Part fantasy, part romance, part suspense thriller, W: Two Worlds challenges authors to think carefully about the worlds and characters they create.
The plot: Surgical resident Oh Yeon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) is pulled into the action genre webtoon W, created by her father, author and illustrator Oh Seong-moo (Kim Eui-sung). The comic takes on a life of its own when Oh Yeon-joo saves the life of the protagonist, Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk), and becomes entangled in a murder mystery.
As W 's main character, Kang Cheol, has grown to become self-confident, logical, and meticulous. The hero's journey of separation, descent, ordeal, and return -- repeated frequently throughout Kang Cheol's life -- sets him up to seek context beyond content. When he learns of a world beyond his own, he is forced to question his predetermined configuration.
Here are five times webtoon character Kang Cheol speaks truth to power for creators of fiction as he navigates a brave new world.
Early in the W webtoon, we witness the shooting of Kang Cheol's parents and siblings. Because he is powerless to prove otherwise, Kang Cheol is falsely accused, tried and sentenced for the murder. Upon appeal, he is acquitted and creates "Project W," dedicated to finding the real culprit ("Who" and "Why") while seeking true justice for criminals and their victims.
When Oh Yeon-joo suddenly appears, Kang Cheol decides to protect her despite the lack of evidence proving she isn't a culprit in recent events. When Yoon So-hui sets up Oh Yeon-joo to be captured by the police, Kang Cheol feels betrayed because he is reminded of the injustice visited upon him in the past. He bitterly explains why Yoon So-hee's action goes against everything he stands for:
"Did you forget? I was the victim of that, too. They said it didn't make sense. I was turned from the victim into the culprit in that short moment. No one looks at the context and they only look at what can be seen outwardly. And they think that that's what makes sense. I started this business to help people who were sacrificed by logic, like me! But while being next to me, you've created yet another victim!"
Kang Cheol meets Oh Yeon-joo at the detention center and gives her a run-down of her bleak situation, based on his experience:
"Those people have already decided in their hearts that you're the culprit. They've grown so weary over the past two months. So you have to be the culprit. They'll do anything to make it true. You'll have to face contempt, fear, and they'll destroy your mental state. And that could go on indefinitely for a few weeks, months, even years. And after you've been through that entire process, it isn't easy to go back to living as a normal middle-class citizen."
Fiction Writers Tip 1:
Write based on real experience.
In ancient Greek mythology, the artist Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. In W: Two Worlds, webtoon creator Oh Seong-moo has a very different view of his protagonist.
When Kang Cheol confronts Oh Seong-moo, their meeting is fraught with anger and frustration on both sides. Oh Seong-moo has tried to end the webtoon by killing the main character many times, yet Kang Cheol has survived.
After a physical altercation, Kang Cheol has strong words for Oh Seong-moo:
"You're bleeding. I guess you're not invincible here. You're just a normal human being that hurts and bleeds, too. This is normal. This way it's fair. I was always the one who bled, died, and was wronged.
"I guess you created me here while moving around those measly fingers of yours. You probably deliberated on how to kill me here, since after finally earning your taste of money, honor, and success, you didn't need me anymore. You created me, abused me, and made my life a living rollercoaster. In return you succeeded and received recognition. Now, you want to kill me ...
"Have you any idea at all what I've been through? You are not a mere author. You are merciless and violent. It only didn't show because you held a pen instead of a knife."
Fiction Writers Tip 2:
The writer should not be the adversary of his characters.
After his awakening, Kang Cheol finds the answers to his questions are too difficult to accept. He no longer knows how to live. He tries to commit suicide by jumping into the Han River but is rescued from his watery grave. Unhappy that Oh Yeon-joo chose to save him even when he chose death, he challenges her, asking:
"What are you to me? Who are you to keep interfering with my life as you wish? With what right? Did you save me to play a romance game with me? Do I look like a toy to you?"
Oh Yeon-joo confesses her love to Kang Cheol. She momentarily disappears due to the emotions churned up in Kang Cheol by her confession. When she returns, the action hero becomes a romantic lead.
Kang Cheol manages to have charges against Oh Yeon-joo dropped by publicly claiming they were secretly a married couple. As they live out this ruse, their bonds strengthen. This heightened relationship challenges Kang Cheol, who is just learning to perform sweet, romantic gestures for a woman who may disappear at any moment:
Don’t look at me like that. You might disappear again. Nowadays my heart might be malfunctioning. I am wavering too easily. Stop doing things like crying or confessing if you want to stay with me for a long time.
Fiction Writers Tip 3:
Keep in mind the inner thoughts of your characters - and respect them.
When Kang Chul's long-time personal assistant, friend, and love interest Yoon So-hui (Jung Yoo-jin) begins fading, he tries to understand the context for this development:
"Characters get created for a purpose within the storyline. When that purpose no longer exists, they cease to exist? From this world forever? Then the converse, when the purpose for a character becomes certain, they get cast as a fixed character. Forcibly?"
When Kang Cheol and Oh Yeon-joo find Yoon So-hui in a translucent state, he tells her she is precious to him and he will need her for the rest of his life. When she is finally resting peacefully, Oh Yeon-joo realizes her presence in the webtoon has created this problem. Kang Cheol explains:
"It’s the damned destiny that your father created. A character’s predetermined configuration. The reason for his or her existence. It’s cruel, right? How could someone come into existence for only one reason? We are humans, too."
Knowing that the fates of those within the webtoon are uncertain, Kang Cheol comes to accept his destiny and tells Oh Yeon-joo:
"I’m grateful for you saving me, but I didn’t know how I was going to live. But I now now. I just have to live according to my given destiny. If the reason for my existence is to chase the uncatchable culprit eternally, I must do so."
Fiction Writers Tip 4:
Characters should be encouraged to grow and evolve beyond their initial purpose.
As Kang Cheol travels back and forth between the webtoon and world as we know it, he finally
"Your father couldn’t have possibly created everything in that world. How could a writer predetermine all those billions of people? That doesn’t make sense. What he was able to decide on were only the few characters that he made. That’s why I’ve concluded this. The webtoon is just a medium to connect the two worlds. This world and that world are independent from each other. Two separate worlds. The only things that are common between the two worlds are what show up in the comic: A number of fictional characters, including me, and a few specific locations that are drawn. Variables were continuously created and we have suffered the consequences because of those variables."
Fiction Writers Tip 5:
The world you write about should share some logic with the world your readers understand.
These five realizations by Kang Cheol can help fiction writers think about how they develop characters and stories. Catch the full W series to see how Kang Cheol resolves the story shared between two worlds.
The following playlist features trailers for W: Two Worlds.
Posters and Webtoon Covers
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