Jan 24 2011

How to Keep Your Story’s Superpowers and/or Magic Extraordinary

Published by at 11:49 pm under Superpowers,Writing Articles

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

I think it really helps superhero and urban fantasy stories when the supernatural abilities come across as special.  Here are some ideas to help yours stand out.

1. Use them less often. The more scenes there are with superpowers, the more diluted their effect will probably be.  For example, you could use fewer filler fight scenes or resolve more action scenes without superpowers.  Perhaps the powers have limitations, such as their duration.  Or maybe outside circumstances force the hero to resolve his problems in other ways (maybe he can’t use his superpowers without risking his secret identity, or he needs to avoid friendly casualties, etc).

2. Increase the costs of the powers. If the decision to use the powers is notable, the powers will probably be more exceptional and interesting. Here are some examples of costs that might fit your story.

  • Alerting bigger fish.  For example, Frodo can’t use his magical ring without alerting the Ringwraiths and the characters in Walking Dead can’t use guns without calling mobs of zombies.
  • Ingredients/resources.  For example, Mr. Freeze needs diamonds to fuel his death rays.  He’s a villain, though, so he can rob jewelry stores.  If your hero had a similarly expensive ingredient to worry about, it’d probably be trickier for him.  (Alternately, if the character is extremely wealthy, perhaps the resource is so rare or illegal that it can’t be easily purchased).
  • Time/endurance/need to recharge–the powers only last so long, so using them at every opportunity means that the character might peter out in the middle of a battle.   Once in a while, the hero might be forced to try fighting without powers.
  • Personal health/sanity.  Too many stimpacks can have serious side-effects.
  • Personality shift/loss of self-control.  There are times when turning into the Hulk would only make things worse, such as always.
  • Moral corrosion/loss of soul.  For example, see Spiderman’s Venom symbiote, Frodo’s ring, and many uses of magic.  This is distinct from a personality shift in that it’s usually more gradual and bleeds more into the character’s unpowered life.
  • Dangerous debts.  Perhaps the character’s powers force him to turn to a dangerous person or force for assistance. Maybe Tony Stark needs to work out a deal with a mad scientist to get a particular capability built into his suit.  Other examples might include shady arms dealers, the human-hating magical spirits in Bitter Seeds, demonic forces, Canadians, aliens, demonic arms-dealing human-hating Canadians, etc.
  • Relationships/approval.  For example, in Bitter Seeds, each use of magic jeopardizes the main character’s partnership with a friend that strongly disapproves of the use of magic.  There may be some aspects to a character’s powers that rub others the wrong way.
  • Involuntary transformation.  The character has little (if any) control over when he transforms into his super-self.  The transformation might be triggered by something like his emotions (the Hulk), a time of the day (werewolves),  near-death experiences (Kurama), nearby magic, nearby Nazis (Audie Murphy), caffeine and deadlines (B. Mac), etc.
  • Secret identity.  If a crime happens around Clark Kent or Tony Stark, it’d be harder for them to use their powers without compromising their secret identities.  Tony Stark may have to save the day without using the Ironman suit.

3.  Describe the experience. Don’t just talk about the end-result (“John teleported to Kansas”).  Talk about what it’s like. When John teleports, Kansas hits him at millions of miles per hour and he’s plastered in place like an astronaut strapped in during takeoff.  The heat makes it feel like his eyes are going to melt and he can’t walk straight for ten minutes after he gets there.  Details like these are a lot more lively than “He teleported to Kansas.”

3.1: Use as many senses as necessary.

  • What would the point of view (POV) character observe with sight/sound/touch/taste/smell?  For example, if the Human Torch goes nuts on someone, maybe he can’t shake the taste of smoke for the rest of the day.
  • Do the powers affect the POV’s state of mind?  For example, if the POV gets thrashed by the Hulk, he might get shell-shocked and disoriented.  Alternately, most psychic powers could easily mess someone up (the victim and/or the user).
  • Is the POV’s perception of time affected?  (For example, if he’s using incredible reflexes, or slowing down time, or moving incredibly fast, etc).
  • How intense is the situation?  A genius figuring out which bomb wire to cut should sound different than one deciding which Uno card to play.

4.  Try a variety of uses. For example, instead of more or less interchangeable fight scenes, you can use different settings and circumstances.  Instead of doing one battle royale after another, perhaps you mix in a scene where the characters are escaping or chasing another group.  Or perhaps they’re facing a different set of antagonists that has to be fought differently.  (For example, if Spiderman had to break Aunt May out of prison, he’d probably have to do it without getting any cops hurt because that’s how he rolls).

5.  It may help to talk about the process. Unless you’re doing hard science fiction/fantasy, you don’t need to write pages describing how the ionic thrusters or magical channeling work, but I thought the scenes featuring negotiations between the protagonist warlocks and villainous spirits were the most interesting part of Bitter Seeds.  Here are some examples that may be applicable to your story.

  • How the character’s gadgets or powersuit work
  • Practicing/training
  • Describing how a supersmart character notices and processes minor details

What do you think?  Am I missing anything?

  • Time/endurance/need to recharge–the powers only last so long, so using them at every opportunity means that the character might peter out in the middle of a battle.   Once in a while, the hero might be forced to try fighting without powers.

146 responses so far

146 Responses to “How to Keep Your Story’s Superpowers and/or Magic Extraordinary”

  1. Sean Higginson 05 Dec 2010 at 12:11 am

    A+ for the Fallout reference! I really like this article. The describe there use line is a must have.

  2. B. Macon 05 Dec 2010 at 1:35 am

    Too much Jet… now that stuff is serious. Seriously awesome.

  3. Chris N.on 05 Dec 2010 at 8:15 am

    Excellent ideas. I’d almost make this article into a checklist for a use of supernatural abilities in any story.

  4. indigoon 07 Dec 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I hadn’t thought that deeply about those points, thanks for “broadening” my horizons.

  5. Ragged Boyon 08 Dec 2010 at 10:39 am

    Great article! This definitely helped me affirms some things that I was unsure about.

    As for stimpaks, I’ll take as many as I need. It ain’t easy being an unarmed fighter, but it sure is a helluva lot of fun.

  6. Trollon 08 Dec 2010 at 10:54 am

    Thanks, this is one of the best articles yet.

  7. Contra Gloveon 08 Dec 2010 at 11:49 am

    In my story, I’m definitely using superpowers — and fight scenes — less often, since I want each fight scene to matter. This way, I think the reader would care about the outcomes of the fights, since they’d have to change the hero’s situation to justify how infrequently they appear.

    On a related note, I would use fights infrequently because I generally favor writing made-up worlds or alternate-history Earths, so I have to make the reader care about the setting before introducing battles for its fate. Indeed, not needing a setup is one reason fighting stories set on modern, real Earth can get away with plunging into action sooner.

  8. B. Macon 09 Dec 2010 at 1:14 am

    I feel that the five form, as you put it, will make the description a bit more complicated than it needs to be. For one thing, I think it asks readers to remember 5 things, when they only need to remember three: strength, agility and heightened senses. Does that make sense?

    Also, when you present a list of superpowers, I think it’s best to spend the most time on the most important, interesting powers. If supersenses are only used a few times in your novel or comic book, I’d recommend against giving them 3 slots on a list with 5 items. If they’re minor, one slot on a list with 3 items would probably be a better representation of how important they’ll be to the story.

  9. Trollon 09 Dec 2010 at 7:29 am

    I think Lions don’t live in the jungle…maybe in your world they do so whatever, just so you know 🙂

  10. B. Macon 09 Dec 2010 at 11:42 am

    I think you’re right that lions don’t live in the jungle, Troll. (“King of the jungle” is a bit of a misnomer).

    However, as you noted, if we’re dealing with a fantasy (or any story far-removed from reality), I think most readers would figure out that “these lions are different” without too much difficulty. For example, I don’t think it raises realism concerns that Narnia’s Aslan doesn’t seem to mind the cold very much. (Also, he’s Jesus).

    Another possibility would be replacing lions with tigers, unless lions are symbolically important. (For example, they’re associated with royalty/nobility and courage*, among others).

    *I have no idea HOW they got the reputation for courage. They hunt zebras in packs! That’s like linebackers ganging up on a kicker, or a monster truck chasing down paraplegic koalas.

  11. Bekah Kon 31 Dec 2010 at 10:27 am

    I love this. I found my new fav blog : ) I agree with fewer fight scenes, I think movies could use this tip sometimes, and those fights need to get better as the book progresses.

  12. dillanon 18 Jan 2011 at 9:53 am

    awesome post really helpful

  13. mirocon 29 Jan 2012 at 1:01 am

    how about the origin of the ability my hero is not a super just a bit of an oddity he lost the ability to feel pain after a bomb blast sent shrapnel into his head and spine, and due to the inability to feel pain he now has increased stamina (cant feel the muscle cramps or strains that hinder normal people) but as a side effect he can not tell when he is injured and could bleed to death from an injury and not know it if he is not carefull

  14. B. McKenzieon 29 Jan 2012 at 10:31 am

    The side-effect sounds interesting and I think you will not have much trouble challenging the character. However, I would recommend proofreading carefully, especially when you submit to publishers.

  15. FanGirl27on 16 Feb 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I think this is a great post. I agree that the powers you use must be easy to understand. I think that characters need limits. I don’t like to write super man types with only one weakness. I think the more inhuman they seem the less understandable they are. That being said the characters I enjoy writing most are usually the anti-hero types. Those that are neither good or bad.

  16. Nightwireon 19 Mar 2012 at 12:55 am

    My main character, Matthew Grayson receives a number of perks when he uses his gremlin body: sharp fangs and claws for offensive purposes, agility, quicker reflexes, heightened senses, and resistance to hazardous chemical and electricity. However, since the mind is still his own, whenever Matthew operates as the Gremlin of Cogsworth, his mechanical aptitude will invariably come into play. He uses his own facility and skill as a genius toymaker to disband other Tinkers’ creation, and doing it in the body of a gremlin just makes the job easier.

    I also intend to impose on Matthew Grayson a subtle shift of character whenever he uses his power: while he’s always had a mischievous streak, this trait becomes more pronounced whenever Matthew uses the gremlin body. His antics as the Gremlin become more and more malicious in both thought and action, and he has to work hard to exert control over the Gremlin’s destructive nature. Since Matthew is an aspiring toymaker and engineer, his desires to build and to detroy often come to conflict with each other.

    True to form, The Mind Is The Plaything Of The Body. Being a gremlin has a very negative effect on your psyche.

    Much like how William Shakespeare “wussy-fied” the fairy folks in his play “A Midnight Summer’s Dream”, in my world, thanks to the success of one Mister Sponty Quackgrass’ children book, “Ghost In The Machine”, the image of gremlins to the average folk has been redefined into a race of jolly, if slightly mischievous and clueless, little goblins. In truth, they are not. Gremlins are nasty, nasty creature. As recorded in mythology, gremlins were psychopathic pyromaniacs who gave no qualm whatsoever in murdering humans and causing an irreversible level of property damage just to satisfy their neverending curiosity. They just wanted to take things apart and play with the “beautiful sparks”.

    Matthew Grayson, as with the case of many children, grew up with Sponty Quackgrass’ work. Therefore, the, for lack of a better term, “Disneyfied” version of gremlins is rooted in his thought. As a result, he is shocked and horrified to discover that an actual gremlin is a much different creature than the one that has lived in his imagination.

    What do you think?

  17. B. McKenzieon 20 Mar 2012 at 8:47 am

    I think the concept sounds interesting. The contrast between the character’s “Disneyfied” expectations and the reality of the situation strikes me as dramatically fertile. (Assuming that there’s some sort of high-stakes* plot going on. By itself, learning about gremlins and dismantling random inventions would probably not make for a very exciting story). I would recommend working on chapters.

    *Not necessarily life-or-death, but the character definitely needs to regard the stakes as very important.

  18. Nightwireon 20 Mar 2012 at 9:30 am

    Well, the reason that the Cogsworth Gear-Muncher is out destroying other people’s inventions is that, while fooling around with his newfound power, Matthew encounters a mysterious entity known only as the Glitch. The Glitch has the abilities to possess and corrupt mechanical systems, causing them to do things they’re not supposed to do (which usually ends up with one or more person receiving a ridiculously nasty death). This proves to be very dangerous, since an average Tinker’s mind is highly unstable; so if he sees that his invention has a capacity for the powerful, he will immediately indulge in it, with all the carnage that entails.

    After that incident, Matthew Grayson has taken hold of the belief that there is no bad Tinker, only ones who are corrupt by their own contraptions’ potential for evil and perversion.

    Hence, the Gremlin mostly operates as sort of a pest within the University’s campus, sabotaging and destroying those machines and devices that he deems particularly dangerous or otherwise poorly thought-out (to prevent the Glitch from getting its hand on them), and he has succesfully thwarted many mad scientists’ schemes.
    At first, no one in Cogsworth pays sufficient attention to the increasing number of things going haywire (things going haywire is to be expected of any large body of Tinkers). “A gremlin did it” is the oldest excuse in the book, since gremlins have long been extinct and thought of as a myth.

    But after recent discoveries of teethmarks on destroyed gears, and sightings of a strange creature, it has been agreed that there is a gremlin lurking within the University of Cogsworth. Dubbed the Gremlin of Cogsworth, the Cogsworth Gearmuncher, etc. by the press, the creature is officially declared a vermin by the Chancellor and thus must be hunted down and taken to research.

    So the Gremlin has to avoid being caught by the scientists, while at the same time trying to uncover the truth about the Glitch. How about that for stake?

    Oh, and I intend to do several books on the Gremlin, with a number of short stories in between which showcasing the daily misadventures of Matthew’s supporting characters, with the Gremlin’s antics being kept in the background (what can I say, I just love strong supporting casts that can hold their own storyline).

  19. Nightwireon 20 Mar 2012 at 9:55 am

    Heh, I am still currently working on the world-building stuff. I’m more of an world-builder :P. I just want my works to have an internal consistency. My belief is that, if you’ve created an intriguing enough, then the opportunity for good stories shall be endless.

    My (admittedly very hard to reach) ambition is to make a sci-fi version of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I just love how he systematically makes fun of fantasy tropes and cliches, and I would like to do the same to the science fiction genre.

    I’m have plans for several other stories set in different parts of my constructed world:

    – Lobotomia theme: Lobotomia is a parody of Transylvania/Germany. The main character will be Baron Isaak “The Necromancer” von Skalpellstrom; along with his associates: a borderline sociopathic grave-robber, a neurotic maker of music boxes and a homunculus.

    – Cypher theme: set in the Nadelland Commonwealth (a pastiche of the Soviet Union). The main characters are a couple of brilliant crytalanalysts working for the Gremlingrad (heh) Intelligence Agency. They have been given the impossible task of cracking the Rätsel, a new type of cypher that the Lobotomians have created, and inadvertantly gets themselves involved in a crazy web of political intrigue. This is intended to be a parody of espionage thriller in general.

    – Alchemy theme: this takes place roughly 300 years before the “present” continuity. It follows the misadventures of the greedy alchemist Christopher Abacus, who is recorded in history for having sold his soul to the King of Gremlins in exchange for the Philosopher’s Stone (so yeah, he’s a parody of Faust) and Friedrich von Uberwatt, an eccentric Lobotomian inventor ( a parody of Leonard da Vinci). This theme will serve as some sort of prequel to all the other themes).

  20. legolosarrowon 29 Mar 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Oops. Posted that in the wrong place…

  21. B. McKenzieon 29 Mar 2012 at 3:57 pm

    No worries, LA. I took down the posting.

  22. Comicbookguy117on 29 Mar 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Hey I’m not sure where to post this question but it’s just quick one. I’m currently developing a story where the protagonists are a teenaged group of steampunk hearoes from another dimension. I’ve been trying to come up with a name for the group and have been unsuccessful thus far. However, a possible name just hit me about ten minutes before I posted this and I wanted to see what you guys thought. I’m thinking about calling them the Free Radicals. But I’m not sure that’s exactly IT. A good start perhaps, but maybe not the end point. Thanks guys.

  23. B. McKenzieon 29 Mar 2012 at 7:14 pm

    It makes me think of biology before steampunk, but I agree it’s fine as a starting point.

  24. Carl Shinyamaon 29 Mar 2012 at 7:15 pm

    @ Comicbookguy117:


    That’s the better place to pose your question. It is also where you might even get the answer to your question. That page suggests using a theme, symbols, or even the character’s (or in this case, a group of teenagers’) goal as the basis for creating a name.

    Personally, for the genre, I like “Free Radicals,” especially if you’re going for a very scientific feel or theme while also reflecting the often rebellious nature of teenagers.

    But since you say you’re not sure if the name is “IT,” I ask you: What idea or theme do you wish to convey, or what is it do you feel the name lacks?

  25. Comicbookguy117on 29 Mar 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I want to use Radicals, I like for them. They’re steampunk superheroes from another dimension. I like that they’d call themselves Radicals, or maybe the media gives them the name. I don’t know at this point, theconcept is still way early in development. I just feel like I want a fun name with them, you know? Their story is gonna bee crazy. So I want that feel with their name.

  26. Nightwireon 29 Mar 2012 at 9:09 pm

    So… the dimension they came from is a steampunk world? If so, I’m not sure how they would fit into our world (assuming your current setting is the real world).

    Do they have superpowers of their own or do they utilise gadgets? Something tells me that steampunk-level of technology will not be too hot coming against modern tech.

    But that’s just my opinion. Could you please elaborate on what are you intending to do?

  27. Comicbookguy117on 30 Mar 2012 at 6:31 am

    Well, at this point the concept is still in its infancy. But basically, the fact that they are from a steampunk dimension and have somehow found themselves in a dimension similar to ours will be a major plot point for their story. They’re trying to find a way home, but while they’re here they help if they can.

    And as for their technology. It all runs on steam obviously. But I also want them to utilize materials that are unknown to us. The metal in their machines and gadgets needs to immune to heat and possibly pressure. They are also goning to have tech that is widly different than ours. For example, utilizing steam-technology may have allowed them to design a hoverboard of some kind. They also may have a retractable exoskeleton to increase their strangth and durability. The possibilities are their and I’ll enjoy seeing what I can come up with. So hopefully this explains some things. But I still need a name for the group. I’d like to incorporate Redicals somehow. Thanks guys.

  28. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 8:42 am

    @Comicbookguy117: Well, I’m not very good with team naming, so I’m afraid I can’t help you there. 😛

    As a sucker for steampunk fiction, I find your concept very intriguing. I am working on a steampunk novel myself (well, more like a planned series of books set on a steampunk world).

    So, have you come up with any character concept yet? And who will they fight in our world?

  29. Comicbookguy117on 30 Mar 2012 at 10:51 am

    I only have bits and pieces of their characters, archetype really. But those archetypes will be flushed out soon enough. As for their enemies? Well various criminals, both common an uncommon. As I’ve said, I’m still working on it and twenty other projects. The comic book universe I am creating will be expansive and awesome.

  30. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 11:01 am

    “I’m still working on it and twenty other projects”

    Geez man, when do you have time to sleep? 🙂

  31. Comicbookguy117on 30 Mar 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Sleep? HA! I’ll sleep when I’m dead, you know?

  32. Epic Battleon 03 Jun 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Hi i wrote a couple of novels and at the end i realized that some characters powers were almost identical to another for example

    Name: Ricky

    Powers: complete control of electricity and the ability to talk to it
    (in norse mythology everything hhas a voice)

    Name: Gravity Gabe

    Powers: control of gravity and can only shoot electricity

    Problem: Electricity is rickys only power, and he’s the demigod son of thor so it’s not like i can change it, and i hate unsuperpowered offspring, but i really want to keep it gabes power too, for long distance attacks( dosent have extreaam stregnth or endurence) plus that’s a weakness i planned, any help, could i pass it off or is it too much the same it’ll just tick off readers, and i want them to meet in a crossover book

  33. B. McKenzieon 04 Jun 2012 at 6:55 am

    Some thoughts and suggestions:

    –You could give Gabe gravity but not electricity. (It’s not intuitive that a gravity controller would also control electricity).

    –You could change Ricky’s powers. Being Thor’s son doesn’t mean that he MUST have electricity. For example, in actual Norse mythology, Thor’s children (Magni, Modi, and Thrud) embody strength, anger and strength respectively. None of them have electricity-themed powers. Nor does Thor’s father (Odin) have the same powers as Thor.

    –When you’re ready to submit to publishers, I would recommend proofreading more aggressively. Otherwise, all is lost.

  34. Dukeofnachoson 25 Jun 2012 at 1:38 am

    My character, Ian Luft (Hero name is Speakerbox), controls sound. He’s always faintly hearing music. He has the tendency to involuntarily say random thoughts with song quotes. Some voices and certain sounds can have extreme effects on him. He loses to a villian once because the villian used a tone of voice that, without being too vulgar, made him jizz his pants. Thanfully, the villian figures that it’s because he’s afraid of the trap he’s in.

    His fellow hero, Scrawl (Natasha Ritter), can manifest her imagination. However, if she uses it too much, she could die from exaustion, but if she were to not use it at all she would “overflow”, or the constant stream of imagination coming through her would build up and explode over everything in a 5 mile radius. She can’t make anything bigger than an SUV without at least getting dizzy.

    Are those fitting weaknesses, or should I add something?

    And what about twin technopaths, Antha and Uel Sams? Is being prevented the materials and tools they need to build things enough of a hindrance? They’re from a rather welthy family, and money isn’t an issue, but they’re rather young, and they still have a Nanny, who was instructed to keep them from getting into their father’s lab, which means being prevented access to high quality stuff. They can get to a little lab in an old junkyard with the help of James, one of the cooks, but he doesn’t really get the chance to help them alot.

  35. Janon 20 Jul 2012 at 9:34 am

    Using them less often would also apply to only using them in battle. An exception might be a power that is useful to everyday work, (Mr. Fanastic can reach all over his lab at once, or a supergenius-like power, which would obviously be useful) but you usually don’t see any [mature] superheroes fighting each other jokingly (Captain America doesn’t toss his shield at someone’s head just for a laugh).

  36. Slickon 29 Jul 2012 at 8:15 pm

    B. Mac, could DC comics sue me for copyright infringement if I did a PARODY of Superman?

  37. B. McKenzieon 29 Jul 2012 at 8:59 pm

    “Could DC Comics sue me for copyright infringement if I did a parody of Superman?” I’m not a lawyer, but if they did sue you, I think you’d probably be covered under “fair use.”

    According to Stanford University:

    “In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work…. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement….

    Most fair use analysis falls into two categories: (1) commentary and criticism, or (2) parody…
    A parody is a work that ridicules another, usually well-known work, by imitating it in a comic way. Judges understand that, by its nature, parody demands some taking from the original work being parodied. Unlike other forms of fair use, a fairly extensive use of the original work is permitted in a parody in order to “conjure up” the original.”

    The U.S. Copyright Office adds:

    “The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: ‘quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.'”

    If you’re interested in past legal cases involving parody, Georgetown did a rundown here (covering cases up to 2004). Some points which may be of interest to you:
    –The distinction between parody and satire (parody works are given more rights under copyright law)
    –The distinction between copyrights and trademarks (parodists have more leeway with regards to copyrights)
    –The “transformative” nature of the work–to qualify as a parody, it must add something new to the work (e.g. commentary of some sort)

  38. Janon 01 Aug 2012 at 8:53 pm

    New and random use for ice and cold controlling heroes: freezing blood, then snapping it (if possible) or, heck, freezing the heart…

  39. Aj of Earthon 12 Aug 2012 at 10:15 am

    I think an interesting take would be a superhero story in which all the heroes’ powers are completely taken away somehow (e.g. villainous nullifier machine, some cosmic phenomenon, etc.) right off the bat, and the duration of the story is actually how the team works together to have them restored (if that’s even possible).

    By depending on true teamwork, counting on each other instead of what they ‘can do’, utilizing their own natural intelligence or understanding of situations to overcome them and calling more upon their training and friendship while upping the stakes by removing the elements of powers as an easy escape (yet still filtered through the lens of the superhero genre)… I think it would really help the heroes realize that what makes them ‘super’ actually has nothing to do with powers at all.

    (as well as providing an interesting character drama about having to make that adjustment; some characters, depending on what their powers were, might have a much more difficult experience as a ‘normal’)

    It also illustrates, I think *most* importantly, to the Reader that being super is something that’s inherently within each and every one of us. (awww 🙂 )

    Lol, just a thought…

  40. M. Happenstanceon 12 Aug 2012 at 5:51 pm

    I think that idea could be exceedingly interesting if executed correctly. It could force the author to consider situations that they hadn’t needed to before, and be a thought-provoking experience for the reader as well. It could also work wonders for character development.

    I may have to do this now.

  41. Aj of Earthon 12 Aug 2012 at 7:10 pm

    It’s all yours! 🙂

  42. B. McKenzieon 12 Aug 2012 at 7:25 pm

    “By depending on true teamwork, counting on each other instead of what they ‘can do’, utilizing their own natural intelligence or understanding of situations to overcome them and calling more upon their training and friendship while upping the stakes by removing the elements of powers as an easy escape (yet still filtered through the lens of the superhero genre)… I think it would really help the heroes realize that what makes them ‘super’ actually has nothing to do with powers at all.

    (as well as providing an interesting character drama about having to make that adjustment; some characters, depending on what their powers were, might have a much more difficult experience as a ‘normal’)”

    This strikes me as very promising! One tweak would be if it was one character (or a group of characters) adjusting to fading/faded superpowers which may or may not return (e.g. the last case of a retired superhero and/or the start of life after superpowers).

  43. M. Happenstanceon 12 Aug 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Your tweak was touched upon in the anime Tiger and Bunny (the main character’s powers begin to fade early in the series, and are almost entirely gone by the end), but I think it could be very interesting in its own piece.

    I’m definitely using this idea now, though. Even if I’ve already got god knows how many projects going…but that’s never stopped me before, now has it?

  44. […] How To Keep Your Story’s Superpowers/Magic Extraordinary by B. McKenzie […]

  45. Plumon 10 Oct 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Just wanted to suggest a possible hindrance to using powers that I thought of while I was reading over that section; inexperience. You wouldn’t want to mess around with something that you haven’t had much practice with, right?

  46. Noctuaon 14 Nov 2012 at 12:41 am

    The character in the story I’m planning isn’t born with his power, but ‘given’ it by the main villain in an experiment.
    He (Alex) develops telekinesis (common, I know) but it has a side effect, the more he uses the power in one go (strenuous things, like lifting or stopping heavy vehicles or flying) produces static electricity, which isn’t so bad in small amounts, but if he doesn’t stop using his powers for a sort of cool-down period, the static grows more aggressive and powerful; at worst it’s uncontrollable bolts of electricity that could harm both Alex and bystanders. So really, he’s limited to fairly mundane uses of his powers, but naturally, the villain sets up attacks in the city to attempt to force Alex into using his powers and potentially burning himself out or killing himself and other people.
    At some point, perhaps after a hospital visit when he discovers he can’t control every aspect of his powers, Alex finds out that this static gets more aggressive the more he uses his powers, and it’s zapping parts of his brain, namely the Limbic system/Hippocampus, in turn making Alex himself more aggressive and causing memories to fade of his life before gaining his powers. I suppose that in the process of losing those memories, the memories of how he received his powers will be dredged up and he’ll go after the villain in a classic chase.

  47. rogon 24 Dec 2012 at 8:21 pm

    hey, I’m working on my fantasy world’s primary religion, which primarily focuses around fire and pyromancy, and I was wondering how powerful should I make the fire keepers(name for the clerics)? I was planning on making most of them weak and only powerful enough to sustain fire or weak mystical powers or just to make the fires mystical and for the keepers to just be knowledgeable, having extraordinary powers associate with the fire restricted to legends concerning ‘saints’ or ‘monks’ or if it can be extended to the arch-keepers (equivalent to high priests)?

  48. RoLandoLon 25 Dec 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Hey guys, I was wondering if you could give some ideas of how to use Telekinesis in a creative way?

  49. R.O.S IIIon 27 Dec 2012 at 8:41 am

    most uses of telekinesis involve a detailed description of the experience. some have it be millions of hands shooting out of the characters flaming eyes, some have an invisible tentacle, some have invisible hands. try giving the character a unique way of using his or her mind.

  50. Blackscaron 09 Feb 2013 at 9:00 pm

    In my novel, I have a secondary MC named Aerin Valus, a dark elf. (In my made-up world, dark elves have little to do with nature. Instead, they’re the most technologically adept race in the story. Many of them are violent warmongers; very few are civil to humans, nymphs, or demons, which are the other three primary races in my novel.)

    She (Aerin) is a computer-hacking Seer-that is, someone who can touch either a person or object and can get a brief, jagged vision of its future. Oftentimes it rarely makes sense until it’s too late to alter the said future, as she only receives a few visions pertaining to said item. They’re rarely obvious clues, which makes her an unreliable helper.
    I’ve decided that red-and-blue combos prevent her from using her sight (such as 3D glasses, police lights, etc.), and therefore she usually wears a pair of bi-colored sunglasses with one blue lens and one red.

    What do you think? Is it a stupid idea, is it creative, or is it just downright weird? Should I come up with another way to keep her Sight in check? (Also, I apologize for any grammar or spelling errors. I’m only fourteen, so I’m not perfect, haha.)

  51. B. McKenzieon 10 Feb 2013 at 5:57 am

    “someone who can touch either a person or object and can get a brief, jagged vision of its future. Oftentimes it rarely makes sense until it’s too late to alter the said future, as she only receives a few visions pertaining to said item. They’re rarely obvious clues, which makes her an unreliable helper.” I think that’s an interesting and promising set of limitations.

    “Is it a stupid idea, is it creative, or is it just downright weird?” I think there’s probably more reader interest in urban fantasy than there was, say, 20 or 30 years ago. That said, if my mental image of a dark elf rocking blue-and-red 3-D glasses is accurate, that would be a bit strange. 🙂

    The race composition strikes me as more promising than something more reminiscent of Tolkien/D&D.

  52. Derp Writeron 10 Mar 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I just came up with a hero and villain, though they don’t have a story yet, based on abilities that I thought would be amusing to watch/read about.
    Really there isn’t anything decided about them just yet, so the only description is their powers.

    The hero’s power is the ability to “respawn”, as in a video game, in which, upon death, the player is given a new body and life to continue their mischief.

    The villain’s ability is one I like to call “contagious incompetence”. The name is rather self explanatory, I think, as far as its function, but what I found amusing was the idea that it would be a passive/area affect, making all within a certain proximity become inexplicably useless for much of anything.


  53. Derp Writeron 10 Mar 2013 at 7:20 pm

    It would appear that the above post is in the wrong place. I apologize. Is there a way I can take it down so I can put it up in the correct thread?

  54. B. McKenzieon 10 Mar 2013 at 8:40 pm

    “The hero’s power is the ability to “respawn”, as in a video game, in which, upon death, the player is given a new body and life to continue their mischief.” My main concern here would be that a character that cannot actually be killed has very low stakes for pretty much all fights. One way to make it dramatic anyway would be to rely heavily on a ticking clock or some other limitation where the character could definitely fail even though he apparently can’t get killed–for example, in the movie Source Code, the main character is a soldier that can come back to life repeatedly, but he only has so many hours to stop the villain. I’d recommend making sure there’s some way for the character to actually lose–otherwise the action scenes (and perhaps the plot in general) are dead on arrival.

    “Contagious incompetence.” I’m not feeling this power; I fear it will probably limit you to a plot where a lot of goofy things randomly happen because the characters have been turned into idiots.

    “Is there a way I can take it down so I can put it up in the correct thread?” I can move it if you’d like, but it feels very well-placed to me. It’s a question about uncommon superpowers on an article about how to make your superpowers extraordinary. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any more relevant articles. I’d like to keep it off of the List of Superpowers because if that article gets to 1000+ comments, the site will crash. (Every 1-2 months, I delete hundreds of LOS comments, so the comments on that article tend not to survive very long).

  55. Derp Writeron 11 Mar 2013 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for the feedback.

    The incredibly vague idea in my head was of many silly skits that may not even be related to each other. In fact, this idea would probably be best suited for a youtube, College Humor type of series with no real plot.

    I think the point of my asking was more to see how amusing those here would find them than any real desire to put them into a novel (although a comic might be funny, if it went down the Dr. McNinja (weird) route).

  56. Doctor Brooklynon 21 Mar 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I had an idea for a nature-based superhero that has a messiah complex, but I’m having trouble coming up with capabilities & weaknesses for him. Any ideas?

  57. Doctor Brooklynon 24 Mar 2013 at 1:58 am


  58. meon 24 Mar 2013 at 10:37 am

    Have him be weakened in poluted area’s harmful acids fire ex.

  59. Doctor Brooklynon 24 Mar 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Basically in Urban areas right?

  60. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2013 at 7:41 pm

    You could also have polluted rural areas as well (e.g. a forest used as a chemical dumping ground or something).

  61. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2013 at 7:47 pm

    “The incredibly vague idea in my head was of many silly skits that may not even be related to each other. In fact, this idea would probably be best suited for a youtube, College Humor type of series with no real plot.” Ahh… it strikes me as a tough sell for a novel or a comic. (In contrast, I feel Dr. McNinja was much more coherent).

  62. Deperate Originalityon 12 Apr 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I’m having a bit of trouble. You see, I have a world set up (the average superhero world) and a main character, but I need some sort of twist to it, some workable ending or unforseeable surprise. Help me out? Here it is:

    Jennifer Brave has had the worst week anyone’s ever had, and that’s in a town where there are far too many superheros than such a small town should be able to have (owing to the unusual amount of nuclear power plants near-by). First, she was hit by lightning when her school bus was hijacked by two mid-level supervillains on the run from a high-level superhero. Her sister was held at ray-point and the superhero couldn’t do anything so she hit him in the back of the head with a book. She helped out the hero– who saved the day– but she got hit by the ball of lightning that was the power of on of the villains. To everyone’s surprise, it has little to no effect on her, and she goes home fine until that very same night she climbs out onto the roof through her window to see the stars (a normal thing with her) and she get hit by a meteor. The next day she discovers that she has power over fire, wind, water, and erath, as well as the ability to fly.

    What she does not know, and I haven’t written yet but plan to put in, is that her parents are also retired superheros, but they don’t plan to do a thing to help her because it’s a tradition amongst superheros that super-children who don’t know their parents’ secret have to make their way on their own. Oh, and once she starts her superhero life she’s gonna fall into a vat of radioactive waste within a week, which lets her substancially boost her abilities, but with a nasty side effect that I have yet to decide.

    But now what? What kind of twist or problem can I give her to work out?

  63. Deperate Originalityon 12 Apr 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Oh, and I want some unexpected twist of both logic and the natural superhero laws that allows Jen to save the day, but the problem is that with superheros, there are no laws. Every concievable twist or impossible thing has been done!

  64. Amaloneon 22 May 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I love this blog! A big reason why is that B.Mckenzie responds to posts. Sometimes blogs get really big and you never get a reply to your comment.

  65. B. McKenzieon 22 May 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks, Amalone.

  66. SquirrelShinobion 26 May 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I have a character whos’s an elemental mage, military trained to be the equivalent of walking artillery, usually for him, finesse is not destroying a neighboring building. In this world, sustained magic use can cause fatigue and physical and mental stress. There is a trade off in cast time and finesse, and if somebody wanted to cast an extremely focused spell that was also extremely powerful, he would take much more stress than if he was to simply go for power or finesse. Using magic while fatigued can be dangerous to the user as well as to bystanders.

    Also in this world, magic users aren’t uncommon. Generally magic users are naturally specialized towards a specific skill such as enchanting, elemental control, healing, or other less common abilities. Most fights between two magic users are less throwing fireballs and more mental wrestling.

    I was considering throwing the protagonist into situations where ultra destructive AOE type attacks are risky, forcing him to use his magic in more imaginative ways, but I don’t want to constantly throw him into the same kind of situation. Once he comes up with a work around, he’ll just incorporate that into his arsenal. I don’t want it to seem like I’m arbitrarily throwing kryptonite at him and I would also like to give him opportunities to cut loose with epic displays of elemental magic.
    Are there any mistakes I’m making or suggestions that could be made about this power set up.

  67. SquirrelShinobion 26 May 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Rereading my comment, I just realized I repeatedly spelled finesse wrong. A spelling error that major on a writing site is rather embarrassing.

  68. B. McKenzieon 26 May 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I think these limitations strike me as interesting… e.g. if his magic tends to be explosively imprecise and/or exhausting, there may be some situations where he has to consider going without it. I think that’d be more promising than someone who uses magic (or a superpower) as a first and last resort that works more or less exactly as intended almost every time.

    “A spelling error that major on a writing site is rather embarrassing.” I just assumed it was an issue with a smartphone or keyboard. No worries… I’ve edited it accordingly.

  69. SquirrelShinobion 27 May 2013 at 6:42 am

    General magic use won’t cause noticeable fatigue, it’s continued heavy back to back usage especially without having time to take a break or working in tandem with other magic users.
    He can do precise magic, but it usually either requires more time to cast, or it will require more focus. For example, using air magic to “force choke” a person would require much more focus than slashing with a blade of air or launching a small bullet of ultra dense air. However the bullet will usually punch through the target and if he’s in a situation where there are lots of civilians he would want to avoid a through and through hitting a civilian. In a close in brawl, he wouldn’t have time to use event attempt something precise like chocking an enemy or something that required high levels of control like using an air bullet or launching a shard of ice (The ice would probably risk collateral just as much if not more). Lashing enemies with blades of air would be a simple fix, not requiring the same level of control, while at the same time being being quick and effective.
    I know for a fact that he would figure out the air blades by at least mid story, but I don’t want that to be his only fall back.

  70. Xos Melon 02 Jun 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Fewer fight scenes? Look at Lord of the Rings (LotR). It’s got awesome sauce battles, but also a lot of diplomacy, conversations, traveling, and analyzing.

  71. B. McKenzieon 02 Jun 2013 at 7:57 pm

    “Fewer fight scenes? Look at Lord of the Rings (LotR). It’s got awesome sauce battles, but also a lot of diplomacy, conversations, traveling, and analyzing.”

    How many pages would you estimate that characters spend in battle? 10-20%? 20-30%? It’s, uhh, definitely not Dragonball Z.

  72. CuppaJoelon 21 Jul 2013 at 7:14 pm

    I’m pretty well versed in giving limitations to my superheroes — but I fear this time I may have gone a little too far while striving for realism:

    Meet Shockwave, a 20 someodd genius with the ability to generate and manipulate electricity. He can use it to communicate with machinery (because impulses turn on and off those little switches) and he can, if pressed, use it as a makeshift pace maker. Far from a permanent fix, but good enough to hold back death a little longer. Seems pretty awesome, right? (Don’t answer that, my ego wouldn’t like it.)
    Except he can’t stop generating electricity, and for the most part, he has a human body. Humans don’t do well when constantly exposed to electricity. A large build up causes seizures, accidental sparking, and possible heart and brain damage (the latter being an extreme case).
    So he needs to release that energy, lest any of the above kill him. But then he runs into almost the same issue: he can only put out so much before his heart begins to fail and his lungs fill with blood. He constantly attempts to keep balance between the two.
    Did I go overboard? It makes so much sense to me, but Daddy’s always biased. It’s easily exploitable, something proven in the story, and it provides a few major plot points as well as huge characterization possibilities.
    I’m just wondering whether to lessen the limitations or to leave them be.

  73. Chamber1on 17 Aug 2013 at 1:39 am

    My name is Karen and after thinking about this blog post, I have found out a way to increase the cost of using the powers for my character. My main character has a multitude of powers, but in order to use each of them, he risks losing control of himself and suffering from multiple personality disorder. With each of these personalities ( there are at least 8) can only use one or more powers. I would like some feedback

  74. CCXon 27 Aug 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Chamber1- Hi, I’m CCX. Pardon the secrecy. Your idea of having a character who risks losing their main personality when they use powers sounds pretty cool. Are they villains or heroes? Maybe instead of having eight you have less- like three or four. I know thy they don’t come out all the time, but if they are heroes then maybe you should have each of them have like, one emotion. That makes no sense when you read it, so I’ll explain. Maybe you should have it kind of like the Indian god’s head- one for rage, happiness, sadness, and peace. I dunno- it’s your character. What are the powers going to be? So far it sounds pretty good.

  75. Thalamuson 28 Aug 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Not sure if this is the place to put this question, but I don’t think there is a better place to put it.
    For creating a magical world hidden beneath our own, I had the idea of making it quite seedy, almost like a criminal underworld. My logic behind this is that a good real life parallel to a community of people that by necessity hide from mainstream society is in fact that of crime (more specifically, that of illegal drugs, which fits nicely in to the theme of magic being physically addictive and destructive in the manner of a drug), which isn’t anywhere near the kind of world shown in, for example, Harry Potter, which seems very well run, and not overly effected by the secrecy element. I wondered what people thought of it, and if they had any advice on how to get across that idea throughout the novel.

  76. B. McKenzieon 28 Aug 2013 at 9:38 pm

    “For creating a magical world hidden beneath our own, I had the idea of making it quite seedy, almost like a criminal underworld. My logic behind this is that a good real life parallel to a community of people that by necessity hide from mainstream society is in fact that of crime…” I love the idea. This strikes me as an excellent example of when the details of the world and/or magic system will actually matter to the story and the characters. In contrast, I think the standard masquerade system (e.g. the characters in Harry Potter have to keep magic secret from most humans* mainly for the benefit of the readers and the audience) is mainly set up to keep the setting feeling somewhat relatable (compared to if magic were out and about).

    *Except for Plot-Convenient Humans, like the Dursleys.

  77. VoyeurTheNinjaon 10 Sep 2013 at 1:15 am

    This does help me with the magic-type powers of my 4 main characters. One uses self-regeneration, but he feels like he’s boiling in hot water every time he heals a major injury. One can control the magnitude of his strength, but can only do so for certain parts of his body and has a time limit. The third can heal others but not himself, and the last can read memories and manipulate others, but risks a seizure if he goes to far.

    How’s that?

  78. B. McKenzieon 10 Sep 2013 at 9:24 am

    The ability to regenerate may be a bit redundant with the healer. Aside from that potential issue, this looks promising.

  79. NeonPheonixon 18 Nov 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Ok, this was really good, even thought I thought it seemed short.
    But I had an idea for one of the main characters in my novel,
    He would have the ability to manipulate biology…
    how can I limit this?

  80. NeonPheonixon 18 Nov 2013 at 2:03 pm

    er, How

  81. B. McKenzieon 18 Nov 2013 at 6:14 pm

    What can “the ability to manipulate biology” be used to do?

  82. NeonPheonixon 19 Nov 2013 at 3:39 am

    Biology Manipulation: The user can control life on a cellular level, including but not limited to, genetic alterations and physical distortion and/or augmentations of biological functions. They can cause cells to augment to induce advanced or declined biological healing, induce diseases like cancer, induce appearance alteration, manipulate pheromones, and even increase physiological maturity.
    He is kind of new in the use of his power, sometimes it activates on his own when he’s in distress.
    He understands his power very little, can only manipulate his and others DNA, and can absorb “anything with a heart beat”, and he can sense where he is through figuring out what life is out there.
    Through great concentration Bioplasm can heal wounds and disrupt bodily functions.
    Later it is revealed that everything is vulnerable to his power, including machines and planets.

  83. NeonPheonixon 19 Nov 2013 at 4:07 am

    Well, I thought of something.
    Bioplasm’s powers would work like a computer network.
    He can search for signal(any life near him), once he finds it:
    it’s limited to the planet that he is on, and anything natural from that planet.
    He has access to anything extinct, as long as the life originates from Earth Bioplasm can use it’s abilities.
    So his power don’t work on machines.
    I also figured out that he could inflict disease and/or sense distortion, though he wouldn’t.
    When Bioplasm heals himself it is very painful.

  84. B. McKenzieon 19 Nov 2013 at 6:58 am

    Hmm. It sounds like it’d be very hard to challenge him. I’d recommend limiting the scope and/or increasing the costs of his powers (see #2 here).

    Also, if his power works on things that aren’t biological (e.g. machines and planets), I think the name “biological manipulation” may be misleading?

  85. Krackerjackon 19 Nov 2013 at 6:02 pm

    What about this guy (he’s one of the antagonists so feel free): Orbliterator- Can shoot orb’s that upon striking a hard enough surface or upon traveling a certain distance implodes, pulling objects towards it, and then explodes throwing back everything around it, the objects pulled toward it acts as shrapnel. Using the orbs is extremely tiring and can cause him to faint, he is also not immune to the implosive and explosive effects of the orbs or its shrapnel.

  86. B. McKenzieon 19 Nov 2013 at 10:27 pm

    “Orbliterator — Can shoot orbs…” His combat capabilities strike me as interesting. I’d recommend giving him a name which isn’t intended as a joke, though. One scenario I’ve seen a few times is when a character has a silly name which is supposed to be funny, and sometimes it is the first time, but using a name like this 10+ times is a pretty steep price for a one-time joke. If you REALLY feel the need to do an “orbliteration” pun, I’d recommend moving it into dialogue rather than the character’s name.

  87. Krackerjackon 20 Nov 2013 at 5:39 pm

    B. McKenzie, yeah his name is pretty much WIP right now cause I’m having trouble naming a guy with his type of powers. Any suggestions or ideas?

  88. Krackerjackon 20 Nov 2013 at 5:42 pm

    As I was thinking about it, would it be alright for someone else in-universe to name him? Cuz I can picture a scenario where superheroes first encounter this guy and during the battle, the snarky superhero surveys the damage around her and calls him a “Homewrecker.”

  89. B. McKenzieon 20 Nov 2013 at 10:41 pm

    “Would it be alright for someone else in-universe to name him?” Definitely.

    If a villain is meant to be serious and/or threatening, I’d generally recommend having another character name the villain unless the villain’s name sounds like it could possibly be an actual name (like Sylar or Heisenberg).

    If a name has to come from the villain, it may help to have the name first used by a character that didn’t create the name. For example, the first time a protagonist meets [say] “Doctor Destruction*” or whatever, it might be less cheesy if the hero addresses DD by name rather than forcing Dr. Destruction to introduce himself. (In most cases, it would make sense if a superhero, police officer, or journalist who spends a lot of time on superhero-related stuff had heard of most of the supervillains operating nearby before actually meeting the villain. Especially if the name is something like Dr. Destruction — there’s no way someone named “Dr. Destruction” is big on secrecy).

    *Note to everyone: Please do not use a name like that, unless you’re writing in (say) 1962.

  90. Renderon 01 Dec 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Need help thinking of limitations for my superhero duo Evergreen and Stripes.

    Evergreen- can transform herself into a Plant based superheroine who can grow thorns from her body, cover herself in irritants (poison oak type stuff), produce toxic oils that poison nearby enemies when it evaporates, turn her skin to a bark-like version to protect herself, and secrete chemicals that attract specific insects (like wasps). Also capable of producing adhesives and medicinal ingredients.

    Stripes- body horror powers, current favorites include turning his arms into massive cat- O-nine tails made of muscle and bone or into a muscular tube and sac combo that showers enemies with boiling hot waste. Capable of other things.

    I like to think of these guys as super mercenaries who got labeled as “heroes” because they got contacted by the cops before any criminal organization did.

  91. Renderon 01 Dec 2013 at 7:39 pm

    No longer need limitations for Stripes as I’m switching him to a full-fledged villain and villains don’t need limitations. I’m putting a whole ‘nother guy in his place.

  92. Aj of Earthon 10 Dec 2013 at 8:26 am


    I really enjoy like the sound of Stripes! …Although I personally advocate for keeping him on the side of good. I say this because I think the contrast between his horrific abilities and his alignment as “hero” would be very fresh (not all superheroes are models!) and could also create significant and believable challenges/limitations for him. Would someone even *want* to be saved by him, despite his altruistic motivations? What is public life like for him? What happens if his control/concentration slips? Is there greater potential for injuring an innocent with his muscle/bone morphs or with a spray of caustic chemicals?

    If he could easily be a villain because of what he can do, then I propose not making him one in exchange for deeper personal conflict and character development.

    But of course, just my thoughts…

  93. Renderon 10 Dec 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Woah… @ Aj of Earth, I haven’t even considered those things till now. I have to think about this.
    Thanks Aj of Earth.

  94. edgukatoron 10 Dec 2013 at 11:16 pm

    As far as limitations –

    Evergreen – perhaps the more plant-like she becomes, the less she is able to move like a human being. Sure, she can grow thorns, but should she want to use her bark-like skin she becomes as maneuverable as an oak tree. Being a plant would make her vulnerable to pesticides (seems a bit too “kryptonite-like” as a weakness though). Perhaps something linked to photosynthesis as a weakness – needs to bathe in sunlight to produce energy, so should she be in the dark too long she cannot produce enough energy to move….

    Stripes – the visual element is strong in this character, but not sure if the name conveys that yet. If you include this character, you are definitely painting yourself into a particular tone for your story – definitely more Spawn / the Darkness than XMen / Avengers with a character like Stripes. In a way, that is a character limitation. Either you’re fighting bank robbers with dripping skeletal parts, at which point the public has a hard time telling the good guys from the bad guys, or the villains have to be more repulsive than the good guys, in which case the stakes just got turned up to 11, and you will have to work overtime to keep the innocent out of harms way.

  95. Aj of Earthon 11 Dec 2013 at 3:29 pm

    @Render – No prob! Sounds like an awesome character either way! Definitely keep posting on what your plans are with him!

    I also really like edgukator’s thoughts about Evergreen’s movement/mobility when shifting into bark-form, as well as the photosynthetic considerations! Very cool.

  96. ApolloDogon 05 Jan 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Okay… so, in my story, my hero finds himself faced with a hostage situation where three robbers with guns have taken hostages and such.

    I like to think it was a good idea to make him dispatch the robbers rather easily (he’s got electromagnetic powers)- however, as a result of him recklessly using his powers, he accidentally kills an old lady by frying her pacemaker and heart.

    He gets arrested and tried for murder because of this- as well as a slough of other charges, including reckless endangerment, carry illegal and deadly weapons, obstructing justice, etc.

    Is it a pretty solid idea I’m going on, here, or is it pretty much the same old gobble-de-gook?

  97. ThatOneGirlon 05 Jan 2014 at 10:23 pm

    It is definitely not the same “gobble-de-gook”. I find it very interesting and non-cliche. I love it!

  98. ThatOneGirlon 05 Jan 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Above comment was addressed to ApolloDog

  99. ApolloDogon 06 Jan 2014 at 11:15 am


    Thank you 🙂 He’s actually going to become a member of a superhero team where each member has chosen to serve out their sentences as government appointed superheroes instead of going to prison. I thought it was a pretty cool little idea.

  100. ThatOneGirlon 06 Jan 2014 at 12:11 pm


    Your welcome. Awesome idea

  101. AlucardZainon 16 Jan 2014 at 11:02 am

    For my new superheroine story, Im thinking for my heroine (who’s gonna be a feral feline type) that whenever she is in her powered mode, she slightly loses her sanity everytime, essentially coming close to her animalistic side/nature. Or go the route of like X-23, have her be conditioned to a particular smell, she goes to an instant rage mode.

    Any thoughts?

  102. Thalamuson 17 Jan 2014 at 11:40 am

    I would suggest a slow loss of sanity rather than “instant rage every time X occurs”, because it would give an opportunity for long term character development: it makes every time she uses her powers more dangerous than the last, and provides her with a good excuse for not using her powers all the time (this could allow for more varied situations in which she may decide to, or try not to, use her powers to fix everything).

    Another way it could be used is to to enable conflict with supporting characters who may, depending on their personality, either disapprove of her recklessness in her use of powers because they don’t want to lose her to insanity, or disapprove of her selfishness by putting her own wellbeing before others by NOT using her powers when they might be necessary.

    It could also provide an interesting story arc if she begins to behave erratically but she does her best to ignore it in favour of getting the job done (or, on the other end of the spectrum, freaks out and stops helping people altogether, perhaps resulting in preventable deaths, resulting in internal or external conflict).

    On a related note, it could be used as an excuse for having a secret identity: if her identity was well known, there might be pressure put on her to use her powers all the time, whereas a secret gives her the option to quit some day if she decides she is too close to losing it.

    Overall, I think it’s a good idea that gives you a lot of room to play around with actions and consequences, which can be an interesting theme in any story involving superpowered beings.

  103. AlucardZainon 17 Jan 2014 at 11:55 am

    I do like the “slow loss of sanity” other than the “instant rage every time X occurs” better. Because I want my heroine to relate to others. I haven’t made any supporting characters yet, not even a villain yet, but I like your ideas. Could I possibly do both on the supporting character route? Like have one character disapprove of her recklessness because they dont want her to lose her to insanity and another charceter disapprover of her selfishness by putting her own welbeing before others? I kinda like the interesting story arc idea though. I like that she freaks out and stops helping people altogether idea. Then she gets inspiration from someone (like a little kid looking up to her as a role model?) and she beats that feeling.

    Thanks for your reply @Thalamus!

  104. Thalamuson 19 Jan 2014 at 4:45 am

    You’re welcome. I’m glad to have offered some decent ideas for your story, and I hope it goes well.

  105. AlucardZainon 21 Jan 2014 at 7:51 am

    @Thalamus, you didn’t answer my question. Wanna know if I can do both on the supporting character route. Because I do like both.

    Anyway, all the more help is better.

  106. B. McKenzieon 21 Jan 2014 at 8:02 am

    “Could I possibly do both on the supporting character route? Like have one character disapprove of her recklessness because they don’t want her to lose her to insanity and another character disapprove of her selfishness by putting her own wellbeing before others?’

    Disapproving of her recklessness sounds workable, but I’d recommend reworking the second character’s objection. First, he’d have to be a extraordinarily unpleasant person to disapprove of someone not willing to sacrifice her sanity for others. Does he WANT an insane teammate? One variation which strikes me as easier to work is that he’s uneasy with having her on the team to begin with because her powers will force her to choose between either holding back against the enemy (even if it risks the life of a teammate) or going insane. Maybe this second character is convinced that they need to find a more reliable replacement who has superpowers he/she can actually safely use. This strikes me as a lot more morally three-dimensional and likable.

    Another possible angle would be that a teammate at least initially does not want her on the team because she’s going to lose her mind. Most superheroes are somewhat used to the idea that they or a teammate might die or suffer lifelong injuries from a particular mission, but would be VERY uncomfortable about sending someone on a mission where they are certain to suffer permanent damage. She’s going to be in that situation a lot more than most other superheroes, and I think it’d have a negative impact on morale.

  107. AlucardZainon 21 Jan 2014 at 10:09 am

    Thank you @B. McKenzie. And I do want my heroine to be likable. But what if I want her to go solo for now, then maybe later be in a team. I initially want her to be a solo heroine, because I don’t like teams that much (have to create more characters…) but maybe have those characters be like close friends or something? And they know of her “alter ego” and they want to help her as best as they can. Thanks for your input though.

  108. AlucardZainon 21 Jan 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Also, I kinda want my heroine to “not be able to turn off her powers”. I want her to keep them when she’s not fighting, and all that. But when she goes into a fight, the loss of sanity is possible. Much like a “feeding frenzy” or something along those lines. I just don’t want her to “turn off” her powers. Is there anyway I can make that happen?

  109. Thalamuson 21 Jan 2014 at 3:25 pm

    When it comes to designing powers, you can do whatever takes your fancy. You are the writer, after all. As to whether it is a good idea (not being able to “switch off” powers at will): it has been done before, and to good effect, but I really have no opinion either way. You have to decide if you think it works in the context of your story.

    I think you could do both, as to the supporting characters, but it would have to be handled carefully. Including both opinions may detract from the sympathy a reader might have for either one: if one view is constantly opposed by another, readers will assume both are flawed and not care about the views as a plot device. If there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s for the readers to lose interest in a story arc.

  110. B. McKenzieon 21 Jan 2014 at 7:04 pm

    “But what if I want her to go solo for now, then maybe later be in a team.” Ah, okay! I mistakenly assumed that the characters who disapproved of her recklessness and selfishness would be teammates. Making them close friends is not a problem (though it may make what they think of her work as a superhero low-stakes compared to a conflict with a teammate).

  111. Jelloon 21 Jan 2014 at 10:14 pm

    For my superhero story I’m thinking of making the hero a small fry in comparison to the supervillains ruling his city in terms of power, and how he has to eventually join one of the supevillain groups in the hope that he can make enough of a difference to tip the scales in favor of his group to the point that the other groups will be destroyed and the constant warring will stop.

    The hero and two (out of four) supervillains
    Superhero: Johnathan Michaels
    Powers are: Shape-shifting, including the ability to shift different parts of his body into different creatures. Is capable of increasing or decreasing his mass (to a degree) to facilitate greater or more complex shifts. (Organic only)

    Supervillain: Samuel DuChamp
    Powers are: Marking a territory as his own. Within his territory Samuel gains the following abilities: Limited Geokinesis and Hydrokinesis, Plant and animal control, Localized weather control. Minor superstrength, superspeed, durability, and regeneration. To mark a territory as his, Samuel must first pour his power into the desired area and allow it to seep in. The larger the area the more power Samuel must pour into for it to be his. All powers other than his are diminished within his territory.

    Territories: North-End Eden (Main headquarters), Steel Jungle (abandoned loading dock converted into a flowery and so-far impenetrable fortress), and numerous outposts bordering his territory.

    Supervillain: Caroline Ericson
    Powers are: Can exhale a multicolored fire that forcibly mutates whatever it envelops and bring it under Caroline’s command, if its still alive. Inorganic objects included.

    Territories: Amalgam-(Floating island/attack ship/Headquarters).


  112. VoyeurTheNinjaon 25 Jan 2014 at 5:39 am

    I’ve been thinking about the powers of my four main characters and I managed to come up with these after months of planning:

    1. Physical and Device Manipulation – Through touch or special strings, devices are capable of being used (e.g closing an electric door) and can also roughly manipulate humanoid objects like puppets
    2. Matter Restoration – It restores whatever is broken back to its known previous state, but it cannot restore its user. (e.g Restoring an injury or restoring a broken wall)

    3. Adaptation to Threats – The body will adapt to dangers, but will stay that way for 20 minutes.

    4. Increased durability and power – It only affects a total of two touched objects and.or limbs and will stay that way for 10 minutes.

    I’m mostly going to be using these powers in fights that mainly focus on how the character can use his wits, powers and environment to overcome their enemies’ powers; I was mostly inspired from the manga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

  113. B. McKenzieon 25 Jan 2014 at 3:01 pm

    “It restores whatever is broken back to its known previous state, but it cannot restore its user. (e.g Restoring an injury or restoring a broken wall).” It might be helpful to give this character a side power or capability he can use offensively — otherwise, I think it may get monotonous if his contribution to combat scenes is just healing people. I think it’d be especially challenging for him to contribute to action scenes that don’t involve injuries or repairs (e.g. most chase scenes and a lot of stealth scenes).

    I’d recommend giving character #4 (the durable/strong character) a different limitation because #3 (the adapter) already has a very similar time restriction and the limb count restriction strikes me as a bit forced. One restriction which strikes me as more helpful (and might give the healer/repairer more to do) would be limiting his durability enough that he needs to be smart about how he fights. E.g. in The Taxman Must Die, most durable characters don’t need to worry much about pistols but do need to worry about rifles (especially anti-tank rifles) — I think that making a character closer to Batman than Superman in terms of durability gives authors a lot more options in terms of how to threaten the character and force him to come up with more interesting solutions than just bum-rushing the enemy most times.

  114. VoyeurTheNinjaon 25 Jan 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Well, their powers don’t take up most of the fights since they carry weapons. The one with the restoring powers has a bow for harassment and a grappling hook which can channel his powers into.

    Though, I’ll try to think of something for No. 4

  115. Neilon 25 Jan 2014 at 10:14 pm

    First off I wish to thank you for your contributions in regard to my character Adam. They’ve been most helpful. In terms of keeping his aquatic based powers interesting.

    One is that I have given the weakness of personal sanity. Having the characteristics of a Pyscean( half human half fish) Adam has a beast like presence. If he becomes too angry or upset, he could loose control and enter a Beserker state, attacking friend or foe. This is very much inspired by Beast in x- men.

    This could be interesting, as given this aspect is second nature, it might make the character more composed in battle, fearing he might loose control.

    Some smaller aspects include making his enhanced durability only able to take small rounds fire( though it still leaves welts and bruises), But not sharp objects or other late scaled weapons, like a tank. Finally, I have dehydration, where he needs to frequently drink water, less he weakens and dies. Given I wish to do some non- aquatic missions, it should be interesting to see how he gets out when he hadn’t had enough h2o. All in all, what do you think?

  116. OtakuGirlon 09 Mar 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I’m trying to come up with my own world, and, hopefully, get started on my (female)superhero. I want to world to have fantasy elements, action, adventure, and maybe a little bit of romance.
    In my world, there are people with certain families whose ancestry grants them superpowers. My idea was based off of the Naruto kekkei genkai, but in my world, the powers originate from mythological creatures. Dragons, werewolves, etc.

    reference for people who don’t know: http://naruto.wikia.com/wiki/Kekkei_Genkai

    I’m trying to come up with something that makes my character unique from everyone else, but I’m not always good with originality. There’s going to be a giant city where all the important families live, and she lives in the more rough area. She’s fifteen and an orphan. I have a somewhat idea on the plot, but am not sure.
    If anyone has any ideas WHATSOEVER, I would be very grateful if they could share them with me.

  117. OtakuGirlon 09 Mar 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I’ve also been thinking about having two sides to the city. One is kind of like a paradise where everybody is almost oblivious, and the other one is kind of like an underworld and filled with crime. There will also be gangs.
    I also changed my mind about having her live in the rough part of town. I’m not sure if she should have parents or not. But she WILL go to school. My idea is that she will live in the “paradise” and be oblivious, but something will happen to get her involved with the dark side of the city.

  118. B. McKenzieon 09 Mar 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Hello, OG. If the girl’s superpowers come from her ancestry, it might be easier working her ancestry into the story if she has living relatives. You mentioned that you’re really interested in her going to school and that she’d live in the wealthier/more oblivious part of town, so it might be more fitting if she grew up in a normal family situation. One possibility for what gets her involved with the dark side of the city would be the death of a parent (or both), but if so I’d recommend using that as an inciting event rather than as distant backstory.

    Could you tell me more about your plot? That might help me give suggestions about how to involve her in the rough side of the city. Right now, the only thing that comes to mind is that a classmate from the rougher part of town recognizes something really unusual about her (probably tied to a supernatural ancestry) or perhaps one of her parents’ associates (or a distant relative) pays her a visit (again, probably related to supernatural ancestry). If the supernatural community/communities are fairly well-organized, it would be believable if some sort of community figure (e.g. the supernatural equivalent of law enforcement or an elder or an educator) came to her to give her the rules of the situation. (For example, I believe Harry Potter got visited early on by the Ministry of Magic after using unauthorized magic at home).

  119. OtakuGirlon 11 Mar 2014 at 11:32 am

    I’m not very good at describing plots, but I’ll do my best. My plot also has quite a few holes in it. I’m thinking about having her be able to copy powers by seeing them, but she can’t have anything blocking her eyes (glasses, goggles, etc.), but it seems a little too over-powered or cliché. Maybe she has to wear glasses? Would that help tone down her power?
    She lives with her adopted parents, but she doesn’t know she’s adopted. I’m not sure how she should discover her powers, but there are a few parts of the plot that I’m sure about. I think I’ll use the part about being visited by an educator or law enforcer of some sort when she finds out or misuses her powers.
    There will be an (not sure what word to use, so I’ll go with this one) evil scientist who wants to get her DNA to make the ultimate soldier army (again, not sure about her power). The scientist wants to be immortal, so I was thinking of him going after one of the main protagonist’s friends (vampire, werewolf, or dragon ancestry, maybe?) to make them both join him as a conflict of interest. I was thinking about the scientist being a Naga, only with my own twist to that myth. In my story, Nagas can change their bodies at will by stealing someone’s body and putting their own soul into it, while the stolen person’s soul will be destroyed. That’s where the protagonist’s friend will come in. Gender not decided.
    Also, I was thinking about incorporating a gang into the plot, but I’ll tell you about that on another post. My family’s coming home soon, and they don’t like me “wasting my time writing stories.”
    Thoughts about the plot and ideas about her power? I’m open to new ideas. 🙂

  120. OtakuGirlon 11 Mar 2014 at 12:39 pm

    (The scientist wants to be immortal, so I was thinking of him going after one of the main protagonist’s friends (vampire, werewolf, or dragon ancestry, maybe?) to make them both join him as a conflict of interest. I was thinking about the scientist being a Naga, only with my own twist to that myth. In my story, Nagas can change their bodies at will by stealing someone’s body and putting their own soul into it, while the stolen person’s soul will be destroyed. That’s where the protagonist’s friend will come in. Gender not decided.)
    Please forget I posted that part. I changed my mind and no longer will have it part of the plot. The scientist will still be a Naga (and ~maybe~ already immortal; not meaning he can’t die, just that he can’t die of old age), but instead of the stuff above this, I just decided to let him have a son who is the protagonist’s friend. The son will be half Naga.
    Thoughts about the plot and ideas about her power? I’m open to new ideas. 🙂

  121. B. McKenzieon 11 Mar 2014 at 6:38 pm

    “I’m thinking about having her be able to copy powers by seeing them, but she can’t have anything blocking her eyes (glasses, goggles, etc.), but it seems a little too over-powered or cliché. Maybe she has to wear glasses? Would that help tone down her power?” I’d recommend using a limitation that entails more of a cost (or is harder to get around) than just taking off her glasses.

    Some possibilities that come to mind:
    1) Taking one power causes her to “forget” any other powers she’s taken.

    2) Using a power causes her to temporarily lose access to any other powers (forcing her to pick a particular power during a scene).

    3) Because she’s new to the power, she tends not to be as effective or precise/safe with it as people that have years of experience. For example, Rogue pretty much burns down a county every time she takes Cyclops’ power because he’s had more experience with that hard-to-control death-beam situation than she has.

    “My family’s coming home soon, and they don’t like me ‘wasting my time writing stories.'” Ack, I’m sorry to hear that — as a former educator, I think fiction-writing is a worthwhile hobby, albeit one without very good career prospects. So I’d recommend dominating in school in as many fields as possible, particularly math and/or science.

  122. Kerrealon 02 Apr 2014 at 10:42 pm

    So I’ve been coming onto this site on and off for awhile now and I’m starting to write a Superhero novel, to mainly address my own issues writing. (First-Person PoV and Long.. Writings). While I was here I thought I might as well ask about my main little grouplet of people and their powers.

    Though I suppose some context might be needed, possibly? Main group of Super Humans are called Meltdowns, they get their powers during traumatic events where instead of their mind fracturing and them developing a mental illness, they instead develop superpowers that fit the situation and their personality.

    Then there are the Elementals. They are born with their powers that come out sometime during puberty. However, because they are connected to their ‘Element’ at birth, they tend to be isolated and avoid other children they tend to come out of childhood as.. well I guess the easiest term is Psychopath. While they are called Elementals, that’s not completely true, instead of a classical ‘element’ connected with them, they have an aspect. So an elemental could have fire, air, wind, water, but they can also have, light, sound, life, etc. Members of this group are extremely rare.

    Last is the Metas. These powers are unique as they are the only powers which can affect other powers. There are only five Metas at a time. When one Meta dies, another takes up the mantel on how they affect other powers. The Mantel’s being Augmentation, Bestowal, Mimicry, Negation, and Sensing. While the archetype of these powers are static, how they manifest is unique. People with these powers are also born, like the Elementals, however, they tend to be very sociable as children and are generally adults of High Moral Calibre.

    Okay, People Time!

    /* This is the guy I worry about the most */
    Truth/ Brandon – The Category system of this world would list him as a Scanner. He has limited omniscience. He knows everything, past events, microscopic details, of things within Pi feet of him (The powers tend to work around weird math constants).

    I have worked out some possible drawbacks already.
    1] The things his power picks up are stored in a power-memory, and so he needs his power to draw upon them.
    2] Twenty-four hours after learning something it disappears from his power memory. (There are some ways around this, namely saying the information to someone)
    3] The ease at which he ‘learns’ things is based upon how easy it is for some random person to learn it. So he can read minds because their are people with mind reading powers, however, if you kill all the mind readers, he would not be able to read minds anymore. Destroy Wikipedia and (assuming the stuff on Wiki was right) it becomes that much harder for him to pick up that information.
    4] If he uses his power to much, his consciousness will ‘migrate’ to his power-memory, which slows everything down (Including himself), but he can no longer sense things with his normal human senses (Sight, Touch, Smell, Taste…. okay there’s five of these but I can’t remember the last one).
    And I think that’s it with him.

    And so the other person I worry about, but less so even though I think she might be more powerful than Brandon (I kind of want her to be though)

    Aero/Lisa Hobbs – She is born both an Elemental and a Meta. Her aspect is wind which has a Phi Miles diameter on it (Like most other elementals). And her Meta power is the Power Negation one, which for her is an area of effect and is almost piggy backed of her Elemental power.

    She doesn’t seem that power, but the thing that worries me is the 1.618 miles on her area of effects. I was think I could give her Meta power a different diameter. Though something to make her less OP is that she is 14 and her powers have just started to manifest. She was experimenting with them when crap started to go down and she accidently joined a supervillain group.

    Oh! and while I haven’t quite taken those classes per say, I am going for a dual major in Computer Science and Mathematics (this is my first semester). Though I live in Waukesha Wisconsin, like 3 hours away. So if you’re still looking for someone, I’m here.

  123. Kerrealon 03 Apr 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Hahhaha I did not realize how long that was, I’m so sorry. If you want me to trim it down, just ask.
    /Note to self: No posting in the middle of the night./

  124. Sammyon 25 May 2014 at 4:28 am

    Okay, so I’ve got this antagonist, but I need some help.

    I’ve come up with an antagonist for my story, and his name is Isaac. He goes about everything in a very covert and round-about way, so-much-so that for the first half of the story, he actually seems to be an ally. He keeps behind the scenes, and uses black mail, manipulation and information control to set things up, and often uses people and the media to set off chain reactions. Keeping all this in mind, I’ve given him the ability to toy with people’s mental and emotional states, via something akin to pheromones. He’s pretty limited in range, but due to his rather passive appearance and charming personality, getting close enough to someone that huge isn’t a big problem for him. He mostly uses it to tease information out of people, and to distract and put people off in physical confrontations so that he gains the upper hand.

    The problem I have with him is that his major foil is a side character, Michael, who is a ruthless and violent anti-hero that has a few nasty tricks of his own, but is a very straight forward person and knows how to shoot from a relative distance. Whenever the two have a direct confrontation, Michael always comes off as the aggressor, and Isaac usually slips away by the skin of his teeth, but it’s becoming clear that even though the Isaac is a threat to their current society (and a conniving little a**hole to boot), due to his rather passive abilities, he’s on the verge of looking like a bit of an annoyance rather than an actual rival to Michael.

    I was just wondering if anybody had any suggestions as to how I could possibly get the dynamic between the two back on track? Anything helps!

  125. B. McKenzieon 25 May 2014 at 9:53 am

    “Whenever the two have a direct confrontation, Michael always comes off as the aggressor, and Isaac usually slips away by the skin of his teeth, but it’s becoming clear that even though the Isaac is a threat to their current society (and a conniving little a**hole to boot), due to his rather passive abilities, he’s on the verge of looking like a bit of an annoyance rather than an actual rival to Michael.” Perhaps Michael has seen or heard something that indicates that Isaac has very large plans and/or that he is much different than the image he is trying to project. Michael has seen him in very stressful situations (e.g. battling against him and perhaps battling alongside him at times when they were “allied”?), so maybe he’s also seen the mask slip occasionally.

  126. Need Help!on 29 May 2014 at 3:02 am

    I need a bit of help. The story I’m writing involves the main characters moving in to take down a group of supervillains, but they are knocked out by several hidden gas containers. In a Portal-esque style, the heroes move through a complex, attempting to find a way out. as they make their way towards the centre, the villian becomes increasingly desperate, unleashing deadlier traps and move bad guys. Problem is, I can’t come up with enough traps, ways to overcome them and how using powers to overcome the traps will affect them. The only weakness i have set in stone is Overpowered’s weakness. Overpowered can use any power for as long as he wants, but for ten minutes at a time, and only one power at a time. The powers require a recharge time of however long they were used for.

    Lightning controls electricity, moves at super speed and has different gadgets (e.g freeze pellets, night vision goggles, etc).
    Hex is a magician, uses Latin. Can think her spells or speak them. Speaking is better than thinking. Requires energy to use.
    Clockwork can stop time briefly (and it drains a lot of energy) and shoot energy balls from his staff.
    Gyro manipulates gravity.
    Defender can only use “defensive” powers – healing, energy shields.
    Moonshadow can teleport through shadows, walk into one shadow and come out of another, as well as manipulating light and darkness. Her powers come from the moon, but a demon took her body over, granting the dark powers
    Wraith and Phantom both use ghost abilities – both can fly, but Wraith uses invisiblity, while Phantom uses phasing.
    Overpowered- above.

  127. B. McKenzieon 29 May 2014 at 7:19 am

    “Overpowered can use any power for as long as he wants, but for ten minutes at a time, and only one power at a time.” I’d recommend reconsidering this power for a character on a team facing a series of traps. 1) He will go through traps like a buzz-saw. 2) He will probably make other characters useless or redundant, and I don’t think that the 10 minute restriction will prevent that.

    Also, if you’re working with a novel, I’d suggest reducing the team from 9 to maybe 5 to give each character more room to be memorable and to force the characters to improvise more with fewer total superpowers on the team. I don’t know anything about their personalities, but just based on superpowers, I’d recommend considering eliminating Overpowered, giving Defender’s abilities to Hex, and merging Wraith and Phantom and possibly Moonshadow (I believe that the teleportation and phasing will be very redundant, and possibly the shadow-walking and invisibility). Have you found in your scenes that Wraith, Phantom, and Moonshadow have unique roles?

  128. Dante guapon 13 Jun 2014 at 10:53 pm

    I could use some help guys. I’m writing a story about about a team of three anti-heroes in world were superheroes are mostly typical. A fire breathing zombie detective, a wise-cracking female assassin and a swordsman from land only heard in fairy tales.

    Problem is i have a fantastic ending and funny insert scenes but i don’t know how to intelligently justify weaving their stories together(ex. Detective and Kayla{the assassin} are childhood friends but, but the swordsman has his own story, love interest, childhood friends and enemies back in New Utopia.) In fact he only comes to “the world of humans” to search for the person who killed his parents and tortured him all through his childhood. Detective (he has no real name) on the other hand has used his powers to solve the injustices he sees in the world while dealing with the Commune(superhero court) for his methods of dealing with criminals (zombies gotta eat something) and the conflict with his aptly named sister Angel (guess what her powers are).Kayla has been assigned by the government at the age of 7 to befriend and keep an eye on Detective, she knows he knows this but like him doesn’t care and by the current age of 18 is practically like another sister to him zombie or not. She’s also one of the few premier “heroes” without any powers relying instead on her wit, guns and various military grade weapons she is incredibly accurate laughs literally in the face of death.

    Any input is appreciated

  129. Danteon 14 Jun 2014 at 4:04 am

    I might have posted in the wrong page…….my bad

  130. AceofXon 14 Jun 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I found this site a short while ago and have been soaking it up like crazy. It’s great!

    . . . but I have a question.

    What is up with the Canadians thing? We threaten no one.

    So . . . why us?

  131. B. McKenzieon 15 Jun 2014 at 10:58 am

    “What is up with the Canadians thing? We threaten no one.” Ah, this assumes that there’s some sort of reason. I think it’s funnier because there isn’t.

    The other targets I use the most include squirrels, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden, so you’re in good company (except for Switzerland, obviously).

  132. TTon 06 Jul 2015 at 8:37 pm

    He A.J.
    My characters get their powers from a radioactive meteorite, and lose them, as well as their memories, in book 3. That work for you?

  133. Tomason 14 Apr 2016 at 8:12 am

    If you are in a fantasy setting (where almost everyone uses magic frequently), another way of doing it is making magic powers that act as passive abilities. That way, your characters can solve situations without casting an impressive spell every four pages, and the moments were there is a huge display of power will still stand out. For example: Ability to see and talk to ghosts for a character with spiritual or/and necromantic abilities, enhanced strength and reflexes for a combat mage, spatial awareness for a seer, extreme resistance to low temperatures for an ice mage, etc.

    You can also give your characters non-magical abilities that tie into their powers. For instance, a shapeshifter or an illusion-caster would be convincing liars even if they are not using their powers, a combat magician could be experienced in hand-to-hand combat and battle strategy, a healer would have knowledge about anatomy and/or actual medicine. And the list goes on.

    The trick about doing this well is mentioning the ability only once or twice, instead of doing it everytime it comes into play. If you do that, then nothing changes: it is the same as if you were making your character cast a spell. And, as the old saying goes: “Show, don’t tell”

  134. Arkan Sunon 22 Jul 2017 at 12:54 am

    This was a big help for creating a new character of mine. Thanks!

  135. Ringeron 15 Jun 2018 at 3:17 am

    Hey B.Mac….
    I changed my basic story and hence set of heroes
    Only 6-7 characters have superpowers out of which 3 are main
    1.Erik Keehl – main character…..
    He can blast heat energy , absorb heat so that it appears that he is freezing things,standard pyro stuff….but he can also set things alight from a distance..without projecting any flames.
    Drawback: he can only generate enough fire as much heat he as absorbed….for example if he absorbed heat of a candle he’d only generate a small burst of flame….hence his powers need a constant recharge….
    He is an above average combatant because of the serious drawback…
    2Trevor Bale – villain’s sidekick(can’t find the correct word)
    He wanted to transfer his consciousness to another body(Erik) but instead his powers were transferred in Erik…that’s how Erik got his powers…though Trevor’s fraction of power was transferred(and amplified)
    He can control fire (but can’t absorb heat energy….neither can generate fire at a distance….but doesn’t need recharge as well) , can generate fire….can control ice….can control water and by extension steam…yeah he is overpowered as hell
    Should I tone down his powers?
    3 espor – main villain
    Telepathy… telekinesis….superhuman attributes…. flight….energy projection…psionic blasts….can bestow “powers”(just augmentation of one’s strength & senses but not to superhuman levels) and hive mind….yeah he’s stronger than Trevor Bale
    Now some minor characters-
    4)Dave (bro) and Diana Turner(sis) Dave – precognition Diana-retrocognition
    5) Erik’s friend – Steven Darkh- has Nano tech in him….to amplify senses , intuition and physical prowess
    Then there are goons of espor…but technically they are human and don’t have superpowers….
    There physical prowess is like 80%of cap America for comparison…and senses are like 50% of daredevil(just around )peak human
    What do you think?
    Please give your views as soon as possible….thanks!

  136. Ringeron 15 Jun 2018 at 3:17 am

    Sorry I posted it here….i was unable to post on list of superpowers page….please respond as soon as possible

  137. B. McKenzieon 15 Jun 2018 at 11:35 pm

    “What do you think?” 300 words in, I’m not as stoked as I’d like. As a writing exercise, I’d recommend writing a 100-200 word outline of a superhero movie or novel you find thoroughly excellent. I’d recommend considering how major characters’ personality/development (and secondarily capabilities/limitations) fit their plots*.

    So, your list of superpowers, I don’t know whether it works in your story or not. Some red flags I noticed:
    –it generally shouldn’t take 300 words to cover superpowers/capabilities. Especially if they’re not critically important to plot and/or characterization and/or mood (more than creating opportunities for superpowered action scenes).
    –instead of knowledge-based powers (precognition/retrocognition), I’d recommend relying more on skills/capabilities instead — skills tend to create more opportunities for interesting scenes.

    *For example, Dr. Manhattan’s powers would make an interesting action story almost impossible but he was an excellent fit for a more drama-focused role with almost no action scenes. Alternately, if you were writing a hardboiled action story, a protagonist with Thor/Superman-style capabilities (relatively invulnerable and highly mobile) wouldn’t be very intuitive (these powers tend to undermine tension/danger/vulnerability pretty much required for the genre).

  138. McKennaon 19 Jul 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Hey, I have a character who can control the basic elements. She’s very powerful but I’m going to limit her abilities. I have four characters in the book I’m writing. I’m thinking I can give each character one of the elements to control. Your thoughts?

  139. B. McKenzieon 19 Jul 2018 at 9:03 pm

    McKenna, I think that sounds workable. I’d recommend building unexpected personality mixes for the characters, though (e.g. the fire controller being something besides brash/hot-headed, the earth controller being something besides strong/silent, etc).

    For an example of this, I’d recommend checking out Melisandre (a prophetess in a fire cult) in Game of Thrones. She’s a lot less predictable than another Human Torch, and she’s more versatile in terms of creating interesting scenes.

  140. McKennaon 25 Jul 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Ok. Thanks for the advice, B. Mac.

  141. JolanHon 15 Dec 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Silverbolt s ability to conduct electricity, super strength and speed do help, since he can’t throw bolts long range he has to focus using his powers in clever ways. For instance rather that attack someone directlyhe could covertly send a charge down a trail of water to stun a target. The list goes on.

    He is trained in basic Kung Fu, and specializes in fighting sticks and meteor hammer/chaindart.

    He knows basic investigation techniques, follow the money, shake down the people on the bottom to get to the top

  142. Cat-Vacuumer Supremeon 18 Dec 2019 at 11:20 am

    What level are his strength and speed at? Are there any limits to his electricity powers? How did he learn his skills?

  143. JolanHon 17 Jan 2020 at 8:19 am

    His strength is reasonable two thousand pounds Max press. His powers are limited by touch, and conductivity of an object. He can’t shock someone wearing rubber, etc…he learned Kung Fu at a local dojo, and he learned investigation through trial and error.

  144. Lysander Blackon 07 Sep 2020 at 10:28 pm

    Anyone heard of a savant syndrome?
    someone with significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities far in excess of average. I have decided to use this as a reason for my superhero’s Telekinetic powers.

  145. B. McKenzieon 07 Sep 2020 at 11:29 pm

    LB, I’d suggest taking a look at Flowers For Algernon (which I thought was a very effective use of tying superior abilities to a mental/physical condition) and Alphas (which gutted characters by building the team around a mild-mannered psychiatrist*).

    *I think the odds are always stacked against a well-meaning psychiatrist for interesting lines, so the patients really have to deliver. For anyone doing scenes with a psychologist/psychiatrist I’d generally recommend considering patient/doctor conflict, possibly with characters insisting on doing their own thing(s) while completely disregarding socially acceptable behavior. E.g. in the opening scene of The Other Guys, there’s an incredibly effective opener with cops doing mandatory group counseling after shooting incidents, and the cop-cop interaction is excellent in part because the therapist is a passive observer.

  146. daniel stoneon 02 Feb 2021 at 5:28 pm

    can i get like a list of 10 powers pls im kinda new at this

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