Posts Tagged ‘Sailor Moon’

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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At the time this post is being published, it is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Despite the holiday’s questionable origins (a discussion not for this blog), this is a holiday for being thankful for all you have. And while a lot of us are surprised by how fast this year has gone by (seriously, how the hell is it already late November?), for many of us it has been a stellar year. I know that’s the case for me. I’ve got plenty to be thankful for this year.

And if it’s not too much trouble, I’ll run down some of those things I’m grateful for (I swear, this won’t be too long, and I’ll try not to turn it into bragging):

  • I’ve published two stories, the sci-fi novelette Gynoid and the fantasy romance short story What Happened Saturday Night, on Wattpad, and both were very well received. I also wrote half of the novel Full Circle, edited the entirety of Rose (and will probably edit it again, as soon as I have feedback from both my beta readers), made good progress on a new story, and had more ideas for other stories than I could ever write.
  • While I work on my writing, I also have a good job that allows me to do really rewarding work with a great team. That job also has great pay and benefits, so I can afford to pay my rent and my bills, never go hungry, and even put away some cash into savings. And every now and then, I can even afford a little splurge for things like wall art, a new addition to my doll/figurine collection, or even awesome shows (heck, sometimes the job gets me discount to awesome entertainment in town).
  • Speaking of rent, I have a great apartment in a good area near where I work. I can afford to live on my own, and do what I want within my apartment, so I don’t have to worry about anyone seeing me at my kookiest. And since I’ve lived here for nearly a year and a half, I’ve had time to settle in and make it my happy place, a great place to relax, be creative and occasionally entertain friends (Joleene Naylor knows what I’m talking about).
  • My health has improved greatly since the New Year. I’ve been eating healthier, cutting back on the sweets, and so have lost about thirty extra pounds. My back problems have also improved, thanks to the ongoing treatments of a really good chiropractor and my improved diet. I feel better than I have in ages, and as long as I keep things up, I’ll continue to get better (though I doubt I’ll ever be fit enough to be a prima ballerina or a bodybuilder).
  • I don’t have a driver’s license, but I’ve made incredible progress towards getting one. And with a bit more practice, especially with maneuverability and parking, I could have my license within the next year (though whether a car comes with that is another issue entirely).
  • I live close to my family, and we’re all on good terms for the most part (though I would not want to live with any of them again if I can help it). I also have plenty of friends, and I’m glad to have their love and friendship everyday. I know that if I need them, they will give me their support, and help me through another day.
  • Finally, I have you, my Followers of Fear. Over the six-plus years I’ve been blogging, you’ve stood by me, seen me at some of my best and worst moments, and posted your thoughts and encouragement, and even bought some of my published work. And over this past year, Rami Ungar the Writer has grown significantly, to the point where I’m less than fifty followers away from hitting the thousand follower milestone. It gives me such joy to write for and interact with you guys every day, and I hope I can continue to do so for ages to come.

Of course, this is just a fraction of the many things I’m thankful for, but I’m thankful for them all nonetheless. And I’m glad I’m aware of them and thankful for them, because I can think of a number of people who are just as lucky as me, or even luckier, and yet are miserable. They’re not satisfied with what they have and they constantly want more.

My mother and me when we went to see Swan Lake this past weekend. Not only was it an incredible show, but I got to experience it with someone I dearly love and who gets me on so many levels. I’m incredibly thankful for her and our relationship together. Also, I’m looking at the button on my phone camera, in case you’re wondering where my eyes are looking.

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more than what you have. I want to expand my readership, write more stories, and get more of them published. Heck, I wouldn’t mind being able to write full-time if I could. But some people, they just don’t appreciate what they have. They could have a loving family, a big house (or several), a nice car (or several), and enough money for vacations abroad and fancy gadgets and whatever. But they aren’t happy. They want more. More stuff, more sexual partners, more fame and prestige. A friend once told me he talked to a man who was depressed because he didn’t receive as big a Christmas bonus as someone else in their office, even though he felt they did the same work and the same amount of work. Both bonuses were in the five-figure range, which boggled the both of us. How could anyone be in a position where that sort of money is given as a Christmas bonus and NOT be happy?

And that’s why I’m thankful for one more thing: I’m thankful that I can recognize what I have. Some people can only recognize what they don’t have, and that bites deeply into their happiness. They may feel good when they get a promotion or they bed someone deeply attractive or they get that new house on the Italian coast, but it’s only a temporary drug high, and the crash they feel after the high wears off just leaves them as empty as before. It’s not a true happiness, not at all.

And that’s why I’m grateful for one more thing: that I’m capable of recognizing all that I have and that I’m grateful for. Yeah, I’m not rich or famous (though I could be someday), but I’m glad for everything I have. I worked hard to get it, and I know it could be taken away all in an instant with one bad day. So when something new comes into my life–a new follower, some good news on the writing front, the chance to do something fun with friends or family, or even a new doll for my collection–that drug high will go away, but a good feeling will remain. I’m grateful for it all, and I hope I remain that way for the rest of my life.

So this Thanksgiving, my Followers of Fear, let’s all be grateful for what we have, and express that gratitude as best we can. Because we could have nothing at all, or we could have plenty and not realize it. I prefer to have some stuff, and be glad that I do have them. And if you ask me, that’s a good way to go about things.

Happy Thanksgiving, and until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Me being thankful for all that i have. And thank you, Sailor Moon, for constantly giving me so much to work with, from entertainment to story ideas to illustrative GIFs.

I just recently finished the second draft of “Gynoid”, a sci-fi love story novelette. During that time, I thought a lot about romance in fiction. Have you noticed that it’s everywhere? In fiction, you find a lot of time devoted to find your one true love, and in real life, you find people not just actively looking for their one true love(s), but even measuring themselves by fictional couples! Our music is rife with love songs or how love is betrayed (the so-called “Song of Songs” in the Bible is one huge erotic love song), and if you go back in time, some of our oldest stories involve love and lovers.

Heck, it’s in a lot of my fiction too! And I write fiction where “love” is more likely intense adrenaline and a shared peril being mistaken for attraction. Snake has a love story that’s central to its plot, Reborn City has a bit of romance in it here and there, and..well, you saw the description for “Gynoid” above.

But rather than speculate on why romance and finding it is such a big thing (I think we can all guess at the answer, right?), I think I’m going to share some of the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over the years from other writers and from my own romantic experience, both writing it and from experiencing it (do not ask me which I have more of. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone) on writing romance in your stories. Why? No particular reason, it’s just on my mind and in my stories so much I feel like talking about it. And I know I might not be the most qualified person to talk about the subject–I know I’m not a romance writer–but I know a bit, and since when has not being an expert ever stopped anyone from talking about anything? (*cough* climate change deniers in Congress *cough*)

So let’s begin on my tips for including romance in your stories:

  1. Give the characters personalities, make them fully-rounded and three-dimensional. I feel like often times some of our most celebrated romances involve people who are just good-looking nice folk and not much else. Romeo and Juliet were a sad emo guy with a thing for teenagers and Juliet was a teenager, Cosette and whatever her guy’s name was were good-looking and nice but they weren’t much else, and Katniss Everdeen…okay, Katniss was at least well-rounded. You knew who she was, what her problems were, what she stood for, and what she was willing to do to overcome those problems. Her love interests, on the other hand, just seemed there so as to add something to the story that the story might have done fine without. I mean, Gale is just handsome and angry with the Capitol, and I can’t tell what Peeta is besides sweet. One minute he’s skillful enough to manipulate the hearts of the whole Capitol, the next he’s too naive to tell that Katniss is using him for survival. Make him one or the other! Seriously, if you’re going to bother putting love interests in the story, I’m going to need a reason to ship either of them besides their attractiveness and professions of love.
    And that brings me to my next point:

    It took a long time, but these two became a wonder couple.

  2. What’s the reason they fall for each other? Please don’t say, “Oh, they’re good-looking”, it’s got to be more than that…or heroin-flavored blood. Take one of my favorite anime of all time, Sailor Moon (yeah, I’m a huge fan of that even so many years on. Moonies forever!): all of the main characters are good-looking. So why does Sailor Moon end up with the male lead, especially when in every adaptation of the story they start out fighting and disliking each other and in some he’s already seeing someone else? Leaving aside backstory exposition, I think they just grow comfortable with each other over time. They realize they can be honest with each other and that their faults are just part of who they are. Cute parts too. And it helps when they find out each other’s secret identities, which shows how courageous and reliable they are to one another, to the point they make a pretty good partnership, in love and in combat.
    Another example I’d like to use is Captain America and Peggy Carver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is my only reference point, I was never much of an American comic books reader for some reason). Heck, at the beginning of their relationship, Cap’s a scrawny guy who doesn’t seem like much of a hero, while Agent Carter is…well, Agent Carter. What forms the basis of their relationship is that Carter likes that Cap wants to help out despite all the barriers facing him, and his sweet and loyal personality, while Cap likes that she’s a unique and confident woman who doesn’t need a man and who also doesn’t look down on him for not being tall and buff. Over time and numerous battles, their relationship grows closer and they fall in love, which ultimately doesn’t end well but I’m sure that if things had gone differently, it would have been a different story.
    Speaking of which, here’s point 2a. Shared experiences, especially combat experiences, can bring a relationship closer. Unless of course you and your supposed lover work really horribly together, in which case fighting will just highlight it and you’ll fall apart at the seams.
  3. There is no point where the relationship becomes perfect. Work is involved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in the real world, they’re always a work in progress. Why? Because we’re all works in progress, so our relationships are too. There’s going to be rough times, where the characters struggle or worry that something or someone will come along and the good thing they have going will be ruined. Back to Sailor Moon for a second. Fans agree that the heroine and her man are a strong and stable couple (though whether or not it’s a good coupling, I find people disagree on the subject more than you’d think), but they do have to work at it. Besides enemies that threaten to pull them apart for whatever reason, they have the normal couple troubles: people who seem like better matches coming along, occasional misunderstandings, an unexpected child. Heck, they even broke up for a time during the anime’s second season. Just goes to show that even great couples have ups and downs.
    And the best part is, you can extend these meetings, character explorations, falling-in-love scenes, and ups and downs over several books. In fact, half of the fun of the TV show Scandal is watching the heroine Olivia have an on-again, off-again relationship with the (married) President of the United States. You never know how that one is going to work out. And as long as you can keep it going, the more you get to explore these characters and their relationships (provided fans don’t start to get bored, of course).
    And now that we’ve discussed what makes for a relationship, let’s discuss some content.
  4. Sex is not always necessary. Yeah, I know we live in a hyper-sexualized society where everything has a sexy component to it, and I know I included a steamy sex scene in Snake, but seriously, sex isn’t always necessary. In fact, some people prefer romance stories without anything racier than a kiss or two. There’s actually an entire sub-genre of romance like that, it’s called sweet romance, where the characters don’t have sexual relations before marriage (or commitment too, maybe) and it has a big and loyal following. Besides, some authors aren’t comfortable with sex scenes. I know I wasn’t at first, though I later got more comfortable with them. So if you don’t want to do one, there’s no law saying you have to.

    Love the relationship dynamics of this show!

  5. Also, you don’t have to just have one person love only one other. I know there are a couple of Buffy fans reading this blog. One of the best parts of that show is the characters had many different relationships over the 7 seasons. Buffy herself had three major relationships over the course of the series.  The writers could’ve had her with Angel, her first love, through the whole series, but they allowed her, Angel, and many others to explore other relationships and really mature through that. Same with Teen Wolf, which had two main characters being “meant to be forever and ever”, but gradually changed things up over time. So if you want to, you can have characters wait a long time and go through several relationships before finding the right person.
    Especially with love triangles. I hear there are quite a few series out there where a good dose of fun is trying to find out who the main character will end up with in the end, especially when there’s two really great, fleshed-out characters to choose from (though usually from what I hear it’s whoever the protagonist meets first).
    And this brings me to my final point.
  6. Don’t do it because everyone else is. And no, that’s not a drug PSA (though you shouldn’t do those either. Not even weed, that stuff will mess with your system). Yeah, you see people putting all these different things in their stories–love quadrangles, the other man or woman, unexpected pregnancies, even some sexual exploration. Only put those in your story if you feel they’re what the story needs, not what others say you should put in or what others are putting into their stories. Believe me, that’s how I avoided something really unnecessary romance-related stuff in Reborn City, and that worked out great for me.

I’m going to end it right here, but I have to say, there’s a lot more that I could include in this post. Suffice to say, there are a lot of intricacies to writing romance and love stories (point number 7, a romance has a happy ending, a love story doesn’t have to. Learned that a romance writer friend of mine), and you learn these things over time. But hey, in the end they can lead to some really great stories, and maybe melt a heart or two while you’re at it.

What romance writing tips do you have? Do you feel romance is important to your stories or not so much?