Story Forge – The Anime Spread

While searching for a new anime to watch, I thought about the sort of anime I like the best. First off, I like it to have some element of fantasy—whether that’s a completely fantastical world, a medieval-esque fantasy world, or the real world with some fantasy elements thrown in (either openly or as a secret underworld that’s hidden from regular sight). Secondly, I like action-adventure. Or, to use a more intellectual term, I like the “hero’s journey” story arc. I want there to be a hero or team of heroes who are fighting for good and against evil and I want to see them become stronger and/or better people along the way. Thirdly, I like a romantic story arc that plays out alongside the hero arc. (Me and the rest of Japan, I think; there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of anime that doesn’t involve some level of romance.)

Since I’ve been wanting to write a new story, I decided to go for something in the style of this type of fantasy-adventure-romance anime. But since I didn’t have any idea for a storyline, I pulled out my Story Forge cards (more about plot cards here) and tried a couple of different spreads—neither of which spoke to me.

Then I decided that I needed a new spread. The Hero’s Journey spread suggested in the booklet seemed too long and complicated; it’s more for writing a Lord of the Rings sort of story. And The Love Story spread was too simplistic, since I wanted an action story arc as well as the romantic one. So I devised a new spread.

The Classic Anime Spread

  1. Protagonist at the beginning of the story.
  2. Love interest at the beginning of the story.
  3. The antagonist and/or the problem which must be overcome and/or how the quest begins.
  4. How they meet. (You can move 3 & 4 up if you prefer them to meet before the trouble begins.)
  5. Their initial relationship (i.e. how they interact with one another when they first meet or, if they’ve known each other for a while, where their relationship currently stands).
  6. Their early encounter(s) with the antagonist/quest.
  7. (Optional) What happens to one or both of them after the early encounter.
  8. How the protagonist overcomes his failings and/or changes.
  9. How the love interest overcomes her failings and/or changes (this card optional, depending on how large a roll the love interest plays in the quest).
  10. The wedge in their budding relationship.
  11. How the protagonist and/or love interest saves the day.
  12. How they fix or strengthen their relationship. (You can swap 9 and 10 if you prefer to resolve their relationship issues before finishing the quest, or you can do them at the same time, which is not uncommon in anime plots.)

If you want to draw it out more, you can add additional cards before #11 to detail additional battles or confrontations with the antagonist.

The Spread in Action

Here are the cards I got when I drew for the basic spread:

Boy: The Anithero: The Protagonist may be someone whose goals and values are noble and good, but whose methods for achieving them are questionable.

Girl: The Relative: Whether making soup for the ill or providing a shoulder to cry on, nobody understands or cares like family.

The trouble: The Manipulator: Some do not need a gun to get others to do their bidding. This person’s weapons are flattery, lies, guilt, blackmail, or bullying.

How they meet: Gnosis: A firm understanding of the difference between good and evil allows one to choose with certainty, but one must still make that choice.

Their initial relationship: Madness: Clear thinking breaks down and gives way to hysteria. Can be indicative of either mental illness or damage from psychological trauma.

(I skipped #6 here; it was an addition I came up with after I had already done this spread.)

How the boy changes: Cruelty: Someone is deliberately causing physical or mental suffering. Can represent an act of cruelty, the effect of such abuse, or a person with a sadistic nature.

How the girl changes: The Outcast: Someone who had been previously admired by others is suddenly shunned and must come to terms with being cast out.

The wedge that threatens their relationship: Desire: A fire burns inside, filling one with a deep passion to possess someone or something, even if he or she must surmount substantial obstacles to acquire it.

Relationship Fix: The Crossroads: The path ahead can be chosen with some degree of confidence. At least one of the choices leads to a desired goal. The path which should be taken may be indicated or even obvious.

Quest Resolution: Death: Death by accident or natural causes. This might be an immediate death or current events may be shaped by a death in the past.

The Tentative Plot

After thinking about the cards for a couple of days, a story started to take shape in my mind. I may or may not end up using all the aspects of the cards, or use them quite in the order intended, but that’s okay; they are there to get you inspired, not to chain you down to a formula.

Here is how I have tentatively interpreted what I’ve been given:

Boy: The Anithero. I’m seeing a young man who is less an anti-hero and more of a reluctant hero (at least to start; his decisions later on may turn him into a more classic anti-hero). He is a millennial stuck in the post-modern malaise that grips so many in our society these days. He wouldn’t be adverse to being a hero . . . one day . . . but first he has to motivate to get out of bed.

Girl: The Relative: I could have made her some sort of relative, but for a love story, even distant cousins hooking up are a little icky to most people. So, rather than making her an actual relative, I’m thinking her personality can be be like that of a relative: sympathetic and quick to take care of the protagonist. (This seems to be a common archetype for girls in anime anyway.)

The antagonist: The Manipulator: This is going to be the bad guy. He’s going to be a vampire who uses his supernatural skills to get people to do his bidding.

How they meet: Gnosis: The protagonist and love interest are both going to figure out that something weird is going on and they are going to unite to try and do something about it.

Their initial relationship: Madness: They are not going to experience madness themselves, but they will be pulled together as everyone around them begins to think they are crazy for taking a stand against the vampires. Also, the love interest does have a bit of past trauma (although not to the point that it makes her crazy) that has her keeping the protagonist in a platonic relationship for a while.

How the boy changes: Cruelty: Something is going to happen to him to turn him from a passive beta male into an ass-kicking alpha male. This may also be where he becomes more of a traditional anti-hero by doing the right thing, but in a way that’s not approved of by society.

How the girl changes: The Outcast: The girl speaks out against vampires and finds herself un-personed and de-platformed for having an opinion that goes against the mainstream.

The wedge that threatens their relationship: Desire: I’m not sure how this will play out. It might be that the protagonist desires to take violent action against the vampires, which the girl doesn’t approve of, or it might be that he desires her in a way that scares him and/or her.

Relationship Fix: The Crossroads: Something will happen where both the boy and the girl have to make a choice about whether they are going to pursue their relationship (and under what terms) or go their separate ways. (This may or may not blend into the quest resolution.)

Quest Resolution: Death: This may be an actual death, or it may be the death of the protagonist’s end-goal–as in he gives up on a certain course of action that he has been doggedly pursuing.

So It Begins . . .

I plan on sharing this new story here in installments/episodes. We’ll see what comes of it.

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