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The main characters powers.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Endymion, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. Endymion

    Endymion Troubadour

    I am not seeking for advices, I just want to hear some of your opinions.
    So yeah, I just read the thread "My characters powers" by Burst.
    Anyways, characters powers. What do you think about it? Do you like powerful main characters?
    Do you like that the character has a skill that no one else has?
    I personally dislike it. I find it pretty overused, clichéd and well, simply extremely annoying.
    What are your thoughts?
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I prefer to have characters who are in many ways ordinary. That doesn't mean that they aren't socially priveledged by virtue of belonging to a group which possesses the majority of the power, either by being rich, belonging to a particular ethnicity or living in a particular area, but having supernatural powers at the start of the story just doesn't do it for me. Unless Chris Hemsworth is involved, but that goes without saying. Anyway, that's film; I'm talking novels.

    I'd rather start with a character who is human. Subsequently achieving great power through research and training is acceptable, provided it forms part of the plot, and is not an enabler for the plot to happen.
  3. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    I like story lines where the main character gets special abilites during the course of the story or has them at the beginning and is forced to deal with it. Usually not something no one else has, but something that turns them into a part of a new group with new rules so to say. Harry Potter as the example most likely to be known to everyone. ;) Actually seeing the magical through the character's eyes is one of the things I enjoy most about fantasy. Sword fights and the like on the other hand fail to grip me for some reason and neither do magically enhanced weapons with a special backstory and so on. To me, weapons are more of a necessary evil.
    I don't mind main characters who are the last of something or the only ones who can achieve whatever if they're done well either. Ordinary is well and good, but it shouldn't be too ordinary if I'm writing fantasy. The main character should be important to the things going on for some reason even though stories with someone who randomly gets involved in some trouble can work well too.
    Something I don't really like are plots where revenge is the motivation for everything, maybe because I don't believe that pursuing revenge over anything else is a very admirable feeling. It can be understandable in some cases but nothing that's enough for me to motivate an entire plot.
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    A character can be ordinary by their own culture's standards and still be important to what's going on. They might have accidentally caused the big bad to rise from his long-barrow grave by walking three times around it anti-clockwise at the full moon, and decide that since they cause it, they're goig to fix it. Or they might be employed to protect an individual such as a young prince or a high-priest or someone else important and believe that the way to do their job is the defeat, and not just help their charge avoid, the big bad. Those are perfectly reasonable reasons for characters to be involved in a story without being in any way remarkable by their own culture's standards at the start of the story.

    Personally I find it more compelling to read a story where a character is challenged by others over their right to lead. Having super magic powers or being the child of someone important means they don't have to fight for leasdership so much. People will listen to them because of what they are or who their parents are, not because they personally have earned respect and loyalty. And I just don't find that as interesting as having characters who become leaders because they have fought for it and they deserve it.
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I have no desire to read a story about an ordinary person who does ordinary things. I want to hear about super people who accomplish extraordinary deeds.

    I think the thing that modern writers have learned is that, even as you make your protagonist "super" in some ways, you have to give him flaws. If your PoV character becomes a powerful mage, make him inept with women or clumsy or give him some other weak trait that your reader can see in themselves.
  6. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I never said the ordinary character does ordinary things. I have no desire to read that either. I want to read about an ordinary character who through their own effort becomes extraordinary and achieves great things. Surely it's more exciting for someone ordinary to achieve extraordinary things than it is for someone extraordinary to achieve them? Isn't that why the creators of Superman created Kryptonite - so Supes wasn't so blindingly super that he could do whatever he needed to and never be challenged?

    What's special about someone who is superhuman achieving superhuman feats? That's to be expected. But someone ordinary achieving superhuman feats? That's a story I can get my teeth stuck into!
    Steerpike likes this.
  7. Most people are good at something. Or a few things. People you'd find interesting and want to read about, at any rate. So I don't think you should necessarily avoid having your character be good at certain tasks or have certain powers.

    If their specific talent happens to be exactly what is needed for the problem of the story...that can be a little overdone. But not if done the right way. (Example: your character is a brilliant lock-picker, and by her reputation she is chosen to join a team to complete a task that requires lock-picking.)
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    One of the key ways to promote reader sympathy with your character is to have that character be an expert at something. This should be something a reader should want to be able to do.

    This is only one of the many things that can aid in creating sympathy. Is it imperative? Probably not but it helps.
  9. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I disagree. Most people aren't experts at anything. They're good at a few things, maybe pretty great at one or two things, but in any given field you only get a very small percentage of people who are experts. Thus the majority of people will find it hard to relate to an expert, particularly if their expertise is in something they are unfamiliar with. By contrast, almost everyone understands the process required to attain a respectable level of skill in something, even if they cannot relate to that skill. To become good at something you have to work at it and put effort into learning and improving. People can relate to that. Thus if you want to create sympathy or empathy, showing a character learning to be good at something, striving towards a goal, is a better bet than making them an expert.

    That doesn't mean that characters who have existing expertise aren't sympathetic characters, and it certainly doesn't mean they're not cool or interesting characters, it just means that having expertise isn't, as far as I'm concerned, what makes them sympathetic characters: it is the challenges they face in becoming experts.
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Characters are relatable to us through other human qualities & shared experiences. In my view if a character doesn't have some form of expertise that a reader would love to be able to do then that's a boring character or at most a secondary, supporting character.

    Also, when I use the term "expert" I'm using the word very loosely. Someone may be an expert thief or they could be an expert interpersonal communicator. It doesn't have to be an obvious skill, trade, or ability. Also, it certainly can be about the character acquiring expertise or improving on skills.

    As stated previously this is certainly not the only path to sympathy... Just one that can aid in gaining sympathy.
  11. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Getting back to the original point of this thread, I have to say that Yes, yes I like characters with powers. It has never crossed my mind to write a story about somebody without powers, but that's because that's what -I- want to read.

    I do get what you're saying, and I understand it, but what I think needs to be brought up is when the extraordinary becomes ordinary. Going back to Harry Potter, well, Harry himself is a bad example what with being the boy that lived, but look at Ron, he had powers, but among the wizards he's average and yet he helps defeat one of the greatest dark wizards in history.

    That being said, I do hate it when just the protagonist has this super special unique power that nobody else has anything close to or he picks up a sword for the first time then like a month later is dueling against people that have been practicing their whole lives.
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Then we have 'Game of Thrones', where most of the POV characters are 'ordinary' - at least initially. Quite a few of them are not even all that great at mundane weapon play. Yet they get themselves in one fascinating and / or lethal situation right after another. And some of the best scenes in the books revolve around mere dialogue.
  13. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    Excellent point Chilari. I, for example, am an expert rubber band shooter and can perform symphonic bliss with the kazoo.

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