If I’d listened to the reviewers, I may never have watched an episode of Netflix’s new Marvel show, Iron Fist.
… ill-conceived, poorly written disaster … sloppy … contrived … belligerently boring … lumbering dialogue … don’t expect a lot … barely a flicker of wit … shockingly lackluster action scenes … cetera
But I did. I did watch an episode. And then I watched another. And three days later I’d watched them all. So here’s the truth. Iron Fist isn’t great. Not at all. But then Luke Cage overstayed his welcome, neither season of Daredevil entirely amazed, and many of the Avengers movies are decidedly meh.
My biggest issues with Iron Fist are the selective naivety of Danny Rand, the piss poor way the show handled the complex business issues he created, and the lackluster final episode. I could write more–much of it about Colleen Wing–but why bother? If you’re invested in The Defenders, you’ll watch it. Otherwise maybe you won’t. Either way I don’t care.
What I do care about–why I’m writing this–is what Iron Fist can tell us about our own writing.
First, those bad reviews? They were all based on the first few episodes. Some on the premiere alone. Which brings us to Rule Number One of Writing–Don’t fuck up your first chapter, and always polish the holy shit out of your opening.
Some Iron Fist reviews were themselves ill-conceived and poorly written disasters. One chump mistook Harold Meachum’s secret luxury penthouse for an underground bunker and didn’t seem to realize Danny was going easy on the Rand security guards in his first onscreen fight.
However, it’s your job as a writer not to give your reader a reason to stop reading or the chance to misinterpret the story you’re setting up*. The Iron Fist writers did both.
Here’s a brief note I wrote to an inexperienced writer when I was editing their work recently. It’s obvious as shit, but apparently Netflix-slash-Marvel didn’t get the memo.
Your first chapter is critical. You’re making your first impression, and it needs to be your best, tight and fresh. So I’m going to be very picky. Brace yourself.
Also, be aware that you need to make it easy for a reader to move through your story. If you make them pause to think, whether it’s for an unnecessary repetition of words, clumsy phrasing, or a piece of unrealistic action, then you run the risk of losing them. Which is bad.
The first paragraph needs to be perfect. The first sentence should be better than that.
Actually, it wasn’t a brief note at all but that’s as much as I’m sharing. The point is, Iron Fist needed a better story editor. Someone to tell them their innocent abroad shtick was poorly delivered and likely to turn people off.
Colleen Wing, though.
*Unless it’s deliberate. Obv.