The Making of a Hero: How Spiderman 2 Shows Writers How to Create True Heroes

One of the smartest comic book movies ever written has some great lessons for us writers. What better way to pick up some writing tips than by watching movies?

In Spiderman 2 (2004), director Sam Raimi employed a technique with his main character that great writers have long used, but which, sadly, many writers today fail to employ. That is the method of pounding your MC into the ground. Blast him with bad news. Take everything he has from him and then kick his feet out from under him. (Ali of aliventures wrote a nice little post about this, here.)

George RR Martin has perfected this method. He beats the crap out of his characters. In fact, it is through his extreme use of this method that Martin is able to manipulate readers into sympathizing with formerly despicable characters. (But that is a more advanced writing technique for another post for another time.)

We watch, mesmerized, as Peter Parker is fired from his job, discovers that the love of his life is engaged to another man; he is mistreated and abused and disregarded by everyone (except his anorexic female neighbor), loses his self-confidence and his web-slinging ability by association, and finally is forced to endure a public slapping from his best friend. And that’s not even mentioning his main problem: a vengeful scientist with four mechanical arms welded to his body.

It’s one thing after another, beating poor Peter into the ground.

In novels and movies this makes us feel for the MC. But beneath the surface, it also creates wonderful opportunities for character arcs.

When you hurt your darlings—just as with real people in real life—they become vulnerable and open to deep emotional states. Peter eventually chooses the right path, that of a hero. That’s the story crux of Spiderman 2. He learns to become the hero, not because he can, but because that is who he wants to be for his city, no matter its negative effects on his own personal life.

But if you watch the movie and pay close attention, and think about it, you will realize that all these terrible events in his life could just as easily have resulted in creating a villain out of Peter Parker.

In fact, those events are, when you get right down to it, basically the origin story of many villains. They are basically the same things (or worse) that happened to Adrian Toomes in Spiderman: Homecoming.

The difference is that Toomes handled the situation poorly. His decision was driven by selfish impulses. Instead of reflecting on what the city needed, he considered only his own desires. Peter Parker considered his desires, but he also weighed them against the needs of his hometown, and he was wise enough to recognize and confess that his wants and needs—as always—paled in comparison to the needs of New York.

Mythcreants offers a useful little guide for villain origin stories (and even uses movies as examples, which is always cool.)

Does it seem strange that a hero and a villain origin story might be found in the same circumstances?

When I think about it, I must admit that it does not seem strange, after all.

Heroism and villainy are two sides of the same coin. It should come as no surprise that the basis for both might be similar; circumstances (should) shape each of your characters. It is their response to their situation that determines their personality and, ultimately, their destiny.

There are few things more rewarding to read about than characters in dire straits coming to terms with their stations and resolving how to respond.

How do your characters respond to their situations?

It is a vital question you must consider if you want to create a compelling narrative and bold characters. Indecisive characters are annoying. Those who know who they are, or who know who that want to be, make for the greatest, most entertaining characters. They are the sort of people your readers want to read about.

When Peter Parker decides to be the hero the city (and he himself) needs, we are treated to a character with a resolute mind. He knows who he is—and so what follows is pure entertainment.

When you sit down to write your characters, remember to pound them into the ground, force them into making tough decisions. By the end, they should know who they are, and happily embrace who they are—like you. You are a writer. Embrace that fact. Rejoice in it! Educate yourself in the art and joy of writing, by reading and writing. And don’t forget to look for tips in your favorite movies, or right here.

Free Self-Help E-Book Giveaway: Insights into the Self-Improvement Genre

As thanks to my wonderful readers, I am giving away my book The (Psycho) Path to Success.

It is an expose/parody of the self-help industry. I want to share the insight I have been given into a genre that–for the most part—deviously deceives its readers, with tactics designed to enrich, not its followers, but its authors.

Self-help gurus and life coaches make millions with their books and ‘life mastery retreats’ while making unfounded claims that if you follow their expert advice, you too will have everything you want. (All you have to do is buy into their schemes: they sell hope, so you can buy it.)

In The (Psycho) Path, I expose their tactics and deceptions, using one of their own tropes against them: the classic 7 Steps format. Steve Salerno’s own brilliantly researched expose on the self-help industry—SHAM—was very informative, but ultimately it turned even me away. It was clear the man had bones to pick with self-help. His tone was angry, hateful.

So I employ a more playful tone in my expose, treating it like a parody, but filled with incites and tips on how to free yourself from the expensive schemes of these sham artists.

It is my gift to you, for free until November 26, this Sunday. After that, Amazon will force me to start charging for it. Grab it up for free while you can (it’ll still be only .99 cents after Sunday) and discover why (most) self-help spiels inspire, motivate, and exalt you, but ultimately fail to improve your life; and how (most) life-coaches stroke your ego while draining your bank account.

Remember, not all self-help books are deceptive and underhanded. Some select few are genuinely designed to help people. But they are the minority. Beware how you browse the Self-Help shelves.

The playful tone of my little e-book is wonderfully captured by J.P Sears, in his How to Be a Life Coach YouTube video. Check it out down below, and don’t forget to grab The (Psycho) Path to Success for FREE if you want to find out how a multi-billion dollar industry is duping millions of Americans. Happy reading!

You are Your Brand: How to Market Yourself

When asked why she turned to traditional publishing after finding phenomenal success in self-publishing, Amanda Hocking explained ‘Right now, being me is a full time corporation. I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.’

This author of the paranormal romance Trylle Trilogy learned the hard way that when you self-publish, you are not just an author, editor, publisher, and marketer, you are a brand. You are not just selling your books, you are selling yourself. You basically become a corporation of 1.

It is, therefore, vital to your potential success that you develop the confidence in not only your work but yourself as well.

This is why you have a blog or website

It’s not just to promote your books; people want to know who is behind the words they love. They want to see epic photos of the author they are buying into. They want information about you. (That’s where your About page comes in.)

Sharing takes on a whole new meaning. You share your life with your visitors. You promote your life in the tingling hope that it will be ‘liked’ and result in sales of your books.

This is called your conversion rate, by the way. It sounds slimy to me. You lure people to your site under the guise of providing them with useful content, and then, once they’re hooked, once they’ve taken the bait, you reel them in and deliver the pitch to convert them into customers.

I never liked the sound of it. Who would, besides psychopaths?

Thankfully I reveived a very useful email from one of the writing sites I subscribe to. (I can’t recall which one.) He taught that marketing was not about employing slimy used-car-salesman tactics, but about performing three simple, honest procedures:

  • Providing genuinely useful and FREE content for visitors that they can interact with
  • Creating lasting and meaningful relationships with customers
  • Continuing to communicate with and provide content for your ‘friends’

Before, during, and after you’ve got these three steps down pat, you’ll need to do some SEO work. Promote your site, offer to write guest posts on other, similar sites, email established authors for endorsements or testimonials for your books; basically do the work of ten people, all while keeping a positive spin on things and establishing your voice and niche.

For all of this you’re going to need bucketloads of confidence. Read on to discover the keys to building this confidence. Continue reading “You are Your Brand: How to Market Yourself”