3 Rules for Writing Comic Strips

The comic strip world is in shambles. Back in my day, we had good comics.

Call them the “funny pages,” do you? These simple line drawings are the touch-stone of our culture!

Or – they should be…if they hadn’t been infected by lazy writers who don’t know what they’re doing.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: it is I, knower of everything, who have come to share exactly what is wrong with modern comic strips (that even goes for classics like Blondie whose current strips are being written by contemporary wannabe hacks)…and how anyone can produce a quality comic strip with my three easy steps.

Listen to me. After all, I know everything there is to know…and I am here to offer my gracious instruction to all you young whippersnappers.

1. Look Pretty

In the good old days, comics were nice to look at. Maybe the characters weren’t beautiful, but they weren’t a pile a squashed polygons that look like a made-in-China Picasso.

The lines were clean…the shapes were pleasing… You could tell what the backgrounds were, and what the characters were supposed to be.

3 Rules for Writing Comic Strips — Kimia Wood

Image courtesy of xkcd

Even “ugly” characters were somehow cute – or at least funny.

Minimalism is okay, too. But even simple designs can still lead the eye smoothly and give it satisfying shapes to look at.

Bottom line – in the old days, you could stare at the drawings without going blind.

You want to be a real comic strip writer? (Of course you do!) Then draw characters you wouldn’t mind hanging full-size on your wall!

If the people’s heads look like a pumpkin had an unfortunate accident with a tall building, you need some more work! If you don’t want your characters attractive, or cute…at least make their designs funny. You’re a comic strip writer.

2. Be Funny

Listen, my friend. You hold a valuable piece of our republic in your hands.

The comic pages are the one and only reason my grandpa buys a newspaper at all…and then only on Sundays…

And only for Sherman’s Lagoon.

You’re not competing with paint drying, you know. Put in a little effort! Do you want your character’s face used to light the fire in the morning?

Or do you want to hang on the bulletin board at work, for all the coworkers to see?

3 Rules for Writing Comic Strips — Kimia Wood

Image credit: ComicsKingdom

Trust me, your fellow comic writers are scraping the bottom of the barrel. (The next person to invent a fresh joke about Black Friday sales is getting the Pulitzer.) You don’t have to reach that far above them.

We all get that social media is a thing, now. Unless you have a really, truly unique gag about that inane fact (or about wives dissing their husbands, or kids whining about school, or any of the other tired, boring stereotypes) then just leave it alone.

Make your characters do interesting things. Force them to say interesting things.

If they’re just floating aimlessly across the page – nobody is going to care.

I don’t! And I am the gold standard for everything. (I also know everything, in case you’ve forgotten.)

There are loads of hilarious things in the world! Use some of them! Like the time our goat got so snarled around a tree with her cable that she literally got her hoof stuck in her collar.

Yeah, I just had to chuckle while I was untangling her.

Be the strip we tape to the bathroom mirror so we can wake up happy. Don’t be the strip that we read – and then feel absolutely nothing.

3. Aim for Timelessness

I don’t think I’ve said this part yet, so let me be clear:

You’re writing a comic strip.

This is not your personal editorial column, or your MySpace page. (Though if you can’t get published anywhere but MySpace…there might be a reason for that?)

By the way, no reason but I saw this hilarious comic strip skewering President Ford the other day. I can’t decide if that, or the one mocking Caesar Augustus, is my favorite –

Said no one ever!

Look. Shakespeare made bank with Julius Caesar because he tapped into the emotions of pride, jealousy, and betrayal that span all humanity.

Hamlet is still performed because it speaks to the doubts and longings common to our shared human experience…not because the Danish royal court is “relevant” or anything.

Yes I just compared Shakespeare to comic strips no I’m not sorry.

Sure, everyone else calls you the “funny pages” and uses you for a coffee mug coaster. Is that who you want to be?

Close your eyes and imagine five years from now…ten years from now… You’re holding the anniversary collection of your strip in your hands.

Are all the jokes lame and nonsensical because you’re mocking political figures that ran out their terms of office before your kids were born?

Who’s going to be laughing then?

No one! That’s who!

And your job is to be funny, for Calvin’s sake. (Calvin and Hobbes, of course.)

If no one will be interested in buying hardcover collector’s edition books of your strips because they’ll be meaningless after the next election cycle – think about that for a moment.

Crafting the Perfect Comic Strip

My time as your muse is drawing to a close. Just remember these three crucial points:

  1. Draw pictures you can enjoy looking at…staring at…and coming back to.
  2. Write plots and dialogue that actually get a chuckle. Or a wry grin. Or an appreciative snort.
  3. Dig deeper, aim higher, and create something people will come back to again, and again…and again, to read to their kids.

Unless, of course, you’re just here to make sure Frazz still has newspapers to distribute his genius.

In that case, I bow to your sacrificial support of the greater good.


3 Rules for Writing Comic Strips — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family…including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits. You’ll also receive a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier!

“Space Station ICE-3” by Bruce Coville

In revisiting old reads, I picked up this sci fi tween mystery (the protagonist is sixteen, so I’d call it YA…except that it’s much closer to a Hardy Boys than a Hunger Games).

Young Rusty has discovered a dead body in the disposal vat on the colony space station…but no one believes him except his earth-bound grandpa, and his grandpa’s “old friend” – the legendary genius scientist who basically invented most of the space station.

Dead bodies…space…check, check. I enjoyed it as a tween/teen, and I enjoyed it now…though I also noticed more of the author’s secular, exploratory worldview peeking through.

Rusty: Teen, Researcher, Detective…Talking Point

The first thing that struck me about our teen protagonist is something I missed when I was a teen myself.

The voice is masterfully done – actually sounding like a real sixteen-year-old might – and the first-person perspective acts like he’s recording these events for posterity.

Thus, when Rusty opens his book by describing the colony space station he lives in floating about the Earth, he notes as an aside:

I realize we all know these things, but my grandfather [an author] “keeps reminding me that just because we all know something now, it doesn’t mean people will know it ten years from now. He says I should never underestimate the human capacity for ignorance, and if I want people to read this book ten years from now, I’d better make everything clear.”

Cute way of introducing us into this world while still maintaining a realistic perspective for the characters in the world.

But…did you pick up on what I picked up on?

There’s a slight condescension, the hint of a “some people are just so ignorant” – and this permeates the whole story.

This fits right in with the thesis of the story.

After reading the story with an adult perspective, the “message” of this little novel could well be phrased as: “Smart people should be allowed to ask any questions/study any problem they want to.”

All fine and good, as far as it goes…but how far does it go? And besides that, Rusty repeatedly complains about stuffy gate-keepers, thick-headed authority figures…basically anyone standing in the way of Science! because of foolish misgivings.

Interesting for a “scientific researcher” to be so dismissive of other viewpoints…

(I’m also never a fan of the “adults don’t take me seriously!” trope.)

Aside from that…

Rusty is a great protagonist. He has normal, understandable faults – that actually tie in to the plot. He sees problems, and digs around for a solution. If someone is in trouble, he races to help (against the better judgement of people who have that).

One of the biggest elements in my original read was his soft romance with a girl he meets in the course of his adventures. Now – as then – I appreciate how it’s crafted realistically (an awkward yet hormonal boy wants a suspicious yet intelligent girl his own age to like him)…while also not pushing it beyond where the plot could take it (they do run off in the middle of the night to do investigating by themselves, but in the last chapter they’re about to have only their first date).

The first-person record is also handled expertly, with little asides from time to time as Rusty explains things we need to understand this part of the story, or reminds us that he wasn’t thinking clearly in the stress of the situation, so don’t be too hard on him.

Mystery and Smarts

Part of the difficulty with writing – especially writing mysteries – is making your characters look smart, not just claim to be smart.

For having so many PhDs in the story – and placing so much of the action on a floating research lab – the author does a pretty good job of painting a picture of actual scientists doing actual research (test tubes, microscopes, computer banks, literal lab mice).

This goes for the characters, too.

The legendary reclusive genius – who helps Rusty investigate the disappearing body in the disposal vat – is introduced to us with an ego the size of the moon…and the smarts to match.

After telling us this, however, the author then goes on to show this character making logical deductions, extrapolating from incomplete data, and doing other mental detective work. With just the right amount of detail, we can watch the genius being a genius without needing a Robert-Ludlum-sized conspiracy to unravel.

As for the actual murder…

I can’t say too much without getting into spoilers and a discussion of the Science! theme…

But I can say the villain’s motive isn’t super strong or clear.

Most of the side characters are fleshed out enough for their roles – and some of them border on the complex – but while the villain has touches of nuance, they don’t have enough screen-time to really explore why they do what they do.

On the other hand, they aren’t laughably “evil for the sake of evil,” nor a “twist villain for the sake of shocking the audience.” The clues that lead to the mastermind are subtle, but there…especially on this re-read.

Except for one forehead-slapping incident, the teen-detectives in the book act pretty smart.

Sure, they run off in the middle of the night to do investigating, but when they get in trouble they at least try to call for help. (They apparently don’t remember that doors open from either side, though.)

I have a couple other quibbles (especially about the “twist”), but I don’t need to go into them here.

Everything Comes Down to Science!

The author clearly had fun building his dream colony, where everything is recycled down to the last atom (except human bodies, which get sentimental burials-in-space), every occupant pulls their weight (whether in scientific research, supporting the running of the station, or both), and everyone has been background- and personality-checked for maximum harmony.

A big thing in the beginning of the book is that the station has no police force – just the entirely different “Office of Dispute Management” – so Rusty doesn’t know who to report a murder to.

And yet, for all that the colonists were screened to avoid “explosive personality combinations” (yes, really) and live in a rational, scientific paradise…Rusty still gets in heated arguments with his parents. Some individuals are still skirting the rules – and willing to commit violence to cover it up.

For all their advanced technology and scientific exploration, the characters still yell at each other, make mistakes, and have all the real, human problems people have always had.

I’d call this deliberate…except for the novel’s thesis.

I think the author was just too good. He knew what human beings were like, and so wrote them with all the flaws and weaknesses we have in real life.

Meanwhile, his intellectual, humanist worldview insists that humans can improve ourselves, screen out “explosive personality combinations” (unless a couple has a kid they’re not compatible with…), and push the boundaries of the physical – and moral – world.

Rusty closes out his little book by insisting scientists should be allowed to “follow any question,” no matter where it leads.

Even after watching one scientist use gene-splicing to accidentally create a deadly rage virus…realizing there’s a black market for scientific discoveries – and genius scientists…

Even after seeing all the ways this could go wrong, Rusty still thinks that “repressing” the scientific mind only encourages more risky behavior in the pursuit of the answers.

Are people more likely to create human clones if you tell them it’s too morally risky to do so? Will some people just gene-splice, no matter what you say, so you might as well let them gene-splice “safely” – in the open?

In some ways, these are two different questions:

Should Bureaucracy A dictate what Scientist B does in his lab?

If they’re paying for it, absolutely. Otherwise, my libertarian side says, “No way.”

But – Are there some things that shouldn’t be explored? Some questions that shouldn’t be answered?

Are clones human? Or replacement-organs-on-demand? If we can protect some babies from some disease by altering their genes, does that give us the right to change their actual DNA – theirs, and that of any kids they might have…through all time?

My Christian, trans-temporal worldview tells me, “No. Some things should not be grasped. Some answers should not be given.”

God has put a lot of things into the creation to help us and heal us…but we shouldn’t pursue those things beyond their proper place. Whether we’re chasing Science! because we want to see new things, or because we want to cheat death and suffering, we must be pursuing Jesus first and foremost.

Imagine if Adam had been content with not being God.

Find Answers for Yourself

This little novel is about as squeaky-clean as they come. There’s some light descriptions of death and decay, and some even lighter description of Rusty’s adolescent crush on the girl.

The science is solid – but not heavy enough to scare off non-nerds.

Really, the most problematic thing about it is the worldview…and we should be discussing that with our kids about every book we read.

So – whether you’re a Christian homeschool teen looking for something fun (that you won’t be embarrassed to read)…or you’re a parent looking to keep your voracious reader busy with things that will feed his brain…this is a solid story with decent characters, a mystery that will engage the brain, a dash of outer space – and enough questions about the morality of Science! that will keep the whole family talking at the dinner table!


Space Station ICE-3 is available on Amazon, eBay, and Albris (though they don’t have an image or description, just the metadata). Finding old, discontinued books is hard, apparently! Here is its Goodreads page.

You can also find out more about the author at his Amazon Author Page and on his official site: BruceCoville.com.

“Eight Cousins” by Louisa May Alcott

"Eight Cousins" by Louisa May Alcott — Kimia Wood My tattered paperback attests that this simple classic was my absolute favorite book at the age of twelve.

Revisiting it a full fifteen years later not only brings fresh perspective on the situations and characters I once adored, but confirms that this “Young Adult” novel is one for the ages!

Seven Boys and a Girl

Rose Campbell has recently lost her father, and so is forced to move in with her great-aunts on the “Aunt Hill,” where the whole of her large extended family is eager to meet her.

But all seven of her cousins are boys! Oh, what is a poor, sheltered little flower to do?

Worst of all, when her new guardian – her uncle Dr. Alec – shows up, he turns out to be so eccentric that he wants her to run (the un-lady-like horror)…to wear loose-fitting scarves and dresses of bright colors (not the belt that held in her petite waist)…to eat plenty of healthy, wholesome food…to work with her hands…and overall to fill out her small frame, rosy up her cheeks, and draw her out of herself so that she can become the healthy, confident, caring young woman she was meant to be. Continue reading

“My Hero Academia” (Seasons 1 thru 4)

"My Hero Academia" (Seasons 1 thru 4) — Kimia Wood In a superhuman society, these kids work hard to one day use their abilities as Heroes.

Anime has opened up a new world for me. After hearing My Hero Academia hyped enough on the internet, we checked it out…and, well, it made it onto my list of 27 things I like best.

The themes, world-building, and characterization are astounding, and the arcs they take the characters on are impressive, too. It’s not perfect – some story-telling choices are sloppy, and the main lead is insufferable at times – but it’s still incredible…and with only a few caveats, I can recommend it to everyone (even my mom, though she’s not into shonen).

(Note: I am only reviewing the anime…not the manga, any of the movies, or the video game – because, yeah, apparently there’s a video game. Who knew?)

The Super-Charged Cast

MHA accomplishes the remarkable feat of creating a large cast where each member is memorable, and has their own personality.

At the beginning, there are, say, four or five stand-outs that serve as our “power trio” (I know the math doesn’t come out – work with me), while the rest of the first-year class is a blur of unpronounceable Japanese names.

But after a season or two, every single member of the class has had a chance to shine…to display a personality quirk, reveal depth of character, or establish a stable relationship dynamic for us to remember them by.

Let’s start at the top.

Whiny Green-hair

Our young heroic protagonist is Deku, a boy born without a Quirk – this universe’s term for the unique superpower that 80% of the population is born with.

These abilities range from having a big tail, to being invisible, to cancelling gravity on things you touch, to shooting explosions with your hands.

But Deku was born without any Quirk. He still dreamed of being a great hero like his idol All-Might (the Number 1 professional hero – “saving everyone with a big smile”), and when the inciting incident gives him a Quirk, he enrolls in “hero high school” to train his abilities and join an agency one day.

Why did we give him the nickname “Whiny Green-hair” before we could remember his Japanese name?

Uah…He’s one of the three problems with the show.

Deku is earnest and selfless…but he’s also one big bundle of insecurities. Raised by a single mom and used to being the underdog, he’s a wheezy nerd who has indulged his hero fandom by analyzing fighting styles and brainstorming new ways for others to use their Quirks.

But all that means he tends to over-think things, and almost every encounter involves him mumbling to himself in a frenzy of anxiety.

Sure, it’s realistic considering his age, his upbringing, and his personality…but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying when he wastes time wondering whether he can succeed instead of mapping out ways to succeed.

The first season is practically drowning in his angsty internal monologue…and my dad says the voice actor they got for the English dub is grating. (I guess his voice does have a tendency to squeak and whine — couldn’t they have gotten someone who’d already hit puberty?)

All that said…

What saves Deku (and the show) is the way he changes. As Deku grows and stretches his abilities, we see how his obsession with studying others and their abilities makes him a better team leader – better able to use the talents of his fellow students to get them out of situations.

Not only does he gain more confidence, but he’s forced to leave behind the weepy, abasing personality bit by bit. He’s still not a battle-hardened chill-dude who does what needs to be done without dithering…but he is a driven hero-in-training whose determination to help others is matched by the spine to stand up to opponents.

He cries way less than he did earlier, and he’s a much faster thinker in combat than he used to be.

And this willingness to take their characters’ personality crutches and rip them away is what raises MHA above the rest.

Speaking of which…

Lord Explosion Murder

Deku’s childhood best enemy is a Class A jerk, braggart, and violent borderline-psychopath. (The second problem with the show.)

His name is Bakugo, but when the class is coming up with Hero names for themselves, one of his attempts is “Lord Explosion Murder.”

His Quirk is nitroglycerin-like sweat that lets him fire explosions from his palms, and since his Quirk manifested about age four, he’s been praised and doted on for being so strong.

This twisted into an inferiority complex/imposter syndrome that displayed itself in Bakugo being a toxic bully to everyone – but especially to Deku, who somehow thought they were friends and that it was his own responsibility to reach out to Bakugo and “fix” their dynamic.

Well, a full discussion is probably beyond the scope of this review…so let me explain why this walking bomb doesn’t derail the entire show.

Well…he does get on my nerves…

But he also gets a slow, painful, subtle, yet powerful character arc.

TV shows are often high-lighted for their ability to tell long, drawn-out stories with more subtlety and depth than a short movie could squeeze in. MHA has used this strength on Bakugo.

Throughout the show, his hair-trigger temper and verbal threats of actual bodily harm make you wonder why he isn’t in a straight-jacket. Are the teachers and other adults in the show as idiotic as Deku? Sure, Bakugo is attending the Hero course, but his self-centeredness, pride, and domineering personality paint him as more of a Villain.

Then…you see the mastery of the delicate brush.

Bakugo builds friendships with people who are not Deku…and through clashes with villains, tests for school, and other plot arcs he is forced to realize his abrasive habit of lashing out is not who he actually wants to be.

Unlike Deku, he doesn’t prattle on in internal monologue, telling us exactly what he thinks about himself and why. However, just as much can be achieved with a few terse lines of dialogue, a few facial expressions, and the way Bakugo interacts with people who are not Deku.

Time will tell where he ends up…but the mere fact that he’s not allowed to be “the bully character no one feels bad for” but forced by the story to grow and change is…well, it’s why MHA is 100 times better than Avatar YES I SAID IT.

Adults Actually Adulting

MHA doesn’t just force the child characters to grow up and get spines, self-control, perspective, etc.

It has Adult characters that actually behave Grown Up!

The teachers are the most obvious example.

They aren’t just token adults to let the kids interact with no oversight or input. Oh, no.

These teachers actually know their jobs…their jobs being – not only to push the kids past the limits of their Quirks and make them effective fighters, but also – to forge the characters of the students into mature, thoughtful, other-focused, quick-thinking, big-picture Heroes.

My favorite is Mr.…er, his Hero name is Eraser-Head. His Quirk is the ability to cancel out the Quirk of anyone he stares at – until he blinks. This makes him a perfect choice for training students who are still getting a hold of their powers.

But he’s also brutally hard-core. He himself is a beast of a fighter, but he’s also ruthless in pushing his students to do their best. Several times, they come within an inch of being expelled because, after all, if they don’t have the mind-set to learn, adapt, and push themselves…then they’re wasting their time trying to become Heroes.

All-Might is the Number 1 Hero – the self-proclaimed “Symbol of Peace” – and Deku’s childhood idol. But he’s also joined the faculty at their Hero school, so he becomes a vital character of the show.

He’s not a one-note paragon, though. He has doubts, and weaknesses. As the show progresses, we see more and more of his back-story and struggles, and get a sense that even the grown-ups have things they can’t handle.

Though he has a special mentor relationship with Deku, he has made an impact on every character in the universe – from the students, from the Heroes who worked with him, to the villains, to the street-crawling thugs. His towering personality adds complexion and depth to a million other characters and relationships because of how each person views him – and his ambition to give civilians a “Symbol of Peace” to take comfort in.

"My Hero Academia" (Seasons 1 thru 4) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Dualshockers.com

Everyone gets fleshed out.

Ally or antagonist – policemen, teachers, parents, villains, or dudes – everyone gets the extra brushstrokes to turn them from a talking head into a person with their own agendas and desires.

What’s more, the majority of the students are mature, quick-thinking, hard-working, cool-headed, and focused on the end goal of becoming Heroes who help others.

In fact, one of the reasons Lord Explosion Murder is sufferable is that he’s actually pretty intelligent – good at summing up a situation and seeing what needs to be done from a big-picture standpoint – and then actually doing what needs to be done – even if he’s grumpy about it and pretends he’s not really doing it for the good of those around him.

Whenever a side character gets a chance at the spotlight and we see some more depth and maturity to their personality, I giggle in sheer glee.

Finally, as of Season 4, the parents and teachers are firmly on the side of the students – backing them up, shielding them, and forcing them to grow so that they’ll be strong enough for the trials ahead.

In short, being real, big-boy-pants, dithering-free Grown-Ups. I love it.

Once Upon a Time: Quirks, All Over the Place

My Hero Academia is vaguely set in our world, far-future…so the occasional reference to real geography or literature pops up.

However, now there are superpowers…in fact, a majority of the population has superpowers.

While plenty of Quirks seem basically the same (during the school’s fight tournament, two students are frustrated to find their Quirks are essentially re-skinned copies of each other), there’s enough flex within the abilities of each individual to make each character stand out.

First, the World

Human beings are twisted, selfish beings. When you randomly sprinkle superpowers onto them, you’re going to get villains.

The world seems to be pretty stable right now (from the perspective of our teen protagonists), but it becomes clear that this is the work of All-Might (Earth’s mightiest hero, etc.).

In the past, super-villains ran free in the streets – and even now, the government-sanctioned Hero Agencies fight a constant battle against street thugs and organized crime.

And that’s not even counting the villains slowly emerging from the shadows, who’d like nothing more than to see the world burn.

It’s also pretty realistic that using Quirks without a Hero license is outlawed.

While I’m personally all about self-defense and letting the man-on-the-street defend himself, there are also some examples of why it’s a good thing there are designated “do-gooders” to help those in need.

After all, with so many crazy abilities in the world, physics itself could get pretty unpredictable pretty quickly.

Speaking of Crazy Abilities…

There are 20 students in Deku’s class. There’s also a second Hero Course class, not to mention all the teachers, the rest of the school, the parents and families, the dudes on the street, the villains, organized crime –

In short, you’ve got a lot of Quirks to figure out, especially if they all have to be at least slightly unique.

At first glance, this leads to a few lame Quirks. One girl can make her hands grow to the size of her body. Deku’s mom can levitate small objects – small objects, from a short distance away. Another student can voice control small animals.

But, as the teachers use their classes and obstacles to drill into the students, it’s not what your Quirk is – it’s how you use it.

And part of the joy of MHA is seeing all the creative ways people use their Quirks.

Deku is one of the most obvious examples, since he didn’t even get his Quirk until the start of the show, so he hasn’t been experimenting with it since childhood. However, it’s also a powerful strength Quirk, and so a lot of his struggle is working to control it without destroying his own body in the process.

(One of the reasons he’s such a popular protagonist with the internet is that every single victory is an uphill battle…and even then, he often doesn’t conquer – at least on the first try.)

The out-of-the-box thinking – and the obvious fun the creators had in coming up with new ways to bend the rules of Quirks – make this element one of the best in the show.

Caveats

The show isn’t perfect. A couple story-telling choices hold it back, and some inappropriate humor might make it unsuitable for some audiences.

Non-Linear Story-telling & Repetition

The third biggest issue with MHA is the pacing, and the times when they don’t trust the audience to get the point.

I’ve pointed out above that MHA excels at building elements over several episodes, painting characters through repeated actions – not just dialogue – and then paying off great character development that we didn’t even know they were setting up.

Which makes it so frustrating when the show uses flash-backs to constantly go over material we already know.

I haven’t seen the manga, so it’s possible this is an issue with the anime specifically – possibly to fill out episodes while they waited for more plot content. But it’s frustrating.

Deku, especially, has a tendency to lapse into flash-backs of his childhood, the dramatic circumstance of him getting his Quirk, previous conversations (sometimes conversations from this very same episode), pervious interactions with different people, dramatic declarations (“I will be a hero that saves people with a smile—”)…

Not just that, but the beginning and ending of each episode is usually a recap or a teaser, respectively…one of which is material we already know, another is material we could know by just watching the next episode.

Y’all know there’s this thing called binging? We aren’t actually waiting a week between episodes…we just stream it from our favorite service over the internet, and – there it is.

Even if we did have to wait – we’re intelligent adults! We can remember things and make connections and get references to previous conversations without you having to constantly replay the same clips over and over again!

The very fact that not all of their story-telling is so ham-fistedly blunt proves that the creators have better skills than this — several of the side characters and minor villains, especially, are expertly sketched and fleshed out without the need of this mind-numbing repetition and exposition.

Perhaps the creators will eventually grow enough confidence in their craft to leave the copy-paste flash-backs behind. It would tighten and streamline the episodes immensely.

That’s not the only kind of confusing flash-back, though.

I don’t even know what to call this narrative device, but once in a while the show will skip over important information, then pause in the middle of the action to go back and show it.

This can be done well, as where Deku makes a clever plan for the group of friends to escape a situation — then, as we watch them act out the plan, we hear his voice-over directions to them, explaining how it should work. That compresses the narrative and lets us experience the action while still seeing how clever Deku was to plan it all out ahead of time.

When it’s badly used, it throws the characters into a confrontation, then jumps back to the characters discussing their plan of attack, then jumps ahead to what they’re doing…and that’s an example dealing with an actual physical confrontation.

Sometimes characters have conversations, but they’re chopped up – and we don’t get to see the more dramatic or meaningful moments of the talk until a flash-back from one of the participants later on.

This is all just frustrating – making it feel more like the authors withholding information for maximum emotional impact rather than letting us experience events smoothly with the characters.

I mentioned how nice it is that the villains get fully fleshed-out motives and personalities?

Yeah, only to a point. When we get to the point of stretching about one episode worth of conflict out across three episodes, padding the run-time with extensive flash-backs of information we either 1) know already, or 2) could pick up from a single facial expression…that’s just bad story-structuring. (YES, I’m looking at you, Gentle Criminal!)

Slowing fight scenes to a crawl so we can explore the backstories of each of the bad guys through flash-backs is also not the best way to handle it.

Yet…for all my complaints…the show still made it into my top five of all time.

If they fixed some of these issues? One Punch Man might be in danger of losing its crown…(not big danger, because Genos, but still…)

Sexual Humor

My Hero Academia is blissfully romance-free. One of Deku’s classmates has a crush on him, but she is currently channeling it into trying to be as hard-working a Hero as he is…not angst. And that’s exactly what actual real love is built for – to draw us out of ourselves and inspire us to be better, not to gratify our own desires!

The writers seem more interested in growing the characters into mature Heroes – not pairing them off…which is delightful. (They’ve also avoided falling into the trap of LGBTXXX-posturing, which is so refreshing.)

But nothing is perfect – not even MHA.

One of the students is girl-crazy (it’s like his single biggest character trait), and the humor department gets a lot of milage from his pathetic attempts to see their curves. There’s a scene where the boys and girls are bathing (separately) and he tries to climb the wall that separates them to get an eye-full. He fails…but the audience sees some naked back-sides (both genders).

Several of the female Hero costumes are…not appropriate. And one girl’s Quirk involves her being naked from time to time (though we don’t see any of the “essentials” that a bikini wouldn’t cover).

The show mostly plays it for humor – or as a realistic portrayal of female heroes using their “qualities” to boost their own PR – but it means I can’t blanketly recommend MHA to all the younger siblings out there.

Yes, girls have anatomy. Maybe we need to acknowledge that fact from time to time. But not everyone is ready for that.

Region 1 DVD Set Pretty Please!

You can come for the cool fights with different super-powers…the writers know that’s what you want, and serve up plenty of that.

But you can also come for long-form relationship development and character growth…growth focused on taking selfish, unsure, inexperienced children and turning them into strong, responsible, chill, kick-butt Adults.

I really, really hope the later seasons don’t go off the deep end…and also that they publish a reasonably priced DVD set soon.

Until then, head to your favorite anime streamer and queue it up! Yes, they have the “continuing story” threads that you’d expect from a series…but they also know how to close each separate story arc with cathartic resolution! Kimia-Hater-of-Cliffhangers approves.


Cover image credit: Newsweek.com

The brother and I watched it on Funimation. You can also find it streaming on CrunchyRoll, BestDubbedAnime, YouTube, and Hulu, plus I’m sure lots of other places. (Obviously you’d have to subscribe to whatever service you want to use. I can make no recommendations.)

Amazon does offer some DVDs (apparently so does AnimeCornerStore) but each season is split up for some reason and CHECK YOUR REGION BEFORE YOU BUY (also make sure it’s in a language you speak!).

“The Sunday Philosophy Club” by Alexander McCall Smith

"The Sunday Philosophy Club" by Alexander McCall Smith The back cover copy introduces us to Isabel Dalhousie: middle-aged spinster who’s “too inquisitive”…and when she witnesses a young man fall to his death from the balcony of the concert hall, she wonders if there’s more to it?!

Then we open the book, and…turns out she’s actually a fourteen-year-old with ADHD…and has the detective method of a spring-addled squirrel.

Harsh? Let me elaborate on The Sunday Philosophy Club…which, incidentally, features no over-arching philosophy, no club whatsoever, and about as much detective content as those gummy vitamins contain sugar. Continue reading

“Unavowed”

Unavowed would probably be rated “R” for the language alone…not to mention the gore, disturbing subject matter, low-resolution nudity, and the off-screen sexual encounter (involving the “main character”!).

But…er…we liked it. It’s 100% a game for ADULTS…but if you’re looking for a roller coaster of emotions (that streaks from creepy yuck to aww lol), deep moral dilemmas, and a twisty, turny story full of amazing characters and gut-punches – then you might be the audience for Unavowed."Unavowed" — Kimia Wood

One year ago, a demon possessed you; forcing you to tear a trail of bloodshed through New York City. Your salvation finally comes in the form of the Unavowed – an ancient society dedicated to stopping evil.

You are free, but your world is in tatters. You have no home, no friends, and are wanted by the police. Your old life is gone, but perhaps you can start a new one. Join the ranks of the Unavowed, and fight against the oncoming darkness.

Continue reading

Why “Avatar: The Last Airbender” Was Good—But Not Great

A friend of mine recently watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, and says it has become her favorite show ever…by a good margin.

Why "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Was Good—But Not Great — Kimia Wood

Image credit: CartoonsOn.tv

And…nah.

It was good, I’ll grant you…but it wasn’t THE CRUX AND APOTHEOSIS OF ALL GOOD WRITING AND THE PEAK OF ENTERTAINMENT. (And my brother gripes about this show way more than I do.)

You can read my full review to get all my initial thoughts, but I think the basic element that held this show back was:

KID VS. GROWN-UP CHARACTERS

You might be thinking, “But it’s a kids’ show! All the principle characters are kids!”

I’m not talking age. I’m talking maturity.

And while it’s understandable (and almost expected) for characters to start with some immaturity (especially young characters), it should be something they grow out of. The plot should force them to develop.

It shouldn’t be celebrated. Continue reading

Best Articles You Shouldn’t Miss

I love Twitter for all the cool articles I can find and share there. So I dug back through my feed for the best articles, posts, and videos I found and shared this past year!

Whether you’re an author, a blogger, or just a Christian who likes thinking deeply about things, here are some cool (and/or important) pieces for you to enjoy!

Writing and Story DevelopmentBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

This year I fell down the deep, dark hole of “writer YouTube”…Here are some of the amazing (and addicting) videos I found:

Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV

via WIRED

I found this video while researching my spy/suspense/action story Transmutation of Shadow, and it’s so cool!

Trope Talk: Robots

via Overly Sarcastic Productions

Red does a great job recognizing that humans and computers have totally different ways of thinking…and she also breaks down the good, the evil, the friendly, and the realistic of writing robots in fiction.

Rey and the Sad Devolution of the Female Character

via Thor Skywalker

We don’t hate female characters…we hate poorly done characters that serve a meta agenda, rather than feeling like genuine people within the story world.

Watch the video to see for yourself!

(Also check out this video – by Literature Devil – about “Mary Sue” characters…what they are, why people dislike them, and how they relate to the issue of “Social Justice Warriors”.)

A Few Words from Roger Zelazny

via on Tor.com

Roger Zelazny wrote the Chronicles of Amber, which inspired my dad as a young writer…and became a surprise favorite with me when I read it. This interview with him gives insight into his writing process, his opinion of fantasy vs. science fiction, and on writing complex characters.

It’s not a video…so read it at your leisure.

Action Choreography for Novels

via Felix the Fox Mysteries

Action plays a big role in my White Mesa Chronicles (especially Gladiator…guess why) and in Transmutation of Shadow. Thus it’s important to get the physics right!

This post (also not a video) will help you think about those pesky problems of what’s actually, physically possible in your story!

Also check out his post on making pre-modern (and fantasy) battles more realistic in terms of equipment, technique, and strategy. Remember: everything happens in context!

The Elevator Pitch

via Christa MacDonald on Christian Shelf-Esteem

If you’ve been in the “author” circle for long, you’ve heard you need an “elevator pitch”…a short, pithy expression of your book(s) that would fit into the space of an elevator ride, but make whoever’s listening want to hear more.

Christa MacDonald found she was making assumptions about what the people she was talking to would be interested in, and defending her work before anyone had raised any objections.

Read her post to see how she decided to let go of this fear rooted in pride, and share her stories at face value.

Worldview

Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

How we think about the world is crucial…and our different perspectives form a central part of who we are.

Each of these articles (or videos) explores a different element of our lives and challenges us to think about morality, culture, art, ourselves, and/or God in a different light.

Enriching Lives – What Mass Effect 2 Teaches Us about Morality

via Extra Credits

Extra Credits create entertaining, thought-provoking videos about video games…how to make them well, how to tell meaningful stories through them, what they can mean for the broader culture, etc.

This one talks about how video games can force us to examine our own moral beliefs!

Artistic Originality: Is It Dead—or Was it Merely a Fallacy to Begin With?

via Sean P. Carlin

In our cultural climate of reboots, sequels, prequels, reboot-sequels…Mr. Carlin has asked the question, “What is artistic originality anyway?”

Can we ever truly be free of our creative influences, and make “original” art?

Read his article to find out!

Also check out his article about his childhood of urban exploration in New York City, and how our shifting culture of security-consciousness makes that impossible for kids of the modern day. We’ve lost something…is it worth the price of “safety” to give up?

Read his piece and decide for yourself!

How Virtual Horse Armor Paved the Way for Micro-Transactions

via Cheddar

Micro-transactions are all over the place in free-to-play games…sort of like YouTube has started shoving ads in my face every time I want to load a video.

This video (on YouTube…ahem) talks about how it started…and why micro-transactions that affect game-play make players more unhappy than things that affect aesthetics.

How Our Addiction to FREE is Poisoning the Internet and Killing the Creatives

via Kristen Lamb

This post was so interesting, I even wrote my own follow-up piece.

Basically: we all love free stuff. Getting free stuff, that is. But nothing is free…someone has to give it. And as authors give away more free stuff (books, songs, etc.) the more audiences expect free stuff, and the worse the whole problem gets.

Just go read her full post – then read my post about living generously!

(Also read her post about the flood of new books that self-publishing has created, and some strategies that we as an industry could use to find the “good fish” amidst the tsunami. Basically, go check out her blog in general.)

My Son Was Addicted to a Smartphone

via Sabrina McDonald on Family Life

Yes, smartphone addiction is a thing, and yes, you can confront it. In fact, before drugging your kid up for ADHD, look into culling his screen time! It might be the trick you need.

YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)

via Lindsey Ellis

Having become, ahem, slightly addicted to YouTube this year, I naturally found channels/content providers that I liked and looked up all their videos.

However, as an author and blogger, I also have a feeling for the other side (people all over the world aren’t watching my face, but they can look up my words at any time).

When the wall between “media celebrity” and audience comes down…when your favorite YouTuber or author “gets real” and shares personal things…what does that do to them? What does it do to us? What are the “moral hazards” of this “authentic celebrity” culture?

If you’re not sure exactly what I mean, just watch the video! It’s thought-provoking! (Language cautions, though.)

Christian Fiction Guidelines

via Chad Pettit

Did you know that some “Christian” readers have very specific guide-lines for what they consider to be “Christian” fiction? And that they’ll rake authors over the internet coals if they break these rules?

Perhaps we should go back to the BIBLE for a consideration of what we should be reading/writing in our fiction…and maybe we can extend some Christian kindness to our brothers and sisters.

This post is a plea for just that. Read it yourself!

A Tale of Two Worldviews

via Scott Allen at WORLD Magazine

Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Martin Luther King, Jr. — two African-American thought leaders with very different approaches to the race issue. Justice and reconciliation will only come from a Jesus-centered worldview.

MarketingBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

We authors are always looking for ways to better get books into readers’ hands. Here are some of the useful posts I’ve found on marketing:

How To Improve Your Amazon Book Descriptions

via Jane Friedman

How do you describe your book so that someone else will want to buy it? Making the text easy to skim, and starting with a grabby line, are just a couple of the suggestions you’ll find here!

How to Improve Your Email Newsletters Right Now

via Bad Redhead Media

Email newsletters are one of those things that are so important, yet so mystifying. These tips and tricks will help you look like a pro to your fans! (Hint: STOP USING G-MAIL ALREADY.)

How to Write for a Blog: 10 Tips for Writing Strong Web Content

via Anne R. Allen

Writing a blog post is different than writing a term paper. Here are some easily digestible, understandable tips to help anyone write a better blog!

Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)

via Vicky Who Reads

200+ bloggers were surveyed (anonymously) about how they want authors to interact with them. I found some of the answers very interesting, and it’s worth it to check out someone else’s perspective.

The Eternally Clickable Headlines of Buffer (And How to Write and Find Your Own)

via Buffer

Blog post headlines are mysterious, but very important. Here’s some advice that is readable and digestible to make your blog headlines even better!

Six Reasons Nobody Reads Your Blog and How to Fix It

via Mixtus Media

You say you could never write a blog? That it’s too complicated, or too hard?

These six tips might just give you the tools and the steps you need to become a blogger (or to take your blog to a more professional level)!

Hope you enjoyed these posts!

Be sure to share the posts you liked best with your friends, and support the authors!

What did you enjoy learning this past year? What were your favorite things to read? Give us your suggestions!


Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s currently bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

“Wedding Score” by Amanda Tero

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood Stephanie – and her author Ms. Tero – are both single Christian girls inching toward thirty. I am also a single Christian girl inching toward thirty.

This short novella is all about the unique (or not so unique) struggles that we loners face when we have no one but God to depend on…and He doesn’t have physical arms to lean on.

I was super excited for this book from the moment I first heard about it in the author’s newsletter. After all, Christian singleness is a topic I’ve blogged about a time or two, and I’m still traveling the wave of acceptance-to-desperation-to-resignation-to-panic-to-acceptance…

By Single Gals, For Single Gals

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodMs. Tero has me by a year or two, but we’re both still waiting for our Prince Charming…and at times we’re not even sure he’ll ever show up.

But that’s okay. At least, it should be okay, if we affirm that God is the only one we’ll ever really need, and that His arms are big enough to carry us through anything life throws at us…even lifelong lone-ranger-ing.

But – focus on the story!

Stephanie is a relatable protagonist. To the point you might feel Ms. Tero snagged your own characteristics, changed a few particulars to deflect suspicion (for instance, I’m not a musician), and put you full-bodied into her work.

Stephanie is a conservative Christian young lady (wears denim skirts and everything!) and while I don’t think it’s spelled out, you can easily guess she was homeschooled (come on – denim skirt!). She’s also well connected to her church, reads her Bible faithfully, and has a large, loving extended family.

And, just like the rest of us (ahem), she gets hit with a debilitating case of “loner syndrome”.

Christian Religious Inspirational…

Writing about spiritual issues is a ticklish business. It’s so very easy to stray into preachiness, sticky-toffee sugar-coating, awkward marionette-plotting, literal Deus-ex-machina, pat answers to complex questions –

Ms. Tebo’s writing, however, rings authentic – probably because she supplied the text of Stephanie’s devotions from her own personal devotions. The trouble with a story is that we know it’s a story, and therefore that an author crafted it for a deliberate reason. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, and share her own struggle with singleness, Ms. Tebo allowed Stephanie’s journey to be as realistic as possible.

It also helped that the book description and marketing made it obvious this book would tackle religious issues. It wasn’t, for example, pretending to be a murder mystery (AHEM). Everyone who picks up this book will be expecting a Christian exploration of the struggle of singleness…and they won’t be disappointed.

Happily Ever After

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodEven before I received my early-access copy of Wedding Score, I knew the ending would be a deal-breaker. After all, when you’re writing a fictional story, you are the “god” of the story world, and can give your characters any ending you want!

It would be too easy for a sick-with-loneliness author to hit all her characters with the “hunky Mr. Right” wand. But that kind of ending would be the last thing a Christian single struggling to be faithful would need. And, that kind of ending would in some ways negate the whole point of the story.

Ms. Tebo escapes that simplistic solution! After wrestling through the entire book with leaning solely on God, Stephanie isn’t “rewarded” with a flesh-and-blood man to hold her hand. No, she still has to depend on God – even while her friends are still getting married all around her! – but the work of His Spirit in her heart has brought a change.

And that is what we have to hold on to, fellow loners! Cling to the knowledge that no matter what – even if we never get to wear that dress or have our own kids – God will be right by our side and we will be “sons and daughters” to Him.

Not Alone

So what else can this book teach you, other than that God is faithful and will be all you need?

That you’re not alone!

Yes, maybe you don’t have your own little nest, but there’s still extended family, church family, and all the other single Christians who are going through the exact same thing you are! Maybe they’re in a different “stage” of singleness than you are, but you can bet they’re bouncing on the wave just the same (unless through the grace of Jesus they’ve arrived, in which case NOT FAIR).

Cry. Laugh. Tell us about your struggles. On the bad days, come for hugs. On the good days, dish out hugs – ’cause we need them!

Somewhere, someone has walked the exact same path as you. And for me at least, that makes the wilderness a little less lonely.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free ARC from the author as part of the book launch. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own (imagine me being vocal about my opinions!)."Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood


Check out my interview with the author!

Wedding Score releases this week!
You can add it on Goodreads, then find it on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, or as a signed paperback from the author!

Check out the author’s official website at AmandaTero.com.

“Talk to the Hand” by Lynne Truss

Talk to the hand, ’cause the face ain’t listening!

How rude!

Well, you know what you can effing do!

Is everyone around you shockingly rude? Do you find yourself dissed by shop clerks?…given the run-around by customer service phone trees?…pelted with garbage by faceless, uncaring litterers?

Lynne Truss’ Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door will comfort you that at least you’re not the only one exasperated…and perhaps challenge you that there is something we can do about it. Continue reading