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    Beyond the Book: Choosing a Masterwork (Part 2)

    Beyond the Book: Choosing a Masterwork (Part 2)

    Picking up where we left off, our hero had spent 12 weeks searching for a well-established story or “masterwork” that he could use as a template for his autobiographical novel. Just when he was about to give up, his editor and trusty sidekick suggested he look at Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film “The Dark Knight.”

    When Rachelle first suggested using a Batman film as my masterwork, I was intrigued but unsure how I could incorporate it into my work. After all, what does the caped crusader have in common with a journey about getting to know my biological family? It turns out more than I thought. While on the surface, Batman may appear to be just another masked superhero who fights crime, when you dig a little deeper, you find that his stories have a lot of psychological complexity to them.

    Batman or Bruce Wayne is a character who never recovered from losing his parents at a young age. He lives a double life and uses his vast resources to fund his never-ending quest for justice. In many stories, he is also portrayed as a master detective who possesses a strict moral code that prevents him from inflicting the trauma he has suffered on to others. It’s this tension between his perceived obligation to his parents and his struggle not to be consumed by his pain that makes this character so compelling.

    As one person on YouTube put it in a video essay:

    “Good Batman stories almost never focus on the physical conflict because we know Batman is going to win. Instead, good Batman stories focus on the moral or ethical dilemma of being Batman. Is what Batman does, right? Should he kill the Joker? Is he just a crazy guy with money?” ~ HiTop Films, Batman Does NOT Kill

    It’s these moral and ethical dilemmas that drew me to the character because, in my own life, I often felt like I faced impossible choices about how to navigate my new reality. What obligations do I have to my biological family? Do I ignore their pain and suffering because it isn’t convenient for me? If I go to live with them, am I wasting the opportunities I’ve been given in the U.S., or am I providing them with new possibilities? These are questions I wanted to explore in my book, and the more I researched Batman, the more I could see how he is the perfect archetype for my story.

    Another reason I liked the idea of using a Batman story as a masterwork is because the character has been around for over 80 years. As I said in part 1, I’m more concerned with my work being relevant than original and so modeling my story off of a character with a long, rich history just made sense to me. Not only would it provide me with several story templates to choose from, but I thought it might help make my novel more relatable.

    I think this Boing Boing post on why pop culture can’t let go of the Dark Knight explains Batman’s staying power well:

    “He’s more like us than the other [superheroes]: [He is] a person who has seen tragedy and trauma but still finds the strength to try to make the world a better place. This is how a character becomes archetypal; it’s what’ll keep Batman around for another 75 years.”

    So how did I incorporate the Batman archetype into my story? What problems did it solve? What problems did it create? I’ll answer those questions and more in my next update, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and until then, remember:

    “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know that the world hadn't ended.” ~ Batman, The Dark Knight Rises

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    Nelson/Roberto

    Separated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I am a writer, photographer, and storyteller.

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