Devil May Cry 3 is one of my favourite games for a lot of reasons. The soundtrack in particular is one I listened to probably the most while I was writing the first draft of No More Heroes, and thereafter during the editing process – generally it was battle music while I was slamming out fight scenes, but some of the level music made for a good mood-setter as well. One of my favourite pieces* is the track that plays in Mission 1 where Dante (one of my favourite game characters of all time) faces off against the Seven Hells in his office. Just look at him go.
The devil-may-care mid-fight attitude of Dante was also something I incorporated into one of my characters – if you've read No More Heroes, maybe you can guess who it is.
(Thanks to all those kids that make extended versions of game soundtrack pieces. You're tops.)
Tonally, the battle themes of the Devil May Cry 3 soundtrack are a pretty great match for the action I built into No More Heroes. If you'd like to check out that action for yourself and maybe listen to some rad DMC3 tunes while you're reading, you can purchase it in print or eBook format from Amazon, Kobo or Gumroad.
While I was first planning my novel in October 2014 I ended up collecting a variety of useful techniques I could employ to establish the personalities of my cast. Prior to No More Heroes I had written mostly short stories, generally with a small cast of two or three, and all very different in theme and tone to the universe of The City. There's a reason why I decided to switch then to writing a fully-fledged novel with a sizeable cast of characters, but I'll save that story for another time. For now I thought I might share a few of the tricks I use when it comes to writing or planning interesting characters.
1. Contrasting/Conflicting Traits
One of the first things I do when it comes to breathing life into my characters is to write down a short overview of their personalities using contrasting and/or conflicting descriptors. "Character is This but also That. Does X but is also Y." I find it's a nice starting point in making them realistically complex, and also diverse – having Character A be "X but Y" and Character B be "X but Z" can be a good way of establishing what kind of dynamic Characters A and B have or would have.
"CLARE – Assertive, confident, but sometimes too eager to put her abilities into use. Shrewd, more observant than she lets on, but sometimes jumps in before knowing all the details. Quick-witted and has a good heart, but unconsciously thinks of herself as being a bit invincible."
2. Character Arc & Motivation
One of the basic storytelling principles boils down to "Someone wants something badly, but is having a hard time trying to get it". This is pretty much the same idea, just with different wording – "Character wants X but is opposed by Y. Needs to do Z, which they may not want to/be equipped to do". I use it to get an idea of what sort of obstacles I might throw at my character during the story's events and the arc they'll undergo – it doesn't tell me what the obstacle will be exactly or how the character will deal with it, but it's a fun place to start and a good reminder/reference point to come back to if I get stuck.
"LINUS – Wants to protect his friends and his city, but lacks the self-sufficiency and experience to oppose his enemies on his own. Needs to overcome his naïvety and self-doubt and learn to take the initiative in a tight situation."
3. Response to Conflict
This is one of my personal favourites and also helps me determine how a character might move, be it in a fight or making their way through a crowd. Since No More Heroes is fairly action-heavy (following in the footsteps of the visual media I love so much) this is a pretty key aspect to my planning stages – I use this as a way to plan in advance how my action/fight scenes might play out, but it could prove useful to you as well, depending on what you're writing (conflict doesn't have to be literal, after all). There are three parts to this technique:
A. Fight, flight, or freeze?
B. First strike, or wait it out?
C. Offence vs Offence, Defence, or Deflection?
"MALLORY – Prone to freeze; will wait for their opponent to make the first strike before moving. Combats Offence with Deflection, using their opponent's strength against them."
And there you have it, my favourite three tricks when it comes to establishing and developing my characters. Of course, there are other ways of doing it as well – I find it cool when people use Pinterest boards or 8Tracks/Spotify playlists, for example – and I'm sure there's something out there that you find works best for you. If you have your own methods you like to use, let me know! I'd love to hear them. In the meanwhile, if you'd like to see how I employed these techniques in No More Heroes, you can get a copy from Amazon, Kobo or Gumroad.
Thanks for reading!
I wish I could remember what it was exactly that made me want to write a rope dart-wielding character in No More Heroes in the first place. It's likely I saw it being used in some other piece of media (maybe a movie) around the time, but as far as I can tell I failed to write it down (wump womp). I definitely have a list of things that I researched for writing, but not the original thoughts that led me there – something to take into account for next time, I guess.
Anyway, one of the main things I looked up during my research/writing process was what are classified as the 'soft weapons' of Chinese Martial Arts – mid-to-long range weapons that are characterised by their fluidity and usually employed for stealth. They're pretty common in Martial Arts films, moreso Eastern than Western – probably the most famous use of a soft weapon in a Western action film would be Gogo Yubari's meteor hammer in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Like I alluded to in the blog title, I know Assassin's Creed has a rope dart weapon as well, but to be honest I'm not sure I'd classify it as being the same weapon, if that was its initial intention(!). There's a far more.... liberal approach, shall we say, in the things it can feasibly accomplish (haha), and the technique and implementation within the games would basically be impossible to pull off or even imitate a little bit in real life with proper rope dart technique. That being said/either way, whether it was based off the actual Chinese rope dart or not, it was neat that in the AC-verse the rope dart was canonically introduced by a Chinese assassin. Pretty cool.
From the beginning I was looking to write a rope dart over a chain whip or meteor hammer, but I had to look up the general anatomy and weapon forms for the others as well. Knowing the similarities and differences between the three of them made it easier to write the rope dart, in a way, and having movesets to cross-reference was definitely useful. Also seeing and hearing the chain dart in action was (I think) what eventually made me change the rope part of my character's rope dart into a fine chain instead, which is another (if perhaps less typical) iteration of the rope dart anyway. Also I think a chain ended up suiting the character's personality a lot better, so it all worked out pretty well in the end.
If you'd like to check out this aforementioned rope dart-wielding character of mine and witness/read them in action, feel free to check out No More Heroes for yourself! You can purchase it from this website in print or eBook format or get it from Amazon or Kobo. In the meanwhile, here's a collection of some of the videos I watched during my early research on soft weapons and rope darts. I hope you'll find them as cool and interesting as I did!
Early on in my planning process I listened to this one a lot to get in the right mindset. At the time it was the closest I had to an overall 'theme' for No More Heroes. That's changed since, but I'll always remember this one as having been helpful, haha.
Fun fact – I used audio samples from this scene in my recently released book trailer. Good stuff, Chocolate; Jeeja Yanin is tops.
Porter Robinson was a big musical influence on me both before and while I was writing. The PV for Lionhearted in particular struck a chord with me, especially the image of youth with makeshift weapons taking to the night and storming a nameless city. Actually, I listened to Worlds a lot while editing my first draft. If you've read No More Heroes that's probably obvious though, haha.
Whew! Time sure flies. As of June it's been a year since I published No More Heroes, so to celebrate I'm permanently dropping the price of the print edition to $11USD/$19.90NZD!
As before, the price of digital editions is just $7USD/$10NZD. If you're looking for something to read and enjoy a good action/adventure flick, check it out!
You can get print editions and eBook editions here!
This one's been a long time coming – I've been meaning to start a blog on this site for a while, to post things relevant to the universe or development of No More Heroes. I've got a whole slew of content planned for this blog, including but not limited to exclusive short stories, neat story trivia , and official art/media. I'll also be sharing some of the things that have inspired or continue to inspire the world and characters I've created, such as action scenes from films/games, rad music, and cool information that I find during my research process.
So whether or not you've read No More Heroes, feel free to follow along! I hope you'll find something to enjoy here. You can also follow my musings and such on the No More Heroes Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Michelle Kan is an independent filmmaker/videographer, writer and artist based in Wellington, New Zealand.