The door to the classroom opened, and the professor walked in. Her hair was pulled up into a ponytail, and her stride spoke of excitement. Trailing behind her was a pale young girl with vivid red eyes and a faint smile. The professor stepped over to the table that would serve as her desk, pulling a laptop out of thin air and setting it down. A soft rustling sound moved through the room, mixtures of whispers and shifting students suggesting what might’ve been eagerness, but could also have been nervousness.
The professor moved over to the far right side of the room and reached into the wall, dragging a nicely sized armchair out of the space beyond the pale blue paint.
“Come, sit down over here,” her voice was gentle, but there was a buzz of energy that seemed to come with every syllable. The young, red-eyed girl offered a quiet word of thanks and took her seat in the front of the classroom, off to the side where she wouldn’t be intrusive. Even with her presence out of the immediate line of sight, she was incredibly conspicuous. Everyone wanted to know exactly who she was, why she was there. Wasn’t this a class made up of real people? How was there someone with red eyes? How could she be that fair skinned?
The professor snapped her fingers at the wall, and a whiteboard appeared. It was large enough to take up the entire wall behind her. There was a pause as her eyes swept over the room. There were only a few students with actual faces; the rest were darkened, anonymous shadows of people. Some were female in shape, others male, but they were clearly nothing more than placeholders.
“Small class so far,” the professor noted as she pulled a package of markers out of her pockets. It was rather impressive to watch her move, pulling things out of places that they couldn’t possibly have fit into, spinning around a few times with her hands almost flailing with uncertainty and energy. She looked through the packet of markets for a moment before choosing an electric blue color and turning to the whiteboard.
She wrote a penname on the board and turned back to the class, “Welcome to my course in fanfiction writing. My name is KRenee, and I must say that I’m glad the few of you who are here were able to find the classroom so easily in your cluttered imaginations. I expected at least one of you to get helplessly lost.” She paused, grinning and chuckling, “Well, who knows? Maybe someone is lost. I suppose we’ll find out, ne?”
The students and anonymities in the room looked around at each other, sharing some wary glances. In all honesty, they were interested in this course; that was how they’d found the strangely placed classroom.
“Alright then, shall we begin?” KRenee clasped her hands together, flipping open her laptop and clicking on a few things amongst her screen, “Since this class is placed in a figment of linked imaginations, I don’t think it’ll be necessary for us to use PowerPoint slides. Before we get to the actual teaching portion, there are a couple of things I need to go over with all of you.”
More glances around the room as KRenee stepped around to stand in front of the table-desk, “Aggressive behavior directed towards other students or myself will not be tolerated. You are all expected to be civil. There will be no jeering or name-calling, no insults or slurs of any kind, and absolutely no bashing of other’s work. If you don’t like something, that’s alright. You can say so, but in a polite and meaningful way. This class is for learning and improving, not an excuse to fight with someone.”
There was a chorus of nods from around the room, and KRenee smiled appreciatively, “Good.” The dark-haired professor took a moment to canvass the room again, her smile becoming slightly more serious as she debated the next topic of her lecture. She pinched her lip between her teeth, deep in thought.
“Alright, let’s start simple,” KRenee finally said, looking up from the spot on the floor she’d been staring at, “We’re going to go through this in pieces. First, we’ll go through the character-making process, and then we’ll get into the craft of writing. So, the first thing you do when you’re making a character is one of two things; either you figure out what they look like, or you figure out their name. Those two things are interchangeable in their order. Some people can’t think of a name until they have a design, others are the opposite.” She was able to jump right into it once she started talking, almost like a switch had been flipped in her brain.
“I write a certain way, and a lot of this course is going to be based on the order of which I do things. Don’t feel like you have to do the same thing; do whatever you feel comfortable with, and never force yourself. I’m going to repeat that a lot throughout this course, so try to bear with me,” she smiled, stepping around the desk again. She grabbed a random marker and started writing on the board again.
“Come here,” she beckoned the girl from the armchair that nearly everyone had forgotten about. The girl immediately stood and walked briskly over to the professor, “This is my original character. Introduce yourself, hon.”
The girl waved, her smile widening for just a second, “My name is Tsubaki Kaisuki.”
“This is Kaisuki at the age of 12. You’ll probably meet the older version of her later on in this course,” KRenee stated, “Now, Kaisuki, do you remember what your name used to be? Like, ten months ago?”
The girl blinked, looking confused for a moment before she made a soft “oh” sound and nodded, “My name was Tsubaki Kaizuki, with a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s.'”
KRenee nodded in agreement, “Now, do any of you think you might know why I changed her name?”
Not a single hand was raised, but it was to be expected. In a new classroom setting, the students were a little nervous about being wrong and being called on their mistake. KRenee smiled encouragingly, but no one said a word.
“Kaizuki isn’t a word in Japanese,” KRenee finally explained, “It doesn’t have any sensible meaning, even if you break it up. I spent a few hours one day trying to translate her name into English properly, but I couldn’t find a way to get a meaning out of it. Japanese names are not non-sensible.
“So, understanding that I couldn’t translate Kaizuki into Japanese, I decided to experiment a little and plugged kai and suki into Google Translate separately. For kai I got being in between or through. For suki, I, of course, got love. By putting those two words together, I was able to get Kaisuki, which means through love or being in between affections.” She paused, glancing around the room to make sure the students were following her words. They seemed to be understanding her so far, so she nodded and continued, “That is completely okay when you’re making a character. If you think of a name you really like, but it’s not a real Japanese name, you can tweak it so it has a meaning, but sounds close to the original. There are dozens of ways to find a name that’s proper Japanese and fits your character and world.”
She then brandished a finger towards a random name she’d written on the board – Dabinaki Hiaria. “Therefore, you have no excuse to invent a name that kind of sort of sounds like Japanese. There are very few situations that call for invented names like this one, and even then I recommend that you stick to names that you can cleanly translate into English.”
“The last thing I want to go over with prompting is a very simple rule-o’-thumb,” she continued after a brief pause, “You should never, under any circumstance, use your own name in a fanfiction based in Japan and amongst Japanese culture. It’s one thing if your story is set in America with American characters, or even in Britain amongst British characters. Unless you’re actually Japanese and actually have a Japanese name, you should never use your given name to christen your character.”
“Okay, before I start answering questions, I’d like to give you your first homework assignment,” there was a collective groan, and KRenee laughed heartily, “I know, I know. Homework the first day sucks, but I’m hoping it’ll be a fun little activity for you all. It shouldn’t take more than half an hour, unless you get really into it and decide to experiment or apply it to several different characters for fun.”
Still no smiles, but KRenee didn’t let it deter her, “Okay, so your assignment is to take your main original character and, using Google Translate, I want you to try and find the Kanji for the name of your main original character. It’s possible that the Kanji for the name of your choosing won’t exist. In that case, it’s possible that you’ll have to break up the name into parts – like “kai” and “suki” – in order to make it work, and that’s completely fine.”
She paused for a moment in thought, and then continued, “If you don’t have an original character, that’s completely fine. You can either figure out a name of your choice based on a meaning of your choice, or you can translate your name into English, and then translate that meaning into Japanese.”
“I’ll expect your assignments back by Monday. It shouldn’t take you that long, but I know many of you have lives outside of fanfiction and creative writing.” She glanced over at her original character, beckoning her, “Make sure you understand the assignment before attempting to complete it. If you’re confused, ask me for more details in the comments.”
The professor snapped her laptop shut, and it dissipated into the air. At the same moment, Kaisuki stepped back into the pale blue walls and disappeared into it. KRenee smiled, clasping her hands together as she sat back against the desk-table.
“Alright, are there any questions about today’s topic?”