How Batman Shaped My Life (As a Writer)

Disclosure: I’m not a vigilante running through the city on rooftops and breaking up gang violence with a cape and batarang, not that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I figured I’d put that out there before you read through this wondering how many psychos I put in Arkham. No, I’m not a hero, but that doesn’t mean Batman hasn’t shaped my life.
I was a kid when Michael Keaton starred in the Tim Burton films. Seeing the caped crusader decked out in black and kicking butt was exciting. In fact I even made a grappling hook out of aluminum pipe that I flattened with a hammer and attached rope to. I remember walking down the street to this abandoned building and throwing the hook up to try and scale the wall. Would you believe me if I told you it worked? The grappling hook I mean. I was a kid and didn’t have the upper body strength to haul myself up there. You might look at me questioningly, but I was a nerd, not a jock. I guess you understand that now…not that a post about Batman wasn’t a dead giveaway lol.
Playing make believe aside, I learned some things by reading the comics and watching the movies. The biggest thing is I don’t like lulls in stories. I want to see people in jeopardy and the hero swooping in to save them. Knowing this, I apply it to my own writing. As an adult I understand how suspense works and you can’t always have action, action, action. That doesn’t mean you can let the fast pace slide, though. It just means you have to create tension in order to carry the story forward.
That brings me to another bat-point. Conflict is a must when writing a good story. You don’t have to write science fiction or fantasy to have a good conflict. In fact, an internal conflict is much more interesting than some of the battle scenes in Star Trek. I’m sorry Trekies, but Kirk can only fly out of his chair so many times before, It. Gets. Old. Batman has that internal conflict because he refuses to kill the killers. Every death at the hands of his enemies is a death he wears on his heart. As a twelve year old it was hard to understand, but as an adult with big boy pants I can see just how important that is to the story.
At the end of the comic there was a call to action. It was usually some clever marketing gimmick to get you to spend your hard earned allowance or hoarded lunch money on the next issue. Why did it work? Because they left you wanting more as a reader. When writing a book you should try to make it so the reader never wants to close the book. I want to leave each chapter with a level of insecurity for the character. It sounds easy, but it’s far from it. Regardless of how easy or hard it is, the goal is to always push the story forward and make the reader want to turn the next page. It’s the same reason I would save my lunch money and allowances in order to buy my next fix of comic book lore.
So there you have it; just a few ways Batman shaped my life as a writer. It’s not as physically demanding as taking out the Joker every other night, but it is fun to create worlds where the lives of many are in your hands. Hopefully you can take something from this and put it in your own utility belt. Thanks for reading!

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I am an active duty Navy veteran and self published science fiction author. I grew up in Mississippi and joined the navy at seventeen. I now live in Virginia with my wife and two daughters.

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3 comments on “How Batman Shaped My Life (As a Writer)
  1. Thanks for sharing this, Drew. I really thought I was the only one who was so heavily influenced by the Dark Knight. I wish I could’ve seen that grappling hook in action.

  2. I think it is important to understand why we choose to write in certain ways. It is quite easy for any writer to attribute their talents to their love of Poe or Hemingway, but I think it takes a realist to admit the truth. The shows I watched, the books I read, even the games I played as a child all mold together to influence the words that I put on paper. Thank you for organizing these thoughts into a concise reflection on the influence of pop culture in the writer’s of this generation.

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