As a writer, it can still surprise me where the story can go even as I’m writing it. Take for example this simple scene in the Light Novel, Isekai Wa Smartphone:
Since the summoner had been taken care of, the remaining Lizardmen simply faded away. I assumed they’d gone back to wherever he’d pulled them out from.
“Looks like it’s over… Everyone alright?”
“I’m doing great,” Elze replied.
“I-I’m alright as well,” Linze meekly muttered.
“As am I, I am.” We made it out alright, but the people who had been attacked had suffered great losses. One of the remaining soldiers made his way over to me, leg dragging behind him.
“Th-Thank you… you saved us…”
“Don’t mention it… What’s the casualty rate?”
“Of ten bodyguards… they got seven of us… Damn it! If only we’d noticed sooner…!” The man trembled in frustration and clenched his fist. I felt the same, in a way. If only we had shown up a little bit sooner… but there was little point in dwelling on such things any longer.
“S-Someone! Is someone there? Gramps… Gramps is…!” We all turned to face the carriage when we unexpectedly heard the voice of a girl. Crying and shouting, a little girl with long, blonde hair clambered out of the carriage. She looked to only be about ten years old.
We ran over to the carriage, and next to the white clothed little girl lay a gray-haired old man in a black formal outfit. Blood flowed from his chest as he wheezed in pain.
“Please save Gramps! He was hit by an arrow…!” The girl, face soaked in tears, begged us for help. This old man must’ve been very important to her. The soldiers brought the old man down from the carriage and laid him down on the grass.
“Linze! Can’t you use your Healing magic on him?!”
“…I-I can’t. The arrow must have snapped, and part of it is still lodged in the wound. If I heal him in this condition, the arrowhead will get stuck inside his body… E-Even that aside… my magic wouldn’t b-be effective on a wound this dire…!” Linze’s words were laced with apology and regret.
As soon as the little girl heard what Linze had to say, her face clouded over with despair. She gripped the elderly man’s hand tightly as she wept, and it looked like she would never stop crying.
“I am afraid… that we must part here… But please know… the days I spent with you… were among the happiest of my— ghh! Ack…!”
“Gramps, that’s enough!” Damn… the old man was coughing and sputtering. Was there really nothing we could do? I had never tried out major Healing magic before, but I had read about it in the tomes Linze had let me borrow. I knew the incantation, too. It wasn’t impossible for me to cast… probably.
Should I take a gamble here? But even if I heal him up with the broken arrow still lodged in the wound, there’s no telling what might happen. The wound healing up might even make the arrow sink in deeper, which would make it pierce his heart… Wait… if I could just pull the arrow… out of the wound…
“Please, move out of the way!” I hurried the soldiers aside and knelt down by the old man. After that, I quickly pulled one of the other arrows out from the side of the carriage and committed the shape of the arrowhead to memory. Then, I focused on the image strongly in my mind.
“[Apport]!” In an instant, a blood-soaked and broken arrowhead was firmly gripped in my hand.
“Amazing! You used the spell to retrieve the arrow!” Elze looked at my hand and almost screamed with joy. But I wasn’t done yet, there was one more step.
“Come forth, Light! Soothing Comfort: [Cure Heal]!” As I cast the spell, the wound in the old man’s chest gently began to regenerate. It was almost like watching a video rewind itself. It continued like that until the jagged opening had closed up completely.
“…What is this? The pain… is receding? Whatever is happening, it… doesn’t hurt? It doesn’t hurt… I’m healed?”
“Gramps!” The old man sat there, completely baffled, but upright and unharmed, as the little girl threw her arms around him. She cried countless tears of relief, refusing to let go of the old man all the while.
Watching the sight made all of us let out our own relieved sighs. We slumped to the ground.
“Phew…” Well, I was just glad it had all worked out.
So, a little background. Touya Mochizuki, the MC (Main Character) of this story has the usual cheats of an isekai novel protagonist, and is blessed with almost inexhaustible magic power, the ability to use any magic spell of any of the main elements, and ANY personal magic classed under the [Null] element.
He learned the spell [Aports] just a while ago. While on the road, he and his companions rescued a carriage being attacked by summoned lizardmen. The summoner wanted to capture the little girl inside in order to force her father, a Duke of the kingdom.
Touya and company defeated the ambush, and here we see how he used [Aports] in order to remove the arrowhead and then heal the wound. Is it clever? Is it impressive?
Well certainly in-setting it seems so. People sounded very impressed about it.
It’s a fairly breezy 741 words.
So what did I change in my version of the story?
First, it was expanded to 2200 words.
Within the scene, it was explained why he had an arrow wound that broke off inside his body. The little girl’s fear is expanded a little more, a bit more dialog.
And most importantly, the MC DOES NOT CONVENIENTLY HAVE THE [APORTS] SPELL.
The spell brings the object to between the caster’s hands. Monika cannot use [Aports], because as a digital being that lives inside a smartphone, she has no hands.
This means that within those 2.2k words, the most that could be done was emergency medical treatment to bind the wound. No magic was used.
Actually healing the wound would use up an entire chapter, another 3.3k words, and it’s not just the MC doing everything.
Since they lacked the [Aports] spell to trivialize the whole thing, they actually had to do field surgery. Everyone had to do something to contribute. Everyone had to feel the pressure and the fear of making a mistake that could kill.
Is this better? What’s wrong with brevity and moving the story along?
Let’s have a look at some of the reader responses.
That’s some fantasy Trauma Center shit right there.
Well, dunno about anyone else, but none of the things talked about in the chapter were things I didn’t learn in my high-school biology class, so it doesn’t break my SOD. As for his success in operating, magic, as Monika said, work off intent and seem to be relatively self-correcting. An earlier chapter also note he’s been practicing healing magic in particular too.
I personally loved this chapter because it really examines the kind of knowledge and application you’d need to use to heal someone with magic. All the time it’s simply treated as glowy white stuff that miraculously fixes everything. (except cutscene wounds. Damn you cutscenes!)
But here, simply accelerating the body’s natural healing won’t work. He’ll be long dead before then. So, magic can greatly assist in keeping him alive until then. Now that I think about it, Playa’s medical ability and knowledge might be one of his most valuable assets, especially if he’s going to continue adventuring around, fighting people.
When I started writing this story, there was not really any intention of particularly focusing on the esoteric meanings of magic. This medical drama was not expected, not even by me, but as I was writing it is seemed to naturally emerge from the limitations and practical knowledge of those involved.
Okay, ‘medical spells’ are spells that act like a doctor does – basically keeping the patient alive by stitching up holes and/or making new holes to let the body heal itself back to (semi)functionality.
Healing spells (and some iryo-jutsu) do the healing for the patient – like the kind that magics up fresh, healthy cells, makes blood where there is none, makes diseases/poisons and their byproducts go poof, brings the patient back to life while doing all of the previous, etc.
…and I never knew how badly I needed a magical system with ‘medical spells’ rather than healing spells. Put that in a magical buddy cop story and I’ll read it until the end of time.
That is the difference. Usually [Heal] magic just refills someone’s HP, there’s no tension nor acknowledgement that you’re rebuilding the body. There’s no sense of how it is limited or the need for the caster to study anything.
I blame this on how Healing Magic was actually first used in RPGs under Clerical Magic, in effect they were actually Applied Miracles and the gods didn’t need to bother with learning anything about medicine.
Unfortunately, as [Heal] became necessary for the task of keeping the party alive and became a common sight, we lost some of the wonder and awe inherent to [Healing] magic.
Few even bother to remember anymore that [Regeneration] would certainly not save you from needing surgery.
There was discussion between leaving the arrow in and simply healing it over, so that the injured could survive traveling for two more days and then have the doctors cut him open again to remove the arrowhead and stop the internal bleeding.
There was also the reason to dare to risk field surgery in unsterile conditions because they have already been ambushed once, and staying on the road was an unacceptable risk to their noble miss.
Lacking [Apport] they actually had to make forceps out of bent pieces of armor, cut into the wound with a sharpened fruit knife, and pull it out before they could actually [Heal] the wound. It was a slow and painful process.
I put up another question:
Okay, guys, so I need to make a blog post about the difference between [Apport] and how lacking it led to a more drawn-out medical scene. Why do you think it is more impressive to have something done with difficulty rather than with ease?
The same reason Tony Stark making a suit of powered armor in a cave with a box of scraps is arguably more impressive than any of his later armors save, perhaps, the bleeding edge armor. It conveys a lot more required skill, thought, nerve, conviction, and ingenuity, because we’re watching someone do something very difficult with less than ideal tools and conditions.
Interestingly I think it only really came off as impressive, because of the original scene and how simply it was handled there. Without that as context, Playa’s massive magic affinity, access to the internet’s unimaginably wide database of medical information, and all this capable (if untrained) assistance, would actually somewhat lessen those aspects of what made the feet so impressive.
Of course, pulling that off would still be plenty impressive on it’s own. But you asked why this seemed more impressive, not why it seemed impressive in general.
Personally, I think it’s like the difference between MacGuyver and Batman. With MacGuyver, you get so see him solve a problem with his own wits, knowledge, and whatever he has on hand. With Batman, there’s mostly a Utility Belt ex Machina that solves whatever problem right away so we can see him go back to punching the Joker.
In the end, MacGuyver ends up being more satisfying to watch because the viewer has that sense of “Oh hell yes it’s working!” when MacGuyver improvises a solution using only the material he has with him.
Something done with difficulty engages the reader more because it does not trivialize the problem at hand. There’s more sympathy and sense of accomplishment when you follow along the character’s actions.
There’s actual bravery involved, from the ad hoc medical team and the patient that had to watch his own chest being cut open because they best they could offer was a magical local anaesthetic.
Victory is only there if there is the possibility of loss.
Touya just solved the whole thing within three paragraphs.
There was no drama at all.
When writing or reviewing a scene, it’s important to note the purpose of those paragraphs. In the original, it was to showcase the utility of the [Aports] spell, which no one else other than Touya could use.
It was meant to tell the reader that he was special and indispensable. Which is… ehh. Were you as impressed as the other characters in it?
In the altered version, the purpose of the scene was to reveal to Sue, the little noble girl, that [Healing] magic was not so simple and that it takes actual work to save lives. It’s much easier to end lives than to save lives.
Being a doctor was a respectable occupation, a noble occupation even, and now she actually had motivation to be more than just someone’s trophy wife late.
The MC needed help, even though he had boatloads of magic power on his own, he only had two hands, and those two hands were most useful doing magic spells that could keep the patient alive during the operation.
Monika, being an AI, could not contribute physically but without [Diagnosis] none of this could be possible.
Yae, the samurai girl, showed that her skill with sword, her excellence at cutting flesh, could also be used to save lives.
Linze, who also had the [Light] magic affinity to [Heal] wounds, needed the nerve to swab blood and widen a wound more than than just magic power – and that nerve not to flinch when needed by others makes her a stronger character than when she started.
Elze, her twin sister, whose boyish traits often left her feeling useless in times of delicacy, had the bravery to make the final pull of the object from the wound, the sheer guts to do what was likely to actually kill the patient instantly if improperly handled.
Even the patient, Butler Reim, showed how much he was dedicated to his duty but at the same time he genuinely loved his little miss and did not want to leave her behind just yet. As long as the girl needed him, he would be there to serve her.
Less is more but sometimes more is just more.
In between death and life, there is growth.
Every day, daily updates. The story has now breached 70k words in little more than a month. Every day, every character grows a little more compared to how they were yesterday.
I respect the work ethic that went into Isekai Smartphone that led to it being 12 volumes. But fundamentally, the characters remained the same at the end as they were at the beginning.
But most of all ‘In Another World World With Smartphone‘ never really had the smartphone be interesting at any point.
Remember that. It is foundational to the changes of this story… literally everything follows from this one simple change in the premise.
It’s “Another World with the Most Interesting Smartphone“.
You can start to read it all here (SB), in the place where I do daily updates.