Writing Lessons from Big Hero 6

This isn’t a review, but I’ll just say this: Big Hero 6 is awesome. Seriously, if you like animation, go see it. It’s better than Frozen.

Yeah. I said it.

You should also see it because, like all these Writing Lessons posts, there be spoilers ahead, matey.

Flesh Out Secondary Characters

My one gripe about Big Hero 6 is that some of the secondary characters are paper-thin.

Naturally not every character in a story can have the depth of the protagonist. Aunt Cass, Fred and Wasabi were purely supporting cast and therefore are characterised by quirks, foibles, and small nuggets of history, all introduced naturally without slowing down the story.

But Gogo and Honey? There was nothing to them. They were so forgettable I had to look up their names when I wrote this. Disney inherited the title ‘Big Hero 6’ from a Marvel comic book and it felt like Gogo and Honey were just there to make up the numbers.

The lesson here? Build them up or knock them down. Don’t keep a character for the sake of it.

Don’t Stop Hitting Them in the Feels

By Kenobi’s beard, no film has ever had me so close to tears than Big Hero 6. When Tadashi died I thought that was going to be the big emotional gut punch. But then was another one, and another. And each one hit harder than the last. I had to clench my jaw by the end to stop bawling like a baby.

And I loved it.

They always tell you to touch the reader (emotionally, don’t get handsy). At times it almost felt like Big Hero 6 touched me too much, but I loved it for that. If you don’t move the reader, they won’t care. Don’t be afraid to make them cry.

Don’t Preach Your Theme

Big Hero 6 is all about loss and how to cope with it. Like many who have suffered a loss, Hiro seeks an external force to blame and he wants to make that force pay. The film’s message is simple: revenge isn’t a curative for loss. But no-one says that. No wise old man or caring aunt or cute sidekick tells Hiro this. Instead the audience sees it for themselves: when Hiro abandons his quest for revenge, he solves the problem of loss, almost literally, when he saves Abigail Callaghan.

Nothing switches off a reader like a soapbox. It’s okay to have a message, but make it one readers can figure out and think about on their own. If the reader feels they have to agree with you to read the book, they might not do either.

Cover of The Fey Man by James T KellyFleshing out secondary characters was one of my top priorities when I wrote my debut novel, The Fey Man, and plenty of reviewers think I did a good job. I wonder what you’ll think?

★★★★★ – “A must read for fans of epic fantasy”

Pick up your copy of The Fey Man from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or Smashwords