Editing with the Elrics: Sacrificing What You Want Most
So I’ve been discussing some lessons I learned from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Here is another plotting tool/technique/method that hit me right in the gut—if done right, it can be really powerful emotionally for your audience. But this post does contain major spoilers, so if you plan on actually watching or reading Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, you’ll want to finish it before you read this.
Alright, so I mentioned last Monday that one of the main characters, Alphonse, doesn’t have a body. The laws of alchemy require equivalent exchange—you give something to gain something. One of the things Al gave up accidentally during an alchemical transaction was his own body. Luckily his brother Ed, was able to bind Al’s soul to a suit of armor, but it cost Ed an arm. So Al is missing his whole body while Ed is missing an arm and a leg.
The protagonists’ goals for the whole story is to get their bodies back to normal. It’s a quest they’ve been on for years. It’s a quest we go on with them for over 60 episodes. They scour the field of alchemy to find a way to do it.
At the climax of the series, Al finally has opportunity to get his real body back. You know he’s hungered for this moment for ages—as an audience, we’ve hungered for it on his behalf. This is what he has wanted more than anything, what he’s been trying to accomplish for most his life. But at that moment, Al’s friends are in battle with the main antagonist, one that the fate of the whole country rests on. Al realizes that if he gets his real flesh and blood body back, he won’t be able to fight—his body will be too weak and vulnerable. It’s too human. It’s atrophied. And the others needs his help—his armor-body help, right now.
So he foregoes the opportunity to get his real body back. He sacrifices what he most wanted. That moment hit me. It was so powerful because, as I mentioned before, the audience had spent 60 episodes looking toward this instance. The writer had built up to it. But we aren’t disappointed in Al’s decision because it reveals just how vast the magnitude of his selflessness is.
We can use that technique in our own stories, and hit our readers right in the guts. What if, when your character finally had the opportunity to get exactly what she most wanted, she had to sacrifice it?
In order to make it most powerful, your character has to really hunger for it, and for a long time, and we have to see that hunger. The longer we see him hunger and the hungrier he is and the harder he strives for his goal, the more powerful the moment of sacrifice.
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST POCKET WATCH GIVEAWAY!!
Hi everyone! To go along with my “Editing with the Elrics” writing tip series, I’m giving away a mini FMA pocket watch! (Everybody freak out!)
You must be a follower of mine to win.
To enter, simply like or reblog this post—do both to be entered twice!
I will select the winner at the end of my “Editing with the Elrics” blog post series (sometime in August).
Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for more opportunities to enter later.
Why am I doing this? Because I love my followers, and I would freak out if I had the chance to win.
4 days left to enter. Winner will be announced Friday. :)
Random thing: I know my story inside and out, but whenever I try to write things just fall flat (it probably doesn't help that my creative mind has become more visual, which makes little things like moving feel weird to write). I really don't want to give up on this story, so what should I do?
Hmmm… sometimes this can happen to people because they know their story inside and out. They feel as if, in a way, it’s already been written, and so writing it is just blah and flat. I’ve had this happen to me before. I’m really big on outlining, so sometimes when I go to write a scene, it just doesn’t carry any kind of gumption or feeling for me. I’ve learned that, even if I have everything outlined, I should still try to think and look for ways to make my story better and more interesting—that way it always feels fresh. It brings some excitement back to my writing.
Sometimes this happens to me just because it’s a first draft, and I just get stuck in parts that fall flat. That’s when I just need to suck it up and write it. In moments like that, it’s easier for me to see how to give it more life after I have something on paper. In addition, sometimes I need to just write it, let it sit for a while, and then come back to it for editing. Once I get some distance from it, I can give it more shape.
Hopefully you and your story fall into one of the categories above, so you can figure out how to move on.
Oh, and another option that helps me is to have someone read what I have written. Sometimes the reader critiques it or helps give me ideas on how to fix it. Other times, the person just tells me what they like about it and that they’re excited to read more—that usually helps me. They might tell me that it’s not flat at all, so I know it’s just a mental thing I’m going through. If you go with this option, just make sure you ask the right person to read it. Don’t give it to someone who is going to make you feel bad or discouraged about what you’ve written.
Those are my thoughts. Also, I wrote this when I was tired, so I apologize if there are any typos and whatnot.
Good luck on your story!
Tell Me Your Giveaway Requests
I’m looking into doing a couple more giveaways in September. Do any of you have any categories (universe) requests that I should take into account? Stuff of things I’m considering:
More Fullmetal Alchemist
The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
Attack on Titan
The Fault in Our Stars
The Hunger Games
Dragon Ball Z?
First 10 Pages of Your Novel Critiqued by Me.
Let me know if you have a fave franchise. Reply or send a message, and I’ll take it into account. Other than that, be prepared for more giveaways in the future. (P.S. one week left of my FMA pocket watch giveaway.)
WHEN I'M AT A FAMILY GATHERING AND MY RELATIVES ASK WHY I'M STILL SINGLE
Writing Creepy: Perverting the Normal
(With examples from The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, and Harry Potter.)
Creepy doesn’t have to be outlandish to send chills down a spine. Often what’s really creepy is something normal that has been twisted, distorted, or perverted either physically or through the story line.
Take dolls for example. If you go to a store and see a doll, you probably won’t look at it and consider it scary, right? But put the doll in a horror movie with a knife in its head (physical) or give it a criminal conscious (story), then it becomes a little more disturbing, and if done well, you might feel uncomfortable whenever you see a doll.
Sometimes, making something normal creepy is more powerful than creating something foreign and outlandish.
After I read The Hunger Games trilogy, I couldn’t look at roses the same way for months. Every time I saw a rose it reminded me of President Snow, him poisoning people, killing children, and his constant, omniscient presence in Panem. He, and by extension his roses, became creepy.
But perhaps more unnerving were the genetically engineered, human-animal hybrids. In the first novel, the Capitol mixes dogs with the DNA of dead tributes. They unleash the creatures on Katniss in the arena.
Here is some concept art from the movie. As you can see, the mutts were toned down a lot in the final product.
Writing a story you think is brilliant.
Reading it later and realizing it’s crap.