My wife and I really dig anime. We’re fans, but neither of us have acquired enough knowledge to be termed “anime geeks” or anything. We haven’t seen a great deal of what’s out there and try to sample as much we can.
One series we’ve been watching lately has been School Rumble. It’s a very fluffy teenage romance show (translation: not the kind of story I usually gravitate toward). However, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Which got me to wondering why…
If you look at the plot it’s pretty clichéd:
Girl loves Boy –> Boy doesn’t notice –> Another Boy loves Girl –> Girl doesn’t notice –> Girl and Another Boy each try to get the attention of their respective crushes = Zaniness Ensues
However, the show really works. I’m sure you’ve come across this in other shows or in fiction. You look at the plot and, really, it’s fairly simple and straightforward and has probably been done before. Yet, it clings to you. It makes you smile. It connects.
That’s the key, I think. That connection. No matter the plot, even if it is “The Plot That Will Blow Your Ever-Lovin’ Mind” ™, if there is no human connection, no characterization to cling to the reader’s emotions, the story will not work.
Essentially, there has to be an emotional thread in the story. It’s very difficult to this without realistic characters that make the reader (or the watcher) want to know what happens to them. These characters have to evoke themes that connect: humor, tragedy, pathos, romance, whatever. It’s got to cling to the reader’s emotions in some manner. A light glaze can be just as effective as heavy syrup (and is often more so).
Granted, in School Rumble the characterizations are not terribly deep and work on stereotypes (the delinquent who is actually quite sensitive, the cute and innocent girl, the beautiful but aloof girl, etc.). However, these characters are unique enough to connect. Maybe not quite three-dimensional characters, but certainly not flat…maybe 2.5-D characterizations. However, the characters evoke humor, familial love, romance, adolescent drama, and other emotions that make me want to see what happens, or at least enjoy the half-hour I spend with them. They don’t touch my soul in a lasting way or change my outlook on the world, but they do connect and make me care, if for a short time.
If I can do that with my writing, connect with a reader and make them care about what I’m writing, if only for a little while, I think I’ll have achieved something to be proud of.