Archive for October 23rd, 2011

Oct 23 2011

Keeping Your Superpowers From Getting Stale

Published by under Superpowers

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.

Here’s some advice on keeping superpowers novel throughout your story.

1. Have the character(s) put the superpowers to different uses.  If you’ve already had your characters stop a bank robbery, it might be more interesting to have them prevent an assassination or conduct a high-speed chase or solve a difficult crime that has already happened than, say, stop a robbery at a jewelry store.  Varying your scenes gives you a better chance to leave readers guessing about what will happen and how.

 

2. Please try some different obstacles and hazards, hopefully something the character isn’t used to.  For example, if a character can fly 100+ miles per hour, an ordinary car chase probably won’t be very interesting because there’s so little challenge.  For example, what if there’s a massive windstorm (either natural or controlled by a superpower or magic)?  Chicago had 50+ mph winds a few days ago and it was hard enough to walk without getting knocked over, so I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to chase someone in the air.  If the character is used to using his powers in a very deliberate and methodical way (e.g. like a telepath might benefit from concentration or Batman might benefit from preparation), what will he do in a fast-moving crisis that caught him by surprise?*

*Don’t try to tell me that “OF COURSE BATMAN WAS READY FOR A SHARK ATTACK–THAT’S WHY HE HAD EXPLODING SHARK REPELLENT.”  Only madness lies that way.

 

2.1. Please keep low-risk uses of superpowers to a minimum.  For example, the scene where a character first tries using his powers is usually pretty low-risk (e.g. Peter Parker testing what his webs can do).  As a brief scene, that’s not a huge liability, but if you have 3+ characters with superpowers, I wouldn’t recommend spending pages putting each character in such a situation.  I feel that one character just testing out his powers tends to come off surprisingly like any other character just testing her powers out, even if the powers are different.  One possibility is that the characters learn and/or test their powers in a risky situation.  For example, maybe the characters are tested for something like admission into a superhero team shortly after developing superpowers.  If the character really wants to make the team, the learning process will probably be higher-stakes and more interesting than just webbing around town.

 

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