A masterful story is a lot of things. It carries plot, characterisation, tension, meaning, and absolutely, unequivocally does not make its audience go, “What? Where the fuck did that come from?”
The WTF reaction from your audience is one of the fastest ways to get people to hate your story. There’s a reason people froth at the mouth when discussing the Deus ex Machina trope. People hate feeling left out of the loop.
The loop, in this case, being the Setup/Payoff cycle.
Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok ahead! I also allude to scenes and sequences from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and both Guardians of the Galaxy movies just FYI.
I saw Thor: Ragnarok in cinemas when I was having a particularly rough time and for a brief, shining moment the world was good again. My pain was forgotten, my depression cured, flowers bloomed beneath my feet as I left the cinema and bunnies stood poised to break into song.
Taika Waititi is the sort of storyteller I would step over a body to have a beer with. As someone who’s been steadily falling out of love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last few years, Thor: Ragnarok was like a shot of adrenalin. It was funny, it was heartfelt, and it broke so many rules but in the best of ways.
Here’s my rundown of what writers can learn from Thor: Ragnarok.
Writing is all about empathy. It’s about putting yourself in a character’s shoes and doing your best to understand their perspective on life. Sometimes your characters have a lot in common with you, so it’s relatively easy to step into their head. Sometimes they don’t, and it isn’t. When it comes to the latter, research is your best friend.
If you’re here, you’re probably researching how to write a character with chronic pain. Or you’re my mum (hi mum!). So, welcome! I’m here to tell you a bit about what it’s like to be in pain 99.9% of one’s time. Because I have first-hand experience in this arena and boy HOWDY do some writers get it very, very wrong.
Spoilers for The Shape of Water ahead!
The Shape of Water is out in cinemas and I’ve never been more creatively in love with Guillermo del Toro. This isn’t a surprise, honestly. Del Toro’s previous movies are some of my absolute favourites and I have a long-standing obsession with all things fairytale, both as a reader and a writer. So I entered the cinema with high hopes and left with actual, literal tears of happiness on my face.
But while I could spend 1000 words waxing poetic about The Shape of Water in general, I instead want to spend 1000 words waxing poetic about what The Shape of Water can teach writers. Because, my dudes, this movie is a finely-crafted masterclass of storytelling.
Here, in no particular order, are the main writing lessons I took away from The Shape of Water.
CONTAINS SPOILERS: Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi just hit cinemas and, in some ways, has rebounded off the screen to sprawl sadly on the popcorn-strewn floor. As of my writing this there’s a disparity of just under 40% between the critic and audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes making it a divisive movie to say the least.
A few of those half and one star reviews no doubt belong to the same fans that were offended by the idea of a black stormtrooper and female lead in The Force Awakens because The Last Jedi is probably the most diverse Star Wars movie to date.
Women are everywhere – wielding the force, sacrificing themselves for the cause, and just… well… existing. X-wing pilots, admirals, tech runners, control room operators. It was legit lovely to see.
But for every review screaming PC Culture Gone Mad there are some very solid, very relevant arguments against The Last Jedi having earned it’s 93% critic review score.