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Write, Story

Daylight Writing #8: Scaling Superpowers

So, going off of last week’s power topic, today, we’re gonna be talking about power scaling. That is, when your characters get an increase in skill and badassery, they have to fight or meet people who can generally match them. Otherwise, well, there’ll be no concern whether or not they’re gonna win the next fight. This is most common in action series, like the world-famous Dragon Ball Z, and in more western series like Justice League. Looking at you, supes.

If Pluck is stronger then evil fairy, then Guts, who lost to evil fairy, is weaker then Pluck. Power scaling in a nutshell.

Now, in general, it goes like this. Characters get stronger after training, getting a power-up because of plot, or just learning through experience.  One way or another, your characters are getting better and better ass-kickers, and thus, they should be fighting better and better ass-kickers. It’s one way to keep the series from getting boring and to keep your readers invested. But, at the same time, it also makes the reader wonder “Where the hell do these guys keep coming from?” In low stakes settings, or just set in a mundane world, then this isn’t really a problem. Since then the characters are human, and humans are generally defeatable.

However, for more fantastical settings, it can lead to issues. This is a big problem with Dragon Ball, as there has been more than one example of a big bad coming out of nowhere to terrorize the heroes and being more powerful than the last guy they just vaporized. And each and every time, the heroes will say, “I’ve never felt a power like this before!” Despite, ya know, feeling that kind of power before.  It kinda reaches a climax of sorts when Goku and Friends can only really find challenges when fighting gods. And then, people who surpass gods.

One example of this comes from the character, Broly. A character with immense power who just sort of appears one day in the mythos when Goku and friends go to a planet or Frieza brings Broly to them for his weekly assassination attempt. Broly has done little training like Goku, has little reason to be in the plot, and is somehow strong enough to rival the main characters.

And at this point, if your audience isn’t rolling their eyes already, then they probably are now.

But, what about the inverse? When the universe doesn’t scale to the protagonist?

Well then, you have One Punch Man. (Yes, I am a weeb.) One Punch Man is about a bald man named Saitama, who is strong enough to kill everything in, you guessed it, one punch. He’s overpowered, he’s the strongest character in the entire series, bar none. The only people who can fight him for two seconds still die by his almighty fist.

So, he should be rather boring right? Because nothing can threaten him, nothing is really there to get the audience rooting for him?

This is where you can save the main character regardless of power level, by showing what it’s like for them to be that insanely strong.  By showcasing what it would actually be to be on top of that mountain, Saitama shows that kind of power is actually pretty lonely.

Hey, that would actually be a pretty cool plot point for a god character in a fantasy setting.

And, it seems like this will be the last daylight writing guide, since my internship is over. It was fun while it lasted, everyone. Until next time!