Powers Most Super

On a long car drive back from New York this weekend, my older daughter asked my husband and I what we thought were some of the coolest fictional powers we’d seen in books, TV, comics, etc. (This is, by the way, an awesome way to make about half an hour pass without noticing.)

The conversation segued to me giving a rundown of some of the powers the various major characters have in my WIP fantasy YA, along with a brief summary of each character’s core conflict (because for some of them, their powers are inseparable from their conflict). When I was done running through them, my younger daughter asked, “Wait, are you talking about your book, Mommy?”

Yes, I said, this is the book I’m working on now. Why?

“I thought it was a professional book!”

My husband and eldest made “Ouch!” noises, but hey, I take it as a compliment. 🙂

My takeaway from the larger conversation, however, is that a lot of the time what we thought was so cool about the fictional powers we liked best was not the power itself, but how the author handled it.

They had the characters using their powers in an intelligent way, coming up with clever applications to deal with tough situations. They had considered and shown the impact of that power on the character, the people around them, and on society at large. Or they had wound the character’s power into their own inner or external conflict in some way, making it a problem as much as a solution.

And that was what made it so interesting. Not the design of the power itself (and certainly not its apparent magnitude), but how it played out in the story.

About Melissa Caruso

I'm the author of THE TETHERED MAGE, first in the Swords & Fire trilogy, coming from Orbit Books in October 2017. I write fantasy novels. I love tea, adventure, and the great outdoors. I live in Massachusetts with my husband, two amazing daughters, three cats, and a Labrador. Represented by Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary. View all posts by Melissa Caruso

One response to “Powers Most Super

  • Adam

    I think what really makes a power stand out to me is what it requires from the character. For example, many fantasy stories rely on simple magic, which often feels like little more than “energy blast”.
    I tend to prefer something a bit more specific, requiring the user to either carefully manage how they use their power, and/or time when they use it.

    For example, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn has a brilliant magical system. At first the audience watches as an observer, in awe of the power that these magical characters wield. Later we get to learn the specifics, and realize that the power is actually quite limited, but through precise use, the character gives the impression that they can do anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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