Breaking the Bat

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Character Focus
Tags: , , , , ,

Nolan left his mark on the world in the last half decade by producing a reimagined Batman, one that held the dark roots that had become it’s staple but stripped it of it’s comic book elements and instead went for a more realistic world that previous Batman movies had avoided. What came about in the process was some of the best characters to ever grace the silver screen, and possibly more the entirety of batman continuity. So without further adieu, I present to you the man who broke the Bat.


Now is not the time for jokes, that comes later.

Introductions: show us the man

Those first few moments, the first bit of dialogue, those first five lines are often the make or break point of a character, and they can tell you exactly what level of writer you’er dealing with whether it’s a film, a game or a novel. Nolan introduces Bane as a man who competent, intelligent, physically powerful and incredibly charismatic. Within five minutes of being introduced, he verbally spares with a CIA agent, breaks free of handcuffs, crashes the plane he currently in with one of his own men willing to die in the wreckage. It was beautiful, It not only told us about what Bane could do, but it also painted him in light that made viewer want root for him, it left the audience for the next scene Bane would show up in.

For all the aspiring writers out there, take note of this, especially for the characters whoa aren’t going to be getting the same kind of face time as your antagonist, if it’s going to be twenty pages before the reader here’s or see about your villain, if this supporting character isn’t going to show up in the film for another thirty minutes then leave the audience with a strong impression on just who and what this character is and about. Find out what you character is, and then give them a brief moment to flex, this ins’t the time for subtly, that comes later.

The same joke twice? Your punishment must be more severe 

Competence: Give him something to do

One of the better qualities of Nolan’s villains is that they’re not sit in a chair and stroke a cat kind of guys. They get out there get out there and get things done. We like Bane partly because he can take care of business himself, Nolan wrote him to be competent and so when Bane shows up on screen things go his way, making everyone else including Batman look inept. But it’s not just that, it’s the fact that Bane plays a part in his schemes his he is not a hidden villain who sends out lackey’s or one to manipulates things from the shadows. Now that’s not to say your character has to walk across the screen and punch Batman to make him popular. Well loved characters from other franchises and mediums often show their badassery in their subtly, take Vary’s or Little Finger from the George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, both are characters who work primarily behind the scenes of the actual novels plying their trade. But when they show up on the page, They’re doing important or interesting things that give the sense that guys are competent, capable and action oriented.

The point for our writers to take home is that when you have your man on screen, he needs to be doing something, he needs to be proactive and he needs to be competent. Nobody want to read or watch a character sip tea and powder their face.


Sorry Vary’s you’ll have to do that before you show up

Originality: Be Different

A lot of things make Bane and interesting character, he’s smart, he’s capable, but I think what really set’s him apart was his voice, and the personality that came with it. He’s different from anything Nolan had created before, and most of that difference comes from his presentation, much like the Joker prior, people love Nolan’s because he’s unlike any Bane before him. He’s new, which in most media is hard to do, especially for character that had extensive use and large history before Nolan even thought about him. But Nolan was able to take and make him different. A great deal of this comes from both Hardy the actor who portrayed Bane and the writers who penned his lines as well as Nolan directing. But the truth of it is that they came together and made something old, new again. Thats a key component of writing, taking the things that you love and re-imagining them and writing them in your own style. So the next time your writing for your characters on page make sure they stand out from other characters in your story as as stand out among other characters period. So the next time you magnificent bastard shows up, as what makes him better or different then the ten thousand that have come before him, and if you can’t find a good reason then you may need to give him another once over.


When all of your characters are properly developed, then you have my permission to write

A good introduction, a good display of action and a great sense of originality are just a few of the things that make Bane an amazing character, but without them he would have been left inept and forgotten. So if your future efforts has a character reminiscent of Bane gracing the pages, make sure you know why he was such a success in the first place.

Can’t seem to keep a schedule if my life were on the line this past couple of weeks, but without further adieu allow me to present the first chapter of The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare by Glenn Rosado. I picked Rosado’s work because of his ability to create an atmosphere that draws you in and then bring in characters that turn you on your head. Aspiring novelist and writers can pick up on how Rosado uses rising and falling suspension through his characters and setting to keep the readers interested. A note to writers, if you have the tension ramped up to eleven all the time then the audience will eventually grow accustomed to it, by switching it up you give the reader reason believe that when you do dial it up to eleven, that the impending doom you dropped down on your protagonist is truly impendingly doomful.

The Legacy of Blaze: The Nightmare

By: Glenn Rosado

The building was a shadow in the distance. Seth Blaze walked around the building where he was met by a rusty fence, he jumped, grabbed the steel frame at the top, taking care not to grab one of the metal wires sticking out with his arm as he went over, and splashed into a puddle.

He immediately noticed the back door had been left ajar. They couldn’t have found out, he said to himself. He always took extra care in making sure that he wasn’t followed.

Seth moved to the door, his green eyes reflected off the small-rectangular-glass window with the help of the flickering light overhead. He made sure not to make a noise, as if the loud splash wouldn’t have given him away already. If it had, whoever was inside, would have surely made themselves visible by now, he thought. He planted his back against the door while using his left arm to slowly open it, he peeked through, and as he made his way inside…

WACK.

Seth was met with a hand across his face that could have shattered a glass window clean, his eyes shut from the force, all he could see were puffy stars floating around, and somehow, amidst the ringing in his ears, hears a voice echo: “So you think you can just run away from everything?”

Rita Higgins, came into view once the room stopped spinning. Seth might have been pretty good at Kung-Fu, but Rita had always had a knack of showing him up ever since they were little. She stood there with her long blonde hair, hands on her hips and a look that should have burnt a hole through his skull. He could have sworn he saw her eyes turn from blue to red just for an instant. The truth was, Seth had always had a bit of a crush on her ever since they were younger. But it never materialized into anything mushy. Whenever he did something foolish, she would always be there to keep him in line, and for some odd reason that was the one trait that he admired from her more than anything else.

“You,” Seth started, rubbing his cheek back into feeling, “followed me here?”

“I decided to follow you from your apartment the other day,” she snapped back. “I thought I would surprise you when you showed up today, to the abandoned warehouse, in the middle of nowhere!” a bit of smoke poured out of her ears just then. The nightmares had been getting so vivid that it had been draining him mentally. He didn’t want her to see him in this state because he wouldn’t hear the end of it if she or Darius knew. So he tried his best to hide it by letting out a sarcastic laugh that only seemed to anger Rita even more. “You surprised me all right.”

“Where have you been?” she said with a look on her face that would melt an ice cream cone in the middle of winter. “Me and Darius have been worried sick. Every time we try visiting you, your uncle always says you’re not in. Why have you been dodging us lately?”

Seth had seen that look a hundred times before. One time when they were younger, six or seven maybe– when Father was around and there was no Empire–he had gone climbing the big oak tree that was planted in his front yard, alone. Attempting to beat her highest point. He put in a considerable amount of effort to find the right branches to latch onto, but he eventually beat it. The problem was that with all of his mind and energy focused on getting past her mark, he had not readily thought of a plan on how he was going to get down. It took him awhile to finally start climbing down, and as he got closer to the ground, one of the branches snapped and he went falling down, breaking his leg in the process. Father had arrived home from work when he found him with his back against the trunk of the old tree, holding his leg. When Rita came to see him later that day, she gave him a look he would not soon forget. A look that said: “That will teach you to go climbing without me.” That same look was being used on him as a weapon, like a child giving her parents the puppy face look to get what she wanted. Rita was trying to get what she wanted– an answer.

“I’ve been really busy, that’s all.” He said trying not to look her in the eye. She knew better though. “I can see that,” she said, looking around the abandoned warehouse. “So this is all the equipment from the school your dad used to train us in?”

“Yup,” he said, “he somehow got it all to this warehouse before… he vanished.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” she said. “You know you can come to us for anything.”

Seth made his way over to one of the heavy bags against the wall. “I wanted to be alone for a while.”

“We were close to your father as well, you know.”

“I know,” he said as he started to jab the bag. “Well, school is going to start back up in a week; you’re at least coming back for that right?” Seth did his best to hide a smile. “Of course,” he replied, “wouldn’t miss it for the world.” But that was a lie of course. Truth was he wasn’t looking forward to it at all. We’re all just going to be working the mines in a couple of years, he said to himself, biting his tongue, so why bother? But Seth knew that he couldn’t win, not against Rita, not when it dealt with issues such as this. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really bothering you?”

Seth stopped punching the bag all of a sudden and looked her in the eyes, “You would laugh at me if I told you.” She locked eyes with him for a moment, which indicated to Seth that she wasn’t much for playing games, and then said, “Try me.”

Seth stared at her for a minute before giving in, finally, spilling out the nightmare he’d been having every day, for the better part of a year, at the hour before dawn; and how it was always the same: ominous dark figures coming into his room to take him away to some dungeon in the middle of nowhere. He found himself somewhat relieved to have all of that weight off his shoulders, but Rita just stood there gazing at him for a second–then let out a hysterical laugh. “Shh,” he said, reminding her of the repercussions if someone were to find out that he had been using this building for his own personal gym. “We aren’t supposed to be here, remember?”

“Oops, sorry,” she said, cupping her hands over her mouth as if her laughs somehow had a mind of their own. “So is that the big problem, a nightmare?”

“See– I knew you would laugh,” Seth snapped while turning back to punish the bag, leaving little dents from his knuckles plastered all over the rubber, “and then you wonder why I’ve been in solitude for the last month.”

“Ok, I’m sorry I can see why that would be a problem. Now it all makes sense. Have you tried seeing someone about it?”

“And have them laugh at me like you just did? No, thanks.”

“Not if you see a–” she paused, “what do you call those doctors that put you to sleep?”

“A hypnotherapist?” he shot back. “Do you know how much they cost? You would have to work three shifts in the mines just to afford one session.”

“Well, then we could try and see if we can dig up any medical books that have some sort of instructions we could use. So we can find out the meaning of the dream and hopefully put an end to them.”

“Where are we going to find that?” he asked. “You know there haven’t been any libraries around since before the purge.”

She walked over to Seth and stopped in front of the bag, before saying, “Leave that part up to me.” Then she cocked her hand back and rocked the bag with a punch.
___

If you enjoyed this snipped of Rosado’s work then take a moment to read the rest of this chapter and the two other chapters that been posted on his blog also named Legacy of Blaze. don’t forget to stop by tomorrow as The Acrhetype releases a new series of articles called Character Focus  which will take a moment to look at characters from all over fiction and find out what makes them great, grand or grotesque. Starting with this years hit masked, back breaking villain.

One of the more interesting phenomenon of late that’s made it’s way to the internet is the fascination that some 14-25 year old men seem to have with a show that is meant for small children of the female variety that was produced to sell a line of toys. That’s right friends, this article is all about the magic of friendship so saddle up everypony.

For those of you whom may not have yet heard or are just possily new to the whole internet thing, My Little Pony: Friendship is magic is a cartoon show based of the old line of my little pony toys that have been around since 1982 but have only recently ben pulled into media spotlight via their new cartoon. Also let’s clear something up for those of you who want to rage quit from wordpress because this article is pony related, this is still a storytelling blog and this is still a storytelling article, we’er not going to dive into who is best pony or any other non-sense.


Okay maybe a little non-sense

I’m more interested in what has come together to make ponies so popular among the demographic that normally won’t touch something if it isn’t a dark and gritty rebut of their childhood. In fact I was so interested that in one of my more sleep deprived moments I watched a solid twenty episodes of the show and you know what, it’s not that bad, in fact as far as children’s shows go it was pretty good. In fact I think that there is a lot we can learn from MLP.

Animation

A shows animation is the first thing that a viewer see’s, and much like a person looking at the clothing you wear the viewers start making assumptions about the show from that first glance. For a lot of shows that can be a make or break moment for them, shows like adventure time a regular show have a very particular type of animation and you can tell just from looking at them what the show is going to be like. The same thing also applies to shows who seek a more adult audience who give there shows a much conservative appearance while shows like South Park went for childish look for a show that has a very immature nature.


alright a lot of non-sense

What does this say about MLP, well first off the animation is top notch, it’s bright, it’scartoony, it’scute, but what hooked me mostly is that it’s clean. It was obvious that the shows artist put real work and effort into creating the shows animation instead of treating it as just a 30 min commercial for little girls toys. What can you take away from this as an artist or a writer, MLP uses it’s animation to set the tone for the show, just looking at it is going to make you puke rainbows and leave you wanting more, as an artist you want your art to set the mood of the show or comic well before the characters utter their first words and writers need to be able to set the tone of their books in early descriptions and snippets of their world and make sure that this tone is conveyed in such a professional way.

Format

I think this might be the most interesting part of MLP, or at least the most nostalgic. MLP episodes are all self contained, there is no overarching narrative, there is no broad story line, there just a bunch of anthropomorphic ponies having a different moral adventure each week, and then reminding you exactly what that moral is at the end of each episode. It reminds me of all the old Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Ah! Real Monsters and every other single piece of nostalgia I can bring to you from your childhood. On a more recent note, the Disney show Phineas and Ferb also follows this format as well as do most TV sitcoms, whether it’s big bang theory or King of Queens. This format isn’t something that went away and is now coming back, we just haven’t seen it with this kind of face for a very long time.

So what makes this format valuable? It’s simple really, or should I say it’s really simple, MLP doesn’t require complex character arcs or a drawn out narrative, Just fit your moral/joke/theme of the day into the episode and move on. It works well for folks who have lot’s of cool ideas and want to get as many of them in as possible , it also fits well with those of you who like to write by the seat of your pants each episode is it’s own little thought with little or no heed to what comes before or what comes next.


This sums up the show pretty well

What can we writers take away from this, well mostly that a series doesn’t need a long complex narrative, sometimes it can just be the six different books about how a boy and his dog find different treasures every week, or about the different planets a group of space marines visit. The point is that people can enjoy simple shorts as well as writers can enjoy writing them.

Theme

The main thing that separates MLP from other form of television that most 14-25 year olds watch is it’s constant theme of light hearted comedy and cute aesthetic design, which stands in opposition to every notion of dark and gritty that has been installed in us since Batman became a thing.

um, yes all day, yes all night, for the rest of my life.<br /><br />
{picture of batman riding through the sky on the back of a purple my little pony with a bat symbol on the rump and it’s amazing.}
Batman riding a pony, deal with it.

Simply put shows like MLP offer us a refuge from a reality where stories are getting darker and edgier everyday without any sign of stopping, between writers like Christopher Nolan, Steven Moffat and movies like Toy Story 3 and Up even kids shows and movies are pressing toward the gritty realism of everyday life. And maybe, just maybe there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to give up on a world where kids can build roller coasters in there back yard or one were the worst thing that can happen when two groups of people disagree is a really bug food fight. At the end of the day we all want to go back to those days where you knew that every episode Duke would win out over Cobra Commander and the worst thing we had to worry about was Tommy losing his screwdriver, really we all want to believe again in a world where friendship is magic.

I’d just like to send out an apology to any of my regular and new readers for not having updated this Friday, between moving to a new home and anew job I just haven’t been online for the past two days. However I plan on posting Friday’s article on Monday and then resuming our regular Friday posting schedule on next Friday. Look forward to a very bucking awesome article in a couple of days.

Feature Story: Baby Batman

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Storytelling Elements

This weeks feature comes from Smudgedredd and his webcomic Baby Batman, it was chosen because of it’s art style and humor. Showing that one simple change can turn a character from serious to silly when applied appropriately.

Piggybacking

If you found this little comic humorous why don’t you go check out the rest of Baby Batman here

The Archetype has come together with Nightmares of a writer to produce a podcast with a mutual friend of ours. We covered multiple games, time travel, history and superpowers. If these things interest you click here and give us a listen.

 

The Archetype has recently added two new pages to it’s blog, the first is a submissions page for authors and viewers who would like to have their work or work they believe deserves to be feature on this site can be posted, the second is a writers resource page with links to websites that offer tips and tools for aspiring writers to use.

Time travel in storytelling is almost as old as it is confusing, early writings pop up in Hindu mythology with the story of king Kakudmi who travels through time after moving to another plane of existence and back.  The king finds he’s traveled ages into the future and all of his friends and family dead, this is just one of many old stories that show up with men traveling to the future in various ways.

Time Travel to the past is more recent idea that only started to show up in early 1800’s With first story being told by a Russian author Alexander Veltman who wrote about going back in time to meet Aristotle and Alexander the Great.

But enough about History let’s get into the good stuff. What makes time travel interesting is hard to pin down when you take into consideration how it’s used. Is time travel your heroes superpower? Is it a one time thing? Can you control it with a time machine or is a random thing?


Does it require you to get to 88mph

Time Travel primarily functions in one of two ways in fiction, one is as a setting where the lead character and company travel to different periods of time to go about there story. The second and more confusing way is as a plot device which can and usually does include time travel as a setting but also as device to give the story more depth and complexity.

Time Travel as a Setting

Time travel as a setting is best favored by fiction that follows an episodic narrative. This format for time travel is widely used cartoons, Live action shows, comics and any other media where the setting can be changed from episode to episode and the time travel itself is just a means of changing that setting. This may not be the first thing that come to your mind when you think of time travel but it is the most common as it’s often feature in children’s cartoons like Phineas and Ferb where inventing a time machine was really just another way to have an adventure, while most cartoons only used this form of time travel as one shot gimmick for that weeks episode, some cartoons built this version of time travel as their shows engine for moving the story.

Flint the Time Detective - Can't We All Get Along? (DVD) Cover Art
If you don’t remember this then your not old enough to use the internet

Flint The Time detective was a show that followed the evolving monster models that Pokemon had already established, Flint was a boy who traveled far and wide to catch monsters. Sound familiar, what set flint apart from it’s contemporaries was it’s driving gimmick, time travel. Flint was a cavema… caveboy and each episode had him travel through time trying to hunt down different cute and quirky monsters. Without time travel as a setting Flint would have never gotten off the ground. It also needs to be pointed out that this format hasn’t been restricted to kid’s cartoons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles featured a video game based around time travel as a setting called Turtles in Time where each level was placed in a different era in time. Maybe more famously the 2005 re-boot of Doctor Who heavily featured this in it’s first season and still does now, thought it grew more complex as the show went on.

When done well this form of time travel can be used to produce interesting characters and settings to help enrich your story, however some authors tend to rely on the gimmick as a way of making there story interesting instead of using it to help create interesting characters and places. Once again I’m going to turn back to Doctor Who  primarily the first season of the reboot where the Time Travel was used mostly as means of putting the Doctor and his companion into different settings like a space station orbiting a dying earth or elizabethan England. The early episodes featured fantastical places but had poorly developed characters. While the Doctor was plenty interesting, Rose Tyler suffered early on in the series, and her mother and ex-boyfriend never became more then buzzing noise in the audience’s ears as they tried to watch the show. Russel T. Davies, the shows main writer at the time, leaned heavily on his settings and forgot to  make interesting characters and regardless of where in time your fiction is taking place, if the people in it or boring the rest of the story will be as well.


But all will be forgiven if they bring back Jack

Time Travel as a Plot Device

Time travel as a plot device is often more confusing and far more prone to abuse.  In it’s plot device form is easily applicable to all forms of fiction and media, and while it can used different ways by different writers the main similarity is that it is a constant and controllable device that is used for more then just shuttling characters from place to place.

But what separates the good from the bad? The mark of an author using time travel well is that it allows them to both create and solve problems in a unique fashion. It important to note that Time travel can be used to create trouble for the lead, if it’s only a positive force with no limitation it begins to create problems for the writer as they struggle with ways to challenge the stories lead. Limiting the leads ability to travel through time and having those same abilities used against him forces the writer to come up with creative ways solve problems and serves as an excellent way to build tension and gives the audience something worth viewing.

No one seems to do this better then the current lead writer for Doctor Who, Steven Moffat and nobodies done it better then what is possibly the most famous episode of the rebooted DW series, Blink. Spoilers ahead fellows so If you haven’t watched This particular episode of DW leave now, I mean it. Go google the episode, watch and then come back here and finish this article.Are they gone? good, okay, let’s get back to the article.


Bring me my brown pants

Blink is one of the better if not the best known DW episodes for a host of reasons, what aspiring writers want to focus on is how Moffat used time travel against the characters in the show to drive up tension and emotions. He used time travel from the beginning to ramp up tensions, first with messages from the past, then with mysterious notes and disappearing friends and then with a dying love interest. All of which happen because they were transported back in time and the same things that got them are after the shows lead sally sparrow. Moffat also used this as chance to show off the Doctor’s brilliance, instead having him sonic his way out of the situation as many a writer have done, Moffat instead chose to have the Doctor work out his problems without the use of his TARDIS and mostly off screen. By sending messages through time the slow way, by writing recording and waiting, the Doctor was able to communicate with sally sparrow so she could retrieve the TARDIS and save the day.

Another interesting thing to note about this episode is that Moffat kept the setting relativity current, with only a few scenes from the past and having most of the episode take place in the present, time travel was used strictly as a device for the characters to use to move the story forward.

While Moffat used time travel brilliantly, the most common problem with using time travel is that it get’s awfully complicated awfully quick, Moffat makes a nod toward this in Blink by the doctor try to explain time as “a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.” Because of this time travel has been abused and misused on numerous occasions either leading to fridge logic, like why on earth didn’t Harry Potter just a time turner to solve everything ever or how many episodes of DW are laced with paradoxes that aren’t even attempted to be given a nod, both examples leave their viewers saying WTF?.


But.. how.. when… A Fez? This doesn’t even make sense

The problem comes from a writer looking for either a quick way out of problem they’ve landed their character in or that they were looking for a way to give their story more depth and complexity and instead just made it muddled and confusing. Your audience will like having their minds blown, they won’t like being left confused and frustrated.

Time Travel and You

As you can see time travel can get complicated, but don’t let it scare you away from writing with it. While you’ll probably blunder through it for a while you can take solace in the fact that people Like Moffat and Davies screw up even at the professional level. And don’t be afraid to let your creativity flourish, the rule of cool applies to most time travel stories and if it’s interesting enough most viewers will let it pass even if it get’s hard to understand and if they start asking to many questions just tell them “It’s complicated” and hope they don’t respond “I’m clever.”

For those who are following along at home, Starbucks or wherever you get your wifi, Phyllis Moore of Myth Rider has nominated The Archetype for the Liebster award. Phyllis became a friend of The Archetype due to similar interest and excelent writing and if you have the time you should take the opportunity to visit her.

This thing

Now for the important bits, The Liebster Awards is given to small bloggers with less then 200 followers and excellent style format and content. It is passed by a nominated individual nominating 11 other blogs they believe meet the standards for the awards. Thos nominated are asked 11 questions by the nominee who came before them and the create eleven questions for those who follow. so with out further adieu here are the 11 question presented by Phyllis Moore.

1. What is you favorite breakfast?

French Toast

2. Who is you favorite author?

Harper Lee

3. If you could go any where in the world, where would you go?

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

4. Who would you go with?

My wonderful girl friend Ashely Johnson

5. How would you get there?

Cruise ship

6. Where are you willing to walk barefoot?

Just about anywhere, except Oklahoma.

7. What is your most memorable birthday? Why?

21 was pretty memorable, I did absolutely nothing

8. Sunset or sunrise? Why?

Yes

9. Would you jump out of a plane? Why or why not?

Yes, have you ever tried to watch and in flight movie?

10. Ice cream, cake or pie?

Pumpkin Pie Ice cream cake

11. Would you rather play an instrument, dance, go to a concert, or listen to music in the quiet of you home?

Concert hands down, me playing an just gives me and everyone within earshot a headache.

Now it’s my turn to nominate a few bloggers, but I into a bit a problem, I only have three blogs that I know of that fit Lieber’s standards, so here they are

1. Nightmare of a writer

2.Sandscriber

3.Mind your Gamers

and here is my eleven questions for them.
1. Batman Vs Iron Man?
2.Is there a difference between anime and cartoons?
3. Eddart Stark Vs. Tywin Lanister?
4. What is you favorite genre of literature/film?
5. What do you want to do with your life?
6. Why should viewers read your blog?
7. Are you a jerk?
8. Do you spend to much time on TV tropes?
9. have you completed the first draft of your current Novel/screenplay/short story/ research paper
10. Daleks or Cyber men?
11. What is the first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight?

One of the things I’ve struggled with as novice writer is defining what makes my characters awesome, what makes them interesting what makes the reader say “I could read 1000 pages about this guy and his group of rebels.” When I started out I wrote high pace action scenes and fights scenes one after another thinking these were the things that made my lead interesting. It wasn’t until I let a friend of mine read over my manuscript and tell me my fight scenes sucked. More importantly  in my review I found they weren’t interesting, they didn’t add anything to the protagonist’s character outside of the fact that he could hit people, really, really hard.

The Hulk has more character depth

What I learned from the experience was that what I was writing not what made the character and the story interesting.  However my friend was able to help me point out what was interesting, a scene prior to a fight with the protagonist analyzing the area before the battle. Afterwords I went back through my manuscript cutting most  of the major fight scenes that had dotted the book and shuffled others off screen. It helped clean up the pacing, but more importantly it gave my lead some much needed characterization and gave me a chance write more interesting scenes.

Mat Nix covered much of the same sentiment in a interview for his hit TV show Burn Notice, whose lead character Micheal Weston stars as a “Burned”(read fired) spy trying to figure out why he was burned and get his job back. The show features high speed chases, fight scenes, explosions, gun battles and romance but what really makes the show interesting is Weston’s unique approach to creative problem solving. Over the course of several episodes Weston mails a pipe bomb to his old boss, uses power tools and turpentine to disable a car full of gangsters, and convinces several really nasty people to shoot several other really nasty people. Nix picked up on this and was able to write his characters in situations that allowed their creative problem solving to flourish.

so you’re telling me this is all because they stole your yogurt.

If your still trying to figure out where this means for you, It means that if you want your characters to be interesting, then you have to give them the opportunity to do interesting things and then write them doing them. For my lead it was planning out every move in a fight the night before the fight happened, for Weston it was cutting a hole in the ceiling of a office building to steal data from there computers. But these examples don’t just apply to novel and script witting. Games and movies require this kind of writing to keep the audience sticking around, to better show you what I mean I’ve added a couple of examples from different mediums in fiction.

Gaming

let’s start with gaming, with it’s unique experience that other forms of media can’t deliver on. Gaming has evolved from the simple days of pong and text based adventure games into a variety of massive interactive experiences with as many genres and styles as any other form of art. But gaming stands on the same rule as any other form of fiction, it has to be interesting, games like the Elder Scrolls series draw people into a massive worlds full of history and details that can keep their audience entertained for days. When the games are good their quest lines immerse you in the story by giving you the hands on opportunity to be the hero that you normally only get to read in books and watch in movies. When the quests are done bad they have you trek half way across their massive world to pick up a sword only to bring it back to where you started. In gaming the audience plays the lead and it’s up to the game designer to give the players something interesting to do that compliments the leads skill set and character. If you’re planning on creating a game that offers the player the ability to spit fire and eat lighting don’t waste his time by making him bake a pie.

Even if that pie is made with Mammoth meat

Movies

Script writing for movies follows a lot of the same rules that you’d find for scripts in television, the notable difference is time constraint and cash concerns, however one thing that is often overlooked is the fact the a Movie get’s one shot at getting it right. One bad episode isn’t likely to sink a popular TV series, but movies only get one shot and a box office flop often kills plans for future installments. That’s why we see most major budget movies playing it safe sticking to the same story arcs and formulas that produce movies that people will go and see instead of searching for new and interesting scripts. So if you plan on having your script actually being shown on the big screen it can’t afford to waste time on things that aren’t what make it great.

The Movie that stands most recently for having interesting character doing interesting things is Marvel Studious Avengers, Marvel knew going into that movie that each character had been developed in there previous movies, they had all gone through their major character arcs and came out as better people. All they had to do in finale of their nearly decade long project was to shove everybody together and give them a chance do the things we loved watching them do again, Hulk smashed, Tony shot his mouth off, Capt threw his shield, Thor shot lighting, Natasha reverse interrogated a god  and Hawkey… what exactly was Hawk-eye doing again?

Staring at Scarlet Johansson apparently

The Avenger’s while not having had a complicated or stellar narrative, with only Banner having a decent character arc and Loki making for a modest villain compared to his role in Thor, was a resounding success that relied almost entirely on their interesting scenes. The most prominent ideas being “let’s have Hulk punch something big” and “let’s have hulk punch a god, no wait two gods.”

Comics

Comics have a weird combination of episodic structure and narrative perspective, all while being set in a kid’s picture book style. What that means is that comics can get that tightly contained narrative that short stories and TV shows thrive on. While producing the epic imagery that movies tend to require with the dialogue and perspective that good novels live or die by. Comics tend to be the jack of all trades and masters of none in the world of fiction, and the authors usually play this up, offering an inside view of characters’ thoughts and illustrating interesting scenes to draw the reader in. One of the best comics to display comics’ unique perspective on fiction is Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Moore was able to make the characters in his stories interesting by combining narrative perspective with impressive visuals to produce memorable scenes. Scenes like Rorschach fighting off cops with matches and hairspray or the antagonist’s scheme which I will not spoil for those who have yet to read the comic.

This is laid in contrast with the new Before Watchmen limited series which is set as a prequel to Moore’s series. While not all of the comics are wholly bad, none of them stand up to Moore’s writing. One notable comic however is bad enough to get mentioned as the example of how you can go wrong, the issue introduces the new Silk Specter who is being trained to replace her mother as  the current Specter. What could have been a classic comic that could have shown the difficulties of trying to balance the life of a superhero with the life of a teenage girl who’s trying to find her own way in the world. The writers however forgo this and instead decides to follow how the new Specter as she is picked on by the popular girls at her school and how she falls in love with the school’s top jock. With only a few interesting visual scenes drawn and even less interesting perspectives used the comic really just ends up being a more of a teenage soap opera as opposed to superhero origin story.

You can read this or you can read about a sixteen year old girl who complains about her mom.

Regardless of what medium you use for your fiction, whether it’s games or comics, fantasy or sci-fi, romance or thriller, you need to let your characters shine, cut back on the unnecessary and pile on the interesting. Whether that means your audience is going to be reading about how a master assassin hunts down and murders all of his girlfriend’s prior love interests or if they get to watch your costumed superhero  punch reality, find out what makes your characters shine and then polish them till they’re gold.  Just don’t make us read about how Batman and Robin comically try to cook scrambled eggs without Alfred’s help when we could be reading about how Batman foiled the Jokers latest scheme to turn the moon into cheese.