Kamachi Kazuma’s 10 Year Structure (7/17)

Mar 26th, 2016
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  1. Let’s Decide on the Characters
  3. This will be based on making characters for a battle story. There should be a different method if it’s a horror, suspense, or romance story, but I think I’ll write this based on the method I’m most used to.
  5. First up is the protagonist.
  6. For the protagonist, you first need to think about what your readers’ main demographic will be. If that’s middle and high school boys, then the most straightforward and effective choice is to make the protagonist a middle or high school boy.
  7. Of course, there are times when they won’t be in middle or high school, such as when it’s a story about knights in a fantasy world.
  8. In that case, you need to focus on giving them values that middle and high school boys will understand.
  9. For example, in a fantasy world of swords and magic, you can make the protagonist boy be more worried about what the girls around him think of him than about his activities as a knight. You can also give him an entrance exam to get into the knights that’s a lot like a high school or college entrance exam.
  11. I think it’s important to make your protagonist’s driving force a simple “desire” but to remove any rawness from that desire.
  12. You might be wondering if Kamijou Touma from Index has any desires. His driving force is wanting to save any girl he sees crying in front of him, which you can also see as the extremely simple desire to see those girls smile.
  13. Quenser from Heavy Object is a lot more straightforward with his desire to be rich. That might make him sound like an unpleasant person, but that raw impression is closed off by never getting into what he wants to do once he’s rich since he has more important things to worry about.
  14. (For your big evil boss, you actually do want to get into those raw desires of what to they’ll do after conquering the world. That will make it all the more clear that he has to be defeated right away.)
  15. It can be anything, even wanting to get along with girls or wanting attention on a video site. The closer that desire is to your reader’s lives, the more they can identify with it.
  16. A protagonist that your readers can understand but can’t identify with is a bit of a tough sell. That’s why a good shortcut to success might be focusing on enlarging some smaller close-to-home idea to make a unique characteristic.
  17. For example, “working to get along with a girl and accidentally saving the world in the process” is a way of creating a protagonist that everyone can identify with but does things no one can do.
  19. If you’re giving your protagonist magic, a superpower, or a weapon, it’s important to know what that protagonist wants to do.
  20. Giving them a Japanese sword or a gigantic revolver might look cool, but if their objective is to save rampaging monster girls, then that weapon is more than they need. On the other hand, if your protagonist is intent on slaughtering an entire clan for revenge, then don’t just give them their fists as a weapon. Who knows how many times they would have to punch someone to kill them.
  21. This should be easier to understand if you compare Kamijou Touma’s Imagine Breaker with Quenser’s explosives.
  22. (You can however get around this by giving them a Japanese sword that can easily slice through steel yet have them restrict themselves to only using the back of the sword.)
  23. I also think it’s easier to make a story if your protagonist is specialized on a single point.
  24. That creates more openings and allows them to get into binds more easily…but more importantly, having them cleverly using their limited number of cards to escape that bind can show just how much they love that weapon, how much they rely on it, and how thoroughly they’ve studied it.
  25. If you are going to give them a large number of weapons, you might be able to give them a single item that manages them all. Something like a book that summons a thousand different beasts. Even if they summon something different each time, their love for the book becomes more evident each time.
  27. When creating a protagonist, you can also prepare a standard value based on positive and negative traits.
  28. Think of where the majority of your expected readers fall as a 0 and the maximum value being 100. Then you decide where your protagonist falls on the point scale. (By adding up their scores for upbringing, intelligence, sports, finances, social skills, special powers, etc.)
  29. The standard would be to place your protagonist at a -5 or -10.
  30. They may be amazing in battles or in their beliefs, but they’re poor, they’re unlucky, they have trouble with girls, and they’re dumb. With all that, they end up even lower than the readers.
  31. However, there are times when you can put your protagonist at a +100. Think of a detective in a mystery novel or a samurai in a period drama.
  32. If you start at 0 and add positives and negatives from there, you can avoid straying from what you wanted in their characterization. For example, you might have intended to make a protagonist at a -10, but they end up straying from that because you gave them too many positives like “great at sports” and “always being pampered by five beautiful maids”.
  34. As for the name, I think it’s safest to give your protagonist an easy to read one. After all, that’s the name that will appear the most in the text.
  36. Now for the heroine.
  37. When coming up with a heroine (or the main male character if you have a female protagonist), I think it’s best to draw on your own idea of an ideal member of the opposite sex. Hmm, but that’s an emotional thing, so there isn’t much to say from a technical aspect.
  38. But instead of just using that, I’ll introduce another technique you can use.
  39. First, picture that ideal member of the opposite sex. This is the most delicate part of people’s hearts, so some of you might want to alter them a little bit. But let’s harden our hearts and list out some terms. For example, black hair, long hair, large breasts, a baggy sweater, kind, older, can do housework, etc.
  40. Once you’ve done that, give each female character in the novel one of those traits.
  41. If you simply had your ideal member of the opposite sex appear, you might find yourself supporting that character too much and never giving the other characters any scenes. That can be a lot of trouble when this character is a sub heroine instead of the main heroine.
  42. To avoid this emotional issue, you separate out those ideal traits and give them to multiple characters. That way every character is given an equal chance to show up (because the author is attached to them all).
  44. When creating the heroine’s personality, the simplest thing is to give them a single weakness. Think of a heroine that is well-behaved, beautiful, intelligent, and unmatched in battle, but they just can’t seem to read a map.
  45. Unlike the other characters, you generally want the heroine to be attractive and difficult for the readers to dislike, but go too far with that and they start seeming like a mannequin. To avoid that but not destroy that “ideal” side of them, you intentionally give them “just one” weakness.
  46. You can also give your heroine a “desire” like you did with the protagonist, but I think it’s best to choose something simple and charming like hunger or sleepiness.
  48. This will be advice more for beginners, but speech patterns are a shortcut to showing individuality.
  49. Even when using the same polite speech, you can make characters speak more casually, more bluntly, or more cold and inhuman like an ATM or train announcement.
  50. If you settle on a speech pattern that fits their personality and position, then you should be able to come up with a different style for everyone.
  51. And if you do have multiple characters in the same novel that speak a lot alike, you should try to avoid having a scene where they all meet.
  52. As long as they aren’t in the same place, similar speech patterns shouldn’t be too confusing.
  53. And Japanese is a truly excellent language, so you can always change their first person pronoun as a last resort.
  54. Whether it’s watashi, atashi, boku, washi, warawa, or the character’s name, that too can provide some individuality.
  55. I can’t guarantee how well that will work if they release a version translated into a foreign language, though.
  57. Finally, the enemy character.
  58. For an enemy character, start by deciding on what they specialize in and how they will fight the protagonist. After that, you can come up with a name, an appearance, a personality, and a power. So if they’re a witch, you can give them a magic wand.
  59. Unlike the protagonist and the heroine, you don’t need to make the readers like them, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you make them look or act strange.
  60. One thing to keep in mind is that a lame enemy will just drag down your protagonist and make them look lame too.
  61. You might not be motivated because you hate them and you may get lazy because you just want to write about the protagonist and heroine flirting, but you need to focus on giving the enemy plenty of details in order to make your protagonist stand out.
  63. The enemy’s beliefs should be the opposite of the protagonist’s and it doesn’t need to be something the readers can identify with. I suppose it’s important to make it something the reader will understand but will be unable to accept.
  64. That’s why I often take a close-to-home problem everyone has, expand on that a whole bunch and have them lose sight of their original goal as they try to solve it.
  65. For example, killing half of the earth’s population to bring an end to global warming.
  66. You can also help people identify with the enemy by giving them a smaller reason behind their grand plan, such as a personal tragedy.
  67. But it’s meaningless if their big reason and small reason aren’t connected at all.
  68. It’s important for solving the big reason to also solve the small reason.
  69. Incidentally, it can be more exciting on the protagonist side if they’re the reverse and they end up solving the big reason by solving the small reason. For example, saving the heroine ends up avoiding a war.
  71. When giving an enemy magic or special powers, I like going with something that’s partially but not entirely hidden.
  72. They may look invincible and unbeatable when they first show up, but it later turns out that there’s a weakness if you look at it from a different angle. And it’s especially perfect if that weakness is something that only works with the protagonist’s special skill.
  73. For example, say the enemy uses grenades with incredible firepower. No one can get close, but the electricity-controlling protagonist can zap the explosives to detonate them in the enemy’s hands.
  75. Also, you can make characterization even more obvious by deciding on a main color. Think of Index’s white habit or the Zashiki Warashi’s red yukata.
  76. But this works against you if the character’s image and the coloring are at odds.
  77. If you can’t come up with a color, you can rely on a book about color control or color conditioning. That’s the field that paints the conductor’s cabin of a train a light blue because it reduces weariness. Colors give people different images and there are specialists who research these things, so relying on their help can be a nice shortcut. If those specialized books are too expensive, then check at your local library.
  78. And there’s one other thing to watch out for.
  79. You can’t rely on white or black.
  80. Not that they don’t pack a punch. They are both powerful colors. However, the secondary color can entirely change the impression of those two colors.
  81. Take the main color of black for example:
  83. 1. Black + Yellow: Warning colors of bees or spiders.
  84. 2. Black + Sky Blue: High voltage sparks.
  85. 3. Black + Red: Demonic motif.
  87. So when using white or black as the main color, it’s safest to take another step and decide what to use as a secondary color as well.
  89. Another additional note:
  90. This is more or less cheating, but you can use a montage method to mechanically create a character.
  91. Get some of those handwritten vocabulary cards used for English class. You know, those ones held together by a metal ring. Prepare a few of sets of those and make a category out of each one:
  93. Hairstyle (Short, long, ponytail, twintail, etc.)
  94. Age (From 0-100)
  95. Height (Tall, normal, short, etc.)
  96. Body Type (Large breasts, normal, flat chest, etc. To be more specific, you can break it down into all of their measurements.)
  97. Personality (Cheerful, ladylike, boyish, diligent, etc.)
  98. Studies (Liberal arts, science, cultural, athletic, teacher’s pet, delinquent, etc.)
  99. Clothing (Sailor uniform, blazer, track suit, kimono, dress, etc. Create a separate category for weapons if necessary.)
  100. Main Color (White, red, blue, black, etc.)
  102. Line up all the categories, flip through each one, and combine the results into a character.
  103. However you do it, it might be easier to picture if you use something outside your mind and move your hands around.
  104. Of course, this is only a last resort and I don’t recommend it very much. It’s hard to feel very attached to a mechanically created character. But if you’re in a complete slump and can’t come up with a single character, if you need to come up with a few dozen unimportant characters for a single novel, or if you otherwise don’t have any mental resources leftover, it wouldn’t hurt to remember this.
  106. For character names, make the protagonist’s simple and put more work into the heroine’s and enemy’s. There are a number of different patterns:
  108. A Simple Surname + A Complicated Given Name
  109. Something like Inoue Tsurara (井上氷柱) or Tanaka Marika (田中真理佳) It starts out easy to read, but you get stuck partway through. That keeps your eye on it and it leaves a larger impression. At the same time, people won’t reject it quite as much as something that throws in the tricky kanji from the beginning. If it’s too much trouble, they can just shorten it to Inoue-san and Tanaka-san.
  111. Focused on Their Power or Traits
  112. Something like Hisaka Rensuke (火坂煉助) or Chinen Souji (知念操次). The first would have a fire ability and the second would have a mental ability, so you add in kanji that hint at that. This is especially useful for enemy characters.
  114. Take a Common Name But Swap Out the Kanji
  115. Something like Nakamura Ichirou (中村壱郎) or Suzuki Kyouko (鈴木狂子). They both started as perfectly normal names, but they use different kanji. They’re spelled differently but they’re pronounced the same, so people will accept them surprisingly readily.
  116. But this doesn’t work if the framework of the original name is completely lost. Spell Suzuki Kyouko as 錫機饗弧 and that original form is nowhere to be found.
  118. When building up a stockpile of characters, you need to find the format that suits you best.
  119. That could be a TRPG character sheet, a fighting game character form, an online game character creation screen, a TCG card, or for a more recent example, a card from a social game. There are plenty of preexisting formats for putting together a large number of characters, so if you use the one that interests you, you won’t have any trouble creating a protagonist, a boss, and three other characters if that’s what you think you need.
  120. The important thing here is to avoid choosing a format that’s a pain and takes a lot of effort, no matter how enjoyable it might be.
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