Easy Way Out - And how to not come across that way

Published by Mallory in the blog Mallory's blog. Views: 110

I can't judge anyone's story unless I've read it myself. Lots of ideas sound awesome, but are written terribly, so the story sucks. Likewise, lots of ideas seem stupid when summarized, but turn into great stories when you sit down to read them.

With that said, though, certain things I hear about make me shrivel up inside a little bit. One of them is when the author's MC is clearly invincible, to the point where no obstacle can actually threaten him/her. After a while, readers realize that, so they learn there's no reason to fear for the MC. Tension buildups, scary moments and ominous subplots lose all their power. The main character always has an easy way out, hence the name of this blog post and phenomenon.

There's no one-size-fits-all blanket labels for what constitutes "Easy Way Out" writing. I've read stories with mind-reading characters that scream E.W.O., and stories with mind-reading characters that have enough balance and stakes to keep the tension there. It's not about what power or advantage the MC may or may not have; it's whether the author takes effort to counteract this power in some way.

Main characters who have a certain power - be it mind-reading, being able to shapeshift, invisibility, etc - AND can use the given supernatural gift whenever they like with no negative consequence or repercussion - really have no reason to worry about anything. Bad guy coming? Just turn invisible for as long as you want, no big deal. Evil plot going on that you have to fight against? No prob, just read the minds of all the bad guys, then thwarting their plans will be easy!
A few ways to avoid the Easy Way Out effect....
1. Give them limitations. Perhaps they can only use the power a certain amount of hours per day/week/month/lifetime. This will force them to choose very carefully, and not always be able to rely on the power when they might like to.
2. Make the power something that's both a blessing and a curse, depending on circumstance. I.e. shapeshifting into a wildcat would be awesome if it happened in a setting 100 percent controlled by you. But what if you turned into a wildcat at 3 p.m. every Sunday? Depending on what you're doing that Sunday, it could be great...or, it could be a complicated disaster that forces you to figure out some way to cover your ass.
3. Make the powers balanced out. Maybe your powers are only strong enough for use if the rest of your "normal" life is in the tubes. If you've got your stuff together and have positive smoothness in your life, the powers will become latent. You can either have a good supernatural life, or a good regular life, but not both at the exact same time. OR, using your power could detract from some opposite power. For example, using your power to see in the dark will weaken your everyday eyesight, or mind-reading too often will allow other people to gain access to YOUR thoughts. This type of scheme puts checks and balances on the powers, so the MC doesn't Have It All when the timing is Too Convenient and seems like a poorly-thought plot device.

I've read many stories where the MCs have powers. Powers are cool. Just don't let them turn your MC into such a perfect and obviously unbeatable being that the story's suspense is gone, to the point where cheering for them or fearing for their fate are pointless because we know they'll win without any losses anyway.
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