With any kind of media, the weight and subsequent value of a good storyline can make or break most concepts. Originality has some factor in this; however a well written rehashed concept is still better than an original concept/soon to be flop because the story can’t hold itself together. It’s a “the worst of the best is far better than the best of the worst” situation that all content creators and their producers deal with all the time. Objectively and alternatively, a bad story made with heart is still better than manufactured “good” story.
From this point on are essentially my own opinion of storytelling based of my experience as a writer, reader, drama student, tumblr browser, and tabletop game player. One of these days I’ll run Gummi Bear RPG for the crew of Moe-Alternative.
No story starts off or ends this way, as some of the greats can easily decline into the mundane and rehashed trite that critics love bash. It’s like entropy, the longer something goes on, the greater the chance the beginning will be far better to the ending.
Unless, the author dynamically writes the story as the series progresses.
On the subject of storytelling, there are a lot of series and media I could use as examples, but that would be unnecessary and make for an extremely long article; I’ve found that the best way of finding out examples of good storytelling is a purely personal endeavor.
Examples are still needed, albeit in a very general and looser interpretation.
Take for instance your average game of Dungeons and Dragons or even Pathfinder: There is a Game Master (a storyteller if you will) that narrates and creates the world for and around the players that explore it. In some cases a GM could have a preset story written ahead of time, and the players of the game are the Dramatis Personae of this theater of the mind. Other times, the story is written dynamically in conjunction between the GM and the players in a sandbox like scenario.
There are pros and cons to both types of styles, as the premeditated scenarios are far more rigid and inflexible than the other. It creates a lot of what if’s and restriction of freedom of the imagination, which incidentally is why fanfiction exists in the first place, but can create a more concise, clear plot and immerse the players in a world much different then the one they live in. Modules and scenarios are high popular for many reasons, but are highly cherished among the non-creative. Not to imply that the players/readers/consumers are in any way incapable of being creative, just that it requires a bit less effort in general, which can lead to getting right to the fun.
This plays into animation as well, in the form of the dreaded “trope” (or as I call them, “overused bullshit“) where entire stories can be written upon the backs of recurring gags, jokes, imagery and plots. It requires less effort in general, reduces the risk of experimentation, and costs less money/development time. It may be the rigidity of Japanese humor or the tried and true formula of what works, but it does infallibly sell.
Dynamically written stories are very hard to pull off in aired media like television and anime, and a lot of young drama students know just like them that improvisation is a lot harder than it at first seems. That kind of style is best used in long running media that can afford to experiment, as well as keep it all nice and fresh so that the consumers don’t get burnt out. Though it can easily fall in the same pit of reusing cinematic tropes in order to stay afloat, or coast simply on in-jokes and recurring gags from the media itself.
Manga seems to be the best platform for the style, and is less costly to experiment with, leading to some truly interesting and worthwhile works that you wouldn’t get to enjoy otherwise. Sometimes the imagery and writing are very hard to port over to an animated style, and often adjustments and changes are made; much to the chagrin of purist readers and long time fans. Artistic and experimental tend to go hand in hand, so more abstract works are found in the doujin community than in the more professional anime community. Though some have tried, and tried very hard.
Though no matter what kind of storyteller they maybe, or how they go about it; they still deserve the respect than an artist does. Much like how in the tabletop community, it is a custom to appreciate the hard work of the Game Master, but to also provide commentary and critique on how further sessions maybe improved. Anime, manga, movies and video games still lack this personal connection between all parties involved that reinforces a more stiff and mass-produced product that is aimed to please a demographic rather than compromise all of the consumers.
As a result of that lie most of my complaints about criticism of media at large; it’s a mostly pointless endeavor since most of the input doesn’t reach the proper channels. It makes for good table discussion among peers, but even then you’re really going out of your way for what is essentially e-cred. I’m all for muted conversations, but it’s a matter of changing the perspective from extrospective (the show, the details, animation, staff) to the more introspective (more of what you personally feel) since it’s more conducive to a quality discussion. Trust me on the fact that removing the ethos from “why I like anime, the essay” is not a good thing.
Then again who’s to say that every suggestion should be approved or adhere to what certain fringe opinions want? Selectively ignoring input and going by the vote of the majority can cut down on some of the chaos and reach a better compromise. Though some of our more anarchic resident writers believe otherwise, and feel that their interests should be represented as they see fit. We run a progressive blog here, so Donny is all for a mosaic of social justice, anime, and far left leaning liberal articles.
God bless Canada.
My personal hope is that one day, story writing will proliferate into true creativity, where a writer free to explore the aspects of his inspiration and not be afraid of censorship and editing.
I’d really like to thank my GM, Dacryphilia, for inspiring me to write this article in the first place. It’s been kinda of a slow pace here at Moe-Alt and it can take a while to get back into the groove of writing and editing and all that, but here’s to all the great times ahead of us. I really enjoy the Cinéma vérité performances of your NPC’s and the hard work you put in, just so we can sling swords and spells in a fantasy universe.
As always as well, Donny. His constant 24/7 spew of Canadian nationalist propaganda and the links to all the videos that “have to watch” in order to keep writing make me feel like Canadaland and the oppressive data caps aren’t so bad after all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some Poutine and play some hockey. In summer.