A guest post by Stone Sanchez.
Within every story, just like in music, there are certain beats that the story will follow. Literary devices like instruments help build a story up, and then to bring it back down again. One of my favorite story formats aside from novels is Anime; one of my favorites is a movie by the name of Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz.
Jumping straight into constructing this orchestra of a movie from the ground up, we have the cool gimmick of the movie: Giant Robots. This movie used a very specific breed of Robot called a Gundam: a machine made out of a fictional alloy called Gundanium designed for ground based guerilla attacks on the Earth. If you ask me that’s an awesome gimmick, and it’s hooked me since I first watched the series.
After the gimmick you have our setting:
1.) The Earth-In particular, the Presidential Estate of the first Democratically Elected President of the Earths Sphere Unified Nation.
2.) The Colonies-Specifically Colony L3-X18999. A giant habitat for humans in space.
3.) Space-A wide portion of this story takes place in space, since that’s where the colonies are located. Space is always cool, and giant robots fighting in space is even cooler. Honestly, it’s just a winning idea.
So between our three settings we have a massive stage that the story will be taking place on.
Next comes one of my favorite parts: the characters. Roughly there are about five focal point characters that the movie revolves around.
Heero Yuy is one of the core protagonist, and also the central Gundam Pilot in the movie. Where the other pilots have supporting roles to play, Heero is just as his name suggest: the taciturn, infallible guy that everyone depends on. Heero’s inciting incident is when he discovers that the other centric character in the movie, Relena Peacecraft/Darlain, the former Queen of the World and current Vice Foreign Minister has been kidnapped by a seven year old precocious girl named Mariemaia who’s claiming to be the daughter of the deceased former leader of the Earth: Trieze Kushrenada.
The mastermind behind the entire plot is a man by the name of Dekim Barton, and the Grandfather of Mariemaia. Being the leader of the Barton Foundation, the people behind the creation of the Gundam’s, Dekim plans to initiate the original Operation Meteor: dropping a colony onto Earth and sending down new types of mobile suits to gain dominance. In Dekim’s ambitions, he’s managed to capture Wufei Chang, one of the Gundam Pilots and the only Pilot in possession of his Gundam. The other four Gundams were gathered up and recently sent on a voyage into the Sun. With this current threat uncovered, Quatre, another of the Pilots leaves to go and attempt retrieval before it’s too late.
While revealing the characters other instruments and building blocks come into play: the main conflict of the story is that Mariemaia declares the annexation of Colony L3-X18999 from the World Nation, while also announcing war against the nation and revealing her linage; with an army of new mobile suit types at her command, and with a Gundam as her personal bodyguard the World Nation has no choice but to adhere to her commands.
With this entire escapade going on, Gundam Pilots Heero and Duo manage to sneak onto Mariemaia’s Colony and succeed in disabling the colony’s instability. This causes Dekim and Mariemaia to escape with Relena; and it’s here where Heero learns that Wufei has switched sides on them. With the help of Trowa, another pilot who’s managed to infiltrate Mariemaia’s organization, the Pilots neutralize the first major threat of the original operation meteor. Soon after, they receive a message from Quatre saying he’s successfully retrieved their Gundams. With a message to send his Gundam out into space for a quicker pick up, Heero leaves his comrades to their own devices.
Having the stage set for her coronation, Mariemaia descends on Earth, and manages to take over without much of a fight. The only defense the World Government had was a fledgling peacekeeping for called the Preventers, but Dekim’s plans had been set into motion before their organization had even been formed.
As the tempo of the movie increases, Heero rendezvous with his Gundam in Space and heads off to one of the climatic rises of the movie: his confrontation with the rogue Wufei. Quatre has managed to meet up with the other Gundam Pilots and deliver their Gundams to them. Deciding to fight a losing battle one more time: after all, it’s 5 against an entire army, the Gundam Pilots descend to Earth for what they term the True Operation Meteor. Immediately joining Zechs Marquis in a battle for the capitol of the world, and trying to fight their way to the presidential compound, the Pilots fight this battle in a way that speaks to the idealism of flawed pacifism.
The futility of their battle is seen as a war of attrition is waged against the pilots. While three of the Gundam Pilots fight against Mariemaia’s soldiers, Heero and Wufei have a confrontation that mixes in the emptiness a world of soldiers must feel in an age of peace, and how individuals like the two of them can only feel truly fulfilled on the battlefield. Having been abandoned by the world, Wufei is fighting for a sense of purpose again, while Heero attempts to convince him to believe in the world and peace that they’ve managed to achieve.
With the crescendo of rising action finally reaching its height, the climax of the story occurs when Heero manages to break though to Wufei just as the Gundam Pilots are slowly beginning to lose their fight. With the addition of Wufei to their team, along with the general populace who’ve been incited by a brief message Relena managed to get out to them telling them to fight for the world they want. All of the loose melodies wrap into one as Heero takes Relena’s message to heart and assaults the Presidential Compound that Dekim and Mariemaia have taken over singlehandedly. Ignoring the gentle war that his fellow pilots have been fighting, Heero’s assault shows the true atrocity and capabilities of a Gundam, and of war. Getting into a prime vantage point, Heero uses an extremely powerful canon to fire a shot into the compound. Shocked, Mariemaia opens lines of communications with Heero, only to discover that Heero doesn’t care if he dies in his assault or not.
Attempting to make Heero realize that he’s endangering the life of Relena Peacecraft fails Dekim and Mariemaia as Heero fires another shot into their crumbling compound. Being one of the few people to truly understand Relena, Heero’s resolve is Gundanium solid. With the knowledge that one more direct shot will be the end of the shelter Relena prepares to accept her fate at the hands of Heero, while Mariemaia and Dekim go into a panic. Heero fires the final shot into the compound
With a powerful decrescendo, the pacing begins to slow revealing that Mariemaia and nearly everyone inside has managed to survive the blast. Attempting to claim her victory, Mariemaia moves to address the public, but not before Relena confronts her and manages to make her see her errors. Due to this, Dekim shoots Mariemaia and turns the gun on Relena, but not before being shot by one of the remorseful soldiers in the room. The critically injured Mariemaia attempts to apologize to Relena, but soon comes face to face with another gun as Heero moves to finish the job he started. Pointing the gun with a promise to release her from guilt, he pulls the trigger only to reveal that the gun doesn’t have any bullets. With the proclamation that he has just executed Mariemaia for her crimes against the nation, Heero makes a vow to never kill again and proceeds to pass out into Relena’s arms.
Flowing into the final chords and beats of the movie, the denouement shows us a World that is returning to normal. The Gundam Pilots destroy their Gundams on earth, and Wufei finally finds a purpose defending the peace as a member of the Preventers. Relena returns to the political ring, with Heero watching after her from afar, and Mariemaia is adopted by the leader of the Preventers, who had served her father faithfully and hopes she can help the world forget about her former leaders daughter.
With the ending notes played out, all of this is wrapped up into a final composition. Each element of fiction builds up the story and sets the pacing in tone much the same as elements of music do. Every beat is hit to introduce a new sound to the story, and timing is invoked to enhance the story with elements like Time Bombs (Colony falling), Character Conflict (Heero & Wufei), and Conflict Resolution (Heero blowing the compound to hell). With each sequence in place and timed perfectly the movie manages to squeeze all of these into a compact amout of time that allows us to enjoy ourselves, but not feel overwhelmed with the amount of time we’ve spent on a movie. One thing to take from Endless Waltz is how great an ending waltz can be, and knowing how to timing each sequence in a story can make that ending either memorable, or one that we’d rather have not wasted the time reaching. Be mindful of timing and sequencing in stories: those great page turners do a fantastic job of it, and movies can help teach you the trick of it as much as books can.
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Stone Sanchez is an aspiring professional author who has been active in the writing community for the past two years. Currently Stone is associated with the Superstars Writing Seminars, where he records and manages the production of the seminars. He’s also worked with David Farland by recording his workshops, and is currently the Director of Media Relations for JordanCon, the official Wheel of Time fan convention. Often referred to as the “kid” in a lot of circles, Stone is immensely happy that he can no longer be denied access places due to not being old enough.