Nozaki-kun’s Oddly Journalistic Approach to His Characters

This post feels a little late, but better late than never and I need a new topic for each day of this month!  While watching Nozaki-kun, I remember being struck by his extraordinary reliance upon his friends for ideas in his manga.  He’s hardly the only author to use real life persons in their fiction, but most characters take on a life of their own after a while.  For example, in the novel I submitted to the Christian Novel Contest (which has entered the next round.  Banzai!), I based one character on Robert E. Lee and another on Stonewall Jackson.  (Perhaps, an imperfect example since neither are known to me personally but only though history, but let’s go with it.)  While I thought of these two characters like the historical figures for a while, they eventually took on lives of their own.  They were no longer facsimiles of Lee and Jackson, but Gladwin and Roger.  I did not slavishly resort to reading biographies of the historical figures and looking up quotes of theirs whenever I had difficulty trying to write about them.  Eventually, I thought of them just as Gladwin and Roger, and I could write about them without reference to their antecedents.  The historical figures were a crutch I rested on until I properly owned the characters so to speak.

Nozaki calm down

Nozaki-kun never seems to exactly own his characters.  And so, he relies on the actual doings of his friends and testing their reactions to various stimuli or, to put it less vaguely, his trolling in order to figure out how his characters would act.  For example, he asks Waka for a detailed report of his date with Seo and makes an accurate record of what his male friends do when they sleep over his house–though, he does translate their deeds to things women would be more likely to do, since his female characters are the ones sleeping over in his manga.  This made for an absolutely hilarious anime, but it seems rather unrealistic for how fiction authors usually operate.  One wonders if Nozaki will continue writing comics as he gets older or join a Japanese news agency.  What do my dear readers think?  Especially those who have tried their hand at fiction?

Yuzuki Seo

 

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8 comments on “Nozaki-kun’s Oddly Journalistic Approach to His Characters

  1. Nami says:

    Mmm…I definitely write some characters based on people I know, but I usually just pick and choose traits. There’s no one character that is exactly like someone I know. And with my NaNoWriMo novel so far, my characters are even turning out differently than I originally imagined them.

    I think it would be limiting to merely write the people you know, at least in the sense that it’s not as creative: to write a character with depth is difficult, and just doing a character study of a friend is a good exercise, but doesn’t take the same kind of effort that writing a whole new character does. And perhaps it’s just not so nice to your friend if they figure out it’s them and the portrait is less than flattering.

    Not to mention the fact that part of the point of fiction is to enter into a different world, not simply relive the one you know, so only putting people you know or well-known people in could make it boring.

    • I’m glad to hear that your NaNoWriMo novel is progressing! I’ve yet to properly begin mine this month, but hopefully soon. I like it when characters take control of the plot. It makes writing easier unless they draw one to a dead end.

      That one would fail to escape reality through fiction (not a bad thing in my book) if one’s characters were exact facsimiles of the people one knows is a good point. I actually know one writer who does exactly that, but that idea does not appeal to me either. The only person who routinely shows up in my books is me, though a much more virtuous and heroic version of myself. As much as I try to overcome my own egocentricity, I find that every character in my works bears at least one trait of mine–the natural result of each work trying to put my own experiences in perspective, I suppose. 🙂

  2. jubilare says:

    A prof of mine once compared the artistic process to that of a coffee maker. One gathers beans (experiences, observations, philosophies, other art, etc.), grinds them up together in the brain, and then waits to see what dribbles out later.

    That statement resonated with me because that is how I write. So, none of my characters are ever based specifically on people I know, or myself, but elements of others and of my own experiences show up in them. Sometimes I can trace the threads of inspiration, sometimes not, but they are always a conglomerate. Sometimes, they even walk onto the page, so to speak, and manifest themselves before I’ve had time to think about them. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing.

    There are a lot of different ways to write, of course. Perhaps as many as there are writers. I think the process of discovery is a big part, for many of us. But observation plays a big role, too, in creating authenticity. It sounds like Nozaki-kun has the observation part down, but may have to work on the discovery part. If he does, then he’s a mangaka in the works! If not, then journalism is probably more his forte. 🙂

    • Essentially, writing is where all our experience and learning come together. I also usually don’t write about people I know. After a while, I might realize that a character is indeed like an acquaintance or friend of mine, but that’s by accident. Most of the time, I create characters in a thoroughly artificial way of assigning them traits and eccentricities and then follow that sketch until that character comes alive.

      I must confess to not relying on observation that much–at least consciously. Though, I have no doubt that it winds up in my writing somehow.

      • jubilare says:

        It never hurts to observe, though an insightful person can go a long way with just the observations they naturally pick up.

        I don’t think I have ever constructed a character. They usually walk into my mind and become fleshed out over time. I’m intrigued by the people who can create them intentionally, though.

      • My method’s not hard. I start off with an idea of the character and then determine his four central traits (side characters can have three or even just two). One of those traits might be a fear, limitation, block, or wound he has to overcome. Then, I add some eccentricities and a back story in order to make him more human. It helps when I’m struggling to make a character interesting.

        True, it definitely never hurts to observe. I am just one of the more bookish sorts of authors, so I rely more on books than experience. But, it is still there!

  3. jubilare says:

    It might not be hard for you, but it would be hard for me, I think.

    Depending on which books you read, that might not be a bad thing, but it always helps to supplement by considering flesh and blood. For instance, even though this conversation lacks face-to-face interaction, it is still social interaction of a sort, and can teach us both a little more about different sorts of people.

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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