I’ve done several of these What Writers Can Learn From posts and this summer I was joking around with one of the artists who was setting up at our local Comic Con (RocCon, but you may not have heard of it) about how I had started watching the original run of the Power Rangers with the idea of putting together a post of What Writers Can Learn From the Power Rangers, but as I continued to watch the show, I realized that there was a bigger and better idea hiding behind the main characters of the show-Bulk and Skull. Why did I pick Bulk and Skull over the rest of the characters on the show? What could these two possibly offer to a writer looking for tips and advice about their craft? I’m glad you asked because I have several very important lessons you can take from these two characters, and not all of them are negative lessons. 1. Give your characters a complete story arc The first era of the Power Rangers was something fairly new for the United States, at least in a live-action sense. Sure you had shows like Voltron but that was a cartoon. Power Rangers was something kids in America hadn’t seen so it was easy to simply present five teens with attitude, put them in goofy looking suits and send them out into the world to fight the evil monsters, but how much did those five teens develop over the years? Billy was the smart kid who was a bit clumsy and wore glasses. Zach was the cool kid with sweet dance moves. Trini was the smart girl, but not as smart as Billy and she knew some martial arts. Kimberly was the cool girl with a love of shopping. Jason was the strong leader type that helped everyone out and took care of things that needed attention. Over time different members of the team left and others arrived, but the main characters seldom grew beyond those basic stereotypes. Now let’s consider the development of Bulk and Skull. Bulk and Skull are the best of friends and they are bullies at the start of the show. Why are they bullies? I don’t know. What do they hope to gain from pushing people around? I don’t know. Are they effective bullies? No. Is anyone afraid of them? No. So this seems like a poor starting place since there is no fear, and Bulk and Skull tend to become the butt of all the jokes. There are several times I actually feel sorry for them when they get in trouble for something they didn’t do or try to so something positive and it blows up in their faces. Then something changes. The show is getting ready to make its first major change. Jason, Trini, and Zack are getting ready to leave to become peace delegates or something and there are three new kids Rocky, Adam and Aisha are being introduced as the natural replacement. The new bad guy Lord Zed wants to turn them into a team of evil rangers so he kidnaps the trio and their teacher which leaves the teacher’s baby boy alone and unprotected. Enter Bulk and Skull. Yes, this scenario is meant to be a joke. It’s there to have some funny scene where the duo are trying to care for a baby, but it also shows that they want more from life than to just be bullies. They want to be heroes too. After this, there is a period of time where they try to catch the Power Rangers and reveal who they are, but then in an attempt to impress some girls, they become Junior Police Officers. This is their arc-from bullies to helpers. 2. Give your characters attainable goals You don’t have to make every goal your characters strive for something they will get done, but it has to be something they might be able to do. Bulk and Skull decide they want to be the people that tell the world the true identity of the Power Rangers. There are plenty of times where they are close, but they never quite discover that secret, they do come close. (Oh wait, there is one time they find out, but a monster takes that memory from them.) Whether your characters complete their goals or not, your story is enhanced by the possibility that they will win that drives the reader to keep going with the story. Think about a story you’ve seen where the hero is trying to get the girl, let’s use The Office as an example. This works well because there are two sides to the story. Jim is interested in Pam, but so is Toby from HR. Which of the two stories is more interesting? Jim’s story. Not just because he ends up marrying Pam, but also because no matter what their relationship status, there is always that possibility they could get together. 3. Never give up! Bulk and Skull face plenty of challenges over the course of the show and it would be easy for them to quit, but that isn’t who they are as character. Skull doesn’t give up on the minuscule possibility that Kimberly will finally agree to date him. Bulk never gives up on putting together crazy schemes. Use that same determination for your characters and yourself when you write. 4. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Even after an endless string of detentions, Bulk and Skull never seem to learn their lesson while they are still students at Angel Grove High. When they move on from high school and join the Junior Police, the Captain tries to change them into the perfect officer, even to the point of shaving their heads, but at the end of the day, they still work through their problems the same way that they always did. . There are plenty of lessons you can learn from “minor characters, especially when the main cast isn’t experiencing much development. Hopefully these lessons will help you in your future writing.
Went to Roccon yesterday and met Vic Mignogna :) I decorated a can of instant coffee so that it was commoner’s coffee, like Ouran High School Host Club, right, and he thought that was hilarious, because he’s the va for Tamaki.