I have only myself to blame, really.
I’m not complaining. I don’t really ever suffer Writer’s Block, or whatever. But I can sometimes write myself into a situation where getting the effect I want can be… challenging. The latest chapter of EXTRA/NORMAL – the one that’s meant to usher in the second volume and arc of the story, overall – has been a struggle for me. Not because I can’t come up with what I want to write, but because every time I’ve finished, I didn’t like the end result. I wanted the chapter to have a certain feel to it that I’ll talk about another time. I was eventually able to come up with something I could be content with, but it led to a train of thought I found rather interesting. Heck, the arc itself has been cause for alarm at times and sparked a lot of internal debate between the hamsters running up there in my skull.
EXTRA/NORMAL is tough to write. And it’ll likely never go away completely because the reason for this is baked into the very essence of the story.
Let’s recap. If you haven’t read up, here’s your Spoiler Warning. You can check out the whole story, up to this point, on Honeyfeed.
EXTRA/NORMAL is a story that takes place in a high-tech city where a certain percentage of the population are Espers – people with psychic abilities. For reasons you’ll come to understand, these powers manifest in the form of Familiars. Think of them like STANDS from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. But… less weird, perhaps. Maybe. Some of them. Hm. Anyway, the city holds a regular Battle Royale event, forcing some 10,000 of these Espers to duke it out for the privilege of staying in the city. That’s all the pertinent information presently available to you, the reader.
So what’s the complication, here?
It’s a Battle Royale. Not a Death Game, per se (eh…), but it is a scenario in which the characters who are beat in an official capacity are extremely unlikely to be seen again, if at all. It’s also uniquely one that features a lot of characters. Obviously I’m not going to actually be gracing you with 10,000 Esper characters to care about and watch as they beat the crap out of each other. That’d be insane. But by virtue of there even being that many, you understand that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Battle Royale. It’s like any long-running Shounen-esque series, but with a Battle Royale flair. Because of that, there’s more than a handful of people to get familiar with. But also because of that, you’re not going to be able to know many of them for very long.
Surely you see the issue.
I’m largely exaggerating how much of a problem it is for me. I don’t really find it particularly daunting. But it is something I have to be mindful of. Writing a series like this, where character turnover is so ridiculously high, one has to wonder how any of them have any impact. To be truthful, it’s tricky to properly balance. But it mostly comes down to planning and timing.
For myself, the impact lies in making sure a character makes a strong impression and has a meaningful effect on other characters before they’re gone.
When I set out to write this story, I knew I was going to have to write a looot of fights and make a tooon of characters for said fights. Attempting to make all of them robust would frankly be insane. So I pre-planned several characters whose impact on the story would be significant. After that, though, it came down to how that impact would even work. After all, many of the high-impact characters aren’t going to be around for long. It’s just the nature of the story. Yet I knew there’d be some characters whose impact would only really work out if they were able to be in the story for an extended period of time. This is when I started working with the concepts of characters who had immediate impact, versus characters whose impact comes from a steady build-up.
Immediate Impact is something I pretty much threw right into the first arc of the story. You only really know Jun for about a scene and a half before things go sour. But he stands out by virtue of his actions and the strong impact he has on Mio, specifically.
The nature of the Battle Royale makes Build-Up difficult. I didn’t introduce every single character – or even most of them – at the top of the series. Usually, when that’s the case, the enemies wind up being, frankly, little more than obstacles. Maybe somewhat thematic ones, but certainly not significant enough to make an enormous impression on their own. They’re there to get beat/killed and serve as little more than something for the “heroes” to overcome. If development is attempted, it’s often clunky and rushed because… well… the story’s gotta move along.
Escape and Rematches aren’t things that this series really allows for. Nor random encounters. The way the Royale works, you have to fight. Now. And the time they have to do it isn’t really long enough to throw in any kind of development that wouldn’t feel incredibly forced. So any build-up would have to take place before the actual battle. Per the rules, a person can challenge someone else to a match, but given the risks… that’s just not common.
Because of all of that, EXTRA/NORMAL has, so far, been launching characters into battle, pretty much right when they’re introduced. The caveat, though, is that pretty much every official match after Jun has been against opponents who were essentially narrative fodder. So none of this has really applied and, while it’d seem the series was skewing more towards Immediate Impact, that’s not necessarily the case. Especially with this arc, I’m really trying to lean into the Build-Up method. Here’s hoping it pans out and you guys enjoy it.
So yeah. I’ve essentially written myself into a difficult but manageable spot. That said, I still enjoy it because it is so different an experience for me as a writer. So we’ll see how I manage.
Thanks for reading, as always. EXTRA/NORMAL is out on Honeyfeed with a brand new Saturday release cycle. Check it out the brand new chapter NOW.
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