There’s more to writing than sound and fury. Through others’ stories, we can learn to captain our words more effectively, whether they be spears of stark prose or banners of poetic verse. We can see the difference between hulking blobs of text and phrases of hawk-eye precision. And we can make sure our writing’s a little less Thor-rible than before. Here’s what today’s superheroes can teach us about super-writing:
1. Have a plan, then don’t stick with it.
Why do the Avengers win? Because they’re chaotic. Sure, there’s a big tactical plan to first get them together, then send them out in highly-coordinated mechanical-reptile-squashing formation…but it falls apart almost immediately. That isn’t to say plans don’t help: Captain America’s tactics get all the team playing to their strengths in their big battle, and Jarvis’ recommendations give Iron Man the basis to plot out his various successful gambits including the Earth-saving manoeuvre at the very end. But they’re not set in stone, and they adapt quickly to whatever happens. Notice that Loki and his minions always have extremely “smart” plans – which get beaten by improvisation every time.
Lesson: Writing is like fighting. You can have all your strategy and tactics in place, but then some idiot throws a hand grenade into your war-room before you’ve even sent out orders – like a curve-ball essay question, or a press release due five minutes ago. Train yourself to write fast, and think faster. Don’t get too attached to your ideas, and be dispassionate enough to toss them off the Asgardian cliffs if better ones come along. That way, you can adapt your structure and content to meet, beat and even take advantage of unexpected change in demands or requirements.
2. Work together, write alone.
It’s not just Tony Stark who doesn’t play well with others. When Thor stops for hammer-time, everyone else gets out of the way. Captain America always gets distracted by emotional baggage of teamwork. And Hulk smash. Even Black Widow and Hawkeye are notorious lone-wolf operators who hate others – even superheroes – getting in their way. Having all these highly skilled loners collaborate is like realising Joss Wheedon also wrote the script for Alien: Resurrection: painful at first, but not too bad after a while. Yet what makes the Avengers so effective is that even when they work together, they leave their fellows alone to do what they do best: kicking ass and taking names.
Lesson: Writing is not a collaborative activity. Ever. It may be beneficial to canvass feedback from a group, or brainstorm ideas, or discuss key messages and requirements. But ultimately, the words on the page can only belong to one person – and that person needs to focus on getting them just right. Save the “team-player” speeches for the locker room and the “constructive feedback” or social chatter for after (not during) the creative process. When you’re writing, isolate and concentrate. Your words will reap the benefit immediately.
3. It’s not just what you do.
Gotta save the world. But gotta look good doing it. We love the Avengers not because they do amazing things, but because they do them with style. Captain America’s all about calm and precision, like when he just sticks his shield out and totally schools Thor in the forest. Thor, for his part, brings the damage with slick effects and a wisecrack or two. The Hulk smashes. Iron Man is a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist. Even Loki has that sexy cape and accent and magic tricks of his. These aren’t just world-savers, they’re cool world-savers. I bet there’s a whole new generation of 10-year-olds who can’t wait to grow up and be just as cool with their flying armour suits and invincible armour and weather control. Who knows – maybe they’ll be the ones making these superpowers a reality.
Lesson: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Never overlook flow and tone of voice when you write. Say your words back to yourself, aloud if need be. Practise in different styles (fictive prose, reportage, iambic tetrameters) until you can use them all with some proficiency. Read as much as you possibly can, as long as you live. Work until your writing is clear, precise and eloquent – and then make it even more so. And like those 10-year-old future superheroes, don’t underestimate what you can do if you aim for galaxies far, far away.
(credits to Squall95)
In brief: Be flexible. Write alone. Never give up.