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Old May 13 2009, 10:25 PM   #2
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: Writing Discussion: Super-powered characters

I've found that it's easier to write about characters with super powers as long as you very clearly deliniate how they work. If you have rules in place, you can explore the results of working with those rules--characters and plots will emerge naturally as a result of your rules. Wasn't Asimov the one who made the laws of robotics, then wrote a bunch of stories that showed how those rules could be (or seem to be) broken? The stories arose from him having put the rules into place in the beginning...the stories couldn't have been written otherwise.

As an example...I'm currently working on two different novels, each set in a different universe of mine with different rules. The first novel (I call it American Goetia) is set in a world that I started when I was 16, and uses characters that started as characters FIRST. My world-building skills have improved massively over the last ten years, but I find that my characters stay true to themselves...IE, I know which characters can bitch-slap everything else into oblivion, and when I try to impose rules on the magic system to put a limit on that behavior, it's very, very difficult to make my characters "obey" them. The characters have existed with a sloppy magic system for a long, long time, and it makes it difficult to work with the characters, and the story, because the magic system has no "hold" on them...they just want to continue like they have since I created them 10 years ago.

In stark, stark contrast, my other universe (The Dragon King's Wife) started with some very strong magic and world rules, and the characters and plot rose after, or at least alongside, those rules. Their world and rules confine the characters, define them--affect them. There's some pretty kick-butt characters in this world, really quite powerful compared to the "ordinary folks" in the world, but their limits and rules are sharply defined...I know exactly how they can be knocked down. It is much, much easier to write in this world, because the character personalities work with the magic rules. And the magic rules and world rules naturally makes the plot flow. In my American Goetia world, I have to force the plot in. In the Dragon King's Wife world, since it's put together much better, the plot just arises on its own.

So, it's not that hard to work with super-powered characters...IF you do the legwork first and figure out how their powers work, and what the limits are. Like Anareth said, a popular "rule" or limit on magic is energy/exhaustion--the "mana" concept. As long as you have something in place, and stick to it, working with "super powered" characters becomes much MUCH simpler.

I personally use a "contamination" rule in my Dragon King's Wife world rather than an "exhaustion/energy" rule...magic use leaves poisons like nuclear radiation in mages, and the build up needs to be cleansed periodically else living stuff starts to get sick and die (or go insane). Like nuclear power, it can be safely contained when used properly, but it's very dangerous when safety precautions aren't used (or aren't discovered yet).
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Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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