This is one of probably many updates about my new NaNoWriMo project. Feel free to add me to your Reading Page to follow along!
There were three thoughts that went through my head when I came up with my NaNo idea (Pokemon in Ohio). I will cover the first two in other blog posts, because they are the images with which I started my story. I usually start stories with a scene or two that starts it off and then helps me carry the story. For The Dealey Five,
that scene was Tamasine on the table in the room, all alone. For Blue Impulse,
it was the scene at the end of the first tournament that inspired the faded picture, with the words "We'll remember this forever, right?" on the back of it. There are two moments like that for this story, and I'll cover those in a bit.
But the third was, "Okay, so if Pokemon is in Ohio, then what is Ohio?"
I knew where I wanted to choose the name from almost immediately. I know a fair amount of Japanese at this point, and one of the kanji combinations I learned was 真中, manaka.
I knew it most from Manaka Laala from the anime Pri Para,
as all of their characters use directions for their last names. Laala's rivals have last names that mean "north" and "south," and the two American twins literally have the last name West. Laala's last name is Manaka, which means "in the center."
You know. Like "The Heart Of It All." I've dropped Ohio's old slogan a couple of times in Cosmic, as it's the title of the first book and as a slogan the kids remember from before the zombie apocalypse. And they should. Growing up, it was everywhere.
I would see the big sign every time I'd go back and forth from Indianapolis to Zanesville, stating I was in "The Heart Of It All!" I didn't really know precisely what that meant at the time, and while it's still kind of vague, the sentiment still rings true.
The heart. The center. Manaka.
And like lots of corruptions in the Pokemon world, mah-nah-kah became MAIN-kuh.
In many ways, Manka is just like any other Pokemon region. There are people and Pokemon living side by side, a sense of adventure, kids learning about Pokemon for the first time, and peace and harmony. But when I thought about making Manka, I wanted to really focus on what I liked about Ohio. What did I miss those five years I was in New York City? What was I learning to reappreciate now that I was back?
One of the big draws for me was the scenery. The first month of being in Ohio was spent getting reaccustomed to things other people don't even think about. Like driving. And leaves. And opening the back door and watching your dog walk out. And being able to make right hand turns. And silence. Lots of silence. And the sky, and how it would turn colors right before the sun set, and how it's not Manhattanhenge but it's somehow better. I didn't have too long to get used to Zanesville -- I got a new job just as my parents moved to Powell, so I went with them. (For those of you keeping track at home, yes, that's two moves in one month, and I have still gotta find a place of my own.)
The long-ish drive to work from Powell (depending on traffic and time of day) runs along the Scioto River, and looking out over it and watching the foliage go by is strangely peaceful. How could I incorporate these images into my story? My mission became not only to write about what Pokemon would be like in Ohio, but to write about this Manka in such a way that people who had never been to Ohio would know what Ohio was like -- even through the Pokemon lens. I want my friends from NYC to read this fanfiction and know, "She's from Ohio." Because I am.
I found a nature preserve with two walking trails and took pictures as I went. While I went, I could almost feel my main characters running down the paths, on their journey to discover what the world held for them. Maybe the path led to a new town, where they could rest for a while. Maybe they would find more wild Pokemon in the bushes, or maybe they would climb a tree and see the views. The endless possibility can almost seem nostalgic, for a time when anything was truly possible.
And that's not the only thing, as well. I want to show the academic history of Columbus by putting the regional university and Pokemon Professor there. I want to highlight Cleveland's recent sports fame, but to also see it for myself with new eyes. I want to make Pokemon trainers have to stop in Zanesville until the First Friday of every month, so they can experience the art walk. I want sternwheelers on the Ohio River and parasailing on Lake Erie, shopping in Cincinnati and riding roller coasters in Sandusky. And I want to highlight the southern part of the state, the hard working, blue collar history that has made Ohio what it is today, the history I read about in my great-grandfather's stories.
And I honestly hope I do it justice.