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  1. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    A powerless plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ShalaylaW, Oct 8, 2015.

    What would pack more of a punch plot wise?
    An MC who has no special abilities in a world where 90% of the population does, and and is trying to end a war even though her own planet rejects her?
    Or..
    An MC who thinks she has no abilities, but learns otherwise, and others like her who were supposedly powerless come to the realization as well. But their abilities are different, and cannot be doused by the enemy, so as a small legion they attempt to prevent the war on their planet. Only in this version, the MC has to make a huge sacrifice to save the planet due to her newfound powers.
    Nay or yay to a powerless plot?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I kind of like the first plot best. :> Very compelling if you ask me.
     
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  3. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    The only problem with the first plot is that I would have to cut out a very important character from the first book and introduce him in the 2nd instead. Because if my MC does not have abilities, there's no way she can meet him.
     
  4. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Everybody loves an underdog. The first one is my favourite, too. It's probably because it is about coping with hardship. Your MC has to compensate for her lack in ability. Strength is always in the eye of the beholder. Stories like these teach us that you can be strong. Even when you are weak.
    But in the end, it is your decision. Write what you feel most comfortable with.
     
  5. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    It is a more empowering plot I find as well, the first one :) less stereotypical. Thanks for the input!
     
  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like powers but the thing is from a writing prospective the issue I think is very different then powers or no powers. See we love a MC that is challenged because otherwise they are boring. Yet too much of a challenge can be bad too. It really comes down to the execution.

    See, a human in a world of gods is going to be equally boring if they are always saved, because they aren't becoming better or growing. And it can be hard to explain how they are not a bad ass if keep surviving bad ass situations.

    Obviously it is easy to tell why a god in the world of humans is boring. So your second one labels more of a struggle to me. Having to give up a gift for the sake of other resonates more with me than simple a kid with no power fighting in the world of gods.

    Not to say both can't work but it is how you do it that is going to really label quality.
     
  7. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    The first would be a lot more grand
     
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  8. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    Yes, I know. I already have both planned out in my mind, the balance known. The only thing in question is powers or no powers because that single decision will impact how the story unfolds. Everyone else aren't gods just because they have supernatural abilities, the point of the first plot is to make her equal to them despite the odds. I don't see why an incredibly strong and trained girl can't be equal to that of a person with a minor supernatural ability. Honestly, it's stronger because she worked for it her entire life, it wasn't just given to her like a power is. I think it means more.
    Powers are easy. They're stereotypical. They're fun to write about, and I would make it as unique as possible if I did choose plot two, but the first holds more of a challenge, a mortal challenge. It's such a toss up.
     
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  9. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    The first option does not really appeal to me and the lofty goal of stopping a war is a bridge too far for most. The second option is more intriguing as a null platoon. The fact my own setting cannot support a "null" force is perhaps why it is so appealing. Though superhero-style powers and abilities have always irritated me because of their implementation and use.
     
  10. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    They're both viable, I think it's more about your strengths as a writer.

    If you pick the first option, you'll need some sort of equaliser for your MC eg. he is really smart. Then the question is whether you're comfortable with writing from a perspective like that. It'll be a challenge if you want it to be believable.

    The 2nd option has different challenges.
     
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  11. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I must argue that a good writer can do either - there is no difficulty scale for fantastical plots. In a practical publishing sense, appealing to the lowest common denominator works and text is a tough medium to work in. Based purely on that, the first option would be more "mainstream" - though as an exploratory and self-satisfaction matter, the second is my personal preference. There is more to explore, there is more to do and it is a road far less traveled - option 2 has the "plot punch" that is more unexpected.

    Similar to option one is the Transformers series, with a bunch of whiny socially awkward kids in the middle of an extraterrestrial robot war. Secondly, a world where everyone has superpowers of some form will be incredibly difficult to build and fill out, but you can cut that out if you go with a combat-oriented, but focused character development approach. Why is it that the more common superpowers become the more things stay the same - except for within that "special circle"? In a world where people with such powers are the majority instead of the minority - the nulls are underdogs and their weakness can be a strength. Lastly, I do not like the "I am a special snowflake" song and dance most fantasy authors do - why should one character who is entirely mundane in a world full of "powers" do something that no one else could do with them?

    Please note that "Powers" is a description of the setting - it applies even if your main characters do not have them.
     
  12. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I don't know, Inks. I don't think the "powerless" MC can be considered mainstream, especially not in the fantasy genre. Whenever I go down to my local book shop, I am amazed by the huge amount of overpowered MCs that are given songs of praise in the summaries. Supernatural beings, more powerful than everybody else, a dark secret that makes them even more powerful, they are liked by all, kind, witty, desireable.


    I'd rather read a funny, but intriguing story about a warrior who accidentally killed a very powerful but bad man by his sheer clumsiness. And now he is hunted by this man's allies, and everybody else wants him to solve their problems, after all, he is this almighty hero, right? But he has to rise to the occasion. That's character development. There's a lot of room to grow, especially when at first, he is a bit of a coward and would like to run away, please. But all his attempts are foiled and misinterpreted by the civilians as desire to help as quickly as possible. The choice to "save the world" at the climax of the story is much graver in such a case than if the character was powerful from the start.

    But that's probably personal preference. Btw, I am hereby copyrighting this idea XD Making plots up on the spot apparently works for me. And there's the new thing I learned about myself today.

    Last words on this: I don't think there is a better or worse. I am merely objecting to calling the "powerless MC" a mainstream trope. It's not, really. Most MCs in fantasy novels are very strong, and either they already know, or they suddenly discover their hidden above-average abilities within the first few chapters. But if you have five or six examples for how it is mainstream, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'd really like to look it up.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
  13. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    Yes, a good writer can do both, and I already know I can. And I disagree about the first plot being mainstream, for in what bookstore can you find a majority of books that center around a powerless MC?
    Plot two though I find very compelling simply because it gives me the ending I want. Her sacrifice is the building blocks for the next book. Plus, I already started writing on the basis of plot 2, and don't know whether I should back up and re-do it.
    And to answer your last question of why should one character who is entirely mundane in a world full of "powers" do something that no one else could do with them... Because the 90% of the population that did have powers might suddenly be disconnected X) and that is how a powerless MC who is trained in combat and weaponry could have a chance. Because the entire planet has forgotten how to fight and have been relying on their powers. (All for plot one, if I choose it)
     
  14. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Rainy Summerday - What of Beowulf? Jason of the Argonauts? How about Odysseus? Yes, I was referring to "powers" as a setting in more so as supernatural abilities - but such heroes of the ancient world did regularly go up against divine beings which were nonetheless menacing. As more of a direct "powered" spin the Normalman comics come to mind, but perhaps you know of Jim Butcher's Codex Alara had this theme - surely Butcher's work is more relevant. Though the whole ability of someone without powers who has the ability to break other superpowers is most personally well-known to me as Touma from A Certain Magical Index. Which has more than twenty light novels, several spin off series and is pretty well-known.

    Yes, it comes to personal preference. Fantasy is escapist by nature and it takes many forms. Ultimately, the work is your own and you make of it what you will - but the ability to have a "normal layman" in the role of many works fulfills the identification role and grounds a person more emotionally than say Superman. Success is not determined by plot - though I intended to note that a Marvel-style powered setting has certain appeals to audiences that may not be shared by others. There is a reason Tolkien's mundane hobbits - and not Gandalf - are the focal point in Lord of the Rings. To each their own - and this is purely my opinion as well.
     
  15. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    QUOTE="Inks, post: 1381658, member: 71730"]Rainy Summerday - What of Beowulf? Jason of the Argonauts? How about Odysseus? Yes, I was referring to "powers" as a setting in more so as supernatural abilities - but such heroes of the ancient world did regularly go up against divine beings which were nonetheless menacing. As more of a direct "powered" spin the Normalman comics come to mind, but perhaps you know of Jim Butcher's Codex Alara had this theme - surely Butcher's work is more relevant. Though the whole ability of someone without powers who has the ability to break other superpowers is most personally well-known to me as Touma from A Certain Magical Index. Which has more than twenty light novels, several spin off series and is pretty well-known.

    Yes, it comes to personal preference. Fantasy is escapist by nature and it takes many forms. Ultimately, the work is your own and you make of it what you will - but the ability to have a "normal layman" in the role of many works fulfills the identification role and grounds a person more emotionally than say Superman. Success is not determined by plot - though I intended to note that a Marvel-style powered setting has certain appeals to audiences that may not be shared by others. There is a reason Tolkien's mundane hobbits - and not Gandalf - are the focal point in Lord of the Rings. To each their own - and this is purely my opinion as well.[/QUOTE]
    I'm not familiar with any of those at all really, sorry. There may be some, but I don't think there's a majority of stories like that (at least where I live and the books I've seen) But whether or not plot one or two is mainstream isn't the purpose of this post, but thanks for your input anyways.
     
  16. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I see! Yes, we are haggling over different definitions of "power." I wasn't really referring to supernatural abilities but more to "influence and ability to be a force to be reckoned with" in general in comparison to the setting's standards. Take Odysseus who was a "hero" of noble descent and the ruler of Ithaka. Allegedly, his roots can be traced back to Zeus. That is not a person of sub-normal "power" to me. Since you are well-read, I suppose you understand that my definition doesn't work in Ancient Greece where a character's nobility and likeness to gods was a story-telling device.
    Your examples work fine with your definition, I am not denying that. Thank you for taking the time to collect them.

    I'll give you an example of what I mean in return, albeit a strange one:
    Black Beauty. The horse has agency, it is acting independently. However, his powers are limited, and story-wise he is definitely weaker than the humans that own it. Since the horse cannot influence his life through overpowering the humans, it modulates its behaviour to please/displease the owners. That is agency. But it is not a powerful character.
     
  17. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Ah - I understand! I was using a different definition, with "powered" refering to supernatural abilities in the sense of a normal person fighting Marvel-style "powered" villains and such. I do understand it breaks down outside of that narrow window.
     
  18. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    The first one by far. Just go ahead and write it.
     
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  19. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    Thanks for actually being helpful
     
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  20. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    For me: I can't count the number of novels I've read about someone discovering some previous unsuspected special powers. And of course, because of the powers, he gets to save the world. If you are a good writer you can make it work, but I would be pretty reluctant to buy such a novel - just because I 've read scores of them and most were cliche :meh:

    On the other hand, I know only two characters in novels who were 'powerless' and developed into major heros - and gosh isn't it captivating to see how they go about that! These are the novels I read and reread, and are falling apart (and whose defining scenes I can recite verbatim because of reading them so often).
     
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  21. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    Yeah I completely agree :) I've read so many books where the main character "discovers" some hidden power/talent and is then able to make a difference. I just kind of thought to myself, why don't I create an environment where being powerless has an advantage instead?

    Though I had a very good, complex plot thought out for the idea of using powers, it would hit home just as much as plot 1. But again, I feel tired of these stereotypical power novels that I know are read very quickly and forgotten just as fast.

    I think I'm going to go with plot #1 :) Besides, book 2 is more about powers so I'll give an empowering start to this series. Thanks everyone for the replies :)
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe read Steelheart and Rithmatist, both by Brandon Sanderson. He uses exactly that idea - in both books the MC is without special abilities in a world where a significant portion of the population has special abilities. In fact, in Steelheart, the ones with special abilities have become tyrants so it's up to the non-special rebels to try and stop them :) I've read both - they're quite entertaining and solid fiction for bedtime reading :)
     
  23. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Then run with it and I will be fascinated to look for the finished book :D
     
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  24. ShalaylaW
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    ShalaylaW Member

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    QUOTE="Mckk, post: 1382461, member: 23298"]Maybe read Steelheart and Rithmatist, both by Brandon Sanderson. He uses exactly that idea - in both books the MC is without special abilities in a world where a significant portion of the population has special abilities. In fact, in Steelheart, the ones with special abilities have become tyrants so it's up to the non-special rebels to try and stop them :) I've read both - they're quite entertaining and solid fiction for bedtime reading :)[/QUOTE]
    I have actually looked at Rithmatist, and thought it looked like a cool book :) Perhaps I'll check them out, get a better idea of what's out there for powerless MC's
     
  25. TheJerminator15
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    TheJerminator15 New Member

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    Personally I prefer the first plot, but that's probably only because I'm doing something similar lol. If the MC is one of the ones who isn't special, how does this affect her goal? Did she suffer from discrimination? How does society view the "non-special" citizens? Did her ideal and goal conflicting with the stark reality of the world not just add extra pressure, did it affect her psychologically?

    Some questions to think about if you go with the first plot.
     

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