1. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    What NOT to do.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AxleMAshcraft, Jun 19, 2011.

    So here is my little problem.
    I'm writing my first super hero book, I'm super excited! I've been brainstorming for a while and found things that basically haven't hit mainstream super hero movies or anything. (At least one person is going to read that and thing "what bull****. Her little story is going to turn out to be exactly like some other movie because nothing is original anymore." No need to post that, I know, originality is the most unoriginal thing, whatever.)
    But I REALLY don't want it to turn out cliche, but now that I'm not in a workshop or anything, I'm just going to be writing by myself and it might acciedently lean toward the cliche just because I'm not noticing it.
    So here is what I present to you. If you have any ideas about what NOT to do, keeping it away from the cliche, lemme know :) Or if there is something that you absolutely hate about books you might want to add that (something that authors tend to do a lot. For me its spontaneous relationships between two of the main character/best friends. just an example).
    This is a pretty broad topic, but even mentioning just a few things would be helpful :)
     
  2. aland88
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    aland88 New Member

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    I guess it depends on where you want to take it. The term "superhero" implies the whole she-bang and there's going to be costumed heroes.

    I like when someone takes a story and finds the personal aspect to it. I think any genre can be really well-done with the right writer.

    The best advice would be to keep the dialogue real. 99% of superhero-related things I read, the characters talk like they're from another dimension (maybe they are) instead of like human beings. Joss Whedon's good about keeping the dialogue real though.
     
  3. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    ^ Whedon's really good. :)

    I like superhero characters that have more than one dimension -- villains that are evil for a reason rather than evil's sake, heroes that are also anti-heroes in a way. Anything not cardboard, I guess you could say. Think The Dark Knight.
     
  4. Suadade
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    Suadade Senior Member

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    Hands-down the best superhero work written, in any medium, is "Watchmen" by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore. They dress up in silly costumes and beat up criminals, but damn if they aren't real people underneath the masks. Nobody's really good and nobody's really evil. I'd say take some inspiration from that and make your characters human, despite being superheroes.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    My god, yes. Of course, Watchmen was a graphic novel (and later an absolutely brilliant film. Watch it, please, for the love of God, watch it) and not an ordinary novel, but the dialogue was brilliant. Sally Jupiter's storyline is... grimy... but her reactions are beautifully orchestrated.

    What NOT to do, though?

    As was said above, villains who are evil for the sake of evil should be avoided, but I think it goes further than that. Avoid villains who are evil because of insanity. I'd even say to avoid villains.

    Too much inner conflict is also becoming far too standard in superhero fiction (see Spider Man 3 or Smallville). The superhero's enemy needs to be defined at some point, and that is where, I believe, the originality of the story comes in; how you handle the introduction of an enemy, and who that enemy is.
     
  6. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    My advice is to first and all forget the whole superhero-thing. Sure they have superpowers, and sure they are heroes or villains. But they are also real people with real lives and real issues. That's what you should focus on. Superman, Batman, Spider-man and all those are great, but the reason Watchmen got so popular was because the whole super-thing got put in the background. Personally I thought it got close to being boring, so a bit more super-stuff would have been nice, though.
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree. I think if you focus on having good characters and plot, and let them control where the story is going, you'll automatically avoid most clichés.

    But some clichés to specifically avoid:
    * Characters are defined by their powers only, not by their background or personality.
    * Every time two super-powered characters meet, they have to fight before teaming up.
    * Super-powered characters assume they're going to team up to fight "evil", as if everyone has the same idea of who's "evil".
    * The world is neatly divided into "heroes" and "villains".
    * Upon gaining powers, a character immediately decides to become either a "hero" or "villain".
    * Super heroes are motivated by fighting crime and doing good, and do it for free.
    * Villains are motivated by wanting to destroy the world - and also do it for free!
    * Super-powered characters miraculously come back to life after having been dead for a long time.
    * Super-powered characters form teams without a clear purpose, or much thought about all the problems involved.
    * Characters form teams with ONLY super-powered beings - no human strategists, engineers, janitors, medics, mechanics, etc. It's assumed people with vastly different powers work better together than someone with powers and someone with training in, for example, forensics, detective work or firearms.
    * Teams are conveniently funded by a rich benefactor.
    * Characters run around in colourful costumes.
    * Problems are solved by using super-powers and slugging it out.
    * Characters without invulnerability miraculously survive in the middle of fights between super-strong characters - and nobody thinks about bringing a common gun to the fight to take down the telepaths and telekineticists. Characters rarely get hurt (broken arms, bruises, burst ear-drums from super-strong blows, lethal wounds from collapsing buildings or shrapnel flying around, etc) - not even the ones without physical powers.
    * Costumes are impractical and outlandish. Super-powered females show a lot of skin.
    * Almost all heroes are fit, well-endowed and attractive - almost none of them are over-weight, unfit, clumsy, unattractive, physically or mentally challenged, or just average. Villains are either strikingly unattractive, or as well-endowed and attractive as the heroes.
     
  8. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    What I like seeing for advice in this thread is that pretty much everyone one has said in one way or another, make sure you focus on the character/hero as a person. If you write a human story about someone who is just like any other human in emotions and even emotional fragility, the other cliche worries will likely just not appear. A hero is not, per se, invincible but that the hero understands those weaknesses and has the same fears but overcomes them to do things selflessly for others.

    Think about the firefighters on 9/11. That is, of course, a hero. Each one had fears, families and reasons to live. Still, knowingly went in to the way of harms to help others.

    Think about how we think of real heros and even their humanity and flaws but still can understand that they represent a greater good in all of us.
     
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    * "With great power comes great responsibility." Um... no, it doesn't. Just because I'm a villain, it doesn't mean I bother fighting every single hero and their families every time I leave the house. You might be a hero, but you are not the center of my universe. In fact, I don't even care about you.

    * If you are a villain determined to take over the world, why on earth would you stick to stupid minions? You can afford competent people, you know.

    * Is the villain unconscious after a long fight? Then lock him up before he wakes up! Don't just turn your back to him and talk about how great you are until he wakes up and attack you from behind. Idiot heroes.

    * If said villain and hero finally meet, just get on with the fight. That's what everyone wants to see anyway. There's no point in the villain telling everyone all about his plan before the hero is dead. And when the hero dies, there's no one left to tell the plan to anyway. So... why not go through with it right away and be done with it? Even before the hero arrives?

    * Want to date a hero? Get used to him running off all the time and never keeping appointments. On second thought, dating that ordinary guy might not be such a bad idea. (or girl, if you'are a guy.) It would mean less danger and more kept appointments and dates.

    * Last, but not least: The heroes are always running off to save the day or some crap, so how can you expect them to keep an ordinary job?
     
  10. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Costumes.
    Designated heroes/villains.
    Inexplicable/arbitrary "chosen one"s.
    Invincibility/infalibility, physical, moral or otherwise.
    The whole "world revolves around them" thing, whether by their own perceptions or the structure of the story.
    No personality outside the persona. No opinions, beliefs, taste in art/music, etc. not related to superheroism.
    Antagonists with powers perfectly opposite the protag. (Fire v ice, etc.)
    Relationships that are largely merely story devices (Superman, Lois Lane: designated victim/weakness)

    'Tis what comes to mind at the moment. Hope it helps. Good luck.
     
  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't set costumes on the "what not to do"-list. Of course there are good and bad costumes, but I would rather have a good costume than no costume. Look at Green Arrow in Smallville, or the black trenchcoat-costume Clark wore in a season. Those are pretty cool costumes that's practical and "normal", yet definitely costumes. Even Watchmen had costumes.
     
  12. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Some one had posted a Marvel vs. DC and it got me to thinking. Why is it we can always identify a DC from a Marvel? For me it is how they get their powers.

    Marvel is usually a latent power that the hero got from birth or mutation. There are the random accidents as well like Spiderman and Hulk. DC on the other hand almost always uses out side influences usually Alien or the person is an E.T. him/her self.

    I have always loved the contracted powers because they are rarely used and they require the hero to give something up to gain these powers. The Hero needs to either take on a host and share the body or they sign something with the Devil.

    I also like the natural powers taken on through adversity like Batman or Dare Devil.

    I am not sure if this helps but it is there to inspire you. Good luck.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The telepaths know before you fire and get out of the way. And bullets go around the telekineticists.
     
  14. SteamWolf
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    SteamWolf Senior Member

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    If you finally have your nemesis in your grasp, and have second thoughts about finishing him off, FINISH HIM! Feel guilty later :D
    If your nemesis says 'Don't pull that lever or I'll kill *person of significance*!' promise not to pull the lever - then pull it anyway.

    +1 for Watchmen. Fantastic story and the movie was a good adaptation. A little bit too much blue tockley for me, but other than that, definately my favorite superhero story.
     
  15. SteamWolf
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    SteamWolf Senior Member

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    The greatest weapon against a telepath is probably a well-drunk mind.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Assuming the telepath can keep track of all minds in the vicinity at the same time, and the telekineticist spots the sniper. (Most bullets travel faster than sound, and reach their target before you hear the shot - and even if the telekineticist did hear the shot, they'd need super-speed to stop the bullet before it hit them.)

    In Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man, a murderer sings a catchy (and annoying) tune in his head to throw telepaths off track.
     
  17. barnz
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    Nodding as dialog attribution. Larry Bond loves that - every other snippet of dialog went like: "Yadda yadda yadda, yadda?" he nodded. And it REALLY gets on your nerves after a while if you're reading a whole novel of it!

    In terms of superhero stories, avoid heros like Superman - where nothing can really touch them. I find it hard to relate to an alien that's invincible (kryptonite, I know, but you're hardpressed to find something that can stop him. A character needs a challenge if the story's going to be gripping. The nobility of some heroes also offends me - if you're unstoppable, what's stopping you from taking everything you want? Why should you care to defend the world from evil? Struggling with inner demons, the corruption of their powers - that makes a gripping story I think.
     
  18. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    Another idea that I have...

    Thank you so much for the advice guys! It was super helpful and I'm hoping that my characters seem genuine enough. I'll post the first chapter for workshop reading when I have the time/ when I'm done.
    I was hoping...
    Would anyone be willing to give a bit more advice?
    If yes, then continue to read :)
    Alright so what do you guys think about a super hero with suicidal tendencies?
    She can levitate, and didn't know about it for most of her life (she is 16 yo). The only clue to when she started noticing things was when hair dye that she put in didn't wash out (I'm not sure where I'm going with that yet, bear with me.)
    WHAT IF, while attempting to hang herself, she started levitating, therefore not dying...?
    Yes? No? Is this in the realm of cliche?
     
  19. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Was or is suicidal? If is then no it does not work. If was and wants to help those who are where the hero was then that is another thing. Kind of like Constantine.
     
  20. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    In a way both. Lemme put it this way:
    She almost committed suicide, and has wanted to, and has tried and failed because of her super power, and now has too much on her plate to think about it. She is caught up trying to understand her own body/new abilities.
    Right now in the story she is in denial. but when it comes down to it (she lives in a bad area and was almost attacked) her body sort of goes into overdrives and makes up for what's lacking in her mentality. She doesn't really know what she is capable of and doesn't really want to, she just wants her best friend to understand her. Eventually I'll add in a different conflict and really get a plot working. I'm only in the first chapter.
     
  21. Ryan.Sh6w
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    Ryan.Sh6w New Member

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    ...speaking of originality, that whole hanging herself and accidentally discovering her superpowers thing seems really interesting. So first and foremost GJ!

    1. I think you could end up making a really interesting character ark based on the fact that she kind of accidentally stumbled in to these life altering powers. Was it fate? Did she subconsciously want to be special? Or was it thrust upon her?

    some other original thoughts that would strike me are

    2. Maybe have her never really be able to control her powers. Often you find superheroes go through a predictable process of self discovery followed by harnessing their talents for good and evil. What if your heroine and her powers were unpredictable and morally ambiguous?

    3. (A personal pet peve of mine) Nothing frustrated me more, in any superhero conflict ever than the hero taking the high road in regards to punishment. Think for example about Batman never deciding to finish his villains and permanently remove them from the possibility of commiting crimes again. That whole prison/rehabilitation thing I find is very cliche in the superhero world and it might be nice to see a heroine who takes more definitive action.

    That's my two cents. Best of luck.
     
  22. barnz
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    barnz Member

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    I like that idea actually! Ideas tend to be the easy part though - at least they have for me.

    What I tell myself is: Everything has already been done before.

    Depressing isn't it? But the way I see it, with any attempt at originality out of the way, I can concentrate on making my writing stand out :)
     

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