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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Workshop Wednesday (I know it's Thursday, sorry) - Don't Compromise

Have you seen the trailer for Age of Ultron yet? If not, do enjoy. It both feeds my need for an Avengers sitcom, and sets the scene for this film as darker, and much more sinister than the first Avengers.

I've mentioned a time or hundred how much I love the Marvel Studios films. Perhaps because I'm geeky, sure - my dad used to read bedtime Fantastic Four comics to my brother and me when we were very small. "It's clobbering time" became part of daily lingo - but I credit Marvel wtih creating movies that far surpass any expectations for superhero films, and creating stories about real people...who just happen to have superhuman abilities. Or happen to come from Asgard. You know, no big.

I didn't get to watch more than five minutes of the 75th anniversary special Tuesday night - TV-watching isn't really an option with Viktor in the house - but I watched long enough to catch a phrase I've heard repeated in several Marvel specials. The execs continue to say that they want to create movies without compromising. Create characters audiences can identify with, feel for, cheer for. I think that's a fantastic lesson to take away for anyone in the creative arts - Don't compromise.

The superhero film genre is restrictive only so far as you allow it to be; the same can be said for any genre. What Marvel has done so well is provide real-world motivations for their characters. In place of cliché, they build in these incredible human stories that take a hero who could so easily appear shiny and plastic, and make him or her compelling and dynamic instead. These are movies about the characters; character epics with a wonderful superhuman spin. It isn't a movie about Captain America, but about Steve Rogers, and his struggle between his own inherent honor and a dishonorable world. Loki is not a cackling madman, but a fallen prince with a psyche powered by myth and a tragic backstory that has lent him a truly warped concept of personal justice. Tony Stark the "genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist" riddled with guilt, dealing with the repercussions of his actions. All the little personal dramas play out on a grand, global scale, the fate of the world (nine realms, sometimes) hanging in the balance; but it is the characters we love above all, and not simply the adventure.

The same idea can be applied to writing. You are only limited by the genre if you allow yourself to be. Just because you write about a certain world or a certain time, it doesn't mean there are constraints on you as an artist. Am I writing about bikers right now? Sure. But it doesn't mean I have to adhere to any kind of bad-boy romance novel standards. The standards only exist because so many writers have kept to them. And why should I compromise? Why should any of us? I'm writing a family drama, just like I have with my previous novels; this one just happens to take place within a narrow, counterculture world. There is no script. There is no timeline, no standard. The story evolves as the characters do, not the other way around. Don't force a character to meet a point. Make the points revolve around the characters.

And don't compromise. Look how well that's working out for Marvel. :)

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