META: Writer's Block and Crazy-Ass Ideas

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Tue Jul 1 19:55:36 PDT 2008

On Jul 1, 9:12 pm, EDMLite <robroger... at> wrote:

> My writers' block came in terms of writing about
> heroes.  I'm a believer in the idea that the
> characters should drive the story.  Things
> shouldn't just happen to them; the choices they
> make should lead to the situations in which
> they find themselves.

I'd certainly agree with you as far as writing straight-up heroics.
Passive protagonists, such as the princesses in Disney films, can get
a bit annoying.

I think when working in comedy, though, you can get away with a more
passive protagonist.  Check out some of the better films of Harry
Langdon, for example-- the general rule for a Langdon character was
that while a brick could hit the villain in the head, Langdon must
never toss it himself.

That's an extreme example, of course, and I'm not suggesting that any
hero, comedic or otherwise, necessarily be that passive; my point is
that an audience can deal with a highly passive character if his
reactions to the goings-on around him deliver some kind of comedic pay-

>  And yet super-heroes
> aren't particularly dynamic characters.  If
> Commissioner Gordon doesn't turn on the
> Bat-Signal, Bruce Wayne just sits around the
> cave adding applications to his Facebook page.
> Or does he?  I had a chance to talk with
> Matt Wagner when WonderCon was in town, and
> here's what he said: "Most super-heroes have
> something they would rather be doing.  Batman
> doesn't want to be Batman.  If you can show
> what they actually want to be doing, it makes
> the characters more interesting" -- and their
> decision to abandon those goals for the good of
> others more poignant.

That's actually really awesome and noteworthy advice-- something that
seems obvious but is oftentimes overlooked, and it keeps superheroes
reactive instead of pre-emptive.  A pre-emptive hero, I think, raises
a number of uncomfortable issues about law, order, and civil rights--
just as, I might add, a pre-emptively striking government.


More information about the racc mailing list