Character-Driven Stories

Okay, so I just debated whether or not to chuck writing advice, but really, this affects more than just writing.

See, I have a certain group of anime that my roommate and I often bicker over. There’s no other way to describe it. We sound like siblings arguing over who didn’t take out the trash yesterday. He gets mad at me because I don’t watch them for the same reasons he does.

One of the anime in question is one of my favorites, Descendants of Darkness. I know for a fact that it wasn’t the story line that pulled me into that one. I was introduced to the anime in the middle of its weakest story arc, and still kept watching. (This turned out to be a good thing because the weakest story line is immediately followed by the best.) I stuck with it for two reasons. First, I was having a hard time identifying the voice actor playing Tsuzuki. Second, I was intrigued by Tsuzuki, the walking contradiction. Even now, having seen the entire anime repeatedly and reading the manga repeatedly, he’s still the main reason I watch. There’s just something in the way Yoko Matsushita constructed his character that speaks to me.

Most of the anime, in fact, is driven by the development of Tsuzuki’s character, interlaced with the development of two other characters. It really makes for a very gripping, if disturbing story.

The other two anime really must be addressed as a pair. I’d love to sit here and claim that it was indeed the Texas heat that led to the fit of insanity that refused to let me walk away from Yu-Gi-Oh, but I’d be lying. When I first stumbled onto the series (after months of dodging it), I was listening to it (since we all know I rarely actually watch the cartoons I enjoy) and thinking how awful it was. Somehow, I managed to go two episodes without realizing what I was listening to. By the time it actually occurred to me that one of the characters was named Yugi (which prompted me to look at the television finally), I was already fascinated by an annoying character named Kaiba. Actually, he proved not to be too terribly annoying. That honor shifted characters a few episodes later when I met Pegasus.

The point is, somehow I was drawn into the character of Kaiba. Even now, you’ll find most of the story lines I’m more familiar with are ones that heavily involve the guy because I think his character is worth following. Trying to figure out more about this teenager who had to grow up way too fast, I ended up learning about this entire cast of character. The entire series (both anime and manga) is driven by the development of these characters. Kazuki Takahashi does it so well, and that’s the entire reason I stayed through to the ceremonial duel, and on into GX.

This is why David gets very mad at me. I’m sitting there talking about the personal and psychological ramifications of a story arc, and he’s upset that I have no idea what Garouzzis is. (I’ve more than likely misspelled that, too, but I don’t care enough to look it up.) Of course, I have to look at him funny when he manages to miss the most obvious points about characters…points that greatly affect the duels he’s so obsessed with.

I’ve considered trying to shift my writing style to take on more of this concept of building a story by following a character through their wants, their desires, their choices. I think I sort of tried to approach my most recent NaNoWriMo project from that mind set, but I’m not willing or ready to look at the first draft to see if I left myself a way to bring that out.

People wonder why I watch anime, or cartoons in general, and I really think it’s because I feel like I can learn so much from them in a way I can’t from sitcoms or most drama series.


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