Stupendous Sci-Fi: Errors and Reroutes


The idea was to bring together a group of of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. 

Nick Fury, The Avengers

A staple of heroes is that they’re above the ordinary, they can do things that the ordinary people can’t. So how do you incorporate these extraordinary people into your writing and worldbuilding?

The Backstory

One of the most prevalent elements in heroes’ stories is why they decide to fight evil. Batman didn’t want to be scared anymore, Superman wanted to be a paragon of hope, Captain America wanted to do the right thing.

When writing your hero’s backstory, consider these things:

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Why/What: Why are they taking up the fight? Is it for revenge, justice? To protect a loved one? To punch a Nazi in the face? (That one is one of my favourites) To be the best there was?
How: What gave them their powers? Mutation? Hard work? Being an alien? Cancer?
Who: Who’s helping them? Are they are a solo act, a team, a dynamic duo? Are the police and media with them or against them?

Explaining the Powers in-World

One of the things about comics is you don’t have room to info-dump, or if you do, you can do it in a way that doesn’t take out of the story. (Flashbacks, origin issues) On the other hand, if you’re writing a superhero story in another format, it does take out of the story to devote a page to monologuing about how they got their powers.

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So if you’re writing a superhero story in a novel or film format, you have some options:
1. Dedicate a section of the book/ film to the origin. Captain America, Iron Man and Thor all do this.
2. Make a prequel. This does the same thing as dedicating part of the work to explaining it. There’s just more to do it.
3. Set everything on fire and have your protagonist discover their powers that way.
4. Avoid it. Make it some big mystery.
5. Have pre-established rules for powers in your world so that some people have powers, and others don’t. This is done in X-Men, with the X gene mutation, with DC’s metahumans, where certain things activate the powers and in Boku No Hero Academia. It allows for variation in powers as well as a clear divide between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Things to Avoid

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Giving everyone powers: This flattens the status quo. What’s the point of being extraordinary if everyone else is too? What makes your hero different from the others? Of course, you could have your hero have a weak, or super powerful. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have an interesting story, just makes it a bit harder.

Not Giving Them a Weakness:  Every hero needs a weakness. Ironman is egotistical, Captain America is stubborn, Superman can die from a rock. Find that fatal flaw and use it against them. If they don’t have a weakness, you lose a lot of potential for angst and character development. It also dehumanizes your heroes and likens them to gods. A common one, that’s very human is hubris. Or they’re a perv.

I hope this helps and happy writing!

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