Tags:
  1. ukuleleman
    Offline

    ukuleleman Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2011
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0

    Characters and Special Powers

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ukuleleman, Aug 8, 2011.

    Orson Scott Card, as proved by his success, is one of the great science fiction writers of our day. Anyone who has read Ender's Game should agree. That stories huge plot twist blew my mind.

    Anyways, I have read some of his books on writing and he brought up an interesting point that I would like to discuss- the rules of giving powers.

    Basically he advised that powers should come with a cost or requirement. A good, simple example is the recent game Infamous and its sequel. The protagonist has electric powers but runs down just like a battery.

    In one of my novels, a druid must use his own blood to control plant-life.

    Card's reason is that it keeps the suspense high, knowing that there is a cost to the power being used.

    Not all writers follow this rule, especially some superheroes.

    I think that it is a very effective way to use powers. Otherwise, the character is less believable and it's harder to think they will fail.

    What do you think? Do you think it's important to do or do you think there are exceptions?
     
  2. Pythonforger
    Offline

    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amongst the Mortals
    You don't necessarily have to have a price for your powers. Just make sure the enemy has more powers.

    If you used your own blood every time you wanted temporary omnipotence for six centuries, you would triumph over some guy who could make optical illusions without any cost.
     
  3. AJSmith
    Offline

    AJSmith Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2011
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Alaska
    I think it's important and along the same lines, I think that those powers also need somewhat defined limits. Limits and a cost to powers, at least in my opinion, make them seem more real. There are some pretty fantastic powers that can be thought up, and if the user can just turn to them at any point, I think it can make for less of a story.

    My MC has basically vision type dreams where she learns about what people have done or are doing. She doesn't know how to control them yet, so the cost is worse right now, but a huge lack of sleep, exhaustion from living the different events rather than resting, and physically feeling the pain of whoever she dreams about, are the costs for her. One limit for her with this is that whoever she becomes in the dream, she has to follow them as the vision unfolds... she cannot be walking past something she wants to learn more about and then decide to go check that out too. Also, she isn't privy to the thoughts of anyone in the dreams.

    Removing these costs and restrictions would make things much too easy for her, possibly making her careless with the power. Also, the limits and costs have been a large part of driving the plot forward in my story.
     
  4. KinkyCousin
    Offline

    KinkyCousin Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2011
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Copenhagen
    My MC has superhuman strength, however the thing that gives her this also thing also gives her spontaneous violent fits, disturbingly vivid hallucinations and basically wants to take over her body completely. These things are a huge problem in daily life as its hard to explain what is happening to those who don't know about her "problem" (the story is set in the "real world" but with supernatural aspects under wraps), and it also means she has a huge potential weakness against enemies.

    I felt that just having the strength with no drawbacks would be less interesting and it would make her too powerful. I also made sure her enemies are powerful enough to pose as a threat to her as again, opponents who are too weak to possibly harm her are less interesting.
     
  5. SeverinR
    Offline

    SeverinR Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2011
    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    New Madison Ohio
    There has to be some limitations. If they have no limit, they could use the power all the time.
    Small powers such as mind reading and such, might not destroy a world if they used it all the time. But exploding fireballs that blow out walls could.

    If they can use their powers all the time, why wouldn't they conquer the world? Good people can decide to conquer the world too.
    "The world is full of evil. I need to conquer the world so that evil will be stopped and we can all live together, peacefully."
     
  6. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    There definitely has to be a trade off, but I wouldn't say it has to be a cost, and I wouldn't say it keeps the suspense high.

    A character of mine was psychokinetic, and, pre-novel, he killed a woman with his mind; he literally crushed her head with his "hands" (huge hand prints were found on her skull, but he didn't physically touch her head with his hands). This happened during sex.
    The trade off of the power is that he can't do it of his own volition without LOOOOADS of focus or stress or a natural high of some description, like an orgasm.

    I think the more important thing is to retain logic but move away from common themes. Blood shouldn't really be that powerful. And although I don't believe in the soul as something that exists in real life, at least Voldemort's horcruxes were powered by something more than blood, something that does and should, by all rights, have power.
    But soul stuff is common too. That's why my current work-in-progress features the devil, who doesn't trade in souls, but in body parts and such. He trades the main character his tongue for a beautiful face, trades back his tongue for his left hand, and so on.
     
  7. ukuleleman
    Offline

    ukuleleman Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2011
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah, my first book had the druid in it. The blood-cost became inconvenient and it did lend to some writing problems. But that was my first and a definite learning experience.

    I like the examples that cruciFICTION and KinkyCousin gave. Those are some interesting "drawbacks" (probably a better term to use.)

    This principal is partly why I have a hard time with Superman. He is almost too powerful and to be weak against a green rock seems silly to me. I think that's partly why the recent movies of him have not done well. I hope this new one tackles it a little better.

    Enjoying the comments so far, they are great insights!
     

Share This Page