Writer’s Room #1
As promised, we’re going to be delivering our first Writer’s Room, this week. This time we’ll handle it as a super post, covering the first three chapters we’ve already released. The way this will work is that for every chapter, we’ll have three topics. Because this is the first of these, we’ll pick all the topics, this time. But in the future, feel free to leave comments or use our contact fields to ask questions for us to answer in the Writer’s Room, even if they’re just general writing questions not specifically connected to Burning Sky or any of our original work. Sound good? Then let’s get started.
Cut Scene: Ike and the Djinn Woman
V: Writing is hard. Normally when someone says that, they’re referring to the act of trying to figure out what to put on the page. But one of the hardest parts of being a writer is deciding what shouldn’t go on the page. This goes for any creative process, of course. Movies have their deleted scenes, most games go through all manner of early builds with chunks of gameplay that are never used or get patched out later. Books are exactly no different.
E: We have this one scene in the first chapter, for example, that we decided to get rid of. It would’ve seen Ike bump into this woman, causing her to drop a basket of food or fruit or something like that. And when he bends down to help her, he realizes she’s a slave and freezes. Then she picks up the rest of it herself and leaves.
V: There were probably more reasons for our getting rid of that scene than I honestly remember. I know that one of the prevailing thoughts was that the scene felt a bit repetitive. Thinking back, it was a pretty unnecessary scene, overall. It had some thematic relevance, but you could get the same thing from one of the earlier scenes in that chapter, albeit a bit more condensed.
E: Yeah. I think the idea was to show Ike being conflicted because he was worried about getting in trouble. The way it was written, it was pretty consistent with what’s known about his character, so far. It’s just a lot like that earlier scene, just with a different resolution.
Expanding The First Scene & “The Children”
V: Introductions are… a little important.
E: “A little,” he says.
V: The first scene of anything is usually one of the most difficult. Because there’s so much you need to accomplish. You need to establish so much, usually without a great deal of space to do it.
E: In the earliest drafts, we miiight’ve taken that to a bit of an extreme. The first scene was literally a page. Needless to say, that’s not enough time to do what we really needed to do. And that put a lot more pressure on the second scene, which just wasn’t designed to perform that function… at all.
V: The core elements of the first scene were left almost entirely alone. But we fleshed out the scene because there was actually a lot of information that needed to fit into that initial conversation between Ramos and Ike. We needed to really establish the relationship those two characters had. We needed to show what kind of character Ike was going to end up being.
E: Yeah, you know. The noob kind. But the biggest thing was making sure the scene did a better just of setting up the world and, more importantly, Ramos, himself. We didn’t describe the office in great detail. But the details we did include give you an idea of the kind of guy Ramos is, while also getting across a few details about the world. Most notably that it’s not exactly “modern.”
V: Just as importantly, the scene sort of sets up the mood and tone of… basically the whole book, if not the entire series. The opening scene is funny. It just is.
E: But we’re the audience. To Ike it’s the most terrifying thing in the world. There’s an inherent seriousness to the whole thing. And, to be fair, you have no idea the scene’s going to play out the way it does when Ike first sets foot into that room. It starts off pretty intense. But that’s what we were going for. A way to show that the story takes itself seriously, but not too seriously.
V: That said, I think the actual scene where Ike visits the children was possibly the best scene to set up his character as efficiently as possible without bending to what are probably the more traditional approaches. What he wants, how he responds to certain types of situations, all of that with a healthy dose of foreshadowing. We didn’t really change that scene much at all from the earliest drafts, either. We probably could have opened on this scene, but understanding the relationship between Ike and Ramos is pretty central to Ike’s chapters, going forward. So it’s best to establish that as early as possible. I think it was the best call to keep that scene in.
Inspirations for Ike Harper
V: Every character starts on the drawing board.
E: And, in some cases, they stay there for quite a few passes. Ike was a tough character to figure out. We knew the general idea of how we wanted him to be, but we didn’t have a solid inspiration for him.
V: Internally, we joke a lot about Ike being “Medieval Deku,” but that’s really not it. Deku absolutely had a certain level of influence in the presentation of Ike’s character, but the thing I think inspires most of Ike’s character is just the prototypical, wide-eyed JRPG protagonist. Which is kind of a big point with us. See, our mutual love for JRPG’s is what inspires a lot of our writing.
E: Heck, Ike is basically just a better version of the main character we have in another project of ours, Guild Quest. Which is basically a whole story set in a Fantasy JRPG world. Game mechanics and all. That story will happen eventually, but the lead character of that story is essentially the template for Ike. But Ike is more fleshed out. He has deeper motivations, more backstory.
V: But we’d be lying if we said that another significant aspect of the boy’s character didn’t come from your typical Shounen protagonist. Deku’s the easy one because their end goals are somewhat similar. But I like to think Ike has some shades of the other, more fiery types as well. He also starts out with a spine, rather than having to grow one, later. Granted, his is still in need of some… developing at the time of his introduction, but he’s young.
Creative Decision: Why Open in the Battle?
V: When it comes to an introductory scene, one thing that we learned in school, when it came to writing for film, is to try to start in the heat of the action. It was… something very much drilled into us in several classes. Where it was relevant, of course.
E: You want to start on something that really grabs the audience. Because of the format of the first book, each of the first three chapters basically act as a “Chapter 1,” just for different branches of the story. So that rule still applies.
V: What better way to set up a war hero than to start in the middle of the battle that made him famous?
E: It was also a semi-effective approach to introducing the audience to the concept of the Akuma. It was a good way of showing exactly how dangerous this world can be and how dire the story can and will get.
V: Of course, there’s the other part of this question. “Yeah, but why start 30 years ago, instead of saving this for backstory?” There are several reasons. One of the biggest ones is that… he’s famous. This story is famous. Everyone in-universe knows about it, even if they’ve never heard the specific details. We didn’t see any reason to hold it back, really. Furthermore, we just found it to be a good establishing scene to show exactly what kind of character Baldrik is. And the kind of hero the public perceives him to be.
E: The event doesn’t really show you a lot of the nuances of the character, either. So holding it for later wouldn’t really be necessary. When you have a flashback later on in the story, it should be to reveal something about the character. This is pretty much just there to set everything up and also do a bit of worldbuilding.
V: Also let us flex our action muscles a bit.
E: OH yeah.
Finding that Connection: The Civilians of Valiant.
V: So, when we first wrote the initial scenes of this chapter, Baldrik barely interacted with anyone.
E: Unfortunately, that didn’t make for the most engaging chapter. It was a fun one. Hoo boy, was it a fun one. But without people to talk to, you didn’t really get the full effect of what we were going for.
V: When we revised the chapter, we decided to give slightly expanded roles to one knight and one civilian, in particular. Mostly to give Baldrik someone to talk to between each stretch of the battle. And I think it made the whole scene way more effective. Because now we’re getting to see how others react to not only him, but to the situation.
E: It also makes his heroism stand out a lot more. Some of those larger-than-life traits only really shine when he’s beside someone ordinary, by comparison. And it works both ways. Because we also get to see how he reacts to other people being around and what his thought process is when dealing with such a tense situation in the presence of people who need him.
V: The civilians aren’t all that important, otherwise. But they enrich the scene by being there, we found. And maybe they can come back later in some capacity, or something if we have any ideas for that.
Inspirations for Baldrik
E: All-Might and Reinhardt (Overwatch).
V: Yep. Big ol’ boisterous German dude who loves the thrill and glory of battle, but also has a heavy inclination towards saving lives.
E: We don’t have a whole lot else, really. We just wanted a big, jolly, loud German dude as basically the most famous knight in the world.
V: The other aspects of his character are things that mostly come as a result of combining those aspects of his personality with details we know about his backstory, also taking his age into account and all that.
E: Yeah. You’ll see. There’s… a lot to him.
Our Favorite Scene: Iri the Hostess – A Fun Introduction.
E: Notice a pattern yet?
V: Introductions are some of the most fun scenes to write, especially when you hit upon an idea for a good one. Iri is probably our favorite introduction of the three, in that regard. At least, I know she’s mine.
E: Beautiful and elegant? First thing we see her doing. Dancing. Charming? She’s a club hostess, entertaining a handful of guests. Dangerous? She threatens a freaking pirate. If nothing else, Iri’s introduction is probably the most effective for establishing the kind of character she is.
V: Plus it’s just a really fun scene, to boot.
Why decide to make Iri (and Kotori) Japanese?
E: Because Voyager’s a weeb.
V: …just because you’re correct doesn’t make you right.
E: So I’m wrong?
V: …I can neither confirm, nor deny that statement.
V: What I can say, though, is that it works out in a way that ends up being necessary. Certain details about Iri’s character, which you’ll learn at a later time, only really work if she’s from that region of the world, based on how we’ve built Gaea, thus far. So it checks out.
E: And, naturally, that just means Kotori likewise has to be from there. Because… well… siblings. That’s kinda how blood relatives work.
Inspirations for Iri & Kotori.
V: Believe it or not… there really weren’t a whole lot of inspirations on a character level. The concept for Iri started with her abilities. I decided, then, that she’d need a personality that suited those abilities. So she wound up with personality traits that I think really reflect what she’s capable of. Then I wound up sticking her in a profession that actually benefits from having that kind of personality.
E: Kotori is a lot easier. She’s basically just… all of the anime little sisters/daughters. The ones that aren’t annoying, anyway. Hopefully. She’s just a bubbly and energetic, adorable little fireball who loves her Onee-chan. That’s… basically it. No one character inspired her more than any other, really.
And that’s a wrap on that. Interested in learning more about our creative processes? We’ll be around to do this, every other week. Read up and throw some questions our way. We’re always open to that. Mind you, we’re not going to talk spoilers, so… you know… don’t ask about that. But yeah. Hope you enjoyed this little adventure into our collective heads. Maybe next time we’ll also be able to have Sharlenne around, yeah? Okay, thanks for reading. Keep up the Awesome!