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Brainstorming the Origami Mage - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Brainstorming the Origami Mage
Previously we have discussed the origami mage, a popular character introduced in the fishbowl poems "folded wings" and "cutting and folding."  You can review those discussions at:
"Monday Update" (April 12)
"Poetry Fishbowl and the Origami Mage" (on marina_bonomi )

Since several folks have expressed interest in seeing more of this character, I would like to do some brainstorming.  You can answer any of the following questions that pique your interest; or you may add further ideas, insights, or questions of your own.  I'll sort through whatever I get and see what seems to stick together well.  Future poems may appear in fishbowls when the theme matches, but I'm also open to continuing the series between fishbowls if folks want to sponsor poems without having to figure out a topical connection to the month's theme.


The first character introduced was the origami mage; the second was her rival, the kirigami mage.

Does she have a name, or shall we keep calling her "origami mage" ...?
Does her rival, the kirigami mage, have a name?
(Note that "origami mage" and "kirigami mage" both have 5 syllables, the amount used in line 1 or 3 of a haiku.  If proper names are to be added, a different syllable count would be helpful.)

What else do want to find out about the origami mage?
What are her motivations, her hopes, her fears?
What is she particularly good or bad at doing?
Who are some important people in her life?
How did she discover -- or did someone else discover -- her magical talent?

Who is the kirigami mage -- what is her personality, her goal, etc.?
How did she come to be the rival of the origami mage?
What else is going on in her life?


So far there are two schools of magic in this setting, both inspired by traditional Japanese arts involving paper

Are there more schools of magic?
If so, is there one school per art form, or could there be multiple competing schools of origami magic, etc.?
Are all the schools based on paper arts (painting, paper kites, whatever) or other things (flower arranging, tea ceremony) as well?
What kinds of things might each school be considered "responsible for" doing -- or is that kind of specialty left to individual mages?
Are there customary alliances or conflicts between certain schools?
How does magic "work" in this setting?
Is the ability to do magic innate, acquired by training, or a combination of both?
How do people feel about these schools -- are they respected, feared, or what?

The setting is more inferred than specified in the two poems thus far.  The use of haiku, origami, kirigami, and Buddhist principles suggest an Oriental/Japanese context.

Is this setting fairly close to historic Japan with some fantasy elements added?  Is it a substantially different fantasy setting loosely inspired by Japanese motifs?  Or something in between?
What do you think the culture is like, surrounding these schools?
How stable and peaceful, or erratic and violent, is this society?
What inherent challenges does the setting contain -- earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, volcanoes, monsters, demons, etc.?
What human-based challenges are there -- berserk warlords, invasions, insane mages, corrupt officials, riots, etc.?
Why does this society need schools of magic?


Activities in the first two poems have included the performance of magic and the pursuit of rivalry.

What else do you think goes on in this setting that might affect the origami mage?
What kind of plot twists might appear -- love, betrayal, enlightenment, etc.?
Is there an overarching plot that could connect longer strings of poems, or smaller batches around subplots, or random individual poems connected mainly by the protagonist's presence?
What subplots beyond the established rivalry might there be?


Both of the initial poems are written in haiku verses, with each verse having three lines of 5-7-5 syllables.  If we're serious about turning this into a longer series, I'll probably want to explore some other forms eventually

What other Japanese/Oriental forms of poetry do you like?
Are there particular Japanese/Oriental motifs or symbolism that you'd enjoy exploring?

Anything else you'd like to add?

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Current Mood: creative creative

11 comments or Leave a comment
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: April 19th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Note: I'm not functioning at my best today, so this is less than it might be.

"How did she discover -- or did someone else discover -- her magical talent?"
This was the first thing that jumped out at me, that I really wanted answered.
I'd like the others under characterization answered, but that one most.

I think if you are going to do stories, a name would be good, but if you are going to keep it to poetry, then maybe it might be better to keep them more as archetypes than individuals.

I REALLY want to keep it to paper arts. I think the emphasis on paper is key, actually, to what I like about it.

In general, I like the sort of intense, centered quality of the first two poems and would like to see the world reflect that.

Everything else falls to my lack of function today.

I think a love story might be interesting. I also like the idea of the struggle for/pursuit of enlightenment.

As mentioned, I'd like to see even short stories on this, so epic poems are the next best thing.
Alternatively, I think it would be cool to work through all the Japanese forms of poetry.

Again, I cannot brain today, I have the dumb, but I tried! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 20th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC) (Link)


I'll see about digging into her origin.

Archetype over personal name seems to be the prevailing thought. Paper arts are also popular.

I'll keep in mind love and enlightenment as possible themes.
raindrops From: raindrops Date: April 19th, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you considered that English haiku is usually more properly written in 3-5-3 (11 syllables)? 17 is too many in English because of the differences between English and Japanese.

bowl of light
brimming with darkness
starlit sky
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 20th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)


I learned to write haiku in 5-7-5. I find it comfortable to write and read. I am not as fond of "English haiku" that don't use that rule; they just don't register as haiku for me.

The 3-5-3 variation sounds interesting. I might try it at some point. Working with that short a syllable count is hard, though -- I've done a fair bit of syllabic poetry and the very narrow ones can be pesky.
raindrops From: raindrops Date: April 20th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

One of the main points of haiku is its restrictive nature. In Japanese, 17 syllables is pretty restrictive... notsomuch in English.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: April 19th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just a couple of quick notes, I'll write something longer when I've had the time to think about it a bit more.

Names: I'd like them both to have names but not necessarily now, rather to 'discover' their names, as some point in which their personality is more developed.

More schools of magic? More schools fully developed could become too much, IMO. I'd rather keep the focus on origami and kirigami, others might be mentioned in passing, or have a cameo if needed (with links to paper, a calligraphy or ink-painting school comes to mind, for instance).

Japanese forms of poetry: as a practicing haijin myself, I'd like to point out that 5-7-5 isn't mandatory in modern haiku, not even in Japanese and even less so when writing in a different language, given that the Japanese 'units of sound' do not equal the syllables in Western languages.

More than one expert (whish I remembered the exact quote) speaks more of 'rythm and pattern' and of 'short-long-short' rather than an exact syllable count

Some interesting poetry form might be the Tanka (an ancestor of haiku,made of 5 verses composed of 5-7-5 7-7 Japanese units of sound)or the Choka (at least two 5-7 verses followed by a 5-7-7 closure), examples here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waka_%28poetry%29#Tanka

Both Haiku and tanka can be written in 'chains' by different authors, for instance the 'master of ceremonies'writes the first three verses of a tanka and passes it on to another poet that completes irt and passes it on, each tanka, taking inspiration by some aspects of the previous one, becomes a stanza in the bigger poem.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 20th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)


Tanka was on the list of forms I had considered for this series, yes. I don't think I've tried Choka before but that might be useful.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: April 19th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another thing, if you wish to keep it culturally specific, a very important figure for both mages would be the head of their school.
In China, for instance, people entering a school (be it a philosophical school or a martial arts one, or a performing arts one) transferred on the school the family relationship, the living head of the school had a father role, the older students (in learning time, not actual age) were the older brothers and the newly enrolled students the younger brothers, with all the annexed social obligations towards each other(I'm told that the older student/younger student relationship is still frequently used in Japan too).

Origami is now associated mainly with Japan, but originated in China, I'll keep the 'eastern Asian' feeling but I'd rather not specify one or the other, there were times and places (like the kingdom of Ryūkyū or Taiwan) where the two cultures mixed and mingled http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyu_Islands
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 20th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This is useful. I'm open to cultural flexibility. I knew that Japan and China had passed a bunch of stuff back and forth, but I don't think I'd heard of origami originating in China.

I'll keep an eye out for the head(s) of school(s) as well; that seems to be ringing true here.
dianavilliers From: dianavilliers Date: April 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I like 'em as mythic archetypes rather than as named characters myself.
Perhaps they are the (real or mythical) originators of their respective schools, and any longer stories could be written about their students?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 20th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)


Archetypes seems to be the favorite.

I like a previous suggestion that the head of the school serves as a kind of father-figure. That might not mesh with them being the originators of their own styles of magic. Though it's possible there was originally just one school, that branched out somehow... Must ponder.
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