1. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Character powers

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Man in the Box, Nov 4, 2011.

    Well, the reason I've created this thread is because, when you're dealing with a fantasy novel, it's fun to think of powers for your supernatural characters, but often frustrating as well, because I believe that absolutely everything has been done in this field, from pyrotechnicians to hydromancers, cryomancers, shapeshifters, lifeforce drainers (in the sense of X-Men's Rogue), fortune tellers, mind readers, healers, hypnotizers, poison inducers, beast summoners, superstrength... I've seen characters with all those traits before (and sometimes all of the above in one character!), it's like a pool of superpowers you have to choose. So it has led me to question what was more important: the power you choose for the character or the character personality itself? Because, since nearly everything has been done before (and, if you guys/gals don't find it in Western fiction, the Japanese come up with some crazy ideas in their works), it's hard to come up with a character power (or even weapon) that's truly original.

    I made a decision when writing my stories that I would try to be original to an extent that I was allowed to, and if I didn't succeed, I would say "fuck it" and go on with the idea I had, because sometimes the superpower wielded is one of the most important things about a character. All the characters I've written who have superpowers have them for a reason; I gave them powers that match their personalities. However, sometimes I see something similar in another work and I don't know if I should use this other work as inspiration or try to have another idea. For example, one of my characters is a vampire whose special skill is to create demonic entities similar to jackals from his blood. After reading a work in which there was a lycanthropic vampire (yes, you've read it right, a vampire who becomes a huge wolf under the full moon!), I had the idea of making my own vampire able to transform into an anthropomorphic jackal at will, retaining his full intelligence and ability to speech, but I'm not sure if it could be seen as borrowing something I wasn't supposed to, due to the similarity of the superpowers between the other character and mine. The other bits of my character are vastly different from the lycanthropic vampire, though (that vampire never really gets any development in the story I've read, serving more as a means for the author to kill soldiers), and I chose his power because he's supposed to represent a savage vampire, who makes no distinction between victims, hunts whoever he sees fit and employs brutal methods to dispose of his prey, as opposed to the more classy vampires. Therefore, I think that making him be able to summon beasts and turn into a beast himself was a way to accentuate his personality.

    In the end, this thread stems from a thread I created months ago about the thin line between inspiration and plagiarism, so I might be repeating myself on this subject, but I would like to know your views on it, because this line is something that REALLY bothers me. :D
     
  2. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    Hey there! Because of the boredom and writers block I'm having right now, I actually read through all of that :D so. Where shall I begin?

    First of all, last year one of my friends said something about no idea ever being completely original because everything has been done before: there isn't an original thought in the entire world, no matter how revolutionary it sounds. (This statement, in itself, isn't original, because a million people have thought of it before).

    Hopefully that actually made sense: anyway, I think if your an author, and you publish a book (like the one you were reading) you have to know that your idea isn't original, therefore if someone uses this idea that you think is yours, neither of you are being original so there isn't a whole hell of a lot you can do about it. Not that I've ever been published or in any way be qualified to answer that, but that's just the way I look at things. You can squabble all you want but in the end you're just going to end up with a headache and a sore throat from being all defensive and whiny.
    That was one of the questions I think.

    Also: someone on this site once told me (I have infinite wisdom showered upon me ;) haha) that there is always going to be someone pissed off about what you wrote and how you wrote it and that I didn't use commas to separate this sentence but just kept saying "and". There's always a critic and if they don't like that your idea, and the pretty damn original way you wrote it is remotely like a billion other ideas used before. They can just suck it up and deal. You can always put it up to "your own personal style" but there is someone out there who is going to hate on that mercilessly.

    I've been off-and-on writing a super hero novel for a while now, and what I decided way back when I was getting ideas and help creating this little seed of an idea was this: My character was more important than her powers. The way I wrote it, she hates having them, so it isn't something about her that defines her. It's something that's THERE, kind of a footnote on my (in my opinion) super amazing character. All of a sudden she is doing some crazy super hero shit that she doesn't understand but then she's back to being a normal, confused, teenager.

    Yeah? yeah. I don't know how much that helped, or if that even made remote sense.

    But it's cool to hear about what other people think about originality...

    I dunno. haha hopefully this is remotely interesting.
     
  3. bazzie
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    bazzie Member

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    Hi,

    One of the things I find interesting about superpowers is that there are a lot of other elements to the pure "ability" itself. So for example, what are the limits of the power? Does it need re-charging, how does the character recuperate? What are the side effects? To what extend does the character control the power, or the power control them? How focused / specific is it? How does it impact their life / their relationships? What powers to the characters opponents have? Is the ability fixed, or does it evolve? Is it reliable?

    Also, i find the way in which the author describes the use of the ability or power interesting as well. Is it natural like breathing, or is it a struggle every time? Does it ever go wrong, is there a fear attached to using the ability, do they enjoy it? Is it a high? Is it addictive?

    When you consider some of the above, and you get creative with all of these factors, along with your character development then hopefully you can make the character and their powers really engaging to the user, maybe not unique, but a little different and still a very enjoyable read.

    bazzie
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bazzie has some amazing points there. Pay attention to those. They're nice points.

    To add my own opinion to the mix, I'm going to throw it out there that I loathe fantasy settings where all the characters have vastly different superpowers. Take X-Men for example. They're all supposed to just be natural genetic mutations, but last time I checked, "laser eyes" wasn't in the description of any living being on earth.

    Systems that make sense are good. Take Harry Potter for example. They've got magic, and that's it. Some people are better at Charms or Transfiguration or Potions, but that's just their specialisation in one "superpower" that they all have. As such, it makes it hard to see anyone as particularly special in the series, even Harry. This is good.

    My suggestion to you is that you pick a few different kinds of powers, decide how they manifest themselves in your setting, and then disperse them among your characters as you see fit. There is nothing worse than the versatile team of characters that can tackle any situation because at least one of them has the right power for the job, or they can combine their powers to do more damage or whatever.


    I'm also going to throw it out their that people who write fantasy superpowers need to get their definitions right. Pyromancy means "divination by fire or flames". Anyone can do that with practice. Pyrokinesis is the ability to control, or "move", fire, whether it needs to be present or whether it's spontaneous creation/combustion. Same goes for cryomancy/cryokinesis, or hydromancy/hydrokinesis, or any of that stuff.
     
  5. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    First of all I'm glad you guys dug up my thread! I was starting to feel left out... :D

    Yes, I agree with this. Actually I think this was one of the points I made in my post. So many powers exist and there are characters with all those powers, so I think the way we can differentiate these characters from others is their personality and the way they use their powers.

    You have a point here! This is something I was overlooking in my story and I kept it pretty simple. For example, in the case of the vampires I went with a fairly basic concept and made it so the more nurtured they are with blood, the easiest they can use their powers. The main character, on the other hand, can barely control her powers at the start and feels a huge strain in her body when she uses anything beyond self-healing.

    However, sometimes when you're dealing with overpowered creatures like vampires and demons it's hard to think of ways to limit their power unless it's a very specific condition, like "you can use this power only three times a day" or something like that. Or, like in Death Note, you can make a "deal" with a Shinigami so that you can see the real names of the people as well as their lifespans, which makes it that much easier to use the Death Note to kill people, but you have to give up half of your remaining life to be able to do that.

    I'm sorry about the definitions! :) I used -mancer because I remember seeing Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat being referred to as a cryomancer, as in someone who can create and control ice, but I guess the definition is wrong.

    In my story there are different sources, for example, the main character's source of power is her level of divinity, the hero's source is his demonic origin, the vampires' special power (not their regular powers like super human strength and speed) stems from their basic personality, and so on. I hope the variety makes it make more sense than a system that picks one source and then various powers coming from it.

    Initially the hero had a lot of the powers, because I created him first, but then as I created other characters I started to distribute the powers I chose for the hero among those characters to make it more level.
     
  6. Ixloriana
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    Ixloriana Member

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    Turning into a wolf is a pretty standard vampire power, as far as I know. At least, the count's been workin' that since 1897. So I think you're good. :3
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Except that since everything we know about vampires now is fictional compared to folkloric, standards don't matter.
     
  8. Ixloriana
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    Ixloriana Member

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    When I say that "turning into a wolf is a standard vampire power," I mean that it is average or normal, as opposed to something groundbreakingly original that was done in only one novel. Because there's such a big precedent for it, I don't think that the OP has to worry about someone noticing and saying, "Hey you stole that from _____!"

    Sorry if I sound defensive or if I'm being obvious; I don't mean it that way, I just want to be sure I'm not misunderstood!

    ...Anyway I wouldn't say that everything we know about vampires is from modern popular culture rather than folklore. There's plenty of information out there on vampire folklore that doesn't come from Bram Stoker. :D
     

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