I love origin stories. It’s not going to seem that way in a few paragraphs, but I do.
An origin story takes an existing persona and gives them shape and depth. I say persona deliberately, because it’s not just any character who gets an origin story; it’s a larger-than-life character, a superhero, a mythic entity. It’s a protagonist whose impact is so big it doesn’t fit in a single shot, so bright you can’t always look at them head on.
Sometimes, the heroes in our stories seem a little far away, a little archetypal, and you find yourself trying to fill in the gaps.
So the origin story comes along, and it fills in the gaps – what gaps there are to be filled, anyway – and one of the things I always love about them is that, while they deepen the character, they also make them smaller. Closer. Touchable. The hero takes on some of our ordinariness, and for a little while we get to borrow some of their extraordinariness. After that exchange, anything is possible. Stories have a tendency to wake up our sense of wonder – origin stories remind us that it’s always there, awake or not.
Origin stories ask: how is the hero, and why is the hero, and what happened to the hero before they were a hero?