Thursday 9th April 2020
There’s a clip from Avenger Endgame that’s been doing the rounds this week. Minor spoilers ahead if you’ve not yet seen the movie.
So in the climatic battle against Thanos there’s a scene with Captain America and Thor. Thor’s getting his arse handed to him by Thanos when suddenly Thanos gets hit by Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer. Who could it possibly be? Thor’s right there and only the worthy can wield Mjolnir. We watch as the hammer flies back… and ends up in the hand of Captain America.
There’s been some foreshadowing of this in previous movies, Captain America almost picked it up in one of the previous Avengers movies, and Iron Man had been giving Cap some shit about just being a serum-created super soldier. So it’s a huge fan moment both visually and emotionally.
Captain America starts charging in. He’s twirling the hammer like he’s Thor and delivers a blow that sends Thanos flying. But he’s not Thor. He’s Captain America with Thor’s hammer. So he throws his rotella shield, and as it comes back, hits it with the hammer to have it rebound into Thanos’ face. He calls down lightning, and hits the ground that tears up as the electrical charge races across to fry Thanos. Without a second thought, he’s jumping through the air to slam that electrically charged hammer into the fallen Thanos.
It’s a cool scene. There’s a huge amount of fan service and a ton of fast-paced action. It’s an example of what I’d call the hero moment.
Whilst this depends on the story you are wanting to tell, the hero moment is generally in the climax (although like any writing rule, they are there to be broken). It’s when the hero finally stands up against the antagonist and comes out on top (after presumably having been facing impossible odds until now).
I’m sure for most of you who write or read, whilst there are a ton of nuances and exceptions to what I’m saying, you’ll have seen this done both well and badly (at it’s worst it’s “You killed my brother, now I will avenge him” type trope).
I love the hero moment. It’s the reason I write… everything I write is leading up to the payoff of that moment.
There’s an emotion that accompanies the hero moment. At it’s most exaggerated, the reader punches the air and says “fuck, yes!”.
Which is why watching that Avengers Endgame clip got me thinking. What this does is string together a series of hero moments. Captain America catching Mjolnir certainly elicits a “fuck, yes!” emotion from fans and I’d argue that the twirling hammer punch that he follows up is part of that same emotion. Captain America has essentially become equal to Thor.
But, Endgame goes further. It follows it up with a few throws of the rotella shield, reminding the viewer that we haven’t just got “Thor in costume”, we have Captain America. This is instantly then followed up with Cap using the hammer to thump the rotella into Thanos’ face. Escalation of emotion as the viewer is reminded that this is the very best of Thor and the very best of Captain America in one.
Cap then calls down lightning. Visually it’s an escalation of the image of Cap standing there with the Hammer. Cap isn’t just worthy enough to wield the hammer, he’s got its powers too. The ground being torn up is a further escalation, as we are seeing this increase in physical power.
I love this sequence, because whilst Thanos then fights back and the story progresses, it’s a quick succession of escalating hero moments. Not a single one, not two, but three or four, each building on the emotion of the previous one.
If you want to really pick this apart, take that clip, and with every shot work out what it’s establishing and what it’s doing to the viewer emotionally.
As a writer, I’ve had enough people who know their craft tell me that one of my strengths is writing action. So given the type of books the Shade Knight novels are, the hero moment is always quite important to me.
Here I can see a way to improve my craft. Reading the hero moment in Black As Knight still gets the hair standing up on the back of my neck because it has two back to back hero moments (and I usually cringe when I read my own stuff!). Knightshade is a different type of book so doesn’t really need that sort of hero moment. But as I’m thinking about book 3 in the series and juggling the few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that are clear to me, I’m thinking about what Endgame does with that scene emotionally, and possibly how I can replicate it.
My big take away from seeing that clip this week was becoming more aware of how I’m emotionally manipulating my readers and thinking how far I can push that emotion so I can create a more memorable reading experience.
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