Magic/Superpowers are awesome and can be fun to write for, but there is a lot of room for problems if you don’t plan ahead of time. I provided some tips below to help you avoid them.
1. Superpowers/Magic: Yes or No?
When should I include magic or superpowers in my story?
Ask yourself this: Would the story and characters be the same without magic/superpowers?
If you answered yes, then magic/superpowers doesn’t serve a purpose in your story. It should be removed or adjusted to where it furthers the characters or plot. When magic/superpowers doesn’t cause any conflict or affect the characters, it’s like having a pointless fight scene. It’s meant to look cool and keep the reader interested, but guess what, it’s pointless and a waste of effort. Readers will notice that magic/superpowers doesn’t serve a purpose to the story and the author only included it…to include it. If you think you need magic in your story, you DON’T. It’s not always necessary. Don’t try to force it if it doesn’t work.
2. You MUST include how magic/superpowers affects the character(s)
That is if you want your magic/superpowers to be engaging. Show how the character feels when conjuring magic or shapeshifting. Do they feel a rush of energy, adrenaline, or maybe even pain? Though magic and superpowers aren’t real, including how it affects the characters adds realism. I know it sounds strange, but it’s like when you run or…pee. You feel something. It’s a part of you just like a character’s abilities are apart of them. It’s not exactly the same but you get my point. I don’t recommend doing this every time they use magic/superpowers because it can affect the pacing of the story. Too much description is not a good thing.
3. Give your characters weaknesses
What good is magic/superpowers if your character can just snap their fingers and defeat anything? They aren’t. They fucking suck. Characters shouldn’t be untouchable. It’s boring and makes the story predictable. In a video game this might be fun for a while, but it will inevitably get boring to beat anything without a challenge. And that’s what readers want. They want to see your characters be challenged and struggle. It’s relatable, interesting, and it creates tension.
4. Define your character’s limitations
I had discussed this a bit in my earlier post: 8 Ways to Write Better Fight Scenes. There are instances in media where I have seen characters not using their abilities when they could have to get out of a situation or stop the villain. Why? Because it creates suspense without having to put any effort into the character’s abilities. It’s easier but it makes the writer look lazy and it also causes plot holes. To prevent this figure out what your characters can or can’t do. Maybe they can only use an ability if they have a certain potion/object and they ran out. Or whatever you want it to be. Don’t make your characters not use something unless you have a valid reason as to why they can’t. Or just, you know…rethink the magic/superpowers in your book.
5. How are magic/superpowers perceived?
Imagine if magic/superpowers existed in our world. It would be awesome! I mean why wouldn’t you think so? But really think about it, how would people feel about them? Magic/superpowers could be helpful, but they could also be dangerous. Everyone would have different opinions on them, just like the characters should in your book. How are characters with magic/superpowers perceived? Are they hated, feared, or worshipped? If magic/superpowers is widely accepted I assume they would be regulated. What magic spells or powers are legal and which ones are banned? Magic/superpowers has to affect your story in some way. These are things you have to consider otherwise, it will be seen as an afterthought.
Here is something to think about. We all have habits whether good or bad. People bite their nails, play with their hair, or um…pick their nose. Sometimes without even realizing it. It’s habitual. Since magic/superpowers is part of a person consider what kind of habits they might have with them or things they might do with them. A character with telekinesis might unintentionally move objects when they are in thought, or a person with fire powers might accidentally light something on fire when they’re angry. Or they might just play with their abilities when they’re bored. These little tidbits, though they don’t add anything to the plot, can add realism to your characters.
A few questions to ask yourself when developing magic/superpowers
- When and how did your character(s) obtain their abilities?
- Who can use them?
- How often and how long can they use them?
- Do your character(s) struggle with them and how?
- If there are levels: How long does it take to advance or what do they have to do to advance?