20 Storytelling Lessons We Can Learn from Marvel

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From the debut of the Human Torch in 1939 to the more recent debut of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel has been telling stories of fantastic, amazing, and incredible heroes for over 75 years.

These timeless comics turned blockbuster films have inspired generations to fight for good in the face of evil and find the superheroes within themselves. It’s like Sharon Carter (actress Emily VanCamp) says in Captain America: Civil War

“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move.’”

The Marvel Universe has undoubtedly withstood the test of time, but what is it about these stories that keeps viewers flooding the box office? Sure, we all love the superb cast and immersive cinematic magic (plus everyone’s favorite Stan Lee cameos and end credits scenes), but there must be more to it than that, right?

We think so. That’s why we’ve compiled 20 quick storytelling lessons that we can learn from Marvel.


1. Heroes are not inherently interesting. Only dynamic, flawed characters can connect with dynamic, flawed humans.

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2. Get inside your hero’s head and figure out what motivates them to do the things they do.

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3. Some of the best dialogue is riddled with subtext. Don’t just say what you mean.

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4. Only give your characters lines that they can deliver.

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5. Give your hero a distinct worldview that viewers can compare and contrast with their own.

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6. If your hero has nothing to fight for, your viewers have no reason to root for him/her. Show your viewers why they should care.

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7. Fully develop a formidable villain that viewers love to hate.

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8. There is no such thing as an unimportant character. Secondary characters bring your hero closer to their goals or drag him/her further away.

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9. Stay true to your characters. Don’t force them to go against their core instincts because it’s convenient.

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10. Where do your hero’s loyalties lie? If they can’t pick a side, your viewers can’t either.

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11. Learn everything you can about the period/culture you’re trying to portray and stay true to it.

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12. The world is more than blue sky and green grass. Create a believable universe, not a pretty backdrop.

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13. The easiest road isn’t always the best road. Invent creative solutions to your hero’s problems.

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14. Give overdone tropes an exciting twist to keep viewers guessing until the end.

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15. Avoid info-dumping by maintaining a thread of suspense until the last possible moment.

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16. Well-timed comic relief breaks tension and keeps viewers breathing.

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17. Appeal to your target audience with fitting pop culture references.

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18. Allow your characters to drive the theme of your story.

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19. Not every theme needs to be tied with a ribbon. Leave certain elements open to interpretation.

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20. Plan carefully before you begin writing. Know where your story is going. Choose every word with care.

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Tell us about your favorite moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the comments below!

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