Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Crimson is a Spell Word: Creating Spells for My Story

Update:  It's November 13th and I've written almost 30,000 words on my chosen project, Nerima All-Stars.  I'm hoping to finish up this story (at least, bring it to a reasonable ending point) and then publish it after November 30th.  My document is over 87,000 words at this point, and that includes some of my research into spell casting text which I write about here, but since I've spent several hours coming up with the right words for my spells, I think the research should count, even if some of it was copying down spells and phrases from other sources.  >.>

So here I am once again, trying to craft a realistic (or at least magik-sounding) spell for the story I'm currently working on.

In my story I have two magical girls, Ukyo Kuonji, and another girl who has been transformed into Ukyo's twin by accident.  Ukyo was not happy about becoming a magical girl, and changed the rules so that she became an okonomiyaki chef-themed magical girl.  Thus, her spells really ought to relate to her status as an okonomiyaki chef, I figured.

Magical girls tend to make bold declarations about love and good vs evil.  They call their attacks.  These aren't spells per se, but they kind of sound like spells at times.  Especially because I want my magical girls to be more defensive and protective in nature, rather than offensive, I figure their abilities ought to sound like spells being cast.

Crafting a good-sounding spell is more art than science, if you ask me.  It just needs to feel right,to feel mystical in some way.  It's not quite a poem, not quite a recipe, not quite a contract, not necessarily archaic speech, but if it includes some of those qualities that may help.  Use of unusual words may help:  anything that does not resemble normal speech or ways of speaking may help.

My first task for them was to dispel an enchantment, where several of their friends had been hypnotized or mind-controlled.  My initial effort was as so:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan, 
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko, 
Dispel Enchantment:  Hallowed Okonomiyaki Sauce Love Swirl!  Realm of Savory Pancake!

Which... was adequate, so far as that goes.

Next I wanted them to put up some kind of bubble shields to protect their allies.  Following the same pattern, I came up with:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan, 
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko, 
Protection Spell:  Okonomiyaki Batter, Air Bubbles of Shielding!

However by the time I reached a third spell, I'd decided that these simple efforts were not good enough.  I had to come up with something better.

First, I looked up okonomiyaki and the usual ingredients.  Given that the name basically means "fried as you like it" it's probably no surprise that a list of ingredients for okonomiyaki is a bit like asking for a list of ingredients for a pizza.  but the Kansai or Osaka style is the most popular and there are some ingredients that are common to most versions, including the batter, shredded cabbage, green onions or shallots, the sauce, garnishes like picked ginger, bonito  flakes, and aonori (seaweed).  You can add a lot of other things but most of these are common okonomiyaki ingredients.

Next I wanted to describe these ingredients in a creative manner that would sound good in a spell.  Initially I wrote:

Okonomiyaki sauce, dark golden brown like maple syrup 
mayonnaise, white like the clouds on a summer's day, sheets drying on a clothesline 
batter as thick as syrup, light brown fluffy filled with air 
bonito flakes, yellow-orange, curling in the heat 
diced shallots green and white fresh and crisp 
shredded cabbage, bedrock of the okonomiyaki

None of this was meant to be a final version of anything, I was just tossing ideas out, trying to find something that worked.

I gave up and headed to bed, but a particular phrase got stuck in my head:  crimson like the blood that flows....  This is part of what I remember from Lina Inverse's Dragon Slave spell, and one that I particularly liked I guess because it's been stuck in my head for years.  The full spell reads:

Darkness from twilight, crimson from blood that flows; buried in the flow of time; in Thy great name, I pledge myself to darkness! Those who oppose us shall be destroyed by the power you and I possess! DRAGON SLAVE!!

Which I only just looked up.  I like this spell; it sounds like a real spell.  And, in fact, Lina Inverse appears in my story and may even get the chance to cast Dragon Slave at some point, who knows?  If that happens I'll certainly use the spell the way it appears in the source material.

What I think captured my attention thought was the word crimson.  It's just another word for red, a more specific shade of red I suppose, but it sounds much more magical than just saying red.  It is a good spell word.  With that in mind, I came up with the following list of ingredients for okonomiyaki, described by color using more interesting word choices than red, yellow, green, orange:

crimson as the blood which beats in the heart of the chef,
azure like the sky beneath which the chef cooks,
emerald like the crisp diced shallot which spices the okonomiyaki
golden saffron like the batter which binds the food together
burnished caramel like the sauce which glazes the pancake surface
amber are the bonita flakes which curl and sizzle in the heat
alabaster creme is the color of the mayonnaise which garnishes the top
chartreuse is the color of the shredded cabbage, bedrock of the okonomiyaki
ruby are the buta-dama, the pork belly strips
gather now to me, spirits of love and the flavors of the grill, and grant to me my desire:

I still haven't crafted my spells, but I'm getting closer to what I actually want.

Another step is to take a good look at the spells in Ah!  My Goddess.  I just finished reading books 22 through 48, which is where the series ends (I've been reading both AMG and Ranma 1/2 manga since those are what my story is based on), and there are several examples of the goddesses (and demons) casting spells.  In the AMG universe spells are usually sung, and the words are more lyrical than normal speech, but not quite like poems or songs that rhyme or have rhythm.  Still, they feel like real spells and I like how they're handled, so I wanted to study them a bit more before crafting.

In book 39 Velspar, Mara and Hild cast a demonic spell to open the gate to hell:

Such is the land where all wishes are granted
Such is the land where in chaos light and dark entwine
Such is the land so distant and so near

In book 40, Urd attempts an attack spell:

Rumbling in the heavens,  flashing between the clouds, Ripping heaven and earth asunder, strike divine thunder bolts!

In book 48 we get the final chapter, a wedding ceremony between Belldandy and Keichi.  This is conducted by four goddesses:  Urd, Skuld, Lind, and Peorth, and it has some of the same hallmarks as the phrases of their spellcasting:

Here we celebrate,
From the East arrives Blue Hope,
From the North arrives Black Reason,
From the South arrives Red Passion,
From the West arrives White Silence
In the Center gathers Golden Love
The light showers, the breeze blows
In green flickers, then many colors, the road reaches for the sky
The path shall wind through peaks, in deep vales, on crater rims,
The morning brings rain, and the evening, storms, let us walk together.
Trees of Solace shall be our guideposts, the leaves beckon,
Now we see their blossoms strong against the high winds.
Advance, advance!  A journey never ending,
Follow your arousal, follow the passion of your words...
 Until all flowers shed, until we all part
Flowers, Bird, Wind and Moon gather here, sing here all that wish to celebrate
Give blessing to the bond, and love.

As an aside, the characters in AMG use a lot of magic without voicing spells, and they also sing a lot without voicing words.  Actual spells with words are usually reserved for special occasions, which I feel is the right way to do things.  You don't want to clutter up your text with words to a spell every three paragraphs, or whatever.

It's also worth noting that Kosuke Fujishima worked on AMG for twenty-five years.  Not only did his artwork change and improve dramatically over the life of the manga, his sense of how goddesses worked, what heaven was like, what the rules were and how spells worked and should be vocalized/written grew a lot.

So after this, what have we wound up with?  How shall I recreate my magical girl spells?  My first spell was a break enchantment spell:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan,
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko,
Dispell Enchantment:  Hallowed Okonomiyaki Sauce Love Swirl!  Realm of Savory Pancake!

Let's see if we can fancy it up a bit.  On a scale of one to super fancy, I judge this spell to only require a moderate fancy approach -- nothing over the top, but something more than what I came up with the first time.

My first instinct was to try and match some aspect of okonomiyaki with the actual results of the spell, but this proved difficult to do and kind of goofy to boot.  I mean, if you're going to create a shield spell, is the shield going to be made of pancake batter?  Okonomiyaki sauce?  Shredded cabbage?  No.  That way madness lies.  Instead, I've decided to just pair a couple lines of sensual or florid description randomly with whatever other lines fit the desired spell.  So:

The scent of savory pancakes sizzle on the grill,
The sweet aroma wafts on the wind,
Arise, spirits of hot steel and the open flame,
Break this enchantment which clouds the vision of my comrades

I like this more than what I had previously (above).  And actually, right after saying I was only pairing two random lines about okonomiyaki with the spell, I managed to actually tie the descriptive food part into the spell itself, so go me!  I like the approach of calling on the spirits of okonomiyaki cooking -- I think I'll stick with that formula for all of their spells.

Also I think I'll dispense with the magical girls calling out their full names every time they do magic.  It fits the genre but it gets annoying.  It might be good to do once only, the first time they cast a spell, then never again.

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan,
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko,
Protection Spell:  Okonomiyaki Batter, Air Bubbles of Shielding!
Let's give this one the moderately fancy spell treatment as well:

Golden amber flows the batter which binds together the okonomiyaki
Sauce like burnished caramel thickly coats the surface
To you I cry, oh spirits of the batter and spirits of the sauce
Provide a protecting shield to shelter my allies

Bingo!  Spells that sound like spells -- at leat to me!  I think I'm satisfied with the results.  ^_^