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Repercussions and side effects for a truth telling superpower?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by markhamil94, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. markhamil94

    markhamil94 New Member

    So my main character has the ability to make anyone tell the truth (given that he touches them). I am wondering what are some unforeseen consequences of this that I didn’t think of? I want to address them early in the plotting process and not have huge plot holes that require a huge rewrite later on.

    To prevent him from just getting all the answers I have some limitations:

    +he needs touch and to ask a specific question

    +if the question is worded wrong, the answer can be not the one the hero is looking for, or misleading

    • Superpowers are kind of common so if anyone says the truth against their will they will realize that a superpower was used on them. In my story keeping a low profile is important so the hero cannot use his power left and right to get answers without revealing his undercover mission
    He’s also able to erase specific recent memories, but he needs to touch a person before the event and after. So essentially, the memory is not erased but not recorded in the first place. This will allow the character to ask some people questions when he does not want them to know he asked them. However there is an obvious huge limitation that eventually people will figure out that they are getting temporary memory loss around the character, so again he needs to be super careful.
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    A great lack of trust in all of humanity.

    an over-reliance on his abilty. Suppose one could thwart him. Would he know?

    a lack of intimacy

    a lack of people who trust him

    sometimes lies are better so perhaps to much revealing of things better left unsaid.
  3. can it be controlled or does anyone he touch automatically have to say the truth?
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Here's something you can play with. What if the person truly believes something that's a lie? The Earth is flat. The moon landings were fake. etc. Nowadays there are people who are sadly drawn into believing lies.

    I think this can be a fun way to distance yourself from IMHO something that can get over used in story telling, the hiding of information. I think there's lots of drama that can be had from the revelation of things and how certain characters deal with those things. Knowing the villains master plan is completely different from stopping it. When a villain lets a hero know exactly what's coming, that can create tension, especially if the circumstances are set up so the villain can not only follow through, they can get away with it.
  5. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

    As others have said, do you mean the absolute truth, or the truth as the characters being touched understand it? Because those aren't the same thing. That might mean that the answers your main character gets aren't accurate - so how do they know when they've got an inaccurate answer? What consequences do those answers have?

    Then there's the question of who else is around when your MC asks the questions. What happens if the person being asked hasn't told those around them what they think is the truth?
  6. Tigerseye

    Tigerseye New Member

    I once read a book with a character that had a similar power, the person being questioned was compelled to answer truthfully but felt horribly violated by it. As a consequence the character refused to use his power on anyone he cared about because it would violate their trust and possibly change how they felt about him. This actually led to misunderstanding that could have been easily avoided if he had used his power, but he refused to do so.

    If the person being questioned is compelled to answer then how far does it go? Do they have to give the whole truth or can they get away with half truths? In a lot of books and shows where a character cannot (or will not) lie then lies of omission are seen as an acceptable loophole.

    As others have pointed out, the truth can mean different things to different people. People forget important details, believe lies that others have told them or simply misremember things. It might be interesting to consider something like the Mandela effect, where a group of people will remember something differently to how it actually happened.
  7. For your villain you can have someone who always tells the truth. In DND terms because this came up quite a bit once- I was paying a Lawful Evil along side a paladin who would cast "zone of truth" a lot (not specifically on me.. its an area so even the paladin is in it) when questioning others. But my Lawful Evil never resisted the zone and never changed anything he would have said anyway- as he never knowingly lied as a rule. He always kept his word and never had anything to hide as he felt justified and correct in all his actions. he was a dangerous guy and a good villain/hero.

    I do like the idea that your protag has one person that is quite a bad person- but they never lie, so his power does not work on them, and consequently... they are the only person the hero can actually trust while many firends and 'good people' they cannot.
  8. markhamil94

    markhamil94 New Member

    issue got solved!!
  9. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    Side effects ideas- They cannot lie, they only get to ask two or three questions of a person then it never works again on them, they can only use the power two or three times a day, each time they se the power they become more sleepy, they receive a cut or burn every time they use the power, they lose a memory each time.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Here's one. I don't know how you'd write your way out of it, but ...

    There are at least two people with this power. SuperA asks and gets one answer. SuperG asks the identical question but gets a different answer (from the same person).
  11. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

    Well, it could be that the TRUTH does not exist, but only the truth. In that case, the truth is a combination of what the questioner believes is the truth and what the one answering believes is the truth. Change SuperA to SuperB and the idea of truth changes, which changes the answer you get.

    A good question here is that you should determine what the answer to a philosophical question would be. Say SuperA and SuperB both ask: "What is the meaning of life?" What answer would you get? There are a few possible answers, which dramatically change how the power works:
    - You get the ONE AND ONLY true meaning of life (aka 42...).
    - You get what the person being questioned considers the meaning of life to be.
    - You get what the Super considers to be the meaning of life
    - You get a blend of what the Super and the person being questioned consider the meaning of life
    - You get no answer at all, since it doesn't exist

    If you want another direction in which you could take this. Then what if you never get a straight answer, but you get prophetic / riddles as answers? If you can always interpret the answer in multiple ways, then it becomes a much more dangerous power to use.

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