5 Things GT Could Have Done Well (But Didn’t)

Dragon Ball GT is generally considered the trash-fire of Dragon Ball series, especially now that we’ve had Super carry the torch. It ran for 64 episodes, beginning right after Dragon Ball Z finally ran down in 1996, and unlike the previous seasons, was not based of off the manga, and had very little input from the original creator, Akira Toriyama, outside of some initial concept art and general well-wishing. Many fans don’t even consider it canon, and it felt a lot like what happens when a show is run by committee. People miss kid Goku? We’ll make him tiny again! People loved Future Trucks? We’ll give them adult Trunks! Want a female Saiyan? Have Gohan’s daughter!

On paper, a lot of things about GT could have been really good. Trying to reclaim the charm of the original Dragon Ball series, utilizing Future Trunks, and having female characters that aren’t horrible, are all things that Super has also tried to do, with what I think are much better results. But going into the intricacies of how GT failed or not could take us forever. Maybe I’ll dive into that later, but today I feel like a good old top-five list, so lets hit it!

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Thoughts on Riverdale

Riverdale is a trip.

I realize most of the world is obsessing over the ongoing third season, or has abandoned ship altogether, but I put off watching Riverdale for awhile, so I’m only now adjusting to the odd combo that is classic Archie comics meets Veronica Mars. And I gotta say…I don’t hate it.

I grew up on Archie comics. A friend turned me on to them around 4th grade, and they were like a whole new world. I’d never been into comic books. I’d gotten close with comic strips in the newspaper, but had never considered going in a comic book store. I thought of DC and Marvel comics as “boys stuff”. Of course now I know how ridiculous that was, but at the time I didn’t think they were something I would be interested in.

Archie comics were like magic. I could buy them at the grocery store, so they were easy to get, and they almost always had new ones. It triggered my collector’s instincts as well–I’d already fallen for beanie babies, and this involved story and characters.

I remember vividly sitting in a lawn chair one summer, a giant bag of Archie comics next to me, methodically devouring them one by one. It was a perfect day.

Riverdale is a far cry from the comics I grew up loving, but I think that’s a good thing. They inspired an interest in comics, but they couldn’t sustain it. In the idyllic world of classic Riverdale, nothing changed. Archie was always veering between Betty and Veronica; Jughead was always eating; no matter what happened in any one volume, everything always reset by the next one.

I eventually moved on from Archie to fall in love with shojo manga, which had all the drama but with actual consequences, character development, and resolution. But you never forget your first love.

Riverdale is, quite simply, fanfiction at it’s best. It’s an excellent AU (alternative universe) that’s so far removed from it’s original characters that no one would notice the connection if you changed all the proper nouns. It does what great fanfiction does; shakes up the characters, changes the rules, and suddenly those stiff characters are forced to grow and change and evolve in ways most people could never have imagined.

That’s not to say it’s without issue. It’s so different that I almost wish it weren’t Archie; there’s nothing that really requires it to be set in that world. The similarities it shares to it’s original source material are the similarities any teen drama shares: love triangles, the girl next door, the tortured soul of a musician, the reclusive rebel. But I suppose without the backdrop of nostalgia, it would lose some of it’s flavor. Sure, the murder mystery at the core of the story is intriguing, but what’s more intriguing is finding out that (spoilers!) goody-goody Archie is sleeping with his teacher; Veronica’s wealthy father is in jail; Jughead cares for something other than hamburgers. And yeah, almost everyone is a suspect in the mysterious death of Jason Blossom.

Without the history of Archie comics lending that strange disorientation to the show, I think it would be unremarkable in a sea of teen drama. Other shows have done the drama better; still others have done the mystery better. But by combining them, Riverdale has done Archie probably better than it’s ever been done before, and I think that’s pretty remarkable.

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Musical Monday #12: Good Old Days

This week we’re jumping back into that bittersweet nostalgic feeling I apparently really like in songs (see, I’m learning things as this experiment goes!). We’re also bringing back Kesha, but this time she’s backing up Macklemore, and her tone’s a bit different than it was all those years ago when she did Tik Tok.

 

“Good Old Days” by Macklemore

Lyrics | iTunes

I love that the music video for this song swings back and forth from fun and care-free to contemplative; it gives the feeling of looking back, and getting lost in memories, without completely losing track of your perspective.

This song reminds us to live in the moment, but also seems to acknowledge how difficult that is to do. Everything looks a little rosier in hindsight, doesn’t it? Horrible ordeals can become funny stories; boring days can take on a sheen of wonder. It’s easy to get lost in the frustrations of daily life, and not see how wonderful things are, simply because it feels like they will always be that way.

I think there’s a danger to nostalgia, though. If you’re always looking back at the “good old days,” you’re not living in the current days…and soon you’ll be looking back on them. It’s a cycle that just continues; I don’t think we can truly break out of it, but we can try to appreciate things as they currently are.

Life can change so quickly. It’s amazing how something can become routine in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t even have to be through something dramatic, like graduating college or moving to a new town. Maybe you never knew how to knit until your friend bought you a knitting book for Christmas, and a few months later it’s become an intrinsic part of your identity. You’re suddenly a Knitter. We don’t see it happening until it’s already done, but looking back, the steps seem so clear.

“I wish somebody would have told me, babe,
Someday, these will be the good old days,
All the love you won’t forget,
And all these reckless nights you won’t regret,
Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change,
You’ll miss the magic of these good old days…”

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Musical Monday 11: Håll Om Mig

Look, it’s Musical Monday! Now let’s skip over how many months it’s been, and get straight to the main event…

This week’s song comes to you from Sweden, but it’s journey is complicated. I discovered this song through an AMV–an Anime Music Video. For the uninitiated, these are fan videos made using imagery from popular media, synced up to unrelated songs (done without permission by either original creator). “Fanvids” exist across fandoms, and are a kind of transformative fanwork. Although they play a little fast and lose with copyright law, they are an art form that expands on the original media, so generally I don’t have any moral qualms about them. And they can be amazing.

The video that features this song is called Hold Me Now, by a creator going by “alkampfer81” of Tidirium Studio (according to animemusicvideos.org, anyway). It was created in 2006, and gained a number of awards in AMV contests that year. And for good reason. It is a masterpiece. The timing is exquisite, with seamless editing and impeccable pacing. It convinced me to watch its source material, an anime called Princess Tutu, which is a loose retelling of Swan Lake that draws heavily on fairytales and ballets for inspiration.

Warning: there are spoilers to the anime in this video, since most of the imagery comes from the second half of the show, which has a decidedly darker tone than the first half.

The song is in Swedish, but even without knowing the lyrics, the video speaks pretty clearly for itself. The song is about being enchanted by love–a theme that definitely fits with the show.

 

“Håll Om Mig” by Nanne Grönvall

Lyrics | iTunes

I’ve love this song since I first watched the video. As I said above, it was the main reason I watched the anime. Until seeing this video, I’d brushed the show off as being another derivation Magical Girl anime. I could not have been more wrong. This show is not only darker than I ever expected, but deeper as well, with rich characters who grow and change over the course of the show, a complex plot, and a compelling heart.

The song can also stand alone, and is one of my favorites in its own right. It’s got such a strong beat, and really lends itself to singing along, even if I know I’m getting the lyrics all wrong.

“Att vår värld behöver ha,
Mera kärlek varje dag,
Det vet både jag och du,
Låt oss börja här och nu.

“Så håll om mig,
Släpp inte taget om mig,
Är som förhäxad av dig,
Och jag vill ha dig,
Kom och håll om mig nu…”
 
[translated]

“That our world needs,
More love every day,
Both you and I are well aware of that,
So let us start right here and now.”


“So hold me,
Don’t let go of me,
I’m as bewitched of you,
And I want you,
Come and hold me now…”

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Exciting News

I’m so happy to announce that I have a short story in a new anthology! The book is called Oregon’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction, and my story is called “Crush”, about a girl processing her crush on her band’s guitarist in the midst of their first gig.

oregon_s_emerging_writers_an_anthology_of_fiction_grande

Look, it’s a book!

Here’s a little excerpt from the beginning:


Sam has the prettiest eyes. They’re the color of Oregon sky above a drizzly sea, and only a shade grayer than her baby-blue guitar. No matter what she’s saying, or what song she’s playing, it always feels like she’s looking directly at me.

She’s straight as a flute, of course. They always are.

“Wow.”

I jerk, hitting the note too late, too sharp, and swear. Sam laughs.

“What?” I say, holding the mic tightly in front of me like a tether.

“Sorry.” Sam lets her hands fall from the guitar’s strings, cradling it gently in one hand. “I was gonna say, you just sing this song so well.” She winks. Bastard.

“You were great too, baby,” Mike, Sam’s boyfriend, calls from a table. Sam blows him a kiss, and then her eyes snap back to me.

“Should we take it from the top?”

I nod, adjust the mic on its stand. Rachel, our drummer, taps in the beat of the song, and Sam picks the first few lines of melody. I close my eyes, squeeze the mic, and let go.


Of course, to read the full thing, you’re going to need to buy the book. You can buy the softcover here, and they have an affiliate program, so if you follow any of the links in this post and end up purchasing something from their site, that’ll kick a little something back to me as well.

I am really excited about this! It’s my first real publication credit, and I’m pretty proud of the story itself. It’s YA and LGBTQ+, both things I love writing, and I really like how the voice turned out. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many!

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Outlining: Easy As A, B, C

Alright now, before we go much further we have to introduce a common held belief in the NaNoWriMo culture: the idea that there are two kinds of writers, those that plot out their stories in detail beforehand, and those that write by the seat of their pants. They’re affectionately referred to as “plotters” and “pantsers.” Neither is right or wrong; it just comes down to how your brain works.

With that said, I believe that we’re all a bit of both. The most meticulously planned out story can still take a wild turn, and even the most spontaneous story can often benefit from at least a bit of direction, even if it’s only so much as a vague idea or a few prompts. I’ve tried both, and while I find that more complicated outlining techniques are great for second and third and fourth drafts, I need something simpler for rough drafts.

This technique is not unique or original. I picked it up from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The idea is to have three plot lines (A, B, and C, get it?), which you can jump back and forth between. Imagine an episode of TNG: the ship has been sent on a diplomatic mission, and Captain Picard is in charge of handling contact with an alien planet. That’s your A plot line. In the meantime, Wesley Crusher has discovered something strange in his studies, and Riker is humoring him and helping him figure it out (B plot line). And periodically, we see Data and Geordi preparing for their weekly poker game (C plot line). Throughout the 45 minute episode, we’ll jump back and forth between these. Ultimately, Wesley’s project may prove to be related to Captain Picard’s mission. Or maybe Geordi and Data will unearth an important malfunction while they’re trying to create the perfect poker program on the holodeck, and we’ll discover that Wesley was right all along, while Picard continues on undisturbed. Occasionally all three plot lines will overlap.

You will see this format a lot through television; sometimes very overtly, like in the example above, and sometimes more subtly. But the point is, these three plot lines allow you the freedom to jump around in the story. It gives you something to turn to when you’re stuck, or when you need a change of pace to undercut tension, or a break for comic relief. It keeps your story new and interesting, for your future readers but also for yourself.

With Nano, your biggest danger is feeling trapped in a scene you don’t want to be writing. If that happens, I recommend you skip it, and the easiest way to do that is to swing over to one of your other plot lines. Your goal here is to keep momentum going. You can come back to boring scenes in the editing phase (and chances are, you may not need them after all).

You don’t have to use three plot lines, but too many and you’ll lose track of what you’re doing, and too few will leave you with not enough variety to keep your brain going.

Now, how to keep track of those plot lines? I do it with three columns, shown below. Let’s use that theoretical Stark Trek episode, shall we?

Three columns:  A Picard preps for the first meeting. Picard is shown around the alien planet. Picards meets the two conflicting cultures he must mediate. Things go awry during the negotiations. Picard consults with Troi back at the ship. Through an interaction with Westley, they learn that the teenagers of the two cultures have been intermingling through an MMORPG They confront the adults with the help of the teens, and show that cultures can work together to overcome their differences. B Westley is studyng an MMO. He joins a new guild, and discovers that they’re not from the ship. He determines that his new online BFFs are from the planet below. But shocker: they’re made up of people from both cultures. He confides in Riker about what he’s learned, and they go to Troi and the Captain As they leave the area, Westley signs on for a session with his guild, still connected through the same server due to help from Geordi and Data. C Data and Geordi get ready for their next poker game, but they want to shake things up. Data has a new holodeck program for their game, but Geordi thinks it’s a little too clinical. He tells Data to consult old Noir novels. Data goes a little hard on the Noir theme, and Geordi has to reel him in, explaining that he needs to take his friends’  personalities into account. They all gather around the game at last, happy and content in the bar Data designed for them.

I’ve laid out the main plot points above. You can see that the three plot lines don’t all line up perfectly, and there are a lot of holes to fill in. But this way when I sit down to write, I just have to pick a plot line to focus on. If I finish a scene and need a change, I can jump to another one. It’s all right there; I just have to connect points, build up to others, and let inspiration strike. Most importantly, I always have something to turn to if I get stuck.

I find this method really easy to generate quickly, and just as easy to adjust or ignore when I’m in the thick of writing. Hopefully, it’ll help you start building that road map to your own novel!

Next time, we’re going to dig into characters!

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Habits for A Happy NaNoWriMo

My first rule of NaNoWriMo is: start on time.

I really can’t emphasize this enough; there may be no mathematical difference between being 5,000 words behind in Week 1 and 5,000 words behind in Week 3, but that 5,000 words will feel a lot easier to make up when you’ve already written 35,000, as opposed to staring down a big blank page.

The key to starting on time, and keeping on top of your word count, is to build good habits, and build them early. Since we’re spending this month prepping for November, I say, start building those habits now, while the stakes are low.

Figure out when you can fit writing into your schedule. It won’t happen naturally; otherwise, you’d already be doing it. If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, chances are you like writing, and have at least thought about being a writer before. Well, this is how you do it: writing, consistently, ongoingly. I’m not saying you have to write every single day or you’re not a real writer, but you do have to write to be a writer. And the easiest way to do that is to make it into a habit.

There is no cookie cutter answer to this question; the habit will be different for everyone. Maybe you’re a night owl, so writing before bed works the best. Maybe it’s easiest for you to get up a little extra early, and write before you go to work or wake your kids up for school. Maybe you’re going to go to a cafe everyday after class and bang out your word count. Try one thing, and if that doesn’t seem to work, try something else; you’ll find your sweet spot, and it’ll make the whole process easier.

The more of a ritual you can make of this, the easier it will be to trick your brain into being productive on a daily basis. My first year doing Nano, I bought packs of instant apple cider mix, and whenever I wrote, I made myself a warm cup of cider. To this day, warm apple cider is something I associate with writing, and when I have it, it’s that much quicker for me to slip into Writing Mode.

Of course, you won’t really know what works until you’re in the thick of it in November, but now is the perfect time to experiment. Set aside some time, start jotting down notes about the stories in your head, and find out what habits work best for you.

Next time, we’ll look at building a rough outline for your Nano novel!

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