The Birth of the Superpower

Superpowers are fun. Really fun. They’re fun to read, fun to write, and fun to have!

{what’s that? Oh, that was classified?}

Um, I in no way have superpowers, just to clear that up.

Anyway, what is so great about a superpower? Well, it opens up a full new tree of opportunities for your character and plot! You can ask yourself many more questions that will benefit character arcs and even world building. Questions like:

Where do these powers come from?

Who have these powers?

Why do they have these powers?

What are the powers?

But a question many people avoid, loath, or are confused by is:

What is the power’s WEAKNESS?

How hard it is to find a power’s weakness depends on the power. For example, it was pretty easy for me to find the weakness of my character who had the power of controlling dreams:

She has vivid nightmares and dreams herself, and has a personality much like a dream. Halfway there, and all over the place. CONSTANT mood swings, making her quite the interesting friend.

But there are some powers that are harder to find weaknesses for. Such as my character who has very high agility. It took me a while to figure out his weakness. I couldn’t say that he was hurt by going high speed, or hurt other things, due to it being part of his power to be able to go that fast, and agility helps with dodging and not digging a rut in the pavement. So what could his weakness be?

Then one day I was outside gardening and I saw a wondrous little bird stop to take a drink in my hibiscus. The hummingbird flew away, carefree and completely unaware that it had just made this little author’s day.

I finally decided that his weakness would be like a hummingbird’s. They’re fast, dodge easily, and small enough to go anywhere without hurting anything, but at the same time have to constantly look for food to satisfy their incredible metabolism. So, in the end, Jamie Whyte is constantly stuffing his face with one treat or the other, while staying impeccably thin and healthy. *envy*

*ahem* what the heck does a hummingbird help with for me?

That’s easy. Many superpowers are based on real-life natural occurrences, just not in humans. Everything on this earth has a weakness. While creating your character’s power, look at the animals/machines/plants that have this same power, and accumulate their weaknesses into one compact, thought through, scientific reason that ‘Betty can’t shapeshift thirty times a day, because if she changes shape too much, she begins to lose shape like stretching out a sock.

 

Of course, that’s just the scientific-reasoning and most popular route. There could also be divine intervention, linking back to the question:

Where does the power come from?

If the power has been given by a deity, does this deity just allow a never-ending supply? Is this deity even strong enough to supply that? Why or why not would the deity allow this character to have ultimate power in their ability?

Or, if the power comes from a conscious-less source, does this source have limits? What about the ‘superman effect’, where one material counteracts the other?

 

There are countless ways to create a weakness, but the most important one to remember is that it has to make sense with the power. If you just say that Jimmy can’t use laser vision unlimitedly because his hair isn’t gelled people are going to wonder what lasers and hair gel have to do with each other (or even, why Jimmy doesn’t just buy a pocket sized hair gel bottle)

 

Well, now you know how to create the power. Your next question may be:

Now how do I decide what power to make?

Building off character

First, look at your character. Unless it’s meant to be random, a reader enjoys a power that reflects the character’s personality.

A shy person may have the ability to disappear, an energetic person has the ability to run fast, or be in many places at once, a lazy person can teleport, etc.

At the same time, it’s also enjoyable to see an opposite thrown onto a character. The lazy person can run fast, the shy person can glow, the energetic person can slow time, and things like that.

If you haven’t created your character yet and would like to go this route, then create your character in simple form (the very skeleton of their personality) and come back to their character. However, if you want to try another route, there is also,

Building off plot/world

Usually, when there are superpowers in a world, the world-building has a lot to do with it. Such as, if a deity gives the powers, what powers do they have? Doesn’t that mean their gift would reflect their own?

I think of Percy Jackson. The god’s children all had powers, but it made sense with the parent. Percy controlled water (spoiler, lol) Annabeth was smart, and Clarisse could come up with a pretty darn good plan to knock some heads in. But when it came down to it, it was just a miniature version of their parents’ powers. Percy isn’t going to start throwing rocks around or controlling the wind. That’s a completely different demigod’s job. He sticks with water, the power of Poseidon

This also corresponds to the world the characters live in. If the power is naturally occurring, what in the world (literally) is giving it that power? If it’s like Superman, where he reacts with Earth differently than Krypton then it makes sense that he is powerful in many different ways. It enhances his human capabilities while adding a few exaggerated powers as well (laser-vision, bulletproof, etc.)

In my books, The Ability Trials, the powers are inherited through a gene called the Power Gene discovered by scientists in the 1930s. So, how did I use world-building to decide my powers? Well, first of all, I decided that this gene would form differently for each child and person, meaning they each have an individual power. Knowing this, I based each power off the characters. BUT, I had one principle running through all their powers. Since it was only a mutation of DNA, they couldn’t have anything past exaggerated human abilities, or possibly possible (I know, I just said that) abilities (like mind reading through brainwaves or something like that). After that, the characters just fell into place with their powers!

 

I hope this helps a bit with your own superhuman (or creature, I don’t judge) and sparks a few ideas!

I hope you never get writer’s block or forget a good idea,

Julie (who definitely, maybe, probably, hopefully, most likely doesn’t have superpowers that she knows of 🙂 )

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juliemozart

juliemozart

I'm horrible at writing short, so 300 words is murder. Let me put it this way: I'm a cool homeschool kid who loves pasta, alpacas, and books. Mostly books. My dream is to publish my (amazing *cough*) book and have a home library *bows* The Bible's a book that's fandom is way too small -Julie M

6 thoughts on “The Birth of the Superpower

    1. thanks so much Millie! I’m on chapter 12 at the moment with chapter 8 posted on Patreon (I really should get to working on it a lot more but I’ve been a bit distracted) I’m super glad you liked the post!!

  1. Whoa, this is awesome! I haven’t written powers since 2012, haha. But one of my next couple planned novels will have powers, so I will definitely save this.

    Although my current book is contemporary (mostly) there is a characters who has powers. She’s a small part of the book, so I wouldn’t label my story supernatural. Anyway, I never thought of giving her power a weakness, so thanks so much for this. It gave me a lot of good ideas 😀

  2. I love writing about superpowers, but one thing I always forget is adding a weakness to the power (I’m in the middle of planning a superpower WIP so thanks for reminding me before I start writing, lol) Cool story about the hummingbird; gave me some ideas for looking to nature for inspiration! Also, I definitely prefer powers that have connections to the character (as opposed to random abilities). Whether it’s ironic or reminiscent of their character, I love seeing either the contradictions or the parallels. Loved the post, Julie! 🙂

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