Sunday, November 1, 2009

Believable knowledge level

I'd like to say that I am off to a good start and have written at least 1667 words (50,000 divided by 30 rounded to nearest whole number) but sadly that is not the case. I had a few false starts where I wrote something and then deleted it because I did not like it. Now I do not really know what to write, the reason I am writing this post is in hopes that in doing so it will kick start me into actually writing more (I have about 150 words) and it is far too soon for writer's block.

My first start, that I ended up scrapping, had Ranma interrupted while making homemade chloroform from common household ingredients in the shed that is in the corner of the Tendo compound. The manga has Ranma use chloroform but never explained where he got it so I figured why not have Ranma making it himself (many people are surprised how many things can be made with stuff lying around the house). The household ingredients used are pool cleaner(Sodium Hypochlorite), ice, and paint thinner(Acetone) though I do not advocate people doing this unless they know what they are doing because it is not entirely safe (another thing that could be created by accident is phosgene a world war one chemical weapon). Upon reading the scene I did not like it so deleted it.

In writing that scene I started to wonder how many potential readers, provided I do ever let anyone see it, would have found that to be out of character for Ranma. In addition to that would they find it strange for several of the characters to have an extremely good understanding of things like applied sciences, though the character may not know the technical terms. How much knowledge could I give a character in a particular field before it becomes unbelievable? There are many things people would probably not find OOC, such as making a mention to a lesser known martial arts style such as Aki Kiti a martial arts style of Nagaland (a hill state located in the far north-eastern part of India). I do not think many people would find it out of character for Ranma to make a potion after watching Happosai do so (Ranma has watched Happosai do similar things in the manga and Happosai has made potions; he made a rejuvenation potion) or acquiring a book of potions and following the steps (he can read, cook and follow basic instructions so if he has a book on it should be no problem). While I am pretty sure that most people would find the above as being in character, I am unsure if they would find him doing other things like basic practical chemistry as still being in character.

That is not worded as well as I'd like, basically I'm wondering as to what knowledge I can have the characters, such as Ranma, portray without people viewing them as being out of character (though the knowledge would vary by character and what is shown in the manga). My personal view, which is probably obvious to people who have read my other posts, is that Ranma is very intelligent and would have (and is shown to have) picked up a lot of practical knowledge as well as quite a bit of eclectic knowledge during his travels. Displaying some knowledge would not be balked at such as knowledge on anatomy (since some is required just to prevent hurting people in Martial arts and he has displayed knowledge in first aid, pressure points, and the human body) or geography (he has traveled quite a bit even during the manga) other knowledge I am not sure of. Since some people would find anything I wrote to be out of character I probably should not care but it is something to think about, though as long as it makes sense for the fic and could be explained in a somewhat believable way it should not matter. A few thing he definitely will not have a lot of knowledge on, in any possible fic I'd write, is popular culture, Shakespeare, and politics; he seems to have very little interest in things like movies, music, idols, and (non-martial art) sports. He probably knows some but not a lot, could tell you how to play soccer/baseball but would be unable to name any but the biggest stars or give their stats.


md.knopp said...

" Since some people would find anything I wrote to be out of character I probably should not care but it is something to think about, though as long as it makes sense for the fic and could be explained in a somewhat believable way it should not matter."

That right there is the most important sentence in your post.

For instance, would Ranma know how to make chloroform? If so, why?

That one is actually easily explained. Ranma knows how to make chloroform because Genma taught him how to make chloroform. Genma would know because he would find it useful in various nefarious schemes of his.

There are many unscrupulous things that I think Ranma would know simply because Genma is unscrupulous. MZephyr has written into a couple of his stories that Ranma knows how to pick pockets and locks. Given that Genma raised him I have no problem with this.

In my stories I commonly have it that Ranma can read many ancient oriental languages because many martial art scrolls are written in ancient languages. Thus, he spent considerable time learning to read them.

So, in short, characters can have a considerable amount of knowledge in many areas, if there is a logical reason for them to have it.

However, please keep in mind the level of skill necessary for some skills. There is some knowledge that is simply to high level for a casual learner to know. I read a fanfiction one time where Ranma started paying attention in school and could easily solve advanced differential equations because of this. :cough: bullshit :cough: One can teach relatively quickly someone to do simple differential equations, but to solve an advanced differential equation is years of study in mathematics with several prerequisites. Ranma is not going to know how to do this. Just like Ranma having a general knowledge of anatomy makes sense, he isn't going to know how to perform brain surgery because it requires years of study and several medical prerequisites.

I look forward to reading your story when you get it done.

antimatterenergy said...

The knowledge would have to make sense at least to me and I do not see how paying attention in school would lead to knowing differential equations. That is not taught first year, or even last year, high school students in Japan.

As for brain surgery, I'd generally agree that it would be too much for him to know since it does require a lot of prerequisites except for one brain surgery known as trepanation since that is a very common brain surgery (in that it has been in use for thousands of years and is just drilling a hole in the skull to releave pressure).

Anonymous said...

You yourself have pointed out that Ranma reads a lot. Ranma read how to do/make X in a book explains things well enough often.