“Oh so that’s what they were trying to do with the first one.”
I watched The Suicide Squad last night and saw that comment somewhere on reddit or Twitter. I really enjoyed it. So here are some lessons if you’re a generalist creator.
(Light spoilers ahead.)
1.) Just run it back!
It’s sort of a reboot, except Harley Quinn’s character continues on from the first movie. It’s hard for a story to get that kind of shot again in Hollywood.
But you’re not in Hollywood!
You’re writing threads on Twitter or making videos in a single day.
Take advantage of the medium and that you don’t need permission from a studio. Get a lot of reps in and find a way to get feedback, then get even more reps in.
2.) Do it the long way
James Gunn shared on Twitter so this isn’t a huge spoiler: King Shark rips a man in half.
Vertically, the Kung Lao way. (Or the Bone Tomahawk way if you’re familiar with very very disturbing scenes. Though that’s probably another lesson: if you want to make it stick, just give a glimpse and the thud of guts. But please don’t.)
Oh yah so back to King Shark. Gunn mentions that the body ripping was a practical effect. (Though King Shark is CG added in later.)
Gives it a different look.
Same goes for doing something by hand, like morning pages. You’ll write fewer words than you would with a keyboard. But the words will be different. Your thoughts will be different.
3.) Get focused (even if you have to kill a few darlings)
There are a couple scenes where characters die earlier than expected. Built up pretty nicely then gone the next moment. Nice way to keep the audience on their toes.
When writing, it can be tempting to add a ton of examples to support the point you’re trying to make. Each additional example dilutes the rest. Sometimes 1 or 2 will get the point across. Kill the rest. (Or stick them in a parking lot to use later.)
4.) Put an explosive in your neck (or just remove your backspace key)
In Suicide Squad, the criminals each get an explosive put in their neck. If they desert the mission, the government can blow them up remotely. It’s, of course, very effective.
You don’t need to go that far.
When doing creative work, you’ll go through diverge-converge stages: drafting to revising, clown brain to editor brain, mind map to outline.
If you’re in a diverge stage, find ways to put that explosive in your neck. (I often use Cold Turkey Writer which locks me into a draft until I hit a word count or time count.)
Stay focused and don’t turn back.
5.) Storytelling is about creating contrast
Suicide Squad is all about contrasts. Bad guys as good guys. Peace through killing. B characters as star characters. A shark on land.
Every good story has these contrasts. Matthew Dicks explains this in Storyworthy:
Contrast is king in storytelling, and laughter can provide a fantastic contrast to something authentically awful.
Without jokes and things being over-the-top, Suicide Squad would just be murderers continuing to murder other people in disgusting ways for their own freedom, all organized by a murderous government.
No contrast, just depression.
Practice building up contrast in scenes and in your overall story.