What a fortuitous occasion!
Not only do I have a post on the ‘ol Spellbound Scribes today and also a new episode of our podcast is dropping today as well! This week on the Pod fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland and I discuss Season One of Steven Universe, and let me tell you, that show is a DELIGHT and we had a DELIGHTFUL time talking about it. So, I thought today I would discuss three lessons of Steven Universe that can be applied to writing as well.
CROSS PROMOTION Y’ALL
Also, there’s probably some minor spoilers for Steven Universe throughout this post in case you’re concerned about that sort of thing.
LESSON THE FIRST – TEAMWORK WORKS!
The main characters of Steven Universe are the eponymous Steven and his protectors / matriarchal figures the Crystal Gems – Amethyst, Garnet and Pearl. In each episode they’re beset by some terrible trouble or perilous problem that must be defeated or solved. And of course, those trials cannot be solved without the power of teamwork! The Crystal Gems can even fuse together to become bigger and more powerful version of themselves.
What does this have to do with writing? I’ve written posts in the past about the importance of beta readers you can trust and friends in the community that will pick you up when things go wrong. Your friends in the Writing Community are your Crystal Gems, ready to defend you when the chips are down. Your beta readers are your fusion – with all the skills and life experiences of the people you’ve entrusted combined in your manuscript. The merging of their imput will make your book stronger than before. And if you’re me, it won’t be bigger like the Fusion Gems because Shauna will have slashed the crap out of it with the Red Pen of Doom.
LESSON THE SECOND – BE INCLUSIVE!
Steven Universe has some of the best queer representation of any show on TV, animated or otherwise. Especially important and awesome because even though there’s a lot in in-jokes old people like me will appreciate, it’s made mostly for kids. The show explores gender roles, breaks down the boundaries of gender binary and celebrates general queerness in a way that most “adult” shows can’t or won’t.
We should strive to write inclusively as well. I’ve tried to write diverse characters that are “outside of my lane” with varying degrees of success. I messed up on a whole bunch of things in OVERDARK, that I luckily had great beta readers to help point out. I fixed them the best I could. But I think it’s still important to try. The characters in our book worlds, even the fantastical ones, should be reflective of reality. Everyone should have the opportunity to see themselves as the hero of the story. This goes back to the first Lesson. Do you best and hopefully your friend and beta readers will call you out on problematic stuff they find. Reach out to Sensitivity Readers too. Teamwork can go a long way to snuff out harmful and hurtful representation.
LESSON THE THIRD – NEVER GIVE UP!
By the end of the first season, Steven and the Crystal Gems face seemingly insurmountable odds. Captured and standing off against enemies more powerful than they are, all looks lost and still they refuse to back down. There’s an amazing song called “Stronger Than You” that plays during the climactic fight scene which is all about the strength of bonds of love and friendship and together we can overcome anything. Even against the most threatening of foes, Steven and the Gems won’t give up as long as they have each other.
I’ve beat this drum in almost every post on this blog.
Writing is hard.
Publishing is brutal.
Rejection is unrelenting.
But you shouldn’t give up! There’s been days that I’ve been hammered with rejections or failed to write a single word with any coherence or value and just wanted to hang it up. Without the support and inspiration of friends in the writing community, I probably would have.
The challenge of the publishing industry might not be quite as dire as invading Gem warriors from another world, but to a writer, especially one at the beginning of their career, they can be just as intimidating. Luckily, like Steven and the Crystal Gems, we have strong and supportive community to stand with us when we need them.
Thanks for reading as always, friends. Do give Steven Universe a look if you have a chance, it’s a wonderful little show with a great message and representation.