The Man Who's Still a Marvel: Writing Advice from Stan Lee

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Confession: I'm a little bit of a nerd.  (But you already know that, don't you?)

My little brother Manning recently attended MegaCon, which is a multi-genre convention for comic books, fantasy, sci-fi and cosplay.  I'm still in Wheaton, so I sadly could not attend.  But at MegaCon 2014, the special guest was the one and only Stan Lee.

Lee is an American icon, loved and revered for creating the beloved Marvel Comics.  Stan Lee is actually a pen name for Stanley Martin Lieber, which he was saving for when he planned to write the "Great American Novel".  The son of poor Romanian Jewish immigrants, Lee grew up in the Bronx and from a young age he loved writing.  He worked part-time writing press releases and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune — but his dream was always to be a novelist.  At the age of 17, he began to work for Timely Comics, which would end up evolving into Marvel, and his debut came with a Captain America publication in 1941!                                    
Marvel revolutionized comics through Stan Lee, whose writing abilities led him to develop characters like Iron Man, Spider Man, Thor, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four.  He also created the Avengers, which revived the classic Captain America.  He introduced characters that challenged the superhero archetype of perfect invincibility.  His characters had flaws, temper issues, downfalls, emotional struggles.  Perhaps this is why they are so endearing.

The thing that interests me most about Stan Lee is his focus on reading.

At MegaCon during the Q&A session, Stan Lee was asked what his advice would be to aspiring writers.  (An answer that I, of course, was interested to hear from my Dad.)  

Manning with Stan Lee!  MegaCon 2014

Stan Lee's answer was: Good writers read good writers.

I couldn't agree more.

Among Stan Lee's own favorite writers are Charles Dickens, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle and William Shakespeare.  This isn't surprising when considering that his initial career goal was to be a professional novelist.

But his answer wasn't limited to only reading.  He continued to explain how we learn to write by reading and then applying what we learn by writing as much as we can.

Stan Lee's advice is full of wisdom!  We learn from those who have been where we want to go.  It's no coincidence that Stan Lee did so well when he was such a serious writer at a young age.  He continued to read and write a great deal — and I would argue that his mastery of plot, character development, tropes, metaphors and literary techniques are a significant part of what made Marvel so successful. 

What do you think about Stan Lee's top advice for writers?  Is this the most important?
If so, what writers have influenced YOU?


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  1. I'd say that Wayne Thomas Batson influenced me the most...he really got me into writing, especially fantasy.

    1. I don't think I've even heard of Batson. What books has he written? :)

    2. The Door Within trilogy, Isle of Swords, Isle of Fire, The Dark Sea Annals...and some others. All are very good, especially the Dark Sea Annals. The Door Within Trilogy is more of a middle grade series, but it's a fun read. :)

  2. Nice post! That's so cool your brother got to meet THE Stan Lee. I saw him from a distance once in the DragonCon 2012 parade. I love Marvel. ^ ^

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. Isn't that awesome? I was so jealous! That's so cool that you got to see him in the parade, even if it was from a distance. :)

  3. This is great advice! So cool that your brother got to meet Stan Lee :D Marvel is AWESOME.

    Alexa Skrywer

    1. Thanks for visiting, Alexa! I know, I really wish I could have been there. ;)