I was introduced to anime in 2011/2012. I was dating an anime junkie and even though I had heard about anime; seeing someone binge watch it was fascinating, especially as it was in Japanese. So one day, I said, “Do you know what, let me watch this thing with you,” and I sat down. I have not looked back. In fact, I often wonder how I lived the first 23 or so years of my life without anime.
I gain a lot of pleasure from delving into the world of anime but it has also caused me to challenge myself as a writer and to realise certain things about creating characters and creating a world and I’d like to share these with you, so buckle up!
The first lesson I learned is your story doesn’t have to be real, it doesn’t even have to be believable, but it must be relatable - I am fairly certain that manga/anime writers come up with the most outrageous plots first, and then ask themselves, how do we make people care? I have watched anime about cooking, which has made me tense and anxious, I have watched a plot centred on a furry animal that has made me cry, I have watched an anime where a boy’s hand was taken over by an alien life form and I became emotionally attached to the boy, and his hand. Yes, I was attached to his hand. And so I began to realise that those moments when I write something and then ask myself, ‘is this realistic, is this believable,’ were a waste of my time. Let me just stress here, if you are writing realistic, literary fiction, this may not apply to you. My goal is to write fiction that leaves an impression, and I don’t mind if the plot centres on a stone that can sing, or a girl hitting puberty, so long as my readers become invested in the tale.
So how did these writers make ridiculous stories relatable? They made sure the issues the characters faced were real. They provided the underdogs, the suicidal individuals, the ones looking for love, the ones looking for glory, the ones looking for their fathers; the only difference being that the character in question might be a god with a fear of heights.
Exaggerate your characters quirks and they will become instantly recognisable - Speaking of a god with a fear of heights, anime characters are memorable and it’s usually because they have some unique quirk or disposition that sets them apart. Again the quirk doesn’t have to be altogether real. Luffy from One Piece eats like a beast, tunes out when people are talking too much, and will always always fight for the underdog unless the underdog wants to fight for himself. In which case, he will respect said underdog’s wishes, even if the underdog is being beaten to a pulp. I am not the one who wrote the character of Luffy but I know him almost as well as I know my siblings because these characteristics of his are distinct and always exaggerated. When he eats, he may eat fifty burgers alone, when someone is telling him their backstory, he may fall asleep and so on; so we come to expect this from him.
For comedic purposes, exaggerate your character’s quirks and then put them in awkward, serious situations - I have always been better at writing heavy, sad fiction, than writing light or humourous content. But once I began to study the anime I was watching, I started to experience a shift in my writing. Writing comedy is hard, but it is not impossible. One way I have learnt to create a comedic scenario is to set the reader up by stressing how the character is a particular way, or of a particular mindset etc and how they hate, such and such; and then to put them in the scenario that they so hate, or have a character walk up to them and say the thing they have just been ranting about. You will find that the audience anticipates the reaction and is tickled by it.
World building - There are lots of different genres of anime – action, comedy, slice of life, romance, horror. But watching the fantasy has taught me a lot about building a world for your story; and how straightforward it can be. Worry less about if it makes ‘sense’ and worry more about sticking to the rules of the world you have created.
Don’t get too attached to your characters - I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I can see that GoT also follows this rule. Many of us like to preserve the ‘good’ characters when we are writing, and deal with the ‘bad’. Have you tried flipping it? What does that do to your story? What happens if it is the bad person that triumphs at the end of the day? Can you write a tale where the evil character triumphs and it is funny?
As you can probably tell, I am a huge anime fan. I am an anime addict. I watch it more than anything else; so if you want to know what anime to watch so you too can experience this wonder, hit me up.
Otherwise, keep writing!