Have you ever noticed that superheroes, hell, all of us, can very often be recognised not by the range of powers or skills that the have, but by the weaknesses.
It’s very easy to create a character who has all manner of abilities. Superman can fly, can shoot laser beams from his eyes, has super strength, can freeze water with his breath and is bulletproof. Now the hero’s been put together, the way to actually create the tension, the story, is to give them a weakness or two.
If you take away the threat of kryptonite, Superman is pretty much able to squash anything that crosses his path so should anyone try it, none of us would be worried that he’d be challenged. Superman is then the most boring hero going because nothing is going to get close to him so all the stories that could be written will eventually just be the same walk to the ultimate conclusion of the vanquishing of the enemy.
I’m writing at the moment on the third book in The Circle series and one of the things I’ve always got to keep in mind, is that a Dragon is a pretty powerful creature. A Dragon could do some real damage and on top of that, within the structure of the narrative, they sit very much at the top of the food chain.
So how do you make the stories compelling?
Make sure that the adversaries that pop up are able to exploit a weakness or somehow get around the strengths that the Dragon has.
Superman was always battling with Lex Luthor who made the best use of his vast intellect to become a very real threat to the man of steel. In the same way, my Dragon has to face off against challenges that can truly cause problems. The Circle of Fire had a similar creature as the Dragon but The Circle of Duty had a slightly different antagonist meaning the skill set went almost completely against what you’d expect.
That means that the threat comes straight back in and all the way through the story, there’s going to be the risk of the hero losing the fight.
Without that weakness, without taking away the huge power that could be brought to bear, or at least making it more and more difficult, the threat level vanishes. How the hero then deals with the problem, deals with the losses, define what sort of character we’re dealing with.
We all have to deal with our own weaknesses and issues and very often, how we react in the face of those issues is what defines us. In the face of adversity, we can find out what sort of individual we are. We all can. Without those weaknesses to overcome, we’re just left with no obstacles to traverse and life is just moving onwards without any feeling of accomplishment. We’d never be tested.
All in all, we need to know that we can overcome the horror.