Friday, June 03, 2011

Origin Stories

I will admit, I don't get out very much to see movies. I hope to some day, but right now I read reviews and formulate blog posts on my opinions of movies I haven't seen.

For the second or third year in a row, there are tons of superhero movies coming out. Probably because they make money, and surprisingly, many are quite good. The latest is the X-Men, and I think they actually called it Origins, and it's coming out to great reviews.

As did Thor, another movie that got great reviews and one I actually saw.

Two more coming out are Green Lantern and Captain America. But these movies all have one thing in common. They are basically the story of how these people grew into becoming superheroes. In the simplest form, they all boil down to how they discovered their powers and how they learned to harness them and overcome the internal issue that really stopped them from being a hero. It's basically a character arc story.

Thor definitely was, with the hero learning humility and true heroism in the loss, and then regaining of his powers.

going back a few summers, so was Iron Man, basically a man learning to be heroic, as was another great superhero movie, the new Batman, with Christian Bale.

There's a lot of room for drama and depth in an origin story, but if the second Iron man taught us anything, it's that, what do you do in movies 2, 3 and so on. Once a man is a hero, how do you create another compelling movie, when he's already grown, developed, is already a hero?

The only movie that has solved that issue is the Dark Knight, but that movie was as much about the villains as it was the hero and what it did was take two face and explain how he went from good guy to villain, so it did the whole origin story backwards.

It applies a lot in YA as well. With a lot of books developed as a series of three books, how do you take a completed arc in book 1 and continue to make the story interesting? I like how Carrie Ryan did it, by changing her protagonist in each book of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series.

Others I can think of were less successful. I loved the Maze Runner, but found the Scorch Trials less successful, because the hero had already developed the traits that made him a hero and so it felt repetitious.

I go back and forth, but sometimes I think it's better to develop a stand alone book, then try and create a series. Not sure publishers agree from a sales perspective, but how do you keep the second and third in a series fresh and exciting?


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead. One I will have to ponder longer... I think maybe this is what went wrong in The Hunger Games trilogy for me. Not that I didn't gobble up all 3 books... but in terms of her growth as a heroic character... did it really develop that much over the 2nd two books? Arguably, she was a pretty heroic character from page 1 of the first book...

Eileen said...

Katniss' allegiances changed, I think. At first, she was committed only to her family and then that expanded to Peeta and then the revolution and then back to only her sister again.

I struggle with this with the Messenger books and I'm only working on book 3. I can't imagine how people get to book 12 or 13 or whatever. Of course, don't get me started on Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Plum.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Okay - I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to admit it publicly... I didn't care for the 3rd Hunger Games book and it was for that reason. Also I HATE love trianges - especially when the one I like doesn't win.

But truthfully I was done with Katniss. What I LOVED in book one I thought was repetative in book 3.

Get over it already - you're a hero. Accept it and move on.

Keeping characters fresh is really hard. I attempted to do this with my historical by featuring one couple first - then another couple second, then I was going to pull in a third.

So the characters are all there but the focus is changing.

Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be working out so well.

Would I have been better served to pick my heroine and stick with her. Probably.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Maybe it's scope - you change the size of the heroism - it's one thing to save your own life or care for your family, but what happens when everyone needs you?

I totally understand the importance of a stand alone book - I get it - but man, I love those big archs... that said, there haven't been that many that have kept me reading past the first one. The Iron Daughter series did that...

crazy gorgeous day here - is everyone getting this weather?

Eileen said...

I'm not good at reading series. Even if I love the characters, I'm usually done by book 4 or 5. I think Patricia Briggs is freaking brilliant and I'd love to write as well as her, but Mercedes Thompson has started to bore me.

I like the model with the shifting heroes. Roxanne St. Claire has done that with her Bullet Catchers and her Angelinos. Alyssa Day did it with her Atlantis series. Then, of course, there's Alexis Morgan and (tremble with love) Suzanne Brockmann. It's great because you can return to that world, touch base with those people from previous books to see how they're doing, but still have a fresh arc so you don't feel like strangling them.

And no. We're not getting crazy gorgeous days. It's cold and rainy.

Sinead M said...

I like the model with the shifting heroes as well. Or a huge cast of characters, like Game Of Thrones.
One series I loved was the Anita Blake series, which I read up until book 11, and that book started and she had her powers, but each book was a world within itself, a little like a mystery series.

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