Have you ever wanted to try your hand at anime writing?
This article summarizes all the factors that you need to know when you write this popular and exciting genre.
In the planning and writing phase of anime writing, you must consider the following essential factors:
- Format – Most anime writers don’t start as anime writers. Instead, popular anime are adaptations of manga, novels, and other literary pieces.
- Emotional appeal – If you want to get more eyeballs on your piece, your anime needs to respond to the interest of the masses.
- Culture – Anime relates to Japan and Japanese culture. That says something about the sentiment and behavior of characters present in this genre.
- Theme – You may want to stick to one out of eight popular genres of anime. Even then, violence and sex themes can creep in – welcome to the tone of anime writing.
- Supernatural – You can avoid this factor but including weird or supernatural powers in characters or objects can exponentially increase the following your anime can get.
- Outline – Follow a logical sequence from character development to world-building, to writing conflicts and resolution.
- Eligibility – In other words, who can write an anime? Can you be an anime writer? Fortunately, the answer is straightforward – anyone who has an interest can write an anime.
- Medium – You might need animation software to fully portray the story.
What is Anime?
Founding your anime writing on a proper understanding of anime is the first step towards a successful launch. But there are still other factors which you should consider.
What makes an anime an anime?
Before you get serious with your career as an anime writer, know that we are not talking about any generic animation. Instead, our focus is on Japanese-themed animation.
That’s the simple and broad definition of what anime is: Japanese animation.
Here is a short video that will help you with accurate anime writing:
We have to consider the culture, mindset, and socially acceptable behavior. Plus, we have to consider what kind of features are anticipated and loved in that culture.
After all, this genre generally depends on animation more than on words. And it’s not entirely about the tone of presenting the story but the story itself – anime is directed towards a particular audience of viewers who have a different set of tastes than the majority of viewers around the globe.
Unlike most cartoons, anime mostly have deep meaning to them.
They present social, scientific, supernatural, psychological, and comedic themes without keeping the details censored. That’s just natural – because anime, unlike cartoons, don’t identify children as the primary audience.
Should You Write an Anime or a Manga?
Although it seems off-topic, this question is worth asking when you are just starting your career as an anime writer.
There is nothing wrong with starting on an anime directly except that the chances of your anime getting a grand following decline sharply if you don’t have a fortune to spend on its marketing.
Did I mention production and launching expenses? I should’ve.
Look, anime-making eats up lots of cash. You need a whole team full of experts and a proper budget. Yes, you can fund the first few episodes or stories of your venture while considering minimal standards, but eventually, you have to attract investors or production houses to turn your dream into a mega-hit.
The best practice among anime writers to attract attention doesn’t involve anime writing. Rather, they start with manga to create a blueprint of their idea so they can use it for pitching.
Does Your Following Want to Watch Your Concepts?
Unsurprisingly, this is the most basic question you should ask yourself. You may want to get this validation even before you put your pen to paper.
Fortunately, you can get part of this validation even before your conceive the idea. You do it by understanding the emotional appeal of the most popular pieces. What makes them popular?
What Makes Anime Unique?
Look at their language and presentation style. And contrast it with the unique personality their characters have and the way story is developed.
Also, look for emotional appeal in extraordinary features. Dramatic fighting scenes, emotional extravagance, real-life themes with deep meaning: all of these characteristics make anime writing completely unique.
There are 8 common genres of anime. You can also correctly call these sub-genres.
While comedy and romance make the most loved genres in anime culture, the list of anime genres doesn’t end with them. Other popular genres are action, drama, psychology, supernatural, history, and military.
Understandably, the last two mentions on this list usually take stronger emphasis on the Japanese viewpoint than others.
Whatever type of anime writing you do, keep in mind that anime-lovers don’t mind some extra doses of sex and violence in their stories.
Which Language to Choose?
Anime writing is easier for Japanese writers than for American or European artists. Knowledge of language and culture, of inherited and learned knowledge of culture, allow anime writers of Japanese origin to be more fluent and at ease in this genre.
Take heart! The number of non-native anime writers is growing with the popularity of this genre.
But how do European or American anime writers maintain viewers’ interest in the absence of language and cultural literacy?
They learn about the culture by research and by using published anime as learning material.
For the language there can be three routes:
- They can ditch the Japanese language in favor of the more widely accepted English language.
- They learn Japanese.
- They get their English translated into Japanese by a native speaker.
If you are concerned about the route you should take, know that there is no one right answer. You can choose to keep your anime in English or Japanese depending on your fan-base.
Make Your Anime Writing Interesting
Anime is known for its beautiful characters and deep, well-thought-out plots and themes. But more often than not, the plots within this genre take one or other supernatural slant.
Some bring zombies into the story, others take spirits as supporting characters, others focus on supernatural forces playing to gain power.
Here are some other ways to spice up your anime writing:
- Avoid anime tropes, clichés and cheesy anime writing
- Show good character development
- Build up anticipation for fight scenes
- Create unique and original storylines
Outlining Your Anime Writing
Once you have conceptualized your plot, it’s time to start writing. The first stage of writing an anime, just like writing any other literary piece, is developing an outline.
Here are a few steps of outlining your project:
- Start with world-building – Although some anime is focused on a specific character or a group of characters, others emphasize the interaction between the characters and their world. If you want to develop a fictional world that deviates from normal human life or anime world, you should start with first defining the world.
- Know your characters – Before you develop a storyline, know your character in detail. The clearer your vision is of your characters, the more logically congruent your plot will be. The best anime are those which follow a consistent character.
- Character arc – The importance of keeping your character consistent in traits and worldview shouldn’t deter you from introducing a character arc. Feel free to develop the personality of your character across the storyline.
- Add some backstory – If you want your fans to know a backstory to the conflict, feel free to add one. I recommend it! Anime is not your typical surface-level animation.
- Create the storyline – Once you have gathered all key concepts that will make up your plot – think about the character, surroundings, historic and scientific settings of the story – you should now proceed with actual outlining.
A conventional outline starts with character development and moves towards conflict to end with climax and resolution of conflict. Once you have developed this type of time series of the story, you can depict the events in any sequence you deem fit.
I wrote a helpful outline structure in my article on How to Write Erotica. Even though the genre is different, the outline structure still fits. Check it out.
Writing an Anime
You need to follow the screenplay format to format an anime.
The font is important, so is the paper size. If it’s not the first draft, you should consider using Courier 12pt format on an eight and a half to eleven inch-sized paper (or screen).
Most writers start their anime with a theme song.
It helps with setting the moods of the viewer and adds to the emotional appeal of the show. But, admit it, writing and voicing theme songs can eat up a huge budget fast. Add to it the cost of music and your budget could be competing against the Netflix-funded anime.
If your anime is not backed by huge investors and you don’t have many free resources to produce a theme song, you can skip this part.
The best method to start an anime is to induce emotion. Choose a scene that triggers a massive emotional response, contains action, or includes a mystery to hook the viewers.
You may also want to write all the scenes first and then decide on arranging them in the most compelling sequence to maintain interest.
If you’re writing an action anime, fighting scenes make the core feature of attraction among viewers.
Yet, it’s easy for writers to add too much detail and forget the POV in fighting scenes. The best fighting scenes are those which detail the motives behind the scene.
And once the scene is live, the focus should shift from motive towards action – short, concise, and direct. Keep the focus on one character – usually the protagonist. Once it’s over, you can detail the aftermath and repercussions.
Suggested read: How to Write an Ode (Step-by-Step with Examples)
Anime Writing Software
This is another detail that you need to consider in the planning phase of your anime writing process. It is also the first technical detail if you exclude language choice.
You might think that you only want to write an anime not to produce or make one. You are right in thinking so.
The job of an anime writer is writing only. However, if you want to gain traction for your piece, you might also have to present the first few stories to get exposure. And an anime complete with effects and animation is essential to captivate the viewers.
To do this, you need quality anime software.
A few software that make 2D anime-like animations possible include:
- Anime Studio
- Adobe Flash
- Comic Life.
You may want to resort to a paid or free software and a complicated or easy-to-use solution depending on your budget and technical experience.
Can You Become An Anime Writer?
So, we have discussed all the factors that go into anime writing. But, surely, this form of art needs special skills and god-like talents.
It’s natural to question whether or not you have everything it takes to become the next great anime writer.
Here is the deal – if you are a writer who has a passionate interest in Japanese culture and the long-term commitment to the form, you are destined to become an anime writer.
Now you might be thinking about other skills that can make or break an anime writing career – drawing, language, and marketing.
Yes, these skills are important.
It’s right that you can be an anime writer without these skills, but you may end up being a struggling writer. If you want to succeed, understanding the Japanese culture is a must.
And if you want to remain committed to your passion, your drawing skills will save you thousands of dollars paying freelance artists.
You can get training at your college to become an anime writer. Major degrees that include training in animation and anime-making are digital media and visual arts. Although a degree is not compulsory to score a loyal following, computer and writing skills will certainly help a lot.
But it’s marketing that will have the most intense influence on your career.
If you want to get picked up by leading anime publishers before you get demotivated, you need to get yourself published and, on the basis of that published story, you need to build a sizeable following.
In today’s publishing world, people are more interested in seeing the complete art before picking up talent.
Pro Anime Writing Tips to Gain Traction Fast
Follow these pro tips for gaining rapid traction with your anime:
Start with manga – It saves effort and time. The only barrier is language. Manga is mostly only acceptable in Japan if they are written in the local language. You may get past this barrier if you are willing to invest in translation services, however.
Search for anime competitions – The occurrences of such competitions in non-native countries are scarce. Yet, they happen and you can get significant traction there.
Self-publish – This is one of the most promising tracks to getting noticed as an anime writer. But it can become costly quickly unless you are resourceful. Consider teaming up with other beginner freelancers with other expertise in animating, filming, video editing, and music.
Get a job as an anime writer – You may do well by getting any artistic job in the anime industry. You can quickly build the much-needed connections through this route. Development of skills is another perk. And then, you can work on your project on a part-time basis until you start publishing anime.
For more writing tips read: How to Write Like Danielle Steel
If anime writing is your passion, know that you have every talent needed to pursue this passion.
The one thing you need most is your commitment to this art. With perseverance and continued learning, you can adopt a writing style that makes a huge splash in Japanese-style animation.
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