1. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Is it ok to write extremely powerful characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Crimson Dragon, Apr 30, 2013.

    As the title asks. While not all my stories and settings are filled with these kind of characters, many are. Shonen anime/manga is a big inspiration for me, and as a result a lot of my stories feature characters with very high levels of magical/supernatural/technological/whatever powers. We're talking anywhere from city buster to planet buster and in some cases multiverse buster(though this is usually reserved for final villains only). I'm talking comic book and Dragon Ball Z levels of power, to put it simply. Now this does not apply to all my ideas but it dose apply to some and I worry that such high powered characters be out of place outside comics and manga/anime? Or is there actually a market for written works about such characters? As far as I know, I should be fine as there is a precedent for extremely high power levels(or in this case, technology levels) in the form of the culture series. While those books don't necessarily have magic/supernatural abilities that are extremely powerful they do have a technology level which is absolutely overpowered. So yeah, I'm sure there are other examples somewhere of works with extremely powerful characters or technology, but I am just worried that outside of visual media characters with highly powerful abilities/powers may be a bit out of place? Any thoughts and comments would be appreciated.
     
  2. Jared Carter
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    Jared Carter Member

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    I don't see why such a concept can't be explored in literature. The only thing I'm wondering is how the planet/galaxy/universe you're writing about still exists while such powerful characters exist, especially the villains, some of whom, for all we know, have a desire to destroy everything. Perhaps they have some limitations?
     
  3. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    That depends mostly on the story, but usually boils down to the fact that the villains don't seek destruction but domination. Also, the stories have mechanics that allow for such power levels to exist without the collateral damage destroying all of reality. In the story that has perhaps the highest power levels of any of them, the villain has more or less already won and fused every universe/plane/world in existence into one massive world under his command, which is sometimes called "the monoverse"(as appose to the multiverse that existed before). Many of his minions in the story have universe buster level powers, sometimes less, sometimes more. He himself has multiverse-wide powers, including that which he used to fuse every world together. In this story there is a pocket dimension that exists within one of the spheres of the monoverse that is known as the "dimension grid" which is literally infinite in size and also an artificial construct. His minions can pull enemies and themselves into the "dimension grid" every time they do battle and are forced to do so by their master. The dimension grid is basically an infinite-sized void filled with nothing and it is where all high powered fights in the story are held. The villain created it for the very purpose of reducing collateral damage to his empire because he wants all his holdings in one peice. The grid can also be made to appear as any landscape or area so there is still all kinds destruction to witness and describe, but all those areas are artificial and destroying them does nothing to the grid itself nor the monoverse.

    That's just one example, but there are plenty of other ways that my stories rectify the issue of collateral damage from such powerful characters.
     
  4. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    As you yourself said, this kind of characters is popular among anime/manga/graphic novel fans. However it does not cross over well into other genres of literature. Maybe in YA novels you can use a character that is stronger than everyone else, but even in that case he needs to have heavy limitations in other aspects. If your character is so overpowered that he can't be defeated by anyone, why would one want to read about him? We already know what is going to happen. Either a)he will defeat all his enemies because he is so overpowered or b)he will be defeated by his enemies in which case the plot has many glaring flaws so one wouldn't read it in the first place.
    In visual media this kind of character transfers much better.

    In the specific case you inquired about there are various forms this technology you speak of can take. If it is a technology that is the equivalent of today's nuclear arsenal, meaning it is something that is only used as a last measure then sure, make it as powerful as you want. In Lincoln Child's novel, Deep Storm, there is a whole arsenal of solar system-ending bombs that use two colliding black holes (one matter, the other anti-matter) which is never used but it still is overpowered. On the other hand if you want to have a character who can shoot deathrays from his nostrils and fart anti-matter torpidoes, then you can't expect many adult readers to read it.
     
  5. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Well, I was specifically aiming for YA anyway. The vast bulk of my work is aimed at teens and sometimes readers even younger then that, the main reason being anime/manga are a MASSIVE influence on me. Most of my stories feature teen protagonists to begin with, so as far as not appealing to adult readers that's not an issue for me because I was never trying to appeal to adults in the first place. In fact, most of my stories are altered from ideas for mangas I have. I take them and alter them to better translate to text but in all honesty I'd prefer to make them into comics/mangas and keep them in their original forms. I just can't do that because I lack the art skill to draw it myself and don't have the personal wealth to hire an artist to turn scripts into actual manga/comic pages. So instead of throwing away my ideas entirely because I can't get an artist and don't have good enough art skill myself I simply edit them and put them to text. So yeah, not appealing to adults never was an issue here since they where not my target audience to begin with. If I was aiming for an adult audience I'd probably write a political thriller or politically-inspired SF story without any powers simply because I enjoy politics so much. In fact I have flirted with writing a story about a second American civil war in the near future, which would be aimed at adults rather then my usual target audience.

    Also, as far as books are concerned I'm not the only one to make an anime-inspired work. Check out the Broken Sky series by Chris Wooding if you want proof that this kind of thing can be done. It's not as OP as SOME of my stories, but others are around it's general power level and it is a highly enjoyable series. It's also aimed at kids, but I still find it highly entertaining despite being a college student.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    ARGH I typed a long reply, then my computer crashed because of Shockwave Flash. I typed the reply all over again - the whole thing - and F***ing @~*(*&*&%&^%$&^ crashed again and I lost my message for the SECOND TIME!!!!

    Well sorry you just won't benefit from my reply then. Stupid, stupid, F***** computer! It seems my laptop hates me and hates you and doesn't want you to ever see what I've written!

    All right - *takes deep breath* - here's my reply in summary!

    1. No, anime/manga elements don't cross-over well into prose. I've tried, I found it very vague and difficult to describe the "powers".

    2. People watch anime for the flash, effects as well as the choreography of the fights (martial arts and dance) - you cannot translate that into prose without looking stupid.

    3. Anime stories tend to be simple, whereas people look for more complex things in novels. This could explain why you're able to have so many "most powerful XYZ of all" in anime but not in novels. Thematically, anime is often deep and heavily philosophical, even in those for children, but that doesn't make the story itself complex.

    4. Check out Death Note, the novel. Yes, they transformed the manga into anime, and after the anime, they made it into an actual novel. I know it's not "fantasy" in the western sense and even in the Japanese sense, it's still more of a detective series. Nonetheless, the story itself was again, fairly simply - it was the character development and interactions that were complex, as well as the theme, of course. It would be very interesting to see how they translated this into prose-form - but I think this was possible probably only because the characters are very, very complex. It's still the most complex and interesting anime I've seen. And it deals with the idea of being "all powerful" - Light had the power to kill absolutely anyone he wanted and he was playing God, and he didn't even have to fear hurting himself as all other super power heroes and villains in other shows do, because they engaged in actual fights.
     
  7. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    1.True
    2.You forgot about big breasts and giant robots.
    3.True again
    4.This is not an accurate example on the OP's question. In death note none of the protagonists had an actual power but rather only the "idea" ,as you called it ,of being all-powerful. Ryuk was the one with the power to kill a person and let's face it, it is not overpowered for a soul reaper. Also it was not adapted into a novel but a light novel which is something quite different. All in all it was, as you said, not a superpower story but rather a supernatural/mystery story which is different from what the OP asked.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I think if you feel strongly about telling a certain story you should try to do so to the best of your ability. I don't know if it would cross over well. I'm not entirely sure why it wouldn't but then I'm not super into manga.

    Superheroes are a very popular theme in comics, movies, and tv. I don't see why they couldn't be in books as well. They probably are and I just haven't encountered them yet. I think part of the problem is making a sure a character still has some more human qualities to them. Sometimes when characters are invulnerable it's more difficult for the reader to connect. So while they may be rather impervious physically make sure they have some weaknesses emotionally is what I would suggest. I think that would make them more like an actual person and more accessible to the reader.

    Again these are just my thoughts with a minimal knowledge of mangas so take it with a grain of salt. :p
     
  9. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    But Anime usually starts off as Manga first...and when converted into Anime, their plots are usually condensed and simplified. I believe Manga can have complex plots though. Personally, I think something like Full Metal Alchemist had a quite complex plot, even in it's anime form.

    But yeah, I agree that anime/manga elements are very hard to adapt to prose. The whole magical girl thing? I tried it, didn't work, thus why it's important to take some elements from anime/manga but also elements from a variety of stuff. I don't know how you would describe a DBZ fight...I think those would only be good when looking at it, not actually describing it.

    I agree with what the others have said though.
     
  10. Acanthophis
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    As long as you don't break the continuity of an extremely powerful character, it should be fine. A good example of how not to write an extremely powerful character would be any Superman comic in the past 50 years. Sometimes he can breath in space, sometimes he has difficulty doing it, sometimes he can resist Kryptonite, sometimes he can't. They write him to fit the needs of the story/setting he's in, which I don't like. He changes WAY too much.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why wouldn't it be?
     
  12. sanco
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    sanco Contributing Member

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    If your protagonist is extremely powerful, the antagonist or antagonistic force should be pretty much equally as powerful. Or at least pose some sort of threat to your character. Maybe they have a certain weakness (Achilles' heel)?

    As for whether they translate well into prose or not, I haven't read enough to know, but I'd imagine believability(?) would be most important in order to sell this kind of thing.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    They can work--I think that with a skilled enough writer and storyteller, almost anything can work--but I consider them very difficult and, well, often not worth the trouble.

    Characters that aren't challenged, seriously challenged, are boring--there's nothing inherently exciting about power. So if you have highly powerful protagonists, you generally need highly powered antagonists or obstacles. This often means that every character and situation needs a lot of explanation and setup--you can't depend on the reader's intuitive understanding of who or what is dangerous, because you've raised the danger level out of their everyday experience.

    So you may be stuck with a lot of backstory, and you've also eliminated most of the world as a part of your story, because most of the characters in that world are too low-powered to be significant to the story. Or you have to replace the world with your own high-powered one, again moving the world out of the reader's intuitive understanding.

    So you've given yourself the burden of a lot of work, taken away most of the real world as inspiration, and you don't get one whit of excitement out of all of that. Saying, "Superman can destroy the world with one punch from his mighty fists!" pretty much produces a shrug. Nobody much cares. When everything is big, nothing is big. The villain that can beat up Superman is really no more exciting than the fourth-grader that can beat up the third-grader.

    Now, one way that you can add _some_ challenge to an overpowered character's life is to make them weak in particular areas. Superman had the weakness of his secret identity, and in his interpersonal relationships he was no more powerful than anyone else.

    But all the same, a powerful character has to work extra hard to interest me; I find them inherently boring. I love Buffy, but she had a big batch of secret-identity and interpersonal challenges, and she wasn't world-punching powerful; she needed Giles and the whole Scooby gang to figure out how to optimize her strengths to counter the apocalypse of the week, and she could have been taken out by a bullet, just like anyone.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This. A thousand times, this! This is why mega-powered superheroes are BORING. Examine your reasons for wanting extremely highly-powered characters. Are they really all that interesting?
     
  15. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Well here's my problem I see with this (considering I have a similar problem as I'm developing a comic series) is that literature is not able to fully keep up with the high octane eye candy of manga/comics and to attempt to be would be very wordy if you want a very accurate picture.

    While there's no reason it CAN'T work in literature, it works much much better through stylish imagery than words
     
  16. TLK
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    I'd say it's fine.

    In the Inheritance Cycle (the Eragon Books), the final baddie Galbatorix was supposed to be immensely powerful to the point that the rebels themselves often said that, were Galbatorix bothered to get up and fight them, they would be defeated.

    As long as you figure out a decent way for your character to be defeated (presuming he is, of course), then it should be fine. Perhaps his power is contained within items scattered across the globe, and your protagonists have to find them all and destroy them. Yeah, that sounds good ;)
     
  17. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I'll tell you a bit from my experience. It is hard. Chances are, you will have to write and rewrite, and re-imagine quite a few times. Animes and Mangas (and comics too) have a way of making very large things seem very small. We don't realize, from these portrayals, how very large even a planet it. Giving characters that much power is tricky because suddenly one planet isn't big enough, but the same "rules" apply as if it was. You still have to have a setting, you still have to make it feel as though the characters have something to lose. Now you have the added responsibility of coming up with reasons as to why the planet, the solar system, the galaxy, etc. are not destroyed by their power. You have to make it realistic in that the reader can feel the impact these characters have on the worlds around them.

    I've been working--for the longest time--on a story in which the main characters are basically Gods. They create the universe in which the story takes place basically are imagined with limitless ability. I thought it would be cool to bring that into literature. Truth is, it's hard--but not impossible. I've restarted this work, for various reasons, but what I learned is that it's important for there to be laws in place that can limit them. There are a lot of ways you can introduce characters, but it all comes down to how you construct the universe the live in and how well you play up the intensity when needed, while balancing it with a deep--well-constructed--story.
     
  18. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I strongly disagree with Xatron.
    The idea of reading about these super-powerful characters, but from the perspective of only one character, within a complex and interesting world, is absolutely fascinating to me.

    I am tempted to say things like, "As long as you don't make your main character indestructible," or, "Why are they so strong, anyway? What's the point?" But the fact is that I do not know what your stories are like, the level of detail therein or what ramifications these absurdly high levels of destructive power entail within your personified imaginations; therefore, I will simply say that, potentially, yes, there is plenty of opportunity to create interesting stories with planet-buster characters.

    In fact, fan-fiction popularity nearly proves it.
     

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