Part 16 ofDos and Don'ts of Storytelling According to Marvel
Good stories rise and fall based on their supporting characters. You can write an amazing protagonist, but without the support of an equally amazing cast, the story doesn't fully develop the protagonist himself, doesn't develop the thematic premise, and, in short, isn't fun.
But just making a checklist of mandatory characters (which we have already discussed in posts) is not enoughIronman 2jstrange doctor). You should also make sure that your opinion toothe archetypal roles- like the mentor figure - is new, interesting andNOstereotype
Character archetypes exist within a story form.to fill in the necessary angles of thematic argument. If even one archetype is missing, the entire story arc becomes weaker. But writers who opt for a full cast must be careful not to let their archetypes become stereotypes. You must balance the challenge of presenting characters who fill specific roles in the story with the equally daunting challenge of presenting those characters as complete, interesting, dichotomous,unbelievablePeople.
WunderSpider Man: HomecomingHe managed this balancing act admirably with many of his characters (including his trusted antagonist, the Vulture). Today I want to specifically focus on what you can learn from this film about creating a mentor figure that is more than just a source of good advice.
>>Click here to read the Spider-Man: Homecoming story structure database analysis.
Be alert! Here comes Spider-Man! (And Iron Man!)
Welcome to part 16 belowour continued exploration of good and evil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel's deal with Sony to include their main character in the mix was great news for me. My love for superhero fiction began with Sam Raimi's excellent work.Spinnenmann 2in 2004. For me, Spider-Man has always beenIsSuperhero Although we've only done a handful of Spidey movies in the past fifteen years, I was cautiously optimistic about what Marvel might "officially" do to reboot the character again.
Although I cannot go so far as to agree with the general acclaimReturn homeis "the best Spider-Man movie" (because, you know,Spinnenmann 2), I thought it was one of the best on-screen portrayals of the ever-popular web-slinger, with the perfect blend of raw humor, teenage angst, teenage silliness and short-sightedness, and personal challenges.
- Peter Parker. Clear. Tom Holland was a brilliant cast who wholeheartedly embodied all of Peter's most endearing qualities. I particularly appreciated that this reboot showed him as a young teenager, essentially a goofy, good-hearted kid who has no idea what he's really getting himself into.
- The opening sequence: Peter's selfie video of his role incivil war. Funny and perfect. That's how you do a flashback, folks.
- The Vulture's loadout was pretty impressive (although all I could think was: Birdman!). His one-on-one interactions with Peter in the third act were easily among the film's best scenes.
- Aunt May's younger incarnation has been refreshingly underused. Marisa Tomei's extreme vulnerability and insecurity lit up the screen every time she appeared.
- "M.J." I'm not sure where they're going with Zendaya's character, but her intense weirdness made it hard to look away.
- Happy to be wearing that you-know-what spoiler for nine years! Perfect and lovable, especially after the events ofcivil war. I was really excited to have Happy in the film because he's amazing and, you know, makes me happy.
- And... Tony. Yes, yes, I know. It's a Spider-Man movie and I've decided to talk about Tony,once again? But as always, Robert Downey Jr.'s magnetic portrayal of the series' most imperfect superhero continues to provide interesting opportunities for learning how to create great characters. We previously talked about what he brings to the table.as a protagonistand then againas an antagonist. Today, let's talk about what Tony's cameo can teach us about writing archetypal mentor characters that are anything but easy.
3 ways to write an interesting mentor character and 1 wayNOA
Aside from perhaps the antagonist, there is no other character archetype that is more abused and abused than the mentor character. The very word 'mentor' conjures up white-bearded old men in long robes, nodding sagely and speaking slowly as they share the wisdom of the ages.
At first glance, it's easy to perceive the mentor character simply as someone who is there to guide and offer good advice to their protagonist. While that's true to a degree, it's also incredibly vague, one-sided, and will almost certainly result in annoyingly one-dimensional characters.
Many of the best mentor characters don't look like mentors at all when the audience meets them. It is only in his relation to the story's theme that his role as a mentor becomes apparent, and this unobviousness is his greatest achievement.
See how you can expand your story with a great mentor character without falling into all the usual clichés.
1. Your mentor should be a touchstone of topical truth
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This is the most important thing you need to know about writing a mentor figure: their basic existence within the story is to reveal thematic truth. on onepositive arc of change, your protagonist will struggle to overcome itthe lie you believe. So where does he learn the truth? It has to come from somewhere, right?
While many different characters represent different aspects of the thematic premise, the most prominent champion of truth will be the Mentor character. the mentor isthe effect characterin a positive arc of change - the personinfluencethe protagonist with the truth and changes its previously misaligned trajectory.
Before you start working on all the flawed and interesting parts of your mentor character, you first need to make sure it's truth-based. Otherwise, she can be a great character, but she's not a mentor. If she doesn't have the truth, she can't help her protagonist to find it.
He doesSpider Man: HomecomingProve the truth through your mentor?
Peter was easily distracted by what was happeningcivil warand his dream of becoming an Avenger. Her priorities got messed up, she outgrew her spandex, and the consequences were devastating. Essentially, like Tony before him, he had to learn that his powers, and in particular his Stark Tech Spidey suit, are not what make a man.
This is a truth Tony is perfectly able to teach as he (sometimes) has to teach himself. The fact that Tony learned this truth the hard way makes his (often inelegant) attempts to stop Peter from making the same mistakes all the more poignant and interesting. Tony is not an untouchable scholar; He's a dude from the trenches awkwardly trying to share his hard-won truths with this guy he obviously connects with but knows has the potential to be "better" than ever.
2. Mentor characters must be unique
Please get rid of the sages, gurus and sages. They worked for Tolkien and Lucas, but they're long past their day. As you create your mentor character, take a moment to consider what kind of person your mentor might be.at least-expected source of wisdom. A kid, a drug addict, a janitor, a clown?
Leave the big words and the preaching wisdom. Create mentors who grope and ramble, who are grumpy like everyone else. Your mentor character doesn't have towantbe a mentor He doesn't even have to like your guidance.
In short, look for ways to create conflict. It may not be easy for your protagonist to walk up to that person, put a coin in the slot and get a hot cup of good advice right away. Interacting with a mentor, even a willing mentor, has to cost something. Perhaps the protagonist is dying to be coached, but doesn't like the mentor's methods. Or maybe the protagonist is desperateNOhe wants to be trained and is on the verge of running away from the obsessive maniac who is constantly trying to stuff the truth down his throat.
The possibilities are endless. You just have to think outside the box.
He doesSpider Man: HomecomingDo you offer a unique mentor character?
The reason Tony Stark is an interesting mentor is that he is aunexpectedlyMentor. Come on who lets this guy on Big Brothers Big Sisters of America? Mister. Playboy billionaire philanthropist who's worked his way through one self-inflicted global catastrophe after another is hardly the poster child for Mentor of the Year.
And yet thehe doesGet the advice and experience Peter needs. Is he the best person to guide Peter? No definitely NO. The shell would be better. Happy would be better. Hell, J. Jonah Jameson would be better. But Tony is more than thatInterestingas a mentor character due to the unexpected nature of the role.
3. Mentor characters must have flaws
Along with uniqueness comes imperfection (because perfection is not unique and therefore not particularly interesting). At first glance, when we think of mentor characters, we often think of people who have everything under control. After all, they have the main thematic truth of the story, so obviously they are more concerned with that than the protagonist.
As far as the main truth is concerned, this is accurate. But only because the mentor figure discovered a trifleit is notmeans she has or should haveatThe more confused the character is in all other areas, the more poignant his one truth becomes.
Give your protagonist specific reasonsNOto listen to your mentor. If that person is a mess, why listen? If that person is a nasty jerk, why listen? This gets even better when the protagonist's reasons for initially ignoring the mentor's advice aren't just emotional reasons, they arelogicallyReasons. Its thematic premise is deepened by any legitimate argument your protagonist might make with himself about the validity of lying vs. TRUE.
The mentor character's advice doesn't have to make much sense, especially in the beginning. Use it to confuse your protagonist with your "do as I say, not as I do" rhetoric.
He doesSpider Man: HomecomingOffer a flawed mentor character?
The main reason Tony is such an excellent mentor is simply the fact that he has flaws, capital letters.
Let's start by saying that you thought dragging a 15-year-old boy into a shooting in Germany just like that was a great ideaIsI needed a little extra support. And you think now that you've sparked Peter's hyperactive avenger ambitions, you can push the button again, call Peter at Happy Hogan Babysitting, Inc., give him a lethal suit with nominal training wheels, and you'll be fine.parts list. Tony will show up every now and then to play the father (catharsis for his own unresolved father issues) and feel good.
Yes, Tony has the experience and advice that Peter needs. Yes, Tony wants to help Peter. Yes, deep down, Tony would love to be the kind of father figure he feels he never had.
But he isterribleIn it He gives Peter no support or reason to heed his good counsel. It just complicates things, which is great news for a story looking for additional layers of conflict.
4. Mentor characters don't have to beDeus ex machina
At this point, you should easily avoid the trap of creating a mentor character who is omniscient and omnipotent. But should he not do so, it is important to avoid the notion that his kind, benevolent, and intelligent mentor will occasionally have to step in and save his clumsy but upright young man.
Deus ex machina(Latin for “machine god”) is the literary no-no, bringing in happily coincident outside forces to save your protagonist from his own mistakes. The mentor archetype doesn't exist to sort things out for your protagonist. It exists to get its protagonist to learn how to fix things themselves. As Alexandra K. Trenfor said:
The best teachers are the ones who show you where to look but don't tell you what to look for.
That doesn't mean your mentor can't step in to help, if at all. But it means that when the protagonist is in such a situation, thatit takesHelp, you better have to pay huge consequences to get that help from your mentor (or anyone else). Shortly,good mentor charactersNOMake it easier for your protagonist. you do thingsheavier.
He doesSpider Man: Homecominguse oneDeus ex machinaMentor?
Tony appears several times to save Peter, first from drowning after being thrown into a lake by the Vulture, and after sinking the Staten Island Ferry. Both times work because they advance the plot and because they show the weaknesses of both characters.
Especially the second case is an excellent scene. Occurring insecond sticking pointPeter's well-meaning but blind ambition (and his refusal to listen to Tony's arrangements) nearly results in the deaths of dozens of people on board the ferry. tonyFinallyhe shows up to take charge of the situation, which only underscores his own irresponsibility in his self-centered, carefree approach.
More importantly, his interference has dire consequences for Peter. Tony demands that Peter return the high-tech Spidey suit Tony gave him. This is tragic for Peter on so many levels. But it gives Tony the perfect opportunity to smack Peter in the face with the truth he's awkwardly trying to share:
If you are nothing without the costume, then you shouldn't have it.
That doesn't sound like a healthy and harmonizing truth. Peter doesn't thinkLively! Thank you for sharing this beautiful and powerful idea with me! I feel so much better now!In fact, it hurts. And for that he's all the more interesting and relatable, thanks in large part to a mentor character who causes almost more problems than he solves.
By writing your mentor's character, you have the opportunity to create one of the most powerful and unique characters in your entire history. Follow Marvel's suggestion by looking beyond the obvious possibilities to find someone who has interesting flaws of their own that could bring even more conflict to your story's thematic premise.
Stay tuned:This month NovemberWe'll learn a thing or two from Thor: Ragnarok..
Previous posts in this series:
- Ironman:Captivate readers with a multi-faceted signature moment
- The incredible Hulk:How to write (un)satisfying action scenes
- iron man ii:Use secondary characters to develop your protagonist
- Thor:How to change your story with a moment of truth
- Captain America the first avenger:How to write subtext in a dialog
- The Avengers:4 Places to Find Your Best Conflict Story
- Iron Man III:Don't make this mistake with your story structure
- Thor: The Dark World:How to make the most of sequence scenes
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier:Is this the best way to write powerful themes?
- Protector of the Galaxy:Not the key. #1 for Relatable Characters - Backstory
- Avengers: Age of Ultron:The right and wrong way to anticipate a story
- ant man:How to choose the right antagonist for your story
- Captain America Civil War:How to be a brave writer: stay true to your characters
- strange doctor:3 ways to gauge the emotional content of your story
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol Two: How to succeed in the first act of your sequel
Word players, tell me what you think! Who is the mentor figure in your work in progress? Tell me in the comments!
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