What ‘The Avengers’ can teach you about writing

Faster than a catchy lede, more powerful than a vibrant metaphor, able to reach vast audiences with a single tweet … Do you have the stuff of superheroes?


As a writer, you probably think your job doesn’t share too much in common with the work of a team of spandex-clad super-beings who protect the world against megalomaniacal trickster fiends. And most likely, you’re 90 percent right (give or take your comfort with spandex).

Believe it or not, we can all learn a few things from “The Avengers.” With Marvel Comics’ premier supergroup hitting American movie theaters on May 4, those lessons are front and center. Here are a few nuggets of professional advice courtesy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Captain America: Live up to your principles. Not just anybody could have earned the right to become the world’s first super-soldier. Steve Rogers is defined by his convictions as much as his abilities. The same is true of a good communicator: Your credibility is as fundamental as your verbal acuity. Whatever you’re writing—be it a press release, blog post, or company newsletter—write it honestly.

Iron Man: Never stop improving your tools. Tony Stark’s powers don’t come from gamma rays, nor from the bite of a chunk of radioactive iron; they come from his ingenuity. Like any knowledge worker, he constantly refines his skills to maintain a competitive advantage. In “Iron Man 2,” Stark must upgrade his armor to survive both the technology’s deficiencies and the adversaries trying to one-up him.

Your skill set, too, always has room to improve. Take classes, try writing in an area outside your comfort zone, and read as much as you can—or risk being bested by those who do.

Thor: Back up your talent with purpose. God of Thunder. Son of Odin. None of it meant much until Thor acquired one other designation: Defender of Midgard (a.k.a. Earth). You have a gift, but do you have goals to match? Your writing is meant to convey information, make an argument, or deliver a call to action. Only when you’re confident in your purpose can you wield your words like Mjolnir.

The Hulk: Don’t be afraid to turn your passion loose. Some situations demand pure, unbridled emotion—or at least, the bursts of inspiration that can result when you quit censoring yourself. Many writers edit themselves prematurely, putting the brakes on potentially powerful ideas. Take it from Dr. Bruce Banner and his alter-ego: There’s a time for precision, but there’s also a time for rampaging (creatively speaking).

Black Widow: Take advantage of the element of surprise. A highly trained secret agent, Natasha Romanoff blends into a situation effortlessly until the time is right to strike. Although your goal isn’t to incapacitate the reader (hopefully), the same principle applies. Punctuate your prose with flourishes that catch readers off guard, such as an unlikely comparison or an attention-grabbing turn of phrase. Nothing delights like surprise.

Hawkeye: Everyone has a niche. At first blush, an ordinary guy with superlative aim seems out of place alongside a super-soldier and a demigod. (OK, at second, third, and fourth blushes, too.) But Clint Barton is a specialist, not a generalist: He’s the very best in the world at what he does.

Most of us writers are also specialists, more adept at one style or genre than any other. Discover what you’re an ace at, and hone that talent as close to perfection as you can. You’ll secure your role on the right team.

Col. Nick Fury: Ask for help when you need it. Certain challenges demand collaboration. No one understands that better than the man who helped The Avengers assemble. Your writing is inherently limited by your own perspective, so you can always benefit from partners to bounce ideas off, or a fresh set of eyes to catch mistakes. After all, even the most extraordinary individuals on the planet can’t do everything alone.

Andrew Daglas is a freelance copywriter, critic, and journalist based in Chicago. His writing can be found at andrewdaglas.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyDaglas.

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