Oct 12 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Forget the Fun

One of the most common reasons that superhero stories fail is that they try too hard to be serious and end up killing the fun.  This does not mean that a serious story has to be unfun (see Wild Cards).  But the line separating seriousness from insufferability is very fine.  Here are some signs that you’ve crossed it.

  • The story treats being super as if it is a chore or unpleasant burden.
  • All of the characters are completely familiar with having superpowers and/or being superheroes.
  • The characters are overly emo (Heroes).
  • The language is impossibly dense and/or melodramatic (The Superhero’s Closet).
  • The story pushes a political agenda (Civil War).

For example, let’s compare Heroes to Spiderman here. Tracy discovers her ice-powers by accidentally killing someone and tests them by destroying a rose.  In the Spiderman movie, Peter Parker discovers his superpowers by finding out that he no longer needs glasses and tests them by trying to sling his way across town in a comically inept fashion.  Parker’s story features enthusiasm and positive energy.  Tracy’s story is laced with emo wangst. It doesn’t help us relate to her or see through her eyes.  Worse, it prevents viewers from wanting to see through her eyes.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Forget the Fun”

  1. Chris Osborneon 14 Oct 2008 at 6:16 am

    Someone should show this to the writers of Heroes. It’s turning into Lost with all of this can’t-miss-an-episode-and-still-keep-up madness.

  2. Cadet Davison 14 Oct 2008 at 6:29 am

    B. Mac was inspired to write this when we were discussing why Nikki/Tracy, Claire and Peter are such unsatisfying characters even though they get so much more screen time than Matt or possibly Hiro/Ando.

  3. B. Macon 14 Oct 2008 at 9:04 am

    You forgot Suresh, the most insufferable character! Don’t get me started on the prologues he delivers to start each episode. They make no sense and are just there so someone with a Deep, Sonorous Voice can offer Deep Insights. The prologues are fortune-cookie grade witticisms that don’t sound at all well-tailored to the episodes they’re placed in. They could just as easily have been used in any of the other episodes and it wouldn’t have made any less sense.

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