After I completed Brave and formulated my plans for the Black and White collection, The Watcher was immediately conceived. For some reason, I knew the collection had to be seven stories, not six. I don't have an explanation for that other than seven sounded right; it sounded good. I guess I like that number. But the seventh one-shot couldn't be about a hero or villain, or else it would break the system of groups I set up already. Because of this, I thought about writing for a truly neutral character. With that in mind, I instantly decided upon Shenron. Porunga and the Kais were also briefly considered after I picked Shenron, but they weren't what I wanted. Shenron just clicked for some reason. I didn't even know what I was going to write for him, but I knew I wanted to write it.
I also knew that I wasn't going to write his story until all of the others were done, as they were considered pairs. I did all of the villains first (group 1, group 2, group 3), then all of the heroes in reverse order (group 3, group 2, group 1). The last two hero stories (Yellow and Sleep) were completed very quickly - within four days of one another. This forced me to work on The Watcher a bit faster than I had anticipated. On July 20, 2014, Sleep was completed, and I didn't know what to do with The Watcher. So I didn't touch it for several days. The last three weeks of July were the most productive I ever was in terms of creating fan fictions, and I spent a lot of time focused on others, such as Prideful Demons Black and The Perfect Lifeform. Still, I thought that The Watcher would probably be relatively short, and since it was the last story in the Black and White collection, I needed to finish it.
I was on a weird sleep schedule near the end of July. Summer break meant I could sleep whenever I wanted, and this resulted in me going to bed around the midafternoon and waking up at 1 or 2 am. On July 25, 2014, five days after I completed Sleep, I woke up in the early morning and decided to complete The Watcher. Those few days after I finished Sleep, I was wondering if I would complete this story before some of my others, like PDB and TPL. As it turned out, I finished PDB first, but finished this story before TPL was completed. Anyway, after I woke up, I ate, settled down on the computer, and got right to work. Only, it wasn't on The Watcher. First, I wrote two chapters of The Perfect Lifeform. I was considering finishing that story then and there, but I wasn't quite sure how to do the last three chapters (the ones written by Bulma), so I abandoned that idea to write The Watcher. Now, this was the early morning, before anyone else in my house had awakened, before the sun had started to come up. It was completely silent. That helped me focus and formulate what I was going to do. I quickly realized that I wanted to write this story in a poem. Then, I had to consider what rhyming and syllable scheme I was going to use. I hadn't really done much with rhyming schemes in previous poems on this site (maybe the one at the end of IR is the only one I've written, but I don't exactly remember), so I tried something a bit complicated, with different rhyming patterns and syllabic pacing in the stanzas.
I finished writing The Watcher early in the morning. It took me several hours to write this story, despite it being so short. There were a few places where the rhymes and syllable counts were quite tricky for me to smooth out. I used online syllable counters to aid me in the process, but it still took and awful long time, considering how many words this ended up being. I was extremely happy when I finished this, not just from the rush I get from finishing any story, but from the fact that I had completed the Black and White collection, something that had been ongoing (unofficially and officially) for more than three and a half months by that point. It was a great feeling to complete this.
Warriors, kings, and beggars they came,
every desperate word
hanging from their grasping lips in
fear-drenched speech choked and slurred.
A wish for a crown, or army,
or foolish fleeting love -
burned away in mortality,
as he watched from above.
But few knew, and fewer did care
who granted such wishes.
August and audacious was he,
and they, avarice corpses,
far too eager for destiny
to grasp their vain choices.
With flecks of green in blackened smoke,
lightning cutting the sky,
salt and water and gloom falling,
he rose to meet their eyes.
Kingmaker, wealthbringer, was he;
dreambringer, foeslayer - the
great and dreadful giver.
Yet none save his maker knew him truly -
for he was Shenron the forgotten,
the titleless and the thankless,
who, to humanity and
all their innumerous
thirsts and hungers, could
do naught but watch.
- The rhyming scheme of the first stanza is ABCB.
- The syllabic counter of the first stanza is 8/6 (8 syllables for the odd lines, 6 for the even lines).
- I was very conscious about the rhyming and near-rhyming in this piece. I specifically tried to used words that are not often rhymed together, or are a bit hard to find rhymes for.
- It's not said when this story takes place. I like to think that Pilaf Jr.'s wish before the start of The Last Saiyan was referenced in the first stanza, but who can know for certain?
- Thematically, this poem is like a sad counter to Percy Shelley's Ozymandias. In Shelley's piece, glory and fame and power survive only if art survives - in the story's case, the broken statue of a long-dead king. Even hundreds of years later, he's still remembered, still talked about, so he still lives (in the same way Shakespeare does). In this story, however, everyone makes their wishes, which are "burned away in mortality". They and their wishes are soon forgotten, and the cycle begins again. Yes, they get their wishes, but they end up dying like all the rest. Now I didn't say anyone wished for immortality because no one seems to have done that in the Dragon Ball universe (take when Kid Buu blew up the Earth - there was nothing left), aside from Garlic Jr., who is indisposed anyway.
- Stanza two follows the rhyming scheme of ABCBDB.
- Stanza two's has the same syllable pattern as stanza one.
- In stanza two, I make an observation that I've long since thought - that Shenron is overlooked and ignored. He is summoned to grant wishes, like Yajirobe is summoned to bring senzu beans. No one really cares about him or spends time getting to know him. On some level, he seems okay with that. Certainly in the poem, I don't make it out like Shenron wants the humans to become his friends. He really seems to dislike them for their greedy and selfish wishes, but he doesn't do anything about it because it's not his place.
- Stanza three follows the rhyming scheme of ABCB.
- Stanza three's has the same syllable pattern as stanzas one and two.
- I wanted to describe Shenron's entrance when being summoned because it's one of those classic Dragon Ball moments. Doing so in poetic form was particularly fun and gratifying.
- The titles I gave Shenron better illustrated what wishes he gave. The skinchanger and foeslayer ones were particularly noteworthy, as I don't know of any times those were used in Dragon Ball.
- I almost called this story "The Giver". That's why it's his last and most fearsome title. Still, I think "The Watcher" is slightly better, as it shows that Shenron doesn't really get involved with people.
- Stanza four has no rhyming scheme at all, which is a sudden break from the established form of the previous three stanzas.
- The syllable count for the fourth stanza is 10/9/8/7/6/5/4, meaning the first line has 10 syllables, the second has 9, and so on. This descending syllable count didn't really come from anywhere; I hadn't seen it used before in any poems I have read. It just seemed like a cool idea.
- The hardest part of the entire writing for me came on the fifth line of the fourth stanza ("all their innumerous"). Reading the stanza (and poem as a whole) now, it all seems to go together smoothly. Yet, it was not always so. When I first wrote this poem, that line was left as "all there", just two words that didn't make sense, given the lines around them. This was because I was searching for a word, like innumerous, that was four syllables. It took me maybe 30 minutes just to find that one word.
- In the fourth stanza, I call Shenron titleless, which is a direct contradiction to what he's called in the third stanza. This reflects the disconnect between perception and reality in the world.
- I didn't know until I was about three stanzas in that I was going to end it with four total stanzas and with the word "watcher".
- This poem is almost a lament about Shenron. He is not thanked for his duty; he is not respected; he has no friends; only Kami (or Dende) know who he is, truly. It must be a bleak existence. He can do naught but watch, so he's unable to formulate any action on his own. In the world of Dragon Ball, where nigh everyone is a warrior who can shoot energy out of their hands and fly at the speed of life, this is striking, and ultimately quite sad. I don't think it's entirely sad, though. Shenron doesn't seem to fully mind his position. He's not a prisoner, per se, but he's not free and he's not truly alive. To be alive is to experience the world, exert personal agency, and find one's identity. Shenron can do none of that. He's almost like an answering machine message, playing on tireless repeat.
- What I am ultimately trying to show with this story is that Shenron is not a hero or villain; he's not happy or sad. He's in between. The funny thing about the Black and White collection is that no character is black or white. The villains are not fully evil, the heroes are not wholly good. In all six stories before this one, every main character is a grey character. With Shenron, this was far harder to do, since he doesn't really have a personality or the ability to gain one. His greyness is in his indecisiveness, his inability to be fully alive or fully happy or fully sad. He's always almost something, and that's really what being neutral seems like - to not be picking a side and to not be fully there. Since everyone before Shenron in Black and White becomes so characterized and defined by their actions, it was interesting to have Shenron end the collection by doing the opposite - remaining indecisive and not allowing himself to be defined by any actions.
Overall, I'm quite happy with this piece. It's short to the point that every word is precious. Because of this, I wouldn't change any of the words. They were all carefully constructed together, so adding or removing any would cause the poem as a whole to come tumbling down. I think this story is pretty unique, at least in the characterization it provides of Shenron. That said, there's nothing in this story that really sticks out, like the Minotia death scene in Brave or Frieza seeing the dead emperors in Tyrant. It doesn't have that scene that just pops out. That's because it's a poem, but also because it's a reflection. Its identity is muddled and amorphous; its themes are subtle and eclectic. I'm not sure if this is the kind of piece to have mass appeal because of those things. It's short, so more people are bound to read it. I've read it more times than all of the other Black and White collection stories combined just because of its length. It doesn't have a huge emotional punch or much of a plot, which kind of lowers it compared to other stories of mine. It reminds me of the ending poem in In Requiem, which I consider one of my greatest accomplishments on this site, because of how technical it is. With prose, I can paint a picture in broad strokes, using paragraphs and sentences at will. Here, with self-defined syllable length and rhyming schemes, I made myself write a far more minimalistic story. Every word counts. Sure, many of the words and phrases can be pondered over for a while or read many different ways, but this is still quite different from prose. I like it, I'm just not sure I'll be doing too many more of these, since they take so much effort per word. But I am happy with this one. As stated before, I wouldn't change a single word, or add or remove any, so I don't really have any complaints. I guess I'd give The Watcher an A+.
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