So You Want to be a Ninja...

— May 11, 2011 (9 comments)

THE BASICS. Spelling, grammar, punctuation--these are your katas, the fundamentals. Any peasant can throw a punch or toss together a grammatically correct sentence. You must know why it is correct. You must be so familiar with the rules that even your Twitter updates are punctuated properly. Only then can you improvise, creating your own forms by intent, not laziness.

WORDS. Words are your weapons, and you must become familiar with as many as possible. More than familiar, you must become adept in their use. A simple farmer can pick up a sword and make a clumsy effort at wielding it. You must be its master. And you must know which weapons are appropriate for each situation. A polearm is all but useless in assassination, as "puissant" and "scion" would find a poor home in the mouth of the common taxi driver.

With knowledge of weapons and katas, you would make a decent fighter, a writer of e-mails, a composer of persuasive essays. Any daimyo would be glad to have you among their common militia, but you would not be a ninja.

STYLE. Fighting is more than killing your opponent, and writing is more than words strung in the proper order. The samurai know this, and you can learn much from them. You must be aware of the clarity of your writing, the variation of sentence structure, the powerful techniques of imagery and metaphor. Writing is an art, not simply a means of communication.

With a knowledge of style, you could choose your own path. You could become a mercenary, writing for whomever would pay you. You could begin the path of the samurai, accepting their bushido and writing only the truth--news, non-fiction, and the like. If you seek a life of security and reputation, then perhaps the way of the samurai is for you.

Or you could begin the life of a ninja. To the samurai, bushido is life. To the ninja, it is a hindrance. The art of the ninja is lies and misdirection, surprise and subterfuge. To become a ninja, you must learn many techniques the samurai are not taught, master them, and make them your own.

You must learn the secrets of tension and plot, what drives a story forward and hooks the reader until the end. You must learn to create characters that are real, believable, and can gain or lose sympathy with the audience, as the situation dictates. You must understand the ways of dialogue to make your characters to speak without tearing down the lie you have constructed.

These are basic knowledge to the ninja, but they are only the beginning. Millions have gone before you. Most do not survive. The shinobi masters whose names you've heard are the exception, not the rule.

It takes more determination than you've ever known to become a ninja, but you can do it. I believe in you.

And if I'm wrong, it won't matter. You'll be dead.

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  1. Words escape me to describe the level of awesome this possesses.

    I will return to my practice.

  2. Well done, Adam. This is just... well radsauce, sir. Radsauce.

  3. Nicely done. I think the hardest bit of evolution for me has been motivation... the character/world motivation to justify the tension/plot.

  4. I bow to my sensai. This was so cool.

    What if I want to be a highlander from Xeist, Emmet? LOL

  5. Having read my Kenjutsu chapter (even though it used to have WAY MORE katana-kata in it), you know how much I love this.

    And I don't know how much of it comes from reading voraciously, and how much of it comes from being raised by educated parents, but even before I understood why, I could see when things looked (or really, sounded, rather) wrong.