Nov 28 2011

Writing a Realistic Superhero Story

Published by at 1:22 am under Realism,Writing Articles

1. As always, realism is a stylistic preference.  Feel free to disregard any/all aspects of realism.  Generally, the fans of superhero stories are more likely to cut you slack on realism than, say, the readers of military fiction, so incorporate realism if you want to and not because you feel you need to.

 

2.  Superpower selection.  If realism is a major concern, I would recommend shying away from powers that insulate the character from vaguely realistic consequences to actions.  For example, an invulnerable superhero can just wade into gunfire, whereas a character like Batman needs to put more thought into it.  Batman’s restrictions are more human-like in that regard, so his actions will probably feel more realistic.  Alternately, if you have a character like Superman, you can try using a variety of situations where the character has to act very carefully rather than just bumrush an enemy.  (For example, rescuing hostages, dealing with an enemy like The Riddler that isn’t actually present, a “scavenger hunt” situation like finding and defusing several bombs, an enemy like Professor Moriarty that works a lot through proxies that don’t know enough to easily incriminate their boss, etc).

  • I’d recommend incorporating as many of the superpowers into the premise rather than having characters develop some superpowers later.  I think it was fairly effective and acceptable that Heroes had a time-traveling character, but just wildly crazy that Superman went back in time in Superman I by flying around the world counterclockwise.  Heroes introduced the time-travel angle fairly quickly, but in the Superman movie, it was a deus ex machina that came out of nowhere.  (Likewise, erasing Lois’ memories with a kiss was not only a deus ex machina, but also an act of raw jackassery).
  • If uncertainty, doubt and/or paranoia are major elements of the story, I’d recommend cutting or severely limiting mind-reading and lie-detection.  For example, if mind-reading is a very intrusive act tantamount to frisking somebody, then it’ll be easier to write a situation where the character is vulnerable to uncertainty than if the character is free to read everybody’s minds without anybody else knowing.  Drama comes from vulnerability, so don’t use superpowers that will make it too hard to find vulnerabilities for the character.
  • Especially if the story is gritty, I’d recommend reconsidering incredible regeneration powers.  The stakes will probably be higher if the character’s actions have consequences, and one very noticeable consequence is the risk of injury.  For dramatic reasons,  you might want to make the character regenerate faster and/or take less damage than normal*, but I just wouldn’t  recommend overdoing it so much that you couldn’t raise the stakes with an injury at a terribly inconvenient time if you wanted to.

*Pretty much every superhero, even ones whose powers are mainly mental, are physically resilient enough to shrug off some hits that would put the average person in a hospital for weeks.  Having heroes get hospitalized for weeks after every fight probably wouldn’t be very interesting.

 

3. Consider the character’s motivations for becoming a superhero.  Is there anything about this character’s background or personality that would suggest he’d be receptive to a highly dangerous and messy job?  I’d recommend thinking particularly hard about this if the character wasn’t notably brave and/or the sort to get in fights before getting superpowers.  One example I like a lot here is Spider-Man–I think the series effectively and clearly established why a very unviolent geek felt morally obligated to get into that line of work.

 

3.1. If the character’s temperament and/or background isn’t a great fit for superheroics, does it create obstacles for him sometimes?  Too often, I think, superpowers serve as a “Get Out of Obstacle Free” card.  If I could offer an analogy here, I feel that superpowers would be a bit like a soldier’s rifle.  Skilled soldiers can do a lot with rifles.  But just giving somebody an assault rifle does not make him a skilled soldier.  So, if the character has superpowers but does not have very much experience in fights and/or solving crimes, it’s very likely that the character will be missing some of the skills, practice and training that would really help him succeed as a superhero.  (And that’s okay! Remember, obstacles are your friend, and it would be an interesting obstacle if the hero didn’t start out with the ideal skills and/or background).

 

4. If at all possible, I would recommend writing in realistic consequences to actions even though they may present obstacles for the characters to overcome.  

  • If a character takes on more than he can handle, it’d make sense if he got injured (as above).  When the next emergency rolls around, how does he deal with the injury?
  • A lot of superhero stories work in relationship difficulties caused by being a superhero.  Depending on the mood, you could also work in a divorce (they’re depressingly common for police officers, soldiers and others that work long hours in stressful positions, and even a police officer wouldn’t get called on-duty during a wedding, whereas superhero weddings and funerals are interrupted with some degree of regularity).
  • Is Reed Richards useless?  Do other scientists think that your super-scientist is wasting his mental talents brawling with bank robbers and Latverian dictators when he could be saving many more lives in a lab somewhere?  (The Fantastic Four series avoids that by having Reed Richards do superheroics and cutting-edge civilian science, but I think it’d be more realistic and dramatic to handle the trade-offs).

 

5. I would recommend considering at least minor elements of crime-solving rather than responding to crimes in progress.  If the villains are pretty smart–and most supervillains supposedly are–presumably they’d have a plan more intelligent and more likely to succeed than just hitting a bank and giving the heroes enough time to respond.  (Seriously, not even any diversionary tactics, Dr. Octopus?)

  • For example, what does a hero do to thwart a plot that needs to be stopped ahead of time?  For example, if the hero merely responds to a terrorist bombing or an assassination after the fact, the damage has already been done–the hero needs to piece together what’s happening before the bomb goes off.
  • Alternately, what if the crime isn’t discovered until some time after it happens?  For example, if an invaluable metal with incredibly explosive properties or a priceless work of art has been swapped out with a convincing stand-in/forgery, it might take a few days for a researcher to discover that what was thought to be explodinium is actually low-grade cesium* that could barely blow up a small pond.  It’ll take the heroes some thought to find out who took the genuine article, more than if they had just responded while the crime was happening.  *Cesium is the sickly stepchild of the alkaline earth metals and the butt of many cruel jokes from francium and explodinium.  No self-respecting criminal would use it except to mock an exceptionally weak adversary.  “Oh, Paste Pot Pete?  Let me bring out my cesium.”
  • If you’d like to give your heroes more realistic/creative ways to find crimes but don’t want to spend as much time covering the process as a mystery writer would, please see my list of crime-finding suggestions.

35 responses so far

35 Responses to “Writing a Realistic Superhero Story”

  1. RoLandoon 13 Dec 2011 at 5:31 pm

    This is a great article. I am working on a superhero story and I think this will definitely help when it comes to developing the characters. Also it will help when it comes to creating challenging sequences.

    As of right now, my hero will be like a Daredevil/Punisher style vigilante. But that may change. If its possible i would love to get a review forum and sort of chronicle my development as a progress. But thank you for posting this article.

  2. Anonymouson 04 Feb 2012 at 4:20 am

    I’ve been feeling a bit irritable lately because while I knew I wanted to write a superhero story that sort of deconstructed the genre, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. This article really helped- I’ve got a much more concrete idea of what I’m doing now. Thanks!

  3. Agnion 29 Sep 2012 at 8:17 pm

    @B. Mac.

    I have got a huge problem while developing my novel. I am trying to find an idea about how the hero finds the villain’s hideout. It should be innovative and such that the villain does not expect of. Give me some ideas please.

  4. B. McKenzieon 30 Sep 2012 at 2:44 am

    “It should be innovative and such that the villain does not expect of. Give me some ideas please.” Hmm. I think it depends on the heroes and what they are capable of. For example, in The Taxman Must Die, a villain is caught off-guard by what an IRS agent can do with a grudge, a computer, and a lack of close supervision. This wouldn’t fit for most superheroes, though… I’d recommend coming up with something more specific to your team.

    –Is there anything your characters know more about than most superheroes? Could they use any of that to help them find the villain and/or narrow the areas they have to search?

    –Is there any information the heroes can piece together in interesting ways? For example, someone like Sherlock Holmes might notice super-minor details and use them to limit the areas he needs to search. Things like rare chemical compounds or rare plant matter caught in a footprint might hint at areas around town where the villain might be. If the heroes have figured out that the villain is probably close to a particular resource or tool. For example, if the villain’s doing some large-scale manufacturing (e.g. a robotics operation), they can probably eliminate 90%+ of the area by doing thermal scans and looking for major sources of heat in the area. Or chemical emissions. After they have a list of possible locations, likely they’ll have several legitimate operations and the criminal’s hideout.

    –Do the characters know anything about the villain’s background? That might help him figure out where he’s gone and/or how he’s covering his tracks. For example, if the criminal in question is a Latverian in the United States, it’s a pretty good guess that Dr. Doom is involved somehow. Putting Dr. Doom’s known agents under surveillance might turn up something. Even listening in on a phone call might give the heroes some useful information. (E.g. if they hear a strike of thunder in the background, they’ll know he was in an area that was raining at that moment).

    –Planting a tracking device and/or trailing a henchman or associate or something the villain is trying to steal. Anything that will be taken to the villain could lead the heroes there.

    –Turning an associate/henchman of the villain? Convincing a reluctant witness (maybe someone scared for his life or a family member in denial) to offer useful information? Convincing and/or tricking another villain to either give up the first villain or do something which compromises his position?

    –Has the villain fallen into some sort of pattern? After all these years, I figure that Batman has to have a list of all the abandoned warehouses in Gotham, because pretty much all of them are criminal operations.

    –If the characters are even slightly savvy detectives, I think readers will cut you a lot of slack if they narrow their search by making somewhat-lucky assumptions. For example, in Silence of the Lambs, the main character realizes that the serial killer is a guy that knows how to sew and leaps to the conclusion that he must have learned sewing skills in prison, so she starts crosschecking her previous information against records of prison tailors. As it turns out, the suspect was a prison tailor and not, say, someone who grew up in a tailoring family or someone who learned tailoring because he lived alone in an extremely isolated area. I think readers will give you some leeway to cut some corners if it sounds like the character has a vaguely plausible reason for doing so. In The Taxman Must Die, federal agents instantly assume that an escaped supervillain is making a beeline for New York City, only on account of the fact that he’s a megalomaniac and not bright enough to try something more original. (I’m also sort of assuming that readers will give me some latitude to have federal agents profile supervillains based on comic book cliches).

  5. Agnion 30 Sep 2012 at 4:45 am

    @B. Mac

    my hero does not have any superpower. He uses his high intelligence and knowledge over almost anything along with mastery over different fighting style against crime. So the way of finding the villain’s hideout must involve his intelligence and knowledge. Finding things like rare chemical compounds or rare plant matter caught in a footprint is a great idea for that.

  6. The Drifteron 03 Oct 2012 at 3:31 am

    A superhero named Rush who has the power of ability creation due to alien technology he has stolen has been a hero to Fox City (fictional setting) for years, since he was a teen. After years of growing up and maturing, he started to develop hatred towards human. Rush decides to turn on the city after years of protecting it, leaving people helpless while he unleashed chaos. The government decides to take action by locating a primehuman (people who get their powers naturally) named Devin who is an ex-supervillain gone good, he is supposedly the last primehuman on earth. The government comes to Devin to see if he can defeat Rush because Dev is their only hope. Literately. So any thoughts, questions or comments?

  7. The Drifteron 03 Oct 2012 at 4:17 am

    Another thing is that i’m not sure what power to give Devin. My choices were: Elemental Manipulation, Enhanced Artistry or Energy Manipulation, so confused *pulls hair out*

  8. B. McKenzieon 03 Oct 2012 at 4:41 am

    I find Rush interesting, but Devin might be a Chosen One. “The government decides to take action by locating a primehuman (people who get their powers naturally) named Devin who is an ex-supervillain gone good, he is supposedly the last primehuman on earth. The government comes to Devin to see if he can defeat Rush because Dev is their only hope.” I think you could smooth this out, maybe come up with a better reason the government starts working with an ex-criminal. Or maybe do a smoother job explaining why ONLY a prime human would have a chance of defeating Rush (as opposed to, say, calling in another hero with alien technology). My concern here is that the government has apparently decided that there’s only one candidate, but it’d probably be more dramatic if there were more than one. (Maybe the government is trying a few different approaches* and the main character has to prove himself…)
    *Some possibilities which come to mind: alien tech heroes, maybe a cooperative alien, special forces commando(s), a conventional military response, etc.

    “He is supposedly the last primehuman on Earth.” This suggests that most of them have died out? If so, is a primehuman actually the right candidate for this job?

    “My choices were: Elemental Manipulation, Enhanced Artistry or Energy Manipulation, so confused…” I think either elemental manipulation or energy manipulation would work fine (although I think picking a particular element would probably be more promising than a swath of elements). I’m not sure I understand enhanced artistry. Do you mean like painting/drawing or something else (e.g. martial arts?) Calling in an expert painter to defeat a rogue superhero is not intuitive, especially if there are any actual superheroes available (alien tech or not).

  9. Marxon 10 Mar 2013 at 2:48 am

    Can fantasy and science fiction come together? Because me as well as my brother are working on a story together and we want to add science fiction & fantasy elements into it. When I asked my former teacher this question, he said that it would be extremely complicated. Any ideas?

  10. B. McKenzieon 10 Mar 2013 at 8:28 am

    Mixing genres definitely can be complicated, but I think incorporating sci-fi heroes and magical/mythological heroes on the same team is not necessarily a huge problem. (In terms of getting readers and publishers on board, I think it’d make for a more challenging sell than something more genre-coherent, though).

  11. Blackscaron 10 Mar 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Hello again! I’ve spent some time revising my novel, and I believe I’ve come across an issue.

    Would it be plausible to have my sword-wielding character stash his blade in a locker or storage room at school, just as a precaution?
    Or, does that seem too overdone?
    How would I go about getting him out of trouble if, say, a teacher searched his locker and found the weapon, without it seeming like he only escaped punishment because he’s the main character/has plot armor?

  12. Amber D.on 09 May 2013 at 9:25 pm

    If there was an orginization that captured people with powers and as a result of that orginization there had been superhuman kids raised to belive that all (normal) humans should be eliminated, if one of those kids was in trouble and rescued by a teen who although strugeled with the orginization as well had been raised to belive that hurting some humans for what a few did was wrong, what would it take to make the kid stop thinking that way?

  13. Amber D.on 09 May 2013 at 9:27 pm

    the kid is about 6-8 years old and has been raised that way since they can remeber

  14. Amber D.on 09 May 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I ment to say all not some

  15. B. McKenzieon 10 May 2013 at 7:54 am

    The kid is young enough that it probably wouldn’t be that difficult to bring him/her around. E.g. maybe a human is exceptionally friendly to him, and the kid makes a gradual transition from “John/Jane is really nice and obviously shouldn’t be hurt” to “Maybe there are a lot of humans like John/Jane.”

    There may be cognitive dissonance as the kid learns information which contradicts everything his organization/cult had told him about humans.

  16. Amber D.on 23 Oct 2013 at 5:54 pm

    how much of a risk would there be of a wig falling off during a fight and would the wig being really expensive lessen that risk?

  17. Nature Witchon 24 Oct 2013 at 2:56 am

    Better wigs seems to have a adjuster in the wig to make it harder to fall of, but with the wig having to be stuck during fightscenes (I think) I would suggest having pins also in th wig so it has even lesser chance to fall of. Maybe even wig-glue or what it is, but that part of costuming I don’t know were to get or how to use, so you might have to look it up.

  18. Amber Don 01 Nov 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks but just to be more clear I was thinking more along the lines of wether or not it would be reasonable for a superhero to use a wig as part of her costume or if the risk of it falling off or being yanked off would be to great

  19. B. McKenzieon 02 Nov 2013 at 1:37 am

    “how much of a risk would there be of a wig falling off during a fight and would the wig being really expensive lessen that risk?” Completely up to the author’s discretion. If you want to have the character dealing with the risk of a wig coming off, you can do that. Or you could have there be 0% chance of it ever coming off accidentally. She’s a superhero, so it’s pretty intuitive that she would have access to a costume which holds up well during combat.

    If you want to, you could spend a sentence mentioning that the wig is specifically designed to stay on during extreme activity, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

  20. D. Mannyon 23 Oct 2014 at 7:28 am

    Hey! Would you consider Chronicle gritty? I’m writing a novel semi like Chronicle (whereas teens discover they have powers from a geoelectric alien source.) But instead of telekineses powers I’d prefer creating characters with genetically mutated powers i.e ability to regenerate cells after being destroyed, powers to shoot laser-like beams out of hands , etc. Would these examples of abilities be WAY to far fetched to play off in a gritty, realistic world? Granted my story is different to Chronicle so story-wise it’s not similar. My story has to deal with my Hero going on the run with his friend after this wack goverment agency wants to put “Specials”, another name for people with superpowers, under their control. Kinda like Civil War and what Bolliver Trak was wanting to achieve in DoFP. I want my villain to be this agency BUT I am trying to have my Hero face off with this crazy Special he meets on the run. Their ideals are completely different thus causing trouble. Would you discourage two villains in a story?

  21. B. McKenzieon 26 Oct 2014 at 6:09 pm

    “Hey! Would you consider Chronicle gritty?” Not very. I believe the main component to grittiness is main protagonist(s) affected by terrible things. I’d recommend checking out hardboiled stories like Bob Moore: No Hero and Powers, and non-superhero classics like Double Indemnity, DOA, possibly Dirty Harry, and The Wire.

    I believe some of the distinguishing characteristics are:
    –The main character is burned out and/or extremely jaded/cynical by an extremely difficult life. Besides Batman (sometimes) and maybe Wolverine, this is very rare in superhero stories — usually trauma is a one-time incident that motivates the character to become a superhero, but in a hardboiled story, it’s an ongoing environmental condition. In Chronicle, neither of the 2 main protagonists had an exceptionally hard life or was otherwise cynical/jaded/burnt out.
    –The protagonist(s) suffers from major setbacks that are highly unglamorous and often reflect poorly on the character (e.g. something many other stories’ protagonists, especially the idealized ones, would have avoided). Less like “I didn’t make it onto my favorite superhero team” or “Elite government assassins are trying to kill me” and more like “My wife left me and took the dog” or “I’m far behind on bills and need a big case right now.”
    –An unusual degree of morally gray protagonists, but NOT just the main character emotionlessly killing a lot of bad guys. E.g. a police officer using shady tactics and/or tolerating fairly serious crimes to put together a case against a major criminal. In contrast, I’d consider the main character of Chronicle to be ethically pure. I think the closest he gets to shady is telekinetically trolling a kid at a store (i.e. more playful than serious).
    –The protagonists are occasionally overwhelmed by the scope of the problems surrounding them. I don’t believe this happened in Chronicle.
    –The main character is not in control (e.g. alcoholism, unusual emotional volatility, unusually messy decision-making). For example, in DOA, the main character is so lovelorn that he is seduced into helping a lady murder her husband after knowing her for ~10 minutes. I don’t believe Chronicle went down this road.
    –Authority figures are highly incompetent and/or antagonistic and/or unreliable. I don’t believe that this was the case in Chronicle?
    –The main character is not generally recognized as a hero. This did happen in Chronicle, I think (e.g. the main character fleeing Seattle).

  22. B. McKenzieon 28 Oct 2014 at 8:51 pm

    “But instead of telekineses powers I’d prefer creating characters with genetically mutated powers i.e ability to regenerate cells after being destroyed, powers to shoot laser-like beams out of hands , etc. Would these examples of abilities be WAY to far fetched to play off in a gritty, realistic world?” I don’t think the lasers would be a problem. Depending on execution, the ability to regenerate could be a problem (if the character’s powers essentially render him/her immune to death, I feel that would take away a lot of the grit and drama).

    “Would you discourage two villains in a story?” If they’re both interesting, it wouldn’t be a problem. Exception: If an author were thinking about a large group of 5+ superheroes, coming up with the space to develop multiple supervillains (especially multiple villains with independent goals) may be more challenging than a single villain. Personally, I’m using multiple villains in The Taxman Must Die because I wanted an intermediate villain to drive the plot until the main villain emerges.

  23. Steven Mon 01 Jun 2017 at 10:57 pm

    This is somewhat unrelated to the topic. I have recently started brainstorming ideas for a “superhero comic” and I already know I want it set in a somewhat dystopian/post apocalyptic future where. First off, what would be some good, non-cliche events that could have transpired to end the world? All I can think of are nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, a pandemic that reduces the majority of the population and throws the rest into chaos, or an event where humans who have been modified by nanotech begin to kill off normal humans (leaning towards this but still debating.). Secondly, I have read too many books and seen too many movies that feature dysopian worlds and the vast majority of the time, they suck. How would you approach writing a dystopian world in a believable way?

  24. YetAnotherOneon 02 Jun 2017 at 12:40 am

    “All I can think of are nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, a pandemic that reduces the majority of the population and throws the rest into chaos, or an event where humans who have been modified by nanotech begin to kill off normal humans (leaning towards this but still debating.)”
    To be honest, the last one doesn’t look convincing to me. As long as there is no cover-up by authorities, police will sometime make the necessary connection that all perpretators were enhanced with nanotech and what comes after that are heads rolling, especially from the companies seen as responsible.
    When you’re leaning towards that, it seems that you want to go for a bit of cyberpunk, so I’d say that you could use the normal “hyper corporations took over the world and suppress everyone”, but given your ideas you want something more… unique, where I have not enough information of what you want your world to look like, so I can’t really give you good build-ups towards it.

    The pandemic sounds good on paper, but in reality wouldn’t work too well imho, especially now that countries want to work better together to prevent such a thing. If you want to take this route you’d most likely need a disease with a long incubation time, so it can sufficiently spread to other continents.

    A nuclear holocaust may be the best option. However, as far as I know current doctrine of most, if not all, countries with nuclear weapons is that they should be used only when the enemy has used then first. That said, you could exaggerate current nationalistic trends a bit (e.g. making Le Pen win the french election instead of Macron), which would result in a fractured world where most people think their country is the best and then let a (conventional) third world war begin. You wouldn’t even need to use nukes, as the last two were devastating enough without them.
    If you absolutely want to use nukes, I’d recommend that you take an example of Wargame (the videogame), where france uses one nuke to defend itself from enemy superiority, with other countries responding accordingly. But you should be aware that this results in a world without any big cities, almost no governmental structure, etc., though a few (or many, depending on where the nukes hit) soldiers will have survived, which may add conflict.

    But in general, try to change small things in a believable way and examine its’ logical consequences, and you get a rather believable world. The butterfly is powerful, after all 😉

  25. B. McKenzieon 02 Jun 2017 at 6:11 am

    “I want it set in a somewhat dystopian/post apocalyptic future… what would be some good, non-cliche events that could have transpired to end the world? All I can think of are nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, a pandemic that reduces the majority of the population and throws the rest into chaos, or an event where humans who have been modified by nanotech begin to kill off normal humans…”

    What do you mean by a “somewhat dystopian” post-apocalyptic future? If it’s post-apocalyptic, I think you’re sort of locked into going fully dystopian (with the exception of some cozy catastrophes where the world’s been devastated but the main characters have been spared from most of it) or perhaps a post-apocalyptic society that’s had enough time to make considerable progress.

  26. TrafalgarLawon 08 Jun 2017 at 4:53 am

    I know this is old, but i’m having problems creating first time conflict through villians. i want to avoid real life situations at all cost (as in what’s happening today), as well as cliche’s like the buillied kid, or bank robber/convienience store robber, or someone being attacked in an alleyway, or a hostage type situation. basically, i need a way for villians to appear in the beginning, without using those cliche tropes as i don’t want to use them at all, in order for my characters to be a hero for he first time.

    any ideas. i kinda have some, but i need guidance on how o handle first time villians, and my character doing their first heroing.

  27. B. McKenzieon 09 Jun 2017 at 6:59 am

    “I need a way for villains to appear in the beginning, without using cliche tropes as I don’t want to use them at all. I want to avoid real life situations at all cost (as in what’s happening today), as well as cliche’s like the bullied kid, or bank robber/convenience store robber, or someone being attacked in an alleyway, or a hostage type situation.” If you’re trying to avoid real life situations, I’m guessing it’s going to be something really distinctive to your story. Seeing as I don’t actually know anything about your story, hard to come up with ideas there. E.g. the Joker has had some schemes as wacky as mutating the town’s fish in his likeness and then threatening/assassinating copyright clerks until they gave him a share of fish sales in Gotham. There’s something vaguely resembling a rational motive here, but the execution is totally unique to Joker.

    See also The Dark Knight’s Scarecrow. When asked to create a recreational drug, he could have created something financially successful, but Scarecrow opted for nightmare fuel instead. (“I told you my compound would take you places. I never said they’d be places you wanted to go”). This isn’t a classically rational motive (e.g. money/power/romance/revenge), but it is definitely consistent with the character.

  28. Trafalgar lawon 16 Jun 2017 at 9:25 am

    well, it’s kind of like the begining of a superhero story. where the superhero is either forced into a situation, and that’s when they kinda come to the realization that they can/need to be a hero sort of thing. like when a person is seeing someone being mugged, and theres no one around to help, and they decide to be the one to help because no one else is around. that type of thing, but without the cliche/overused tropes.

    alright, so basically there are 4 types of scenerios that i need ideas for.

    the first character is about 21 years old, and she’s in college. she changes her major all the time. she can control ice/water, but she hasn’t mastered her powers. i was thinking that she is forced to use her powers when out at a club and a group of men is trying to kidnap someone and she’s the only one who see’s and has to put a stop to it. but i feel like that’s something that’s been used alot of times before, so i’m not sure.

    the next scenerio i’m not sure about. it’s a 18 year old boy, who can manipulate gravity. i’m not too sure how this would go, but for some reason i’m thinking he uses it to protect a child. maybe the kid chases a ball into the street, and a truck is coming, and he uses his power to like lift the truck over the kid, or something.

    next scenerio happens between two people. they’re 16 and 15 respectively. the girl has the power to manipulate time (though in short bursts), and the boy can manipualte energy(but he has a hard time controlling the power, as he tends to suck the energy out of everything he touches which is why he wears gloves). the boy is all for being a hero, while the girl is apathetic towards the thought, and would rather not. i don’t know a scenerio for the two. maybe it has to do with their younger sibling, or they overhear something. maybe i’ll use on of the overused trop for this one since the girl is apathtic and the boy wants to do it, which would cause problems as she would rather not, an he needs her help.

    last scenerio also happens between two people. a boy and a girl. twins who are 13. the girl has the power of flight and air, while the boy can manipulate sound. no idea for this one. i’ll probably use something overused again, like a kid who is bullying others because he’s one of the supers who aren’t afraid to use their powers, and is using it to terrorize people. the girl is all for justice, so when she see’s it, she knows she has to do something, and she drags her brother along, who goes with it because he has his sisters back, and woudn’t just leave her by herself

    writing this out, i’m actually mapping someting together, and realizing that when i asked for ideas for a villian, i was actially asking for ideas that would actually force the heroes into doing something, and triggeres the urge of being a hero rather than one massive villian that forces them to be a hero. but now that i kinda have a map, all these things are now going to intertwine into the villian i was basicaly asking for in the begining. i just need some type of motive now.

    any idea for a motive for a villian. i don’t really want a destroy the world type villian, but now that i’m thinking about it, that would work. okay, i kind knew what i wanted, but now i’m piecing something together.

    ps. there are alot of characters. Every one on the characters are siblings, and they have 2 more, plus they’re parents.

  29. Trafalgar lawon 16 Jun 2017 at 9:50 am

    alright, so i was kind worried that the big picture type thing i wanted to do would seem random even though it wasn’t going to appear randomly but would be hinted at, but no i’m getting somewhere. but first, what type of setting/theme would be appropriate for a superhero type story. like i like the asethteic of Steampunk/victorian era, but i don’t know if that kinda takes away from the superhero thing. it won’t be dark, and it’s not a dystopia type place. just take steampunk/the victorian era, and put it on modern day.

    second question, what i was thinking about the big picture thing, and what i wanted to do, was basically do three different type of new world orders. however, i’m not sure if a new world order story really screams superhero. so theres the human new world order, which is basically destroy all superhumans, because they have the power to stop me, and listen to me fr order becasue this world is a mess. the superhuman world order which is basically, we’re more powerful than them, so we should be the ones in charge, and we can run it better. and the third world order which is a mix of superhumans and humans, which is basically, whoever can execute their power the best, they best, should be the ones to rule over everything. it kinda makes em think of X-men, but without the big discrimination thing.

    but also, while that was happening on earth, something bigger was to appear, but then that seems really random, but it also goes with the fathers line of work, even though he’s been taken and is beign used by the superhumans.

    alright, to backtrack, the world knows of superhumans. some use their powers for good, others use their power for bad, others just use their powers because they have them and they can, and others would rather people not know they have powers. the humans aren’t as scared of them as they use to be, so theres not much descrimination or anything going on.

    the main characters are a family of supers. the parents use to be hereos, but the fathers powers had a side effect that would make him lose his sanity the more he used it and the strogner her got. (he’s omnipotent, so yeah). the Mother quit being a hero when she had the couples 3rd child.

    so they have 8 kids in total, all with powers. out of the 8 kids, only about 3 of them want to use their powers for good, while 2 of them don’t mind using their powers becasue they have them and they can use them if they want. 1 doesn’t like her powers, and the other 2 just don’t care and have things going on in their lives, so they don’t really think about it.

    Now, as i write that the superhumans don’t have much of a problem with the humans, what type of other conflict can the superhumans face. i don’t want to go the X-men route, so maybe it can be like, a conflict within other superhumans and how theres some type of heirchy due to how strong your powers are, and what you can do. i mea, two are in highschool and 2 are in middle school, but they go to the same school so i think it can work in the begining, because they go to a superhuman school that teaches kid how to use their powers (professor X much).

  30. Trafalgar lawon 16 Jun 2017 at 12:00 pm

    no wait, bactrack, backtrack, backtrack, because as i’m typing, more thoughts and ideas keep coming, and it seems like everything is jumbled. i’m planning this in a span of a series, because it seems i can only think of ideas and write through a series. so when i say the bigger picture and how things are going to point to it, i mean in a span of like, 5 books, which is what’s in my head right now, but is not the definite goal or plan, becasue each book is going to focus on one ideal though the ideals of others, while the end is going to kinda, deal with all three at once, but in different parts.

    these are the main characters

    Kellan Johnson-Omipotenet pyschic-Father(name is pending). works with space, stars, and theories. is strict and protective of his family. helps and teaches them how to use their powers. was a founding member of the KGH(name pending) school, which is a superhuman exclusive school to teach and help those with their powers, and to have a safe and comfortable learning enviorment for those who would feel uncomfortable or otherwise at a school where the majority was humans. will lose his sanity the more he uses his powers. the school isn’t known to be a superhuman school, as the powers of the students are kept classified, unless a student has revealed themselves as a superhuman themselves. ranges from 1st grade to 12th grade, so they all go to the same school, now that i think about it and feel this fits better.

    Rashida Johnson-Weather manipulation-Mother- i can’t think of a job for her. i was thinking political, but(?). shes strict, loving and superprotective of her kids. helps them with their power just as much as her husband, and is usually the voice of reason when not being unreasonable. she work closely with the states defense, and has helped create ways in which superhumans can serve their time in prison, without the risk of a breakout

    Nailah Johnson-Water/Ice manipulation-3rd year college student at 21 year old. Changing her major fo the fourth time, Nailah doesn’t know what she wants to do with ehr life. Well, she has an idea, but she’s not sure if it’s the right choice for her, as she didn’t enjoy the begning classes, which resulted in her doubting whether it’s what she really wants to do, or if it’s just what she thinks she wants to do. she is good at giving advice, but bad at taking it.

    Kellan Johnson Junior-Gravity Manipulation(name is pending). 18 year old and a senior in highschool, Kellan in confident, smart, and talneted and knows exactly what he wants to do when he graduates. much like his father, he loves anything and everything to do with space. however, unlike his father, Kellan is more into actually going into space and visiting the planets, and going as far as he can.

    Kamali Johnson-Time manipulation/Teleportation(?). at 16 year old, Kamali is very apathetic about the trend of superheroes. she doesn’t care much for it, and ignores that it’s happening. growing up, she has always loved performing. singing, dancing, acting, modeling, Kamali loves being the center of attnetion, and making people happy. which surpised her fmaily when she stated she would rather not be a hero. philisophical, and insightful, kamali plans on studying philosophy and psychology when she graduates. she also plans on becoming the biggest talent ever, with plans on becoming a singer/dancer, actor, and model.

    Jaheim Johnson-Energy manipulation-at 15 years old, Kamali and Jaheim have always been close because of their age, and often mistaken as twins. but Jaheim loves Superheroes. a good natrued and carefree kid, jaheim just loves to help in anyway he can, and is determined in doing so. though he is determined, his superpower leave little to actualy help, and causes more harm than good. not able to contorl his powers fully, Jaheim tends to suck out the energy of anything he touches. because of this people tend to stay away though he wears gloves. he has friedns though, and it doesn’t stop his determination to help

    Isis Johnson-flight/Air Manipulation-at 13 years old, Isis is already planning on running for president. hailed a a genius, Isis has no filter to her mouth, and will always says what’s on ehr mind, whether it’s right or wrong. because of this, she tends to get into arguments with her older siblings alot. a girl who’s dedicaed to justice, isis has plans on becoming a superhero alongside her older brother, though he wold be her sidekick. a strong and opinionated girl, her siblingah ve no doubt that she will become president oen day

    Imari Johnson-Sound manipulation-at 13 years old, he is the win brother to Isis. it was no coincedance that someone who can maniplate sound, would love music. Imari has no time for superheroism or anything, as he is dedicated to music. a genius himelf, Imari can play any istrument put in his hands better than the greats(his mother says as she exxagerates). a singer as well, all Imari wants to do is make music, listen to music and sing. though he always has his sisters back. no matter what is happening, if Isis is in trouble, Imari is there to help. he usually goes along with whatever isis says and what she wants

    Shani Johnson-Necromancy-at 9 or 11 years old, Shani is a quiete, and reserved girl who likes to keep to herself. though she is not shy, one can descrbe Shani as introverted. a lover a of fiction, shani loves everything that has to do with fantasy, sci-fi, videogames, boardgames, and books. Shani also loves comic books and superheroes. her favorite hero being Raven, as she can relate to her the most. both are introverted, and both have dark magic. Shani doesn’t much like her power of necromancy, and being able to see spirits/ghosts can be annyoing when she wants to be alone. shani also ahs the ability to see glimpses of the future. not the far future, but maybe day or 12 hours ahead.

    Amare Johnson-Magnetism Manipulation-at 5 years old, Amare wants to be a superhero. his powers came unexpectedly late, as when the other 7 kid was born, their powers surfaced almost immediately. As o f now, Amare is home schooled and is being taught how to control his powers by both of his parents, in rotation.

    of course you have the side characters as well. most of whome have their own powers, and will have some significance to the plot other than friends of the heroes. also, do the powers seem random, because now i’m thinking of the incredibels, and how theres superstregnth, elasticity, superspeed, invisibility, and whatever it is jackjack does.

  31. B. McKenzieon 16 Jun 2017 at 8:15 pm

    –I agree with you that randomly witnessing a kidnapping is pretty generic/passive. She’s just in the right place at the right time. Compare to characters that get into dicey situations because they’re doing something distinctive and/or interesting (e.g. the financially troubled Peter Parker takes up boxing and gets screwed by the guy that’s supposed to pay him his winnings, or why Mr. Incredible comes back to superheroics after a forced retirement, or Jessica Jones’ work as a private investigator).

    –Stopping a truck from hitting a kid is also pretty generic/passive and doesn’t give you much opportunity for development because almost every superhero protagonist would have acted the same way in this situation. To make your characters more memorable/distinctive, I’d suggest giving them opportunities to do/say things most other superheroes wouldn’t. For example, in Chronicle irresponsible teens develop telekinetic powers and quickly begin using them to light-heartedly troll people and/or have fun. Alternately, Tony Stark cattle-prods Bruce Banner to test if he has the Hulk under control (in Avengers) and Dr. Strange pushes some boundaries in his training that less curious characters might not. *If you can make your characters distinctive without totally compromising likability, that’s really promising.*

    –“I’ll probably use something overused again, like a kid who is bullying others because he’s one of the supers who aren’t afraid to use their powers.” I don’t think bullies are very promising. They tend to be hyper-generic cariacatures that have trouble interacting with protagonists in interesting ways (or giving protagonists opportunities to be distinctive). Could you give the bully a more interesting motive? E.g. maybe the kid’s got some legitimate grievances (e.g. bad relations between mutants and non-mutants) and/or the situation is more complex than just needing to beat on an asshole.

    –None of these stories so far appear to tie into the central plot, whatever that is. I think that’s easier to work with in a solo story (e.g. the murder of Spider-Man’s uncle generally isn’t related to the main villain of the story), but in a team story where you’re trying to give people individual stories, it’d probably help if the individual stories were generally contributing something to the main plot. E.g. do any of these characters have a backstory with a character or group or something else that is somehow related to the central villain?

    –“Any idea for a motive for a villain?” I wouldn’t recommend outsourcing this to other people. Based on the details you’ve given so far, these seem like relatively low-scale heroes (e.g. stopping a bully or saving someone from a truck), so an epic-scale “destroy the world” villain doesn’t feel very intuitive.

    –“Every one of the characters are siblings, and they have 2 more, plus they’re [their???] parents.” In an ensemble story, I’d recommend focusing time on interaction between major characters and secondarily on side-characters that can interact with many characters. I think characters that can only interact with 1-2 major characters tend to be inefficient uses of time/space in an ensemble. I think you already have 6 major characters plus any villains, so bringing in 4+ sets of parents and 4+ sets of siblings might create time/space issues. Also, any other characters they interact with at school or work or while investigating the case, etc.

    –Proofreading is an opportunity here. E.g. “Every one of the characters are siblings, and they have 2 more, plus they’re parents.” I’m guessing that “they’re parents” is meant to be “their parents.” Very different meaning.

    –“he tends to suck the energy out of everything he touches which is why he wears gloves” – This feels close enough to a major X-Men (Rogue) that I’d think about revisiting.

    “like i like the asethteic of Steampunk/victorian era, but i don’t know if that kinda takes away from the superhero thing. it won’t be dark, and it’s not a dystopia type place. just take steampunk/the victorian era, and put it on modern day.” This doesn’t feel like it flows with the story you’ve been describing. It’d be sort of like me trying to pitch a standard police procedural and mentioning 500 words later that it’s set during the Civil War or that it’s the modern era but people are dressed like it’s the Civil War because I like 1860s fashion. What!?

    That said, I’d recommend checking out the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series. It used a 1920s/1930s Dark Deco style visually although the story was set in the modern day. I think it was effective from a mood-building perspective, and didn’t affect the plot. I’d only recommend pitching as a steampunk if it’s critically important to the plot.

  32. Trafalgar Lawon 17 Jun 2017 at 8:23 am

    Sorry, I’m kinda bad at explaining things. The scenarios weren’t going to be a big type of impact on the story, or I planned on them not having a big impact or importance to the actual plot plot. Like they where going to be plot devices for the heroes to be heroes, like how the guy who killed uncle Ben wasn’t a big plot plot character, but worked for the plot in getting peter to become a hero. That type of plot device. But now I kinda realize that for the characters to progress, they don’t really need for that to happen. Like I said, I wanted a bigger picture type story, but I wanted the heroes to experience that trope where they become a hero for the first time in helping/saving someone, and kinda have an epiphany. Now I realize that that doesn’t really need to happen with these scenarios, but they would create an impact for the characters to grow. Also these scenarios would be part of a singular book, but it would be the first book in the weird series thing in my head.

    So I get the 1st scenario, because she’s in a club. She’s drinking, smoking, and having fun with her friends. How is she going to stop a kidnapping. I also made her a indecisive character, so her kinda seeing, but not doing anything about it because she was drunk and high, and having fun, and not really knowing what’s really going on around her makes sense for her not doig anything. Maybe I could do something where she sees the person around, or something. Like she’s a regular at her coffee place, or book store, or she plays with her online(because she’s an avid gamer). Or something, and she sees she goes missing, and kinda recognizes her from the club. But she doesn’t do anything about it, because what can she really do, and what can she really recall. So she can struggle with that while everything is going on. The guilt of not being sure. This also ties into the bigger picture because this isn’t the first time someone’s gone missing, as it’s a constant thing that’s happening all around the world, because of the new world order and their expirements.

    I know saving the kid is Generic as well, but this one is kinda of like the generic nice guy hero. So he sees someone in danger, and he feels like he has to help. But then, I was thinking, because he doesn’t really want the world to know he has powers or something, he’s hiding himself. And in order to use his powers he has to really, really, really concentrate. So he does that, but then someone breaks his focus. maybe they spot him using his powers, and yells and points at him, or something. maybe a stray dog or cat scares him a bit. and then all hell breaks loose. The kid is still alive, but he’s done more harm on an accident, then he did good, all because he lost his focus. This can also help in framing the superhumans as bad people who’s powers are destructive and blah blah blah which also connects to the bigger picture of the plot. (Feels like X-men)

    I was thinking about the bully aspect, and it does seems generic for the bully to just bully others just because they can. It can tie into the bigger picture, in that he’s related to, or influenced by the superhuman motive, of “we have power so therefore we should be in charge.” But even then that still seems Generic. However that’s not what it means and that’s not what’s being said as there’s a bigger picture, and that meaning means more than what the kid thinks. But the kid is 13 so he believes in these mythos without taking into account what they really mean, so it’s like he’s misguided in what he thinks it means and what he thinks is right, and Isis comes in to stop them and set the record straight. That way, it ties into one of the bigger plot and gives the characters something to think about. And maybe, Isis and the kid are in the same class and they’re always arguing about their point of views when the topic comes up in debate club. Yes, the school has clubs, and they’re both part of it. I’m still thinking of a reason as to why the “bully, would bully other kids in order for Isis to step in.

    You’re right about the villain aspect. Maybe I don’t want to use that as the main villain, but as a plot point. Like, this man is crazed and he’s escaped from captivity(calling back to the kidnapping thing with Nailah), and he has the power of a supernova or something along the lines that can destroy the earth, or a good portion of the earth. And this doesn’t happen directly to the heroes. Like, after everything they’ve been through in the first book, what with all the mishaps, and the superhero work and whatnot, this crazed man pops up on the news screaming and shouting nonsense about the government, and his own superhuman people. And then that happens and it set up for the next book in this weird series I’m thinking of. But then again, using prisoners would work just as well so kidnapping people may seem a bit redundant. I’ll figure it out somehow in why kidnapping people seems plausible. Maybe there aren’t enough, or they’re dying at an alarming rate so they need more people.

    Even though it may seem rogue like, the difference is that he doesn’t steal other people powers, and he can control it with enough practice. (Can rogue control her powers. I wouldn’t know as rogue is one of my most hated superhero characters so I care nothing about her or her powers or what she can do). But the energy thing goes both ways, as he can drain someone’s energy to the verge of death, but he can also give someone his energy, which also leads to death because other people cannot handle the amount and the type of energy he gives and stores. (Is that also rogue like. Can she give people back their powers?)

    Yeah I wanted to do a family. The parents have their own importance as the mother is in charge of the superhuman division. So a thing could be she’s helping the government into kidnapping and experimenting on these superhumans she suppose to be protecting, including the super villains, and she doesn’t know. She’s bringing it up and questioning why prisoners are going missing or dying at an alarming rate. So the superhumans feel like she’s betraying them. The father also has his own thing going on as there’s something strange going on in space that can threaten the earth(the idea seemed better in my head, but maybe I can scratch that. I wanted Aliens, but then it just seems like I’m just throwing things at a wall so I’ll scratch that unless I can incorporate something that would make sense. huh, maybe it can be a cliffhanger to end the series. Like the incredibles with the mole people). I was thinking a meteor, and the omnipotent father is the only one who can stop it, but in doing so he loses his sanity, and is taken in by the superhumans to use as a secret weapon. (Eh, that also seemed better in my head, but now it just seems weird, and out of place in the story). But yeah, the father is going to be a key in the superhuman fight because he is omnipotent.

    I wasn’t convinced about the steampunk thing, I liked the thought of a steampunk superhero, but it did seem out of place because I wanted the time to be 2017. Although when I said modern I meant modern technology like Playstations, iPhones, and all that, and not so much buildings and stuff. having it take place in 2017 where the buildings and stuff was like Victorian steampunk would throw people off, even if I claimed it was in a different type of earth, so I’ll scrape that unless I decide to change the date to like, the future or something. Also, I tend to not think the setting would be of importance. Like who cares if I decided to use a steampunk setting. Do I need to explain why. i feel like it shouldn’t matter if I decided to change the setting and that it needs to be explained to make sense or that the steampunk aspect needs to be important to the plot. Is the modern setting important to the plot. Do i and should I explain why it being set in modern times is important, and explain why. Idk, it’s weird that in order to want a steampunk setting it needs to be explained and important to the plot instead of just, having the setting be steampunk and everyone just shrugging and going along. Idk, that’s just me.

    I hate proofreading, but I tend to not proofread things that aren’t really official. Like I wouldn’t proofread something like this, mainly because it’s not like I’m distributing this or handing it in or anything, and because it’s not something official, I tend to hope that the reader knows what I’m talking about despite the use of using the wrong there. But don’t worry, I know that proofreading is good, as I have made so many mistakes in writing these questions.

    Oh, and I was thinking of going the Game of Thrones route of writing with a bunch of characters. Giving them each their own POV, so they can interact with the other main characters, as well as their own side characters, and have their own plots that intertwine with the bigger picture

  33. B. McKenzieon 18 Jun 2017 at 11:07 am

    “I know saving the kid is Generic as well, but this one is kinda of like the generic nice guy hero.” Predicted response from a publisher: “Thank you for your submission, but we’re looking for something more promising and/or memorable.” Are you very confident that he’s interesting? What do you see a “generic nice guy” contributing to the story? (Note: I’m not opposed to relatively unconflicted heroes, but describing him as a “generic nice guy” raises red flags about whether he will be half-hearted and forgettable). Alternately, if he is actually interesting, you need to convey a quiet confidence and/or enthusiasm in your work.


    “Like they were going to be plot devices for the heroes to be heroes, like how the guy who killed uncle Ben wasn’t a big plot plot character, but worked for the plot in getting peter to become a hero. That type of plot device. But now I kinda realize that for the characters to progress, they don’t really need for that to happen.” Having one of these for each of multiple characters sounds harder to work with than for a single character … at the very least, I’d suggest looking into opportunities that overlap better for multiple characters rather than needing to do one each.

    “I wasn’t convinced about the steampunk thing, I liked the thought of a steampunk superhero, but it did seem out of place because I wanted the time to be 2017.” It sounds like there are conflicting ideas about what the story is. So far, nothing about the plot sounds vaguely steampunk.

    “Like who cares if I decided to use a steampunk setting. Do I need to explain why. i feel like it shouldn’t matter if I decided to change the setting and that it needs to be explained to make sense or that the steampunk aspect needs to be important to the plot.” Based on what you’ve explained, you’re introducing a jarring element (tacking on steampunk clothes into a modern setting) for no reason besides that you like steampunk style, in a way that doesn’t sound incredibly likely to work with steampunk fans. If your story were exceptionally good otherwise, I think it could work despite this, but it doesn’t feel like it’s coming together yet.

    “I hate proofreading, but I tend to not proofread things that aren’t really official.” I’m not sure you’re ready for this yet.

  34. Trafalgar Lawon 18 Jun 2017 at 12:30 pm

    I’m thinking I was using my own version of generic nice guy. He’s just a characters who is nice and is willing to help. It’s not his only quality, but it’s one of them. I guess explaining it that way as to why the scene was generic was a bad idea. In short, he’s a nice guy, who is willing to help, so that’s why the scenario was a generic thing, because being nice is a generic trait And he is nice. so yeah, explaining it like that was a bad idea. Also, it’s a child, so describing it that way when it concerns a child was also a bad idea, because wanting to save a child shouldn’t be looked st as generic. At least in my opinion.

    I said 4 different scenes, but none of them are going to have that uncle Ben plot device. So I’m going to include the scenes I was thinking about, but it’s not going to be for that reason.

    There was never any conflict in what the story is or what it’s going to be about. Like I said before, I wasn’t sold on the steampunk thing, because I know how steampunk tends to be, but I wanted a second opinion on it. Especially considering that steampunk is more of a genre rather than a aesthetic. like I said, if i really wanted to use it, the only my thing I would really have to change is the time the story takes place in.

    You seemed to not understand what I said about proofreading. I can proofread. It’s not that hard to do, I just don’t like doing it. I don’t proofread things that I’m not going to hand over for something important. Like me asking these questions is only for help on the problems or questions I had about the direction of the story. I’m not handing this in to a publisher or an editor, or a professor, to get these questions published or graded. This is general help. I already know my writing habits. I know the problems with them. It’s not something I overlook when it comes to something actually seriously important. When I make a spelling mistake, or a grammar mistake, or a capitalization mistake, I know I’ve made the mistake. But when it comes to general writing, I don’t care about it, as long as the reader knows what I’m talking about. Unless you yourself have a problem with how I write, then tell me you don’t tolerate it, and I’ll fix it. This isn’t a problem of proofreading, it’s only a problem of your own style of reading.

  35. B. McKenzieon 20 Jun 2017 at 12:25 am

    “It’s not something I overlook when it comes to something actually seriously important… This isn’t a problem of proofreading, it’s only a problem of your own style of reading.” This doesn’t sound like a mutually satisfactory writer-reviewer relationship. I’m not interested in proceeding but best of luck moving forward.

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