I've started reading Manga books, as research, because I have an idea for a book that involves a character who is an aspiring graphic novelist, obsessed with Manga. I'm not new to the Manga-verse. In high school, during my *cough* periphery raver days, I used to rush home after school to make sure I caught the latest episode of Sailor Moon. I also had a crush on a boy who introduced me to some of the darker Manga like Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll and Wicked City.
In college, at the video store, my friend and I discovered Ranma 1/2, the slapstick series about a boy who turns into a girl when he's hit with water. It's hilarious. It's also a graphic novel, so it was about time I read some Manga instead of watching it.
And it's amazing! As in the animated versions, the plotlines vary from the serious, to the hokey, to the slightly demented and strange. The artistry also remains unchanged. Characters with large eyes, small noses and scenes captured in alternative angles. I always remember one from Ghost in The Shell where the entire scene was portrayed in the reflection in a pair of sunglasses in the rain. Beautiful.
So I'm enjoying my research, also becoming a fan myself, and learning other writing skills. Specifically, the inciting incident, the moment where your character's life changes and the plot of your novel begins. You're supposed to make this happen quickly. In fact, if you're following a formula, it's basically...
Introduce your character's normal world - Now change it. (inciting incident)
In YA, sometimes this can take a while. Or sometimes there's a page of introduction - inciting incident - then pages and pages of backstory. But what I've noticed in my Manga is a quick turnaround. The one I'm reading now had 1 page of normal life right into BAM! inciting incident. I read one a couple of weeks ago that had only a few pages of normal life before the inciting incident. And I like it. I like not waiting for the action to happen, and not flowing from there into tons of backstory. I think as novelists we worry, without the background, no one will care about our characters. But I do care about these characters. I learn just enough about them in those first few pages to keep reading.
I'm not sure if the skills can completely translate without the imagery, but it's inspiring me to try.