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Daylight Writing #7: Superpowers

So, let’s talk a bit about powers.

And for the record, I don’t mean political powers, or Austin Powers, or even horsepower (more on that later). Instead, what I want to talk about is superpowers. We all know the tales of Superman and his amazing/OP set, how Spider-Man can sense danger, how Son Goku can fire freaking laser beams out of his hands. We’ve all seen it; we’ve all heard it.

But here, I want to talk about two things: how a character’s personality can reflect their powers and how those powers affect the world in turn.

Now, let’s start off using a basic example. Fire powers, or pyrokinesis if you want to be technical. Most of the time, if a character has control over flame, then you can reasonably expect them to be hot-headed, energetic, eager to eat, and of course, headstrong. Why is this you may ask? Simple, since fire is what they control, fire is what they embody. Wild, bright, self-destructive, and devouring everything in sight. Ice users are expected to be cold, precise, and at the same time, rather brittle.

But have you considered how your characters powers define them, and the world in turn?

Let’s start, for a moment, on the hit anime series, Boku no Hero Academia, or My Hero Academia. Every character in the show has some kind of power, a “quirk,” if you will, that allows them to do amazing things. And, in a way, every quirk affects their personality in some way.

Boku no Hero Classroom

Deku, the main character, has a quirk that gives him superhuman strength and speed, which, while pretty basic in terms of originality, does tell a great deal about the character. In that, despite being small and somewhat unsure of himself, Deku will rise to any challenge head-on, fighting till his bones turn to powder. Much like how, even before he got his power set, he was determined to be a hero. However, a better example of how powers affect personality and vice versa Deku’s long time…. ally, Bakugo. In a word, he is explosive, which is convenient, because he can create explosions.  From the palms of his hands, Bakugo can make explosions appear due to the nature of his quirk, and much like his powers, Bakugo is very much a loud, pushy, has all the subtlety of a bomb, character who strives to be the best hero who would never loose.

Now that I’ve given examples, let us talk about how this works as a story. Bakugo’s arc is that he needs to learn to tone down the explosions as well as his personality. Bakugo, at the start, is not a nice person. A bully, in every since of the word. But, it is also worth noting is that, well, the world in turn is shaped by the idea of almost everyone having superpowers. That, in turn, affects the characters and the way they act around others. Bakugo’s self desrutctive personality is created, impart, by the way the world is structured around those who have greater, or more combat capable, quirks. Gotta love the superhero biz, am I right?  

But, there is one thing I want to point out here, and that is character is not the same as power. Sure, powers can help shape a personality, but they can’t define them either. Take, for example, Princess Celestia from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. But Day, I hear you say, you tricky typer, what does a little girl’s show have to do with powers?

Well, to put this into perspective. Princess Celestia controls the sun. As in, the giant ball of plasma and gas that keeps the world alive, and she raises it, each and every day. (Side note: if anyone can tell me how this works, I would love to know.) So, rationally, you would expect her to be overbearing, full of fire, and capable of melting near anything, right? Well, no. Celestia is, for all intents and purposes, nice, kind, patient, and doesn’t actually have the best track record for fights. Which is weird, considering she controls the sun.

And that, in turn, leaves me with the perfect segue into the next topic: power scaling. That’s right, this one is a two-parter.

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