Superpowers coming from magical abilities or fantastic technology are essential to many stories in the fantasy and science fiction genres. They can show up in other genres, too, like horror and of course, superhero stories (are they science fiction stories? Science-Fantasy? Heroic Fantasy? Whatever - most of those folks have powers).
So what are some of the essentials to think about when your characters or stories involve some kind of extraordinary powers or technology? What are the possible trouble spots when writing in these genres?
1. Know your Limit, play within it
It's not just good advice in the casino! Powers make characters fun to create and write. But one of the essential things to consider is this: What are the LIMITS of those powers, magic, or technology? What are the things that CAN'T be done with it?
The more powers and gadgets you come up with, the more limitations you'll have to consider.
Inventing new magic powers or new technology to get your characters out of trouble is the best way to make readers eventually tune out.
The good news is, doing the work of creating these limitations doesn't really hold you back - it actually helps create conflict (the engine of stories)!
If your hero can lift cars, and punch holes in brick walls - but can't fly or shoot lasers, then you'll know that putting the hero in situations where flight and distance powers would save their bacon is the way to create exciting conflict!
2. Strong Bads
Related to the point about limits is the power gap between your hero and villain.
VILLAINS SHOULD BE MORE POWERFUL THAN HEROES!
The hero as more of an underdog is usually the way to go. Even if they have wonderful magic powers or technology that sets them above regular folks, they should be an underdog against they're enemies.
Does the hero have a high tech suit that allows him to, I don't know, travel through solid objects?
The villain should have the same ability, but be way better at it, either because of better, more powerful tech, more experience or intelligence, or having several people with the same abilities on their team.
Of course, the powers don't have to be an exact match between heroes and villains - but the villains should somehow have an edge over the hero.
3. The Human Touch
So if the villains is more powerful, or more capable than the hero, how is the good guy or gal to win?
It's not by virtue of their powers. It's by virtue of their VIRTUES. Their strength of WILL. Or their tenacity. Or the ability to think outside the box. It's their human virtues (that they hopefully develop as the story continues, so they're ready when the final battle comes).
If you're writing Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy or Sci Fi-type genres, having powers with limits, villains who are more powerful, and remember that human virtues will win the day, I think you're off to a good start!
What are your thoughts on writing magic, magic powers, and powerful technology?
Banes at 12:00AM, Jan. 23, 2020
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