6 Tips for Writing and Storytelling from Stan Lee

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6 Tips for Writing and Storytelling from Stan Lee

Recently, Stan Lee made a Youtube video in order to help along writers and storytellers of all types. And there is something wonderfully simple about how Stan Lee perceives writing. The following are the 6 tips that I picked up from listening to his lecture.

Tip 1: Accept commissions as boundaries meant to challenge your creativity.

Chances are that your writing dream will not take off with your book or comic becoming an instant hit. You will have to work for companies, accept commissions, and bide your time until you publish your masterpiece. When you do accept commissions and have to work in the box, view those limitations as creative blocks. Obstacle that exist so that you have to stretch your abilities in order to make your commission as wonderful as what you would make your private works. This is a common technique, in fact, for poetry and other forms of writing—as the brain will be stretched in this action and come up with ideas normally beyond those gained when no limitations are present. Don't believe me? The Xmen were Stan Lee's commission to make a superhero team.

Tip 2: Read a lot, and read the classics!

Stan Lee spoke a lot for his love for such characters as Sherlock Holmes. And while some of the classics may be a struggle to get through, to study them is to study our heritage as writers. We get to see their evolution as storytellers, and see the great works that turned writing into a desired art form. That array of tools exists in order to teach you to become a better writer, free of modern cliches and tricks that we otherwise would have never even seen.

Tip 3: Write what you want to read.

“If you write something that pleases yourself, it can be genuine,” Stan Lee says in the video. And it is true. As much as we might like to think it, we are not wholly unique in our likes and dislikes. We share them with most the human race (for example, we all agree that fire touching skin is not a preferential situation). The same applies to art. And if only a very small percentage of people share your likes, 1% or less of the human population is a substantial little group. So there is no reason to feel like you need to write was is popular or trending in order to become an author.

Tip 4: Allow real world events to influence your writing, but don't let it dictate your story.

We've all been so infuriated by the world around us that we've wanted to address it in our stories. But this isn't necessary. Our subconscious, obsessive minds will always wrestle with hose things we care about, and those themes will appear on the page. Nor should we fight it, but exaggerate it. Nancy Farmer's “Sea of Trolls” used this idea and made a story inspired by terrorism, exaggerated the terrorists into Vikings, and yet made them complete characters who were human and could be empathized with.

Tip 5: Find something specific that sets your character apart from all others of their type.

Everything can be done has been done. And no matter how much you try to avoid that, you will find that your character is similar to another. Instead, try to focus on what sets your character apart from those of his or her type. For example, Stan Lee made a lawyer character—and decided that the things that set him apart was that he was blind, and dressed up like the devil to hunt down those who escaped justice.

Tip 6: Discover the dramatic force—the tension between the good and the evil.

From the beginning, decide what makes the story move forward. What does the hero want? What does the villain want? How will you arrange this conflict so that it fuels the events of an entire book?

And so I leave you with one last piece of advice from the man, Stan Lee, himself: “I can only write for myself. And I can only hope if I really like this—hopefully, there are other people who have the same taste I do.”

Here is a link to the video, I highly recommend it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bjb05O…

Feel free to comment with other suggested resources. Any questions about writing? Things you want me to discuss? Comment or send me a message and I will be glad to reply or feature my response in a later article.

Originally posted at www.facebook.com/JosephBlakePa…

And: josephblakeparker.wix.com/theb…

anonymous's avatar
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Salab-Jibvoh's avatar
Well, this certainly seems insightful, and very informative. However, one thing that really bugs me as an aspiring writer is trying to avoid cliches. I mean, I get that it's stupid to use cliches because they're so overdone, but what if I'm trying my hardest not to use them and I still end up using them? For me, avoiding cliches is like being politically correct - it's good to adhere to, but when it starts to hinder my creativity because I'm trying way to hard to be inoffensive/original, that's when it becomes a problem for me. So what's the best way to avoid cliches without writing a dull, bland mess ("Diet Fiction", if you will)?
JosephBlakeParker's avatar
JosephBlakeParkerProfessional Writer
Well there is a big difference in a "cliche" and a "convention" in writing. A cliche is something that has been done so many times that it is dull, and that we can predict every facet of from the onset. For example, a horror cliche is the dumb blonde bimbo. When we see her in a movie, we know she will end up with her top being torn off, constantly making bad decisions for the group, and dying because of her own stupidity an inefficiency. She's a cliche because she's been done so many times, because she is predictable, because there is no added element to her, and because she is a lazy plot device (comedy/parody horror aside). However, if the same dumb blonde character actually learned something as she struggled through the story, and something original develops out of her (like maybe she sacrifices herself or falls in love with the monster) she becomes a convention of writing.

A convention is more like a tool or a building block in writing that you can shape with originality. Think of an evil wizard who wants to take over the kingdom. The trope in and of itself is nothing more than a building block. Has it been done before? Yes, everything has. And if you let that description be the entire identity of the character, he will definitely be a cliche--an overused and bland building block that you have added nothing to. But Make it an evil wizard who wants to take over the kingdom in order to stop the ritualistic sacrifice of kittens, as is the town tradition, and you have a convention of literature  being used originally. 

There is no way to be completely original in writing, nor should you try to be. Conventions of writing exist because they work, time and time again. Your job, if you do not want the convention to be a cliche, is to simply breathe new life into them, show what would otherwise be a cliche in a new light. "

I hope that helps, and please note that this article is rather old and outdated. You might find more useful content among my newer tutorials. 
Salab-Jibvoh's avatar
Well, thanks for the suggestion!
kaaslave's avatar
Great advice! :)
Guinevere-X's avatar
Guinevere-XHobbyist General Artist
Love me someStan Lee... thanks for pointing this out! :heart:
JosephBlakeParker's avatar
JosephBlakeParkerProfessional Writer
No worries :)
Sharquelle's avatar
SharquelleHobbyist Writer
“I can only write for myself. And I can only hope if I really like this—hopefully, there are other people who have the same taste I do.” ~ I loved that quote, and I totally agree with it. I love it when people enjoy my writings but as long as I am able to say I've written something that I myself enjoy; I've pleased my own worst critique. :D

Thank you for writing this down! :)
JosephBlakeParker's avatar
JosephBlakeParkerProfessional Writer
My pleasure :) And yes, I totally agree with you. 
Good grief, there's so many things I've been saying to myself for years now that I had no idea the great Stan Lee was thinking, too!
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