I love cartoons, and I love comic books and manga, and I’m very open about my love for these things. That being said, cartoons and comic books and manga are often depicted as things for children…something I obviously disagree with. J There are many reasons to love cartoons, and today, author Grant Goodman gives us yet another reason to love them. It helps with your writing.
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Cartoons Make You a Better Writer by Grant Goodman
When I sat down to write the first Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novel, what really drove me was my love of cartoons. I wanted to create—in written form—the cartoon series I always wanted to see.
I grew up with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was glued to the sofa when they stormed the Technodrome to fight Shredder or when they teamed up with Casey Jones. Each episode had cool fight scenes, a sci-fi invention, and at least one funny line from Michelangelo. The turtles were my first obsession and they propelled me to join a martial arts school when I was in elementary school.
My elementary school mornings and weekends were filled with Tom and Jerry Kids, Inspector Gadget, X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman: The Animated Series. While most of them were in short story format, the X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman series began to introduce me to the idea that 30 minute cartoons could build a larger story. Spiderman had “The Alien Costume” arc, which gave Venom’s origin story over the course of three episodes. But that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted a longer storyline.
The first episode of Dragonball Z aired when I was in 6th grade and when I saw it, my head nearly exploded. A series in which nearly every episode built off of the last. A cast of characters who did martial arts AND threw fireballs. An entire universe of heroes and villains, legends and lore.
DBZ led me into the wide, wild catalog of Japanese animation that revealed an entire cultural art form that offered a great deal of respect to storytelling in animated form. I watched Vash the Stampede try everything he could do to avoid taking lives in Trigun, I saw Miyazaki’s phenomenal Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and I was completely swept away by Fullmetal Alchemist.
All of it—every episode of every series I ever watched—has somehow contributed to my abilities as a writer, and it will for you, too. You learn how to plot an action scene that matters, because you see plenty of them that don’t. You learn how to keep two characters pining for each other in order to build tension between them. You learn the importance of a cliffhanger to keep your audience hooked.
Most importantly, however, watching cartoons will teach you how to keep your imagination active, because without a strong imagination, you’re going to write something boring.
If you’re aspiring to write a MG or YA sci-fi/fantasy action series, my best advice to you is to watch cartoons. Lots of them. Go watch the first season of The Legend of Korra for a masterclass in serious-but-not-pitch-black YA storytelling. Seek out Samurai Jack for how to do fight scenes that flow.
This may be the only time anyone in your life tells you this: stop reading for a bit and start watching!
Grant Goodman is the author of the Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novels, a series for readers anywhere between 9 and 900 years old. His YA lit blog, November Notebook, is for teens, adults, ghosts, robots, unicorns, dragons, and aliens. He teaches middle school English in Montgomery County, Maryland.
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