Developing the story of Ring

leading from

writer: Koji Suzuki


a) Scary Stories
Koji Suzuki used to work as a cram school teacher and his pupils were always bugging him to tell them scary stories. He liked the idea of thinking up stories and made some up to tell them and it was during this time that he realised how to make someone scared and it had something to do with children. For example, he'd say something like "This scary thing happened in New York..." and start telling a story about something that happened far away. But in the end, just when the people who'd been listening to this story knew that something scary was about to happen, they'd suddenly think that it was going to happen to them. Koji thought it wasn't possible to use this technique in a novel, and actually when he was writing the Ring, he wasn't really thinking about it at all. But looking back later, he realised this idea was present in his subconscious.

b) Starting Ring
When Koji worked on his novels, he not really conscious of what he was doing. The plot was never decided, it was just something in the air that just set him off and he would start writing. A writer would never know what will happen. However, there are all sorts of thoughts and experiences piled up inside him that come out when he was writing. Even if he would say that he wasn't aware of it, there were still elements of his experience with those students floating around in the back of my mind. It was the same for Ring, no story to begin with, he would let ideas come to him and then he wrote full blast He would get an impression of the story, but had absolutely no idea how things would turn out.


cover for Koji Suzuki's Ring
(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_(Suzuki_novel))


c) Killer Virus idea
He started thinking "What if four men, or four girls and boys died of an unnatural causes but in different locations at the exact time? What if they had a mutually frightening experience?’ and he let his imagination take off from there. What could they have had in common, something that thy had caught. Perhaps virus? If so, perhaps a virus that kills exactly one week after someone is infected. So they had to be together in the same place, and then the question came about what the virus was. Perhaps a toxin in the food? His answer was no and it would have to be a ghost, but in his day and age, this would not have been interesting.

d) Haunted Videotape
He started to think about this, his two year old daughter came trotting towards him, left a video tape and then trotted off, and then h thought that he could have the four people watch a haunted videotape, and instead of a coherent logical story, on this tape was an string of fragmentary scenes. When he wrote the images of the tape, he had to refrain from thinking logically, and randomly lined up the thoughts that were floating around in his head and just typed them all out at once.

e) Video contents
He would put himself into his lead character Asakawa's shoes to analyze the video images he had described. He realised that the images could be separated into two categories: images that are floating or hidden in the scenes, and images that can actually be seen with the naked eye. He had to make some distinction between the two. How could he do this? Some of the images pass through a person's retina, but the person doesn't don't actually see them, and so doesn't blink. The images that someone can see with the naked eye cause the person blink and are held inside by the black curtain of that blink. Later Koji inserted these blinks into the story. While these images that you can see as they pass into the person's eye, how were they copied onto the tape? Were they broadcast from somewhere? Were they the result of pirated signals? No.

the cover for Koji Suzuki's Spiral
(See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_(Suzuki_novel))

f) Nensha
And how was it recorded? How about a psychic with extraordinary powers? Then he began to look into psychics and began to think that it could be nensha [the ability to project images onto paper, photographs, etc. with the mind]. And so thought "Alright,  so I'll go with nensha. "
Then he began to read up on ESP.  Before that, he hadn't been thinking of putting a psychic in the story. He wasn't really interested in it in the beginning, but he did some reading on the topic such as information about Professor Tomokichi Fukurai who dealt with the subject of Nensha and so on. The story of the Ring really began to unfold from there. Koji never knew what would happen in the creative process. If he can't read ahead to find out what is going to happen, then his readers can't either. That kind of stance is the position a writer has to take.

g) The Crux
He didn't get to the crux of the story until he was actually writing the conclusion, that copying the video would be the key to the cure, and it would only occur to him after everything that Asakawa had seen.

h)  Rasen
He would write the sequel Rasen with an attempt to explain what went on in Ring scientifically
He decided that all human diseases and illnesses are more or less influenced by state of mind.  For example, stomach ulcers come from stress. Stress is psychological, it doesn’t have a physical source. So even if a person is physically healthy, that person's mind mind can affect their health. In short, by watching the video, a sort of consciousness is activated. It sends signals to release virus-like substances from the body in the story that trigger human cells to cause heart attacks.

i) Loop
The third in the trilogy shows the world of Ring and Rasen to be taking place in an artificial reality. Sadako becomes like humanity's cancer and develops into a cancerous metastasization of the Earth itself , that grows exponentially. It's not cancer's nature to want to kill, it's actually quite contradictory. If it spreads to too great an extent, the host will end up dying and so it will too. She wasn't intentionally programmed that way, it was a mistake.



the cover for Loop by Koji Suzuki
(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_(novel))




Source Quote
  1. Curse of the Ring: To speak about the series as a whole, Ring was a horror / thriller, Rasen was more grounded in science, and Loop was more sci-fi. Why did it turn out that each of the three books occupies different genres?
    Koji Suzuki: First of all, the way that Ring came about was... I think this has probably appeared in a different interview somewhere, but with Ring, it was like, At first I didn't have the story. I didn't even have the idea. *1 I didn't have a story to begin with -- I just let the ideas come as they would and then wrote at full-blast. With Ring, I'd get an impression [of the story], but had absolutely no idea of how things would turn out.
    Curse of the Ring: You yourself didn't know.
    Koji Suzuki: That's right. I didn't get the idea for the crux of the story until I was actually writing the conclusion. That copying the video would be the key...
    Curse of the Ring: The cure *2, in effect.
    Koji Suzuki: That's right, the cure. That idea didn't occur to me until the very end. (Laughs)
    Curse of the Ring: So it was like you and Asakawa discovered it together.
    Koji Suzuki: That's right. It occurred to me only after everything that Asakawa had seen.
    Curse of the Ring: Was Rasen written differently, perhaps? Did you go into it thinking, "This is the kind of story I want to write"?
    Koji Suzuki: I had absolutely no idea about the story. But in Ring, there was one part that was really a stretch, or rather, that wasn't very logical. And that was, that if you watch a videotape you will die seven days later. Even I thought that wasn't very logical. There's no basis for something like that to exist. Rasen was written to try and explain this phenomenon, both scientifically and medically. So the parts that were very vague, the "science" of Ring, I wanted to try and explain scientifically in Rasen.
    Curse of the Ring: Aah, I see.
    Koji Suzuki: But the end of Rasen had Takayama Ryuji coming back to life. And that was anything but logical. (Laughs) So to try and explain that in even more scientific terms, Loop was the result. It was a purely scientific novel.(http://www.curseofthering.com/suzuki.php)
  2. Metro: How did you get the idea for The Ring? Koji Suzuki: I don’t do a plot summary when I start a new novel. I follow my inspiration. The Ring was born when I felt I could create an epoch-making story, something extremely interesting. I am not keen on horror movies or stories. In fact, my speciality is French literature. So I was driven by nothing but inspiration when I wrote The Ring. I did not at all intend to write horror.
    Metro: What was the source?
    Koji Suzuki: I thought: ‘What if four girls and boys died of an unnatural causes but in different locations? What if they had a mutually frightening experience?’ And my imagination took off from there. I looked at a videotape that just happened to be there and thought: ‘OK, let’s say they’ve all seen a haunted video. But how was it recorded in the first place? How about by a psychic with extraordinary powers?’ Then I started looking into psychics.
    Metro: The Ring is the first part of a trilogy. Can you expand on the second part [The Spiral], where people’s deaths seem to have a medical explanation?
    Koji Suzuki: All human diseases and illnesses are more or less influenced by state of mind. For example, stomach ulcers come from stress. Stress is psychological, it doesn’t have a physical source. So even if you are physically healthy, your mind can affect your health. In short, by watching the video, a sort of consciousness is activated. It sends signals to release virus-like substances from the body that trigger human cells to cause heart attacks. (http://metro.co.uk/2009/10/27/koji-suzuki-636073)
  3. What was the impetus behind the story of  the Ring?
    Koji suzuki: I used to work as a cram school teacher, and my pupils were always bugging me to tell them scary stories. Never funny stories or touching stories, only scary ones. I like thinking up stories, so I made some up to tell them. It was during this time that I realized how to make someone scared. It has something to do with children. For example, I'd say something like "This scary thing happened in New York..." and start telling a story about something that happened far away. But in the end, just when the people who'd been listening to this story knew that something scary was about to happen, they'd suddenly think that it was going to happen to them. I thought it wasn't possible to use this technique in a novel, and actually when I was writing the Ring, I wasn't really thinking about it at all. But looking back now, I realize that this idea was present in my subconscious. When I'm working on my novels, I'm not really conscious of what I'm doing. The plot isn't decided at the onset--something in the air just sets me off and I start writing. No one knows what will happen. However, there are all sorts of thoughts and experiences piled up inside me that come out when I'm writing. Even if I say I wasn't aware of it, there were still elements of my experience with those students floating around in the back of my mind.
    In the Ring novel, the flickering cuts in the video are dreadfully scary.
    Koji suzuki: Yes, but that wasn't what I was thinking about from the beginning. The idea that started the Ring was, "What if four men died in different places at the exact same time?" Then I had to think of what these men had in common, something they had caught. A virus? Maybe a virus that kills exactly one week after someone is infected. So they had to be together at in the same place at that time. Then the problem became deciding on what the virus was. A toxin in the food? No, it would have to be something you could see. A ghost? No, not in this day and age.
    I was thinking about this when I looked next to my word processor and saw a videotape. Oh, yeah, so I'll have the four people watch the video tape. But what's on this tape? It's not a coherent, logical story, just a string of fragmentary scenes. When creating those images, I had to refrain from thinking logically. I randomly lined up the thoughts that were floating around in my head and just typed them all out at once.
    Later, I put myself in Asakawa's shoes to analyze the video images I had described. I realized that the images could be separated into two categories: images that are floating or hidden in the scenes, and images that can actually be seen with the naked eye. I had to make some distinction between the two. How could I do this? Some of the images pass through your retina, but you don't actually see them, and so you don't blink. The images that you can see with you naked eye cause you to blink and are held inside by the black curtain of that blink. And then later I inserted these blinks into the story. Well, these images that you can see as they pass into your eye, how were they copied onto the tape? Were they broadcast from somewhere? Were they the result of pirated signals? No. Then I began to think that it could be nensha [the ability to project images onto paper, photographs, etc. with the mind]. Alright, so I'll go with nensha.
    Then I began to read up on ESP. Before that, I hadn't been thinking of putting a psychic in the story. I wasn't really interested in it in the beginning, but I did some reading on the topic. You know, about Professor Fukurai and so on. The story of the Ring really began to unfold from there. You never know what will happen in the creative process, do you? If I can't read ahead to find out what is going to happen, then my readers can't either. That kind of stance is the position a writer has to take. (http://www.curseofthering.com/koji.php
  4.  Koji Suzuki: I thought I was writing a very logical story and a very scientific one too. Four men and women ended up dying unnatural deaths, a the same time in different places. What could be the cause? Was it a virus or food poisoning? I was writing logically, but I had to include an element of the occult as the story unfolded. Because I wanted to make the common cause of their deaths to have been from watching a video. It came to me from my two-year-old daughter. When I was searching for an idea, she came trotting towards me, left a video tape and trotted off. Then I made them see the same video, making it up from there. (Arrow video Hideo Nakata's Dark Water blu-ray. Interview with Koji Suzuki, english subtitles)
  5. Curse of the Ring: And now, Sadako desires humanity's extinction?
    Koji Suzuki: I wouldn't really say that she desires it. Sadako was more... Well, like a cancer cell. A group of cells, not a living creature per se. So Sadako can be considered more like humanity's cancer. This "substance" that we call Yamamura Sadako is more like a cancerous metastasization of the Earth itself, one that grew exponentially.
    Curse of the Ring: I see. So it's not so much that she desires humanity's extinction as it is, she's simply operating as an organism.
    Koji Suzuki: That's right. It's not in cancer's nature to want to kill. Cancer is actually quite contradictory. If the cancer spreads to too great an extent, the host will end up dying. And if the host dies, it dies, too [laughs]. So it's contradictory.
    Curse of the Ring: But Loop [the third volume in the Ring series] is a story involving artificial reality, isn't it?
    Koji Suzuki: Yes.
    Curse of the Ring: So ultimately, all this is taking place inside of a computer program. And if Yamamura Sadako is, as you stated before, a kind of cancer, is this because she was programmed that way?
    Koji Suzuki: Well... She wasn't intentionally programmed that way. It was a mistake.(http://www.curseofthering.com/suzuki.php

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