past few days. Between working on a really awesome new story and the job hunt and everything else, I’ve been a busy guy lately. But since I’m here, I have a question for you all: where do you go when you want to feel creative?

Now, I define being creative as two different things: either when you’re having a lot of ideas for stories and projects you’d like to do, or when you have the energy to produce those ideas into reality and you can’t stop writing/painting/whatever it is you are doing. And with those definitions, you might have multiple places where you go to have either of these happen. For me, if I’m stuck for an idea or if I’m having trouble moving forward in a story I’m working on, I go take a shower (I might also do that because I’m sweaty or it’s been a long day but that’s beside the point). For some reason my mind unwinds in there and I’m able to come up with new ideas for stories or on how to modify existing stories so that they’re better on the next draft. I also often come up with new ideas during and after a group meditation. If you’ve known me for a while, you know I’m a big believer in the benefits of meditation, and I often find the energy produced during a group session helps my mind make new connections, perfect for coming up with stories.

As for the the latter definition, I like to spread out on either of the couches I have in my apartment and work on my laptop. Usually that’ll get me producing a couple of pages per session, depending on how into the story I am that day and how many distractions there are to keep me from writing. I also tend to favor one couch over the other, depending on the time of day. Not sure why, but I think it might have something to do about where the sun is shining during the day.

But how do we creatives find our creative spaces? That’s something that each individual has to figure out on their own. Some people make a single room in their home their creative space or map out a single space as the place where they get the most ideas and/or work done. I heard one novelist liked to sit on the rim of her bathtub while worked through her stories. Others go out of their homes to coffee shops or parks. And some will make do with anywhere they can get a moment, be that on the way to work each morning or on an airplane or in the laundry room while the kids are zoned out watching TV. A lot of it depends on the person in question, their circumstances and temperament, the places they go to write or whatever they do, the time of day, and a whole bunch of other factors.

It’s really interesting when you think about it. Where someone goes to be creative–either of the definitions I supplied above–can tell you a lot about what sort of person they are. The places I go are at home and where I might try and unwind after a long and stressful day, so you could say I like to be relaxed or unstressed when I’m working on something. And frankly, that’s true. When I don’t have a lot on my mind, I tend to find it easier to tell a story or come up with a new idea.

Where do you go when you’re trying to have a new idea or when you’re trying to create something extraordinary? Why do you think that place resonates with you so well?

By the way, working on a new science fiction story right now, and it’s coming along great. I’ll post about it when it’s done. I think a lot of people will enjoy this one, it’s got a very interesting premise to it.