• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

"Badass normal" protagonist vs magical villain

I'm planning on writing a YA fantasy story where the main antagonists are very powerful and centuries of fighting experience whereas the protagonists are mostly "badass normal" teenagers. I want some advice on how to balance their powers and weaknesses so the fact that a group of kids have a fighting chance against their enemy doesn't come across as unbelievable.

There are three major antagonists in the story, they are sisters and monsters capable of shape-shifting into human form each with their own power and weaknesses:

The eldest, Zelda is capable of shooting blasts of magical energy that explode on impact, create illusions, flight (through wings) as well as cast some spells that need verbal incantation to function. I haven't figured out the exact extent of her abilities yet, but as for limitations, being a fey her powers are weakened by iron. Crafted items made from, or contain enough iron has a dulling effect on fey magic, but depending on how powerful the fey more of it is needed to create enough resistance. For example, if hit by a petrifying spell while wearing iron armor or carrying around a lot of iron items on your body it might take a lot of time for it to fully set in, or it doesn't spread across your entire body.

To provide a decent enough level of protection against direct magical attacks you need to wear a full plate or mail armor made of iron.

The middle child, Agnes' true form is that of a behemoth of a beast that looks like a cross between a gorilla, a bull and a dinosaur. She has extreme durability and pain tolerance, she is capable of easily crushing walls by ramming into them but is rather bad at changing direction while charging and might have blind spots.

The youngest sister Charlene is incredibly fast and agile. She has very fast reflexes and often uses acrobatic attacks during combat. She dual-wields two metal claws attached to her wrist.

The main protagonist is a 15-year old girl who descends from an ancient lineage of warriors who swore an oath to protect humanity from supernatural threats. Because of this, they are naturally good at fighting, have mildly superhuman strength, reflexes, durability and healing. but otherwise no inherent magical powers. She might also learn knowledge of how to use magic artifacts in the story that might give her an advantage. She also has magical allies who might help her and aid her in combat.
Last edited:


Myth Weaver
I'd suggest startling with their minions, and building up the characters so that when they meet the bosses, they are ready for them. A lot of bloody noses along the way would help with that.

Since they can have items, perhaps an item which gives them protection, so they are not annihilated when they meet the baddies.

If might also help to have someone other than the girl, who is competent and can pull off a win, or two, but maybe does not make it to the end.


Myth Weaver
The old adage is true:

'Pride goeth before the fall.'

Your villains WILL have severe character flaws and blind spots.


Article Team
To start, don't think about what your characters can do. Think about what they can't do. What can't this villain do, physically and mentally? It doesn't matter how skilled a fighter they are. They still only have one set of eyes and two hands. Everything and everyone has limitations, figure out what those are for your villain, and then see how those limitations fit in with what your protagonists' skills sets are. Tweak and adjust as necessary.
Just from the initial first few words of your posts, this premise has been tried and tested, and it always a winner for YA.

The fey / fae genre is very popular, and why try and make it ‘believable’? It’s pure fantasy. It’s never going to be completely true to life believable, and as long as you’re okay with that then you can start creating a bunch of young characters that grow and change and become stronger or just as strong as their opponents with your character arcs.

I think any coming of age or YA story needs to weave how people generally grow into young adults into the story, so think about this natural development. Usually there is a starting point, just an ordinary teenager, then there is an event, perhaps it makes someone feel weak and broken and then it’s about building that back up - this is the opportunity to create growth for that character.

It could be training for physical strength, learning new skills, outwitting, using their vulnerability etc. endless possibilities there.

How do they play off eachother? Sharing their skills and their weaknesses with each other. How do they interact with each other in terms of group dynamic? Theres usually a natural leader. Just watch a bunch of eighties films, Stand by Me, The Goonies, E.T., Lord of the Flies (is that 70’s??) I mean Stranger ThingsHunger Games… I could go on.


Myth Weaver
The Death Star and the latest installment of Top Gun are great examples of the "single flaw" needed to destroy an enemy.

Otherwise, it's all the suspension of disbelief. The hero defeats impossible odds all the time. It's quite possible for a jaded audience such as myself to say "that was stupid" while still enjoying a movie... a book is far less likely for me to accept. However, I'm not your TA since I tend to think all YA is stupid, heh heh.

LoTR... if Frodo had just thrown the ring into the fire it would've been a fail. What made the end of the One Ring great was Gollum biting off his finger and falling into the lava. Melodramatic? Yes. But thematically so valuable I roll with it.

R. R. Hunter

When writing that one fatal flaw, consider decoy flaws that your heroes may attempt to strike at first and fail.

It may be more difficult to properly set up and knock down, but having your heroes use ingenuity and quick thinking to get themselves out of a tight spot can be way more interesting than hitting a single bullseye. It can't be an out-of-nowhere tactic with no foreshadowing.
Well, Harry Potter, who by all descriptions was a pretty middle of the road wizard, described the biggest, baddest wizard in all of history not once but 7 times over, and all that before even graduating from high school. From what I've heard, that series did allright....

I think you've described most action oriented stories. The protagonist will (at least at the start) always be weaker than the antagonist. Otherwise there is simply no story to tell. The protagonist always has to struggle to overcome the villains.

In terms of resolution there are a few options, which often combine at a certain level. The fatal flaw has already been mentioned. Another option is that the protagonist becomes stronger. They learn throughout the story how to defeat the villain. This could either be just overall, or a specific trick which works for just 1 villain. A third option could be that the protagonist finds a way to render the villains powerless. This is basically the "how to defeat Superman" plot. It could tie in with the fatal flaw option (you could say that kryptonite is Superman's flaw), but it doesn't have to be. Maybe there is a dreamworld where the villains don't have special powers and the protagonist lures them there. But also, if you've ever watched the Superman TV series, you'll see that the interesting Superman stories often aren't about him using his powers, but about him ending up in situations where his powers are useless or even get in the way, like when he's dealing with other people and emotional stuff.

The main thing to watch out for is having the villain make stupid choises. There have to be valid reasons why the villains don't completely destroy the protagonist at the start of the story when they are a lot more powerful than the protagonist. It's the classic villain trap, which just makes your villains seem dumb.
When writing that one fatal flaw, consider decoy flaws that your heroes may attempt to strike at first and fail.

It may be more difficult to properly set up and knock down, but having your heroes use ingenuity and quick thinking to get themselves out of a tight spot can be way more interesting than hitting a single bullseye. It can't be an out-of-nowhere tactic with no foreshadowing.
I personally don't like the idea of the villains having a "fatal flaw" in the form of a literal weak point, like say how religious symbols and garlic is said to repel vampires, because I don't think that fits and these villains are supposed to be recurring and continue being dangerous threats until their redemption arc, and having a too easily exploitable flaw would kill all suspense. But otherwise I like your advice.


Myth Weaver
Fatal flaws need not be like garlic to a vampire. They can be something just in the set of traits of the villain. If a villain has too much pride, for example, they can be lured into a foolish play they might not be otherwise. As we saw with Jaffar wishing to also be a genie in Aladdin. He greed for power became his undoing.