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View Full Version : Heartache 101 - Keika scene draft (~1400 words)



watermark
January 29th, 2017, 04:47 PM
Long story short, due to a promise, I need to write a Japanese high school romance. Of the young adult sweet romance (i.e. no explicit action :p) variety, so I think it probably fits here better than the steamier Romance section. I've never done a love story before but it's been fun! Two things:

1. I am not Japanese and have only been to Japan a few times. All my references are from anime, TV dramas, and internet research. Best I can do. So if I make any cultural mistakes feel free to correct me.
2. Below is a scene near the middle of the story where the MC meets with love interest Keika. Please critique freely. The reason I’m posting is to improve so any criticism is welcome! Thanks so much!

***

It takes me a while to find the pool and I arrive much later than I wanted to. Still, I think I have time to get in a few strokes before the place closes. I change quickly and head out to the pool area. The pool looks even better than the online pictures, which is usually not the case. It’s dazzling and shiny with a faint smell of chlorine. The best thing is their online promotion event appears to be a total failure, because there’s not too many people at all. I was worried this place might be packed today, but I guess I was one of the few people who saw the ad. This is great!

Down by the pool there’s a small group of high school students, a few old men treading water, and a girl wrapped in a towel. A bored lifeguard is reading a magazine on his highchair, sparing the occasional mandatory glance at the pool. I walk down toward the pool to do some warm up and stretching.

The girl in the towel looks my way. I do a double take. Is that Keika? It’s definitely her alright. She sees me, smiles, and waves me over.

Keika has her hair tied up with a ribbon. She’s wrapped in a green, flowery towel and underneath it she has a bikini on. OF COURSE, she’s well dressed today too. I didn’t know it was possible to be well dressed in a bikini. It’s not like it’s revealing. Quite the opposite. If some categorizer has to categorize her bikini, he would say it is very modest. It’s got her breasts wrapped up 100%, no side boobs peeking anywhere, and it comes with a skirt. I don’t know if it’s the colors, or the design, or how it fits well with her body shape, but it looks cute as hell.

“Hi Hiroto-kun! What are you doing here?” she asks.
“What do people do at a pool?” I say.
“Check out the bikinis?”
“That’s a fringe benefit.”
“So you came to swim, too? I’m waiting for my boyfriend. He promised to teach me how to swim today!” she gestures at the pool.
“So is your boyfriend late again? Or are you early?”
“Either. I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes.” She seems a little less excited about that.
“Wow, that’s a long time.”
“It’s alright.” She looks away. “I’m used to it.”
I ask, “That day you were waiting for him at the gym he never showed up, right? I heard it from Miki.”
“It’s true. He said later that he wasn’t able to make it.”
“Busy guy?”
“I suppose so. He’s a senior this year so he’s got entrance exams to study for. I’m sure he’s got a lot of studying to do.”
She opens her mouth to say something else but changes her mind. An awkward moment of silence pass. Her legs shiver a little.

“Why did you change already? You could’ve waited till he got here to change, you know.” I say.
“I thought this way he wouldn’t have to wait for me to change when he got here, and I can spend more time with him. And I think he would be happy to see me in a bikini.”
“Aren’t you freezing?” I ask.
“No.” she lies.
“You should probably get in the water. This is a heated pool. You don’t have to swim. You can just, you know, chill out in the pool while you wait for him.”
“I’m not going in the water without him.”
“You really can’t swim, huh?”
“I learned once. But I forgot how.”
“How does a person forget how to swim?”
“It’s quite easy. Just don’t do it for a while,” she says.
Yeah. Ok. I’ll just file that under “Only Keika”.
“Um. You don’t have to wait with me, Hiroto-kun. Why don’t you go swim?” she says.

I look at the clock. There’s only about half an hour left before the pool closes. It looks like her dear boyfriend isn't showing up, again.
“Are you sure he’s coming?” I ask.
“I think so.”
“I don’t know if you realize this, but the pool closes in like half an hour.”
“It does?!”
“That’s what the sign says.”
“Oh. I figured it would be open all night like a convenience store.”
“Uh. No.”
She sighs, “Oh well, I guess I won’t get to learn how to swim today.”

I wonder if I can teach her to swim instead. Nah. My morality forbids it. She is someone else's girlfriend. Let's just call it a day, go change, and go home. In my mind's eye, I see Morality as a burning angel of vengeance, raising his staff and commanding: Thou shall not covet thy brethren’s girlfriend! Yes, oh Morality, I shall strive to uphold thy commandment! I am a paragon of honor and virtue!

I am also a normal, healthy, male teenager.
And right now there's a not-that-bad-looking girl in front of me in need of assistance. In a bikini. By a pool. Screw it. I can't help myself.

“I can teach you to swim.” that pops out of my mouth before I can stop it.

She'll refuse, of course. And we can all go home hap-

“Ok.”
“Huh?”
“Ok. Teach me to swim. I don’t think Shoichi is coming after all. We came all this way. It would be a waste if we didn’t swim. And you look like you could swim well. Well, can you swim well?”
“We had a senpai last year who believed religiously that swimming helps with judo. So there was a semester when we swam every morning.”
“Then you should have no problems teaching me.”
“What if your boyfriend walks in on us? Wouldn't that be awkward? In fact, he might get the wrong ideas.”
“If that happens I'll stuff you under the water and stall. You look like you can hold your breath for some time.” Girls can be scary when they're determined.

All her composure goes to pieces when she enters the water. She starts to grab me in all sorts of places, like how a wild drowning woman would grab the last piece of driftwood in the stormy sea, all the while screaming in eight different decibels. Good thing I’m pretty fit, or I’m sure I would’ve been pulled under to my death.
“I’m gonna drown! I’m gonna drown!” she screams.
The lifeguard looks down at us, but I flash him a ‘I got this.’ signal, so he shrugs and goes back to reading his magazine.
“Hold my hands! Hold my hands. There. There. See? There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
She calms down a bit as I hold her afloat, her hands tightly gripping mine.
“Relax. Let the water carry you. Kick your feet. Back and forth. Back and forth. There. Good.”

She’s still stiff as a board, but as she stops flailing and gradually relaxes, her position stabilizes, and she’s able to stay afloat with my help.
“See! You can swim!” I reassure her.
“I guess…I guess I could. Wahhhhh!!!” she loses her balance again, and I proceed to prevent my own drowning death again in a mad scramble.

How can you lose your balance in the water?! I don’t know how she does it. It must be a talent. I also don’t know how we ended up in this position, but somehow her hands are on my shoulders, and my hands are holding her up by her slender waist.

“I think we still have some work to do,” I say.
“You think it’s because of my form?”
“I think the problem’s all in your head, girl.” I look up at her.
She looks down into my eyes, “Well boy, then it’s up to you to fix it.”

And so, a boy taught a girl how to swim that day.

Let no one say this boy did not enter into this interaction with the purest of hearts and the most noble of intentions. Let it be known he entered it with the expressed purpose of transferring knowledge of how to traverse in the water to another fellow human being. That and nothing more. For that is the Truth.

But also let no one say that he did not welcome the occasional contact of skin, that he derived no pleasure from the necessary holding of hands, the accidental hugs, and the almost unnoticed brush of a young girl's bosom. That he did not feel a thrill due to the simple closeness of a member of the opposite sex. For that would be a lie.

dither
February 5th, 2017, 07:10 PM
Watermark,
when i first clicked on this i thought ohhh dear, it's a big one but i like this.
I'm commenting purely as a reader, i can't advise on the technicalities but you DO have a really,,, i know it's a rather naff thing to say,,, a nice story here.
Go with it and good luck.

I could say that it ended too soon, but isn't that the mark of a good story?

bdcharles
February 6th, 2017, 11:56 AM
Hi,

Nice extract! I quite like the sparse style of this; not too much bumpf, and very voicey, as if we are the narrator-I. Can't see any errors whatsoever* which is always nice, and I got a big kick out of the - personality, I suppose you could say - of this writing and by extension, your main character. The little moral/honesty uptick at the end made me smile.

You might think about a change or merge to some sentences just to vary it a bit particularly in the early parts, so you don't get the same sort of sentence length over and over, which can start to feel a bit like being caught in traffic:

It takes me a while to find the pool and I arrive much later than I wanted to. Still, I think I have time to get in a few strokes before the place closes, so I change quickly and head out to the pool area. The pool looks even better than the online pictures, which is usually not the case - dazzling and shiny with a faint smell of chlorine. The best thing is their online promotion event appears to be a total failure, because there’s not too many people at all. I was worried this place might be packed today, but I guess I was one of the few people who saw the ad. This is great!

Doesn't have to be exactly that - just food for thought. Good luck with it :)

* Ah - nope, just spotted one: "t[<- capitalise it]hat pops out of my mouth before I can stop it." Same here: "s[<- S]he loses her balance again"
* And here:
She looks down into my eyes, “Well boy, then it’s up to you to fix it.”
-> you can enter dialogue with a comma but you need a verb beforehand (which I think would work). Otherwise use some stopping punctuation (full-stop / exclamation mark etc)

She looks down into my eyes and says, “Well boy, then it’s up to you to fix it.”
She looks down into my eyes. “Well boy, then it’s up to you to fix it.”

lucario719
June 6th, 2017, 08:54 AM
Hello,
I lived in japan for a year of study abroad in college, so that is what brought brought me here and compelled me to comment on your piece. i have to say you might come into many problems you might not expect when trying to write outside your culture and implied language. you are essentially putting yourself at a disadvantage by writing about people from another country in a language that they would not be speaking to each other. That being said i do not think it is impossible. It's clear to me from this excerpt of the text that the cultural difference between you an the characters is not being used to "exoticize" or dis-empower them, so i am confident that you write cross culturally in good faith. That being said, expect a LOT of criticism from people, especially Japanese-Americans. while Japanese people living in japan (i.e. japanese in who are members of a majority ethnic group) are usually fine with foreigners creating media that involves Japanese aspects, Japanese-Americans, who are a minority group in the US who have historically been discriminated against and negatively portrayed in media, are much more critical of stories that portray Japanese people (especially when they find something offensive in it). that being said it's a problem that can be easily diminished by treating your characters properly, and doing your best to portray them as actual people.
with that out of the way here are my points about this excerpt:

Would you wear a ribbon to a pool? I've never met a girl who did.

You don't need to repeat the word "categorize", it's not exactly the nicest sounding word. it can come of as analytical and cold in it's connotation.

how can he see her bikini if she's wrapped in the towel?

Is she saying "kun" because she likes him or is patronizing him? it can mean she thinks of him as childish if she barely knows him. the fact's he's using his first name with "san" could imply they have already warmed up to each other.

you don't need her to say "it's true" the second sentence alone would imply that.

i don't really know why she compares the pool to a convenience store. i think this is just a relic of your research interfering with your dialogue. she could say that "it's just a bunch of water, why does it need to close?" or something. (side point, stuff like this will make people accuse you of being bigoted. though in this case i think it's just an honest attempt to put what you know about japan in your writing.)

i know it's kind of a YA/romance trope to personify a concept, but i don't think anything is gained from this image of a St. Michael angel. if it were written to be humorous, i think it could work better.

the idea of an "i got this signal" sounds pretty american in my opinion. i think that at worst, the life guard would just ask the tow of them if they are OK. then the boy would say they are fine, then the lifeguard keeps watching them.

"the problem is all in your head, girl" I can't think of a way this could translate into Japanese. This sounds very dependent on English to get the connotation across. i've only heard things in japanese where they say "girl" or "boy" to criticize someone. not to mention that in Japanese the verb is usually at the end of sentences unless they are revering the order of the words to be colloquial, and even in those cases saying "girl" would bee seen as improper.

i'm not sure "lose balance in the water" fits what you are trying to describe. I wouldn't describe swimming as requiring balance. so it just seems strange to use those words.

here's hoping this helped!