Archive for January 2012
“Symmetry is life’s calling card, the way we’ve learned to recognize each other in the wild. It’s that bit of ourselves that breeds affection when we see it in our nearer relatives, and makes us uneasy when we see it in our more distant ones. It’s the key ingredient that says ‘Yes, this is an animal like me. This is a living thing.‘ Even when nothing could be further from the truth.” Scott McCloud, Making Comics.
Familiarity is an important factor in any book or comic. As any author can tell you, if the reader sees and recognizes the worlds you create with your words, then they’ll see themselves as well as your characters in it easily. And a good way to connect with your reader? With humanity, of course.
“Humans love humans! They can’t get enough of themselves. They crave the company of humans, they value the opinions of humans, and they love hearing stories about humans!” states Scott McCloud. And this is something no one can deny; the books and movies with humans as the main characters is so numerous, this post would take forever if I tried to list them all.
But, authors over the years have readily and tackled the challenge of giving life to characters not human. From animals to large structures, humanity has been placed in them like a homing device, to give readers something to relate to. For example, consider this sentence:
As it walked towards us, the lion roared menacingly.
It sounds normal to you, right? But . . . a lion, who is not a human, is only doing its “job” as a hunter. When it roars, it’s not meant to be menacing to itself; it’s doing what it does as a hunter. Being “menacing” is a human expression, and can’t be put on a lion. But in order for the reader to better understand the situation, we call the roar “menacing” so we can be “in sync” with the lion and what it’s doing.
Two more sentences for continuation:
After loading my files, the computer made a questioning beep, asking if I wanted to save them.
The numerous pop-ups mocked me as I tried to do my work.
A computer is a machine; it cannot question anyone. Same for the pop-ups; they’re doing their job. We are applying our humanity to the computer when we say those things. When we notice a ‘Do you want to save’ message, you might say to your friend, “It’s asking if I want to save.” We are the computer in this moment; we imply humanity. Almost never do we say, “The computer is running a program that is asking me if I want to save.”
An example Scott McCloud uses in his book Understanding Comics is when someone hits your car. We usually say, “He hit me.” We hardly ever say, “His car hit me,” or, “His car hit my car.” We are the car there, applying ourselves to it in that moment.
We imply our humanity in practically everything, and you can take advantage of this as an author. Apply some feeling to that dishwasher in your story; make the television groan if you have to! The stairs can moan, the alarm can scream in terror, the fridge can hum contently. Humanity is our greatest quality, and you can use it to make stories no one will forget easily.
So, come on. Let’s get human.
Sources: Making Comics and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. The car example belongs to McCloud.
I have decided to end Ninja Bodyguard with Part 13, because I have a serious case of writers block at the moment with continuing parts.
The original Part 13 will still be here, in case I decide to continue it in the future, for a longer ending.
David searched for the right words. “He’s . . . he’s an amazing bodyguard.” Atticus nodded in his approval. David managed not to mention Michio, or the fact that Kaito was a ninja.
“Well, that’s excellent, David.” His father turned back to Kaito. “Since you’ve done such a god job, Kaito, we’d like to hire you. You would live here, with us, and get a suitable amount of money each month. How does that sound?”
For a moment Kaito didn’t say anything. “I . . . I am honored, Mr. Banner.” he said. “But I can’t. The plane back to Japan leaves in an hour, and I have to get there in time. As much as I’d like to, I can’t accept your offer.” He bowed deeply.
“And, um, Dad?” Mr. Banner turned to his son. “I don’t think I’ll need a bodyguard anymore.” he said. “Kaito taught me courage while he was helping me, so . . . I think I can fend for myself.”
Mr. Banner was stunned. “Well, that’s a surprise, but it’s good to hear, David.” He and his wife walked to the car to get their suitcases, with Atticus close behind them.
“Well, I better go.” Kaito said, starting to walk towards the door.
“Kaito, wait!” He stopped and turned back to David. “I, um. . .” David searched for a way to put his thoughts into words, and after a few seconds, he found the perfect ones. “Thanks for helping me. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be scared of going back to school, but I’m sure I can make it on my own.”
Kaito smiled and put his hands behind his head. “I guess it’s Michio you really have to thank,” he said. “If he hadn’t forced me to leave Japan, I wouldn’t have been here in the first place.”
“Good point.” David turned around to see Ritsuki standing behind him, leaning against the stair banister. “Don’t forget, Kaito, we’re racing to the airport. And your grandfather agreed to meet us there; he just called a few minutes ago.”
“That’s great!” Kaito pointed challengingly at his friend. “You’re on!” He turned to David. “Hey, if you ever need a bodyguard or someone to talk too, just ask.”
“Okay.” The moment Katio was gone, David noticed a paper with an e-mail address on his lap. Picking it up, he looked at where Katio had been standing. “See you later, ninja bodyguard.”
“Okay, you guys ready?” Hayato asked. He had a huge grin on his face.
Kaito gave him a thumbs-up. They were in two teams; Hayato and Ritsuki were in one, and Kaito and Takami in the other
They stood on the bridge, on the metal railing that keeps cars from falling off, over the highway. Kaito and Takami balanced on the rail, looking down with a smile. Below them was the highway, with streetlights on either side about twenty-or-so feet away from each other.
They were going to jump.
“Look at us. Five teens standing on the edge of the bridge ready to jump. Someone must’ve called the cops by now.” Hayato chuckled.
“Some people are looking as they pass, and three people have pulled over and already called the police.” Takami said without turning around.
“Great.” Ritsuki rubbed his hands together with mock evil. “The more the merrier, as they say . . . muha ha ha ha . . .”
They all laughed, and Kaito turned to Takami. “Let’s do this!”
Hayato laughed. “You think you’re ready for this?” he asked with a smile
“No time to think; the cops are here.” Takami said.
“What are you kids doing? Get down from there,” the first cop who got out of the car demanded.
“He must have a lot of naughty kids.” Hayato muttered.
“It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal, officer. Besides, there’s nothing to worry about. We’re all going to survive. But fine.” Ritsuki put his hands above his head, the signal to get ready. All of them turned around.
“Good. Now please, come down from that ledge.”
“Scratch the kids; he must have a lot of cats.” Hayato said loud enough for the man to hear. They all laughed.
“Well, it’s been fun, sir, but we have to go.” Ritsuki winked at the policeman and started to fall backwards, as did the rest of them. “See ya.”
“Hey, wait! What are you kids-” But they were already out of earshot, and the road was coming up fast. Kaito grinned as the shocked cop looked at them from the ledge, his mouth wide opened.
Ritsuki smiled “It’s on, Kaito and Takami! We’re going to beat you bad.”
“We’ll see about that.” Takami said with a mysterious grin. “You ready, Kaito? Better not let David down, or we’ll have a pretty big mess to go through with that cop.”
“Let’s go!” Kaito grinned and tightened his grip on the wheelchair. The highway was coming up fast. A second before he hit, Kaito spun and landed on his feet, and jumped up before a car hit him.
Even as he raced with his friends, David was still dominant in his mind. He smiled as he raced through the American highway. I hope he sends me an e-mail soon.
Four ninjas raced off into the night, getting head turns and confused glances, but none of them cared.
They were on their way home.