During the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers Retreat I threw Beth Vogt a curve. “What’s your heroine’s super power?”
She looked at me like I was crazy. But I had a plan. A purpose.
In Beth’s story, her heroine left a high powered job to work with a poor community. As the character realizes her limitations on a local mission field, I suggested she jump to her super power.
“And what would that be?” Beth asked, brow arched, lips twisted with dubiosity.
“She can raise money,” I said. “She knows how to get money from people. She’s gifted. She has the contacts, the connections, the right talent to pitch ideas.”
Ah, so lights began to dawn. Now, I’m not sure Beth is going to use this super power, but it was the one thing her heroine could do NO ONE else in the story could do.
Another case. I was reading a synopsis for another author friend and her protagonist was a dedicated, driven doctor. When she had opportunity to “save” a small town, she chose another avenue besides medicine. Now, she had a great story. She had a great “saving” thread, but why not use the heroine’s super power? Medicine.
She was the only one in town who could use medicine, her abilities and connections to save the town from a medical epidemic.
The super power is the protagonist’s talent or gift that NO ONE else in the story has. The super power is so much a part of them they don’t even realize they possess it.
Let’s look at some examples:
Dorothy in Wizard of Oz — through the power of her own heart to love, she draws together three misfits and helps them over come their own fears as well as her own. Dorothy’s ability to love others and see beyond herself enable the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man to overcome their fears and find courage. SUPER POWER: Seeing souls for who they could be rather than who they are not.
Coach Boon in Remember the Titans — his love of football and driven desire to win, seeing himself as a winner, enabled him to take one of the first racially mixed football teams in the south to a national championship. He saw beyond the skin color and formed a team. SUPER POWER: Ability to bring teen boys together to create a great football team, bucking racial traditions.
Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice — her courage to reject societal norms in regards to men and marriage enabled her to pursue her heart’s desire for true love. SUPER POWER: Ability to speak her mind in a time when women were demure and quiet.
I just finished a book called The Wedding Dress. The heroine Charlotte Malone owns a wedding shop and can “see” how to dress a bride. But it’s not until she finds an antique wedding dress can she “see” how to dress herself.
In Dining with Joy, Joy Ballard charms thousands through a TV camera, a convincing cook show host, but all the while hiding her endearing flaw. She can’t cook. SUPER POWER: Her charm is genuine and in the end, wins true love.
A super power doesn’t have to be extravagant. And it doesn’t have to take over the story. But if your character is a business woman, let her use her business prowess to prove her competence to herself and to the world around her.
If she’s a doctor, let her medical knowledge “save the day.”
If she is a singer or songwriter, let her vocals and lyrics bring healing to her own soul.
If she’s a vintage shop owner, like Jade Benson, in Softly and Tenderly, let her see the value in old things, people and places. Let her see the value in knowing our roots to the past. Let her bring that truth to the story.
Even though Jade was wounded by her hippie mother, she values her mother’s life and past. Jade knows “antiques” even human antiques, brings value to our lives. And she’s not one to consider them junk. SUPER POWER: See the value in things and others!
A super power is an innate ability the protagonist doesn’t realize he possesses. But when he’s in a bind, it’s the very thing that drives him, pushes him forward, causes him to bring healing or help.
So, what’s your protagonist super power. What can she or he do no one else in the story can do. Now listen, don’t go pulling something out of the air.
THE SUPER POWER MUST RELATE TO THE PROTAGONIST CORE PERSONALITY OR PROFESSION.
Medical doctors chose the field for a reason. There’s something in their core character that draws them to medicine. A business person is drawn to marketing, selling, developing products.
A writer is drawn to tell stories.
A lawyer is drawn to justice or defense of the weak. Perhaps he’s drawn to making a lot of money. But when he learns of a child dying from contaminated water, he jumps in with his super power — understanding of the law — to save the day.
THE SUPER POWER MUST RELATE TO THE STORY.
Once you figure out some kind of super power for you protagonist, you may have to adjust your story some. Or, you may have the story you want but learn that your character’s super power is a bit different than you realized.
In The Wedding Dress, I didn’t want Charlotte’s super power to be a good eye for antiques. No, she’s not an antiques kind of girl. So when she finds herself drawn to an ugly old trunk, and spends $1000 purchasing on it, she’s out of her element. It’s her super power of recognizing a unique, gorgeous wedding gown that drives her to answer her own story questions.
All right, now you know about super power. Does your character have a super power? Some of them are obvious. Some, not so much, but find some kind of super power for your protagonist. Use it to deepen and advance the plot. Help them become heroic by finally realizing and engaging his or her SUPER POWER.
Change the character, or story, if need be. But find that super power.