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09 March 2016 @ 04:02 pm
On Writing 04: 'FREQUENCY': The Premise  
While I was writing Frequency, it was originally supposed to be a oneshot piece alongside Keepsake, Paradox and April Fool. At that point, I also don't have any idea how my collection is going to be until I realized I could use a unifying theme to connect them all, hence the titular significance of brevity that the term 'snapshots' represent. Like most fans, the ROU arc of the original manga became a real exercise of patience and optimism, considering that Watanuki in that arc has grown up and matured enough to be considered even more of an impressive figure--but he's also decidedly more reclusive and sadder that ever. As a purveyor for wishes, Watanuki had embodied Yuuko to a tee, going so far as putting on her kimonos and smoking her pipe.

Those physical changes are telling of how much he wanted to emulate her, perhaps believing that by becoming her, he could at least keep up the appearance that she could return one day. The ROU arc has a time jump of six years so by then Doumeki is already out of school and working, while Kohane is around middle school. In my story, the time jump applies but I made Kohane college-aged. In the manga, ten years later, she starts attending the university where Doumeki is also working as a professor, and I also decided to keep that in.
Frequency is essentially canon-compliant, but it's still an alternate-universe story where Watanuki becomes deeply disturbed after spending years imprisoned in the wish shop, never aging or being able to get out and interact with the world.

I could remember that there was this one scene in the manga during Rou where he gifts Doumeki a thimble that he could wear as a ring. It also serves as a magical item that could enhance is ability to channel his powers and sharpen his exorcising abilities. Watanuki stressed that Doumeki needs to ensure that he can kill whatever bad spirit will cross his path, and Doumeki asked him in all seriousness "Even when it's you?". To which Watanuki replies readily, "Especially then." I thought this could have been a foreshadowing of darker things to come down the road if Watanuki insists on waiting on Yuuko until he starts losing his own mind or humanity. My story explores that possibility then, because it's hard to ignore the fact that what Watanuki is doing is clearly unhealthy and abusive to himself. The worst part is that he can't even see it, and that the people around him choose to enable his madness. It was only by the second chapter that this concept began to take shape for me, and I was both dreadful and excited to keep going.

While conceptualizing, these are the primary questions I wanted to answer regarding Watanuki's characterization:

  • Watanuki has developed stronger powers. What are these notable powers? How does he use them and how do they help him? Does it ever get to a point when he begins to abuse them? If it does, how would he abuse them and what kind of impact will it have on himself and on others?

  • Watanuki becomes aware of Doumeki's feelings for him. Does he feel the same way? If he does, how will he deal with this revelation? How will it affect him and Doumeki? What are the changes and will there be consequences? What are these consequences and how can they damage the relationship between them?

  • Watanuki loses his moral compass. What would set him off this course? Why would he lose it? What events could unfold once he loses it, and how will that change his relationships with Doumeki and Kohane?

Now each Snapshot has a theme that serves as a title which is taken from the 500 Prompts Challenge, and I usually let them highlight what message I want to tackle for a particular chapter. Frequency has a total of seven chapters, alternating between Watanuki and Doumeki's POV. A distinguishing feature for a Watanuki POV is the consistent use of the present tense which is something I decided to use to signify that time flows freely inside the wish shop in a sense that Watanuki doesn't have the same time markers as normal people do. He has no sense of dates like days, months or years. This is what my second chapter establishes. On the other hand, the first chapter opens with Doumeki's POV where he and Watanuki finally admit that there is an attraction between them, and they shared their very first kiss which almost went beyond that point. It was also hinted that Watanuki has developed telepathy and can read people's minds, and this was how he realized that Doumeki has a wish to be bound to him forever, and how the other man is determined to find a way to accomplish that. Meanwhile, by the second chapter, Watanuki contemplates  about the ravages of time that are slowly affecting him negatively. To make up for that dissonance, he would go to the storage room and read letters from Yuuko's youth where she had shared correspondences with an unknown man whom Watanuki guessed was a paramour. Intrigued, he would devote copious amounts of time just reading the exchanges, all the while smoking opium and then falling into dreamscapes until he begins to wake and dream in intervals without being aware which is which anymore.

Another notable thing about my version of Watanuki is that he has developed a drug habit; he has been smoking opium for six years since receiving Yuuko's pipe, and as a seer the drug's effect on his constitution has mystical uses, allowing him to access dreams more easily. I've always been curious as to what he is smoking in the manga and since it hasn't been discussed, I decided that I can tweak it so it can play a role in the story as Watanuki continues his fall from grace. I was at first uncomfortable and hesitant to characterize Watanuki this way because this character is very close to my heart. Admittedly, I was undergoing some troubling times as well when I started writing xxxHoLic fanfiction, and I believe Frequency was a cathartic manifestation of that. Not that I have a drug habit or holed up somewhere--but these things are layered with symbolism that indirectly represents my own bad habits and alienation in real life. Much like Watanuki, I'm often losing my sense of purpose and direction only because I cling onto past ghosts that I allow to haunt my decisions, even in dreams. Watanuki in Frequency has grown accustomed to the fact that he feels less tangible, and therefore more inclined to rely on magic to feel an ounce of 'real-ness' as a person. He is acknoweledging how he is wasting away and the only thing keeping him sane is by enhancing his powers which will eventually lead to his hubris in the later chapters.

As much as Frequency leans toward a romantic Dou/Wata direction, this story still highlights the relationship between Watanuki and Kohane Tsuyuri. In fact, most climactic interactions of the story happened between these two characters. The confrontational scenes in the third and sixth chapters have a parallelism to them. In the third chapter, after Watanuki meets a customer who wishes to kill her rapist by sacrificing the life of her baby borne by said rapist, Kohane tries to warn Watanuki of the mess that could entail, and advises him to deny her wish because the price is something far too great for Watanuki to take. She mentions Yuuko to him and what she would have done if she was in his place, and this angered Watanuki that he retaliated by telepathically violating her mind, targeting her memories of Doumeki which he then darkened. This cruel display of power and oppression is only the first step that will drive Watanuki further into the clutch of a darkness of his own making. He feels jealous of the growing friendship and trust between Doumeki and Kohane, feeling excluded from it and neglected because of it when nothing could be further from the truth.

The only reason Doumeki and Kohane have grown close was because of their shared unrequited romantic feelings for Watanuki, and how it was easier to weather it together than alone. And since Watanuki has acknowledged that he might have been in love with Doumeki all this time, seeing Kohane--a young girl he treated like a sister--get closer to Doumeki really disturbs him especially because he also feels possessive of her, as if he was entitled to her affection, but is now increasingly fearful that the more Kohane would grow up, the more she will feel inclined to outgrow him.

I will expound more on the interplay and dynamics present in the following relationships between Watanuki and Doumeki, Watanuki and Kohane, and Doumeki and Kohane in my next post.
Feeling: goodgood
Listening to: "I'm in Here" by Sia

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