Character Analysis: Qrow Branwen, RWBY

I like the idea of doing a character analysis on here every now and then.  In a way, it makes me work a little harder at studying story crafting while I’m enjoying shows and books I like.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last month since the finale mulling over volume 4 of RWBY.  It’s a web anime series produced by RoosterTeeth and you can catch Volumes 1 – 4 for free on both their website and YouTube.  If you haven’t seen it, please do – it’s fantastic, but be warned there will be spoilers in this post.

RWBY takes place in the world of Remnant where a society with modern technology coexists with typical fantasy tropes, like big bad monsters (grimm) in the wilds that threaten to destroy humanity without the protection of cities guarded by hunters and huntresses.  There are four universities that specialize in training these individuals which is where we first meet our main characters: Ruby, Blake, Yang, and Weiss.  Each is associated with a color: red, black, yellow, and white respectively.

A note on the color schematics, I think it is fascinating that color is so integral to the characters and their names.  The idea in the story is that during the great war art was disregarded, so a tradition of naming children in a way associated with colors was an homage to art.  Also, many of the characters are nods to real life legends and fairy tales such as : Joan of Arc, The Wizard of Oz, Thor, Odin, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast, among others.

The first two volumes can be a bit rough to watch as the episodes were short and the animation was not yet polished, but the story is good.  There is a significant turn in volume 3 as the animation gets better and the story really starts to deepen.

Now, I love the characters but I didn’t have a true favorite until recently.

  • Ruby is great, she’s got a big heart and dreams to be a huntress.  But she’s still so inexperienced and naive.
  • Blake is angsty.  A little over the top for me.  Though I do like her.
  • Jaune is well, Jaune.  Sorry, you’re going to have to watch the show to see what I mean.
  • I was not initially interested in the Ren and Nora story, but I can safely say after Volume 4 I definitely appreciate the characters a lot more.  This is true of most of the cast in general.
  • I get why Weiss is the way she is, but she is so.  Snobby? Uptight? Annoying? Ridiculous?  I’m sure I’m being too hard on her, especially since I like her character more in Volumes 3 and 4, but pretty rich girls for me are very hard to relate to.

Qrow on the other hand intrigues me a lot.  He is only referenced in Volumes 1-2 and immediately the viewer gets the impression he’s an important character.  This is especially true when a short message from him is seen at the end of Volume 1.

The viewer does not actually meet Qrow until Volume 3 when we see him in a bar, right before he picks a fight with Weiss’ sister, Winter.

He’s introduced in a bar.  Glynda later states he’s always drunk, though that’s debatable.  He’s extremely coherent in the majority of scenes he’s in, the only one he’s swaying in is his introduction.  So, I’m not entirely sure how useful this is as a plot device except for comedic relief when necessary.

In the world of RWBY there are unique weapons everywhere and Qrow’s is no exception (really, the only exception in this world to unique weapons is android James Ironwood who favors hand to hand combat and a pistol).  Qrow is a sword-scythe-gun user.  It’s a huge sword that transforms to a scythe that is also a gun.

Regarding his personality, he’s on the blunt and gruff side.  He trained his niece Ruby and was around to keep an eye on both her and her half sister Yang.  He’s very much like a second father to Ruby.

In terms of his other relationships, he’s in Ozpin’s inner circle and seems to know a good deal more about the bad guys than he’s revealing.  Being Raven’s twin brother, he also knows where to find Yang’s mother (who had previously abandoned her husband and daughter).

In volume 3 we see him as Ozpin’s loyal agent and one of his best fighters.  In volume 4, we get to see him as far more vulnerable with a broader range of reactions.  The turning point for me was when he rushed in to Ruby’s aid in team RNJR’s fight with Tyrian, one of Salem’s minions.  The way he flew in (it’s heavily implied, if not outright confirmed he can shapeshift into a crow) and ran to her aid, blocking Tyrian’s stinger and giving Ruby a self confident smug grin.

That was a fantastic piece of characterization, in some ways, the fight with Tyrian summed up the character of Qrow beautifully:confidant, vulnerable, loyal, family oriented, and a skilled fighter.  Ultimately he got hit with Tyrian’s poison and slipped in and out of consciousness for the rest of the volume (leaving the fans with bated breath each week until the finale).  But we did get some interesting tidbits of potential backstory from what one could assume were his hallucinations.

To date, I think he is by far the most complex of the characters represented.  Don’t get me wrong, the main characters are all great if a bit angsty –  but they’re allowed to be, they’re still teenagers.  Qrow on the other hand is old enough to have experienced a great deal.

I suspect he doesn’t drink just because he likes to. I think it’s deeper and that there’s a pain there we haven’t seen yet.

So, here’s my own personal takeaway: Qrow is a representative of the complex characters I love to write.  Those who are driven by many and sometimes competing motivations.  He’s a reminder that I need to craft a believable and thorough backstory for each of my own characters.

I’m looking forward to seeing where RoosterTeeth goes with his story and can’t wait for volume 5.

Christmas Violin

The microfiction below is not my usually fare, however, the prompt generator gave me the challenge so I went with it.

It had to be under 50 words, be romantic, seasonal, contain “We can fix this”, and have an athlete in it.  Total time spent was around 30 minutes from prompt generation to story completion:

“We can fix this.” The school’s star quarterback spoke gently, holding the girl’s violin in his hands as she slowly got up from the floor.

Her large brown eyes were still filled with tears, “But the Christmas concert is tonight.”

He held her close, “Then we’ll figure something out.”

(For prompt ideas check out The Story Shack Writing Prompts)

A Novella

“I’ve got a jar of dirt! I’ve got a jar of dirt, and guess what’s inside it!” –Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I started a fantasy novella last July as a means of giving myself a break from my first novel. It was meant to be completed in the month as part of Camp NaNoWriMo in conjunction with watching Brandon Sanderson’s BYU classes on writing. Unfortunately, I got busy and the plot was giving me a few issues, so it remained in stasis for a while.

Part of my reason for writing it was to get a microcosm of the writing process, like learning to bake a cookie so that I can eventually go on to creating a soufflé. Another reason for writing it was also because I’ve spent the last ten years putting the pieces of my high fantasy work together, I needed a break and proof that I was more than just a one idea and done author.

So there you have it, the main reasons I’ve been exploring short stories and this novella over the course of the last year is because I need the practice before I go back and work on my high fantasy trilogy.

So why am I going on and on about this?

I finished the novella yesterday! It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be released any time soon, but it is another step forward. And I’m looking forward to what the story can teach me about the editing process.

The reason I love the Pirates of the Caribbean quote above is because that’s exactly what I have in this draft.  It is what amounts to a jar of sand that I’ll use to build my sandcastles. (Writing as related to sandboxes is a popular metaphor shared by at least both Ted Dekker and Shannon Hale regarding writing.)

What should be coming sooner than a published novella however, is news about short stories: the rest of this month will be committed to the backlog I’ve created of short story and flash fiction drafts. I’ll be cleaning them up and sending them off for submission.

For tonight though, I’ll continue celebrating that another major rough draft is finished.

 

 

 

(Here’s the first in the Sanderson lectures if you’re interested:)

Weddings

Between my family and friends I have seen my fair share of lives changed by the united utterance of “I do.”  One such time was this past weekend.  Two of my more recent friends committed their love and lives to each other, and it was utterly beautiful.

In the midst of their love, there was also a larger scale showing of support.  I’m not sure I have ever seen so many friends instead of family take lead on throwing a wedding together, but we did (not to say the family wasn’t involved, just that the brunt of the wedding day set was taken care of by us).

Again, it was beautiful.

Tying that back to me, there’s a term I absolutely love: husbandry.  I have always conjured up this image of a farmer being wedded to the land.  A man or woman committed to the land through the good and the terrible, in an unshakable relationship.

Maybe that’s why I keep writing.  I am wedded to the work in a way more deeply than I had ever comprehended when I started.  It’s an overly optimistic obsession (much like farming).  And the writing contains my blood, sweat, and tears just as much as the land that I work on.

However, a marriage doesn’t work without support.  Just like how my friends and I love and support each other, without their support I would likely not be as far along in my projects as I am now.

I suppose if I were to sum it all up: without commitment rooted in love – the books, the farmland, friendships – all would fail.  We need each other.  We need commitment.  And a wedding is an amazing symbol of that.

Microfiction: Chestnut

I have been challenging myself to write microfiction each weekend.  The following is based on the one word prompt “chestnut” written and edited in about the span of an hour:

We’re standing in the middle of the wide open, rocky grazing land. The mesas rise like otherworldly sentinels in the distance and the brush covered land between is absolutely perfect.  My partner, a beautiful chestnut mare, is standing just behind me to my right.

She started life as a wild mustang and was still pretty young when I got her at the auction.  Mustangs are the best type of horse in my opinion, they still have instincts other horses have long lost in their domestication, even if their training can be long and intense.

She nudges my shoulder, the strong willed horse is ready for some water and fresh hay back at the ranch.  I oblige with a grin and a quick rub of my hand on her velvety head as it sits on my shoulder.  Of course, she doesn’t know why I make a point of coming out here but I know the land won’t always stay this way.

Even now I’m responding to queries from resort developers almost monthly.  But for now, in this one small glorious moment of time, the land and I still have a bit of the wild running through our veins.

I saddle up and pat her neck, “Let’s go home.”  Together, we ride off into the horizon.

 

Getting Down to Business

A.K.A. Working through Procrastination.

Many times I fall into a couple forms of procrastination

  • Cleaning, texting, daydreaming, reading, etc… (these may be productive, but will not get my novels written).
  • Looking up clips from favorite shows, listening to some of my favorite music, and/or looking up quotes from favorite novels.  I do this to help me get my muse going, but more often than not it leads to rabbit trails of distraction.

Those two observations seem obvious right?  Well they are two of several traps I fall into when I should be taking time to write.  Most often what happens is I’m tired from work and want to relax a bit before working very hard on stories.  To be honest, more often than not the social media I rely on to get my name out there – as great as they are – often distract me as well.

Now, I have no idea if you have some of the same struggles or if yours manifest differently, but here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  • Self Discipline – The tricks I have learned won’t work unless I make myself do them.
  • Full Screen Mode – The writing software I use (Scrivener) has a mode where the only thing I can see on my computer screen is the part of the document I am working on.
  • Pen and Paper – This has been my favorite of late.  You can’t access Twitter from a piece of paper (at least not yet, I assume something crazy like this will one day be invented to our detriment).  And, as I discussed in a previous post, there are advantages to writing stories out in longhand.
  • Lyricless Music – Music without words coupled with sound proofing ear buds help me isolate myself from the world and the worries of it.  This gives me a clearer focus while writing, especially when I don’t have the lyrics to listen to as an added distraction.  Besides soundtracks, I really like listening to piano music.
  • A Plan – If I use a planner to write out what I want to get done in the course of the day, I am far more successful at it than when I am not writing it down.  (I personally use a bullet journal, an example of which can be found here).
  • A List – I learned a while ago that if you want to focus, write down your stray thoughts on a pad of paper next to you.  It releases your mind from worrying about it and helps you focus on the tasks at hand (other advantages can be found in this article).
  • Rewards – Though I do this less than I should.  Giving myself a reward for finishing my daily goals and larger rewards for larger projects has been useful.

Hope this is helpful!  Time for me to get back to work myself.

 

Weekend Microfiction: The Chase

The words of the forest were dimmer today. The young mage was unsure how to approach the ancient trees. The soldiers would be here at any time and the mage needed the words of power, now. She felt sweat bead on her forehead as the pounding of horse hooves began to echo closer. The inquisitors were likely behind their speed. She looked at the trees and then at the sky. “Please.”

She was not sure where the plea was directed, but moments later her body filled with warmth, like golden light filtering in through a storm.