Kick-Heart and the Kickstarter Approach to Writing Fiction
I recently backed Maasaki Yuasa’s Kickstarter for a 10-minute animated short called Kick-Heart. In short, Kickstarter is a fundraising platform in which creative projects are realized through the financial support of people who want to see interesting ideas come to fruition. In Maasaki Yuasa’s case, his idea is a story of two pro-wrestlers, one a sadistic nun and the other a closeted masochist, in an almost-literal Romeo and Juliet style of romance. Combined with Production I.G., Yuasa seeks to bring the work to life in uniquely animated, vividly stylistic world.
Style aside, what fascinates me most about this Kickstarter project (and Kickstarter projects in general) is the raison d’être behind projects like these. Aspiring creators who wish to do something on their own terms use these kinds of platforms to fund projects that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to in the mainstream market. Anime-wise, a premise like Kick Heart would not see the light of day if proposed to a studio like Production I.G. Less risky endeavors such as animating the next imouto-centric light novel adaptation (for better of for worse for the industry, your mileage may vary) take precedence over loftier premises and zanier ideas. This is understandably so, if you’re looking from the perspective of the studio funding the project.
With Kickstarter, however, the proposition is thrust upon the fans, the prospective audience for the project itself, and in some cases, others who feel that neat ideas deserve to see the light of day. At the end of the day, backers give life to the more creative ideas. In essence, creative types try to memetically turn people into Philip J Frys, who find themselves unable to understand the futility of throwing wads of cash at their computer screen.
There’s an adage for prolonged success for writing fiction, and it’s to write for yourself, not for the market. Sure, there’s always an opportunity to cash in on the latest craze, whether it’s Twilight, 50 shades, or the like, and there’s a possibility to find a deal out there if your writing is shameless enough to appeal to the masses. But at the end of the day, are you really writing what you want? Are you telling the story that you want to tell? Do the words that flop down onto your keyboard and onto the screen yell out, “shut up and take my money?”
If it’s not, then consider crafting your work as if you were trying to kickstart it. If one of the fundamental premises of Kickstarter is to give creators full freedom to create what they truly want, without any pressure or influence from market trends, then the possibilities are endless. All that limits the writer is simply taking that chance on that idea.
It takes a unique idea to grow into what could potentially be a paradigm shift. The reason why Harry Potter and Twilight and the like were so popular is that they started off as unique ideas on their own, without major precedent. I’ve talked about this before when discussing fanfiction: “with that idea, you form a question in your mind, what if this happened? Your story, when written, aims to answer that question.”
This is the exact same question that Masaaki Yuasa posed to himself before coming up with Kick-Heart. He asked himself, “What if there was a wrestler who secretly enjoyed the punishment doled out to him? What if he met a sadistic female wrestler in the ring? What if that female wrestler was secretly a nun? What if they fell in love with each other? What would happen to the secret lives that they hide from each other?”
Granted, a lot of the support that Kick-Heart has received so far was due to the reputation behind the creative mind at work, as well as the production company that seeks to bring the idea to the big screen. That shouldn’t stop you from asking those questions that only fiction could ever answer. That shouldn’t stop you from answering them, either. Treat yourself like a literary Chitanda Eru. Once you ask yourself that burning question, you can no longer stop thinking about it.
In the same manner that made Chitanda’s curiosity so infectious was that the enthusiasm that sustained her curiosity was transferred to the audience as the details unfolded. The same thing could be said about the central idea of a story that one wants to write. The more you want to write about something, the enthusiasm for writing it will show in the way you pitch the idea, whether it be through a Kickstarter project or to a publishing agent or editor.
Above all else, it’s that passion, that enthusiasm for a particular idea of goal that drives people to share it with the rest of the world. The connection between a creator and a prospective audience is established when that idea is presented. It’s the short blurb that you read at the back of a book’s cover (or in some cases, the inside of it). It’s the tiny box of text shown underneath a tiny picture of an anime within a matrix of series within a seasonal anime chart.
It’s the force that pushes and pulls in both directions, pulling the audience in to read what you write, and pushing that gets you to write it in the first place. With NaNoWriMo around the corner, take a moment to consider the possibility of sweeping yourself into a world where wonderful ideas are realized. The frantic plotting that takes place in this wonderful November event is the equivalent of pre-production. The seed of an author’s idea is planted in a rough draft, wherein questions are cultivated into possible answers, a sneak peak of what could be. And because the idea is something not traditionally found on the market, there’s so much more potential for interest from others, simply because of your own interest.
All of the writing I’ve done so far has been for myself, questions that I ask to myself about what would happen if x happened to y. And for the most part, it’s usually in the form of some sort of thematic or genre crossover, whether it be steampunk and historical Japan, or magical girl with cyberpunk. I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo once again, though I’ve found myself stuck with regards to what I want to write. I’m not worried, however, since I’m always thinking about things, and asking questions. While I personally do believe that everyone has at least one story that they want to tell, I can’t let myself as a writer to simply tell that one story and call it a life. There’s always questions to be had, and I want to be there to pick them and answer them for myself.
All it takes is a simple pitch.