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June 20th, 2013

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

I’m a big manga fan. While getting this weekend’s quick fix, I noticed several interesting things I could use as a writer. So I made myself this list:

22 Things Writers Can Learn from Manga

1) One Theme to Rule Them All. A manga series has a single theme upon which all conflict and story telling is built. In Skip Beat, it’s the scorned woman who’s revenge is to become a famous actress. In One Piece, it’s Luffy’s drive to become King of the Pirates. In Ranma 1/2, it’s the conceit that any ordinary thing can become the focus of it’s own martial arts form. Find the theme, build on the theme, and stick with the theme.

2) Conflict does not have to be about war or battle. It can be romantic, it can be academic, and it can be athletic. It can also be family related or friendship related. When was the last time a character was faced with a minor life choice that had major implications?

3) Knowing the characters’ statistics can help make a better character, and a better story. Manga authors are famous for knowing their characters stats right down to the hair color, eye color, height, weight, blood type, birth sign, and favorite food / activity. This information helps dictate how the characters act, interact, and react to external stimuli.

4) Even comedy can be tense and dramatic.

5) Even drama can be funny.

6) When things are going too well for the protagonist:
break something
take something away
introduce a new rival / love interest / enemy

7) When the protagonist overcomes an obstacle, immediately throw another one in his/her path.

8) Fighting the same enemy / obstacle over and over again is boring. If it must be the same enemy, give them new skills (earned through training or received via theft / mysterious McGuffin) and make them more dangerous.

9) Change the rules (not the world rules, though) when the protagonist think(s)he’s on top of the world.

10) When things get tough, raise the stakes.

11) When things get tougher, raise the stakes again. (Tension and conflict are good.)

12) When things get too tough, ratchet back or end the conflict.

13) Give the characters a breather between major conflicts. Breathers are good. Not only do they help the characters, they give the readers time to absorb the impact of what just happened.

14) Exposition doesn’t have to happen in the first few pages. It can be shared in smaller moments, flashbacks, and comments throughout the course of the story.

15) When the characters are having fun, usually the author is too.

16) Protagonist defeat is okay. It leads (or should lead) to stronger protagonists who have Learned Their Lesson and will come back to resolve the problem later.

17) Character death is okay. If there is no other way to resolve a problem, or if it’s needed to up the stakes, kill off the favorites. That will guarantee a reader reaction.

18) Unnecessary character death / defeat is annoying, boring, and will likely get the series canceled. If the death doesn’t add to the story, walk away from it.

19) Supporting characters need their own quests and lives too.

20) Supporting characters are called “supporting” for a reason. Their quests should lead to the protagonist’s eventual success, but not overwhelm it.

21) The protagonist should always overcome the biggest obstacle / complete the highest-stake quest.

22) If the story is finished, walk away from the story. Don’t keep writing past its expiration date.

So, that’s my list. And no, shouting fancy attack names in the middle of combat didn’t make it. Nor did “As You Know Bob” moments because those are bad lessons to take away from manga. Maybe I should make a “What Writers Shouldn’t Learn from Manga” list…

What about you? Do you have a list? Do you have anything to add to this one?


Brandie's Stories

The Monster of Mogahnee Bay (reprint ebook, Coming Soon, Musa Publishing)

The Drunkard's Progress (Coming Soon, Musa Publishing)

Slipping Thru the Cracks, Latchkeys #7 (Sept 2012 Crazy 8 Press)

Legend of the Beemen (June 2012 Musa Publishing)

Feast of the Torn (upcoming Buzzy Magazine)

The Hunt for Liberty Jones (Space Tramps, Flying Pen Press)

The Tales We'll Tell Tomorrow (Shadowrun: Street Legends, Catalyst Game Labs)

Silk and Steam (The Ladies of Trade Town, HarpHaven Press)

Love Me Knot (A Lady Katya Story, Storyportals.com)

Another Day, Another Labor (A Career Guide to Your Job in Hell)

Locke-Down (Blue Kingdoms: Mages & Magic)

The Rose Garden (Shadowrun: Corporate Guide-Mitsuhama Fiction, Catalyst Game Labs)

The Monster of Mogahnee Bay (Blue Kingdoms: Shades & Specters)

Just My Luck (Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms)

Two for the Price of One (Transformers: Legends, iBooks Inc.)

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