Hi HeyWriters! I was wondering: do you have a tip to create a weak point on main characters? I´m making a story, but I´m having trouble since my main character is TOO overpowered. Could you help me with this?
(All of this is written under the assumption your character has superpowers or “special” abilities, so forgive me if you meant a different kind of power.)
I created a character concept when I was twelve. She had all the superpowers of my favorite heroes and then some. As time wore on she gained more and more until eventually my adolescent brain invented logic and realized she was actually ridiculous. Here’s how I depowered this character, who’s name is Ace, without completely ruining her coolness.
Don’t be greedy. Any ability that does not contribute to the story needs to go. It’s taking up space that could be filled with credibility. I decided early on that Ace didn’t need most of her abilities, and by the end of the story she only relies on a few to get the job done. Also, if a character can do more than one thing that are all basically the same thing some of those should probably go (invisibility and camouflage, superspeed and teleportation, etc.).
Apply real-world science. If you try to make your depiction realistic, you’ll want to have an idea of how these abilities might work and how they might not. Of course, you should suspend disbelief for some things if they’re truly essential to your character, but others can be adapted. For Ace there are some powers that only work under the right circumstances, and others that her body rejects or that give her physical pain when she uses them. Most importantly, special strengths come with special weaknesses. Sensitive hearing means loud noises are more jarring or harmful, regeneration means metabolism speeds up and the person needs to eat as much as a body builder. Any superpower you pick out will have a drawback, I guarantee it; if not a physical one then a social one (I’ll get to that).
This scene from The Incredibles is an excellent demonstration of superpower drawbacks.
Consider how the character feels about all this power and why they obtained it in the first place. Ace was not born with abilities, but over time she chose certain powers for the purpose of defending herself or others. Some of her powers fade away when she stops using them, like any skill you fail to practice, and some abilities she just plain old refuses to use for personal reasons. Some are too difficult or time-consuming for her to master, and some even trigger memories of her traumatic past thus she discards them. This way she has a choice in the matter and her choice is not to bite off more than she can chew or what she doesn’t want in the first place.
How do other characters feel about all this power? Perhaps some or all of your character’s powers intimidate, frighten, or anger others in the story. One of Ace’s friends dislikes how unstoppable she is, and others are taken aback by some of the things she can do or how she looks when she does them. On the whole, she hides what she can do or picks small things to do instead of big things, downplaying her own power when necessary. How your supporting characters react to the force of nature that is your MC is the most important aspect of her power.
Here’s an example from the X-Men of how other characters might react.
For additional opinions and advice, read this https://mythcreants.com/blog/five-characters-that-are-too-powerful/ and take to heart its ending line: “There’s only one fix that avoids all the pitfalls of overpowered heroes: refrain from making them really powerful in the first place.”
Yes, Ace is a flawed concept and all the advice I just gave is only a patch kit for that flaw. However, overpowered characters continue to excite readers and viewers alike, so I would never suggest we dispense with them altogether. Just, when you’re getting a headache from how overwhelming your character is, it’s good to consider dialling it all back and focusing on the power of their personality instead.
Super apologize for taking so long to respond, and thanks for asking in the first place.