Twelve-Word Tuesday: Voltron: Legendary Defender

Well crafted. Light-hearted. Hints of gender nonconformity. But still embraces redemptive violence.

I was an 80’s kid who always (skeptically) looks forward to modern updates and remakes of old childhood favorites … especially since the old cartoons often don’t hold up well (try watching old episodes of Transformers, GI Joe, or Thundercats without cringing).

A lot of the updates are quite good. But virtually all of them play into the myth of redemptive violence, with the exception of updates of “girl toy cartoons” (I hate myself for typing that sentence, but that’s how it was seen in the 1980’s) like the adorable My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which I love to watch with my daughter.

Voltron: Legendary Defender is especially well done. The animation, music, voice work, characterization, and even dialogue are top-notch, and appropriate for children (though not for a 3-year old). The plot is serialized, and each episode leaves the viewer in suspense for the next. I have been thoroughly enjoying watching it myself.

The heroes’ success turns on teamwork and on realizing the importance of putting aside their own personal needs in order to protect society at large, which are good things.

Of course, protecting society at large mostly involves blowing up massive numbers of enemy ships, robots, and mecha. It’s the myth of redemptive violence all the way down.

I know it takes a little more thought to come up with non-violent plots, especially in a show with a violent predecessor, but the excellent Transformers Rescue Bots (and the aforementioned My Little Pony) proves it is possible to design action-packed kids cartoons, and even to draw off Gen-X nostalgia, without glorifying violence.

I just wish more people would do it.

(Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1 is available on Netflix now).

 

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Freestyle Friday: Becoming a Writer

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I realized two things recently about my fiction writing. One of them should have been evident from the beginning: that I have trouble finishing what I start (that’s the thing that kills most writers’ dreams. You can’t work on the same novel for ten years and expect anything to happen, and you can’t do a thing with twenty half-finished stories).

The other is a little more humbling and required a good big of introspection and distance: I don’t yet have the writing skill I need. I’m not yet good enough.

(That “YET” is a key part of this. It goes back to the Growth Mindset, which I discuss in my Willpower Wednesdays posts).

What it took for me to realize this was writing something that was actually good. I mean, really, really good in the sense of being everything I wanted it to be:

  • An engaging and relatable main character (Polly)
    • with a real reason to be out doing what she’s doing
    • and with real agency within the plot (she drives the whole thing, really)
  • A fast pace, with lots of kinetic action
  • Protagonists who do not solve their problems with violence
    • Specifically, a narrative that refutes the myth of redemptive violence at every turn
    • Without actually heavy-handedly mentioning that it’s doing so
  • Breezy reading style (meaning it reads quickly)
  • Vivid descriptions, with lots of nice set pieces (it would make a good movie)
  • A positive, joyful vibe that made it a pleasure to write

… and then trying and failing for two and a half years to make lightning strike twice.

I know what I want to write. I wrote what I want to write. But I don’t have the skill to write it again … yet.

This means I’m not really ready to be writing fiction right now. This means that I need to do what I should have done twenty+ years ago … sit down and spend a few months (or more) actively practicing my fiction skills every day.

I’m still researching the best ways to do this, but I’ve got a tentative plan. Since my biggest issue is not being able to recreate a protagonist who is relatable enough and relatably driven enough to drive the whole plot of a novel, I’m going to start by writing short stories (using a short story-writing textbook I’ve found), aiming to create characters relatable enough and relatably driven enough to drive short works. With enough practice driving 2000-3000 word stories, I’ll hopefully get the fundamentals and be able to drive novellas and novels.

Along the way, I’ll try to improve my technical skills (more on that in a later post), but that driving force protagonist is the main missing piece. So that’s what I’ll work on first.

Things are all coming together in a way. If I hadn’t been studying Grit and its associated factors (including the Growth Mindset and deliberate practice), I doubt I would have ever thought to do this.