June 19, 2020

What 'Batman: The Animated Series' ​Can Teach You About Story Structure

Batman: The Animated Series shaped your formative years. Now let it help shape your writing career. 

What cartoon theme song defined your youth? For me, every day at 3:30pm in the afternoon, I was plopped down in front of the TV and ready to watch Batman: The Animated Series. It had the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil, the writing of Paul Dini, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Even as an adult, I look back and marvel (or DC, yuck--yuck) at how much they packed into every half hour. 

I was cruising on Reddit today and found an amazing post detailing the story structure used in Batman. I wanted to expand on the ideas within the post and show you how these details can work for you. 

Let's catch some bad guys! 

What Batman: The Animated Series Can Teach You About Story

Certain characters enter the cultural lexicon and then never go away. Batman is one of them. His presence has left an indelible mark on our souls. And his stories have some memorable moments. 

The reason they work so well is because of the story structure

We break a lot of them into three acts

So, let's examine how the Batman writers use those acts. 

Act One 

This is where Batman has his setup. We usually meet the main antagonist of the episode here and learn about their goals. We also get what Batman is up to and the crime he's going to try to solve.  

I think the most important thing here is that they give quality entrances to the bad guys too. We want to make sure there is an audience anticipation and excitement. 

Act Two 

Rising tension is nothing new to someone watching a Batman show, but I love the idea of Batman making moves and having to navigate counter moves. That's something we rarely talk about. Developing the logic of the antagonist and the goals they have against the protagonist. Plus the possibility that Batman may lose this one. 

Everything gets calculated. 

So, what are you bringing to your second acts? What can you calculate? 

Act Three 

Finally, jamming the climax and resolution together is nice because it ensures the tension stays for all 22 minutes of each episode. The payoff is also important. Is there a twist? A big reveal of who was really behind things? 

I love that they save a big moment for the very end, too, because leaves the audience excited to watch more episodes. 

All in all, these ar valuable lessons for all kinds of writing, not just for Batman episodes. 

What are some of your favorite episodes of the series? 

Let us know in the comments. 

And get writing! 

Up Next: Learn how to write a chase scene

Learning how to write a chase scene in a screenplay is imperative to keep the action moving and the reader invested. So, what are some tips? 

Keep reading to get some guidance.     

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