Novel problem: how to explain superpowers
Question: First of all, I would just like to thank you for all the tips and information put up on this site-it has truly helped me better organize and specify my first novel. My novel is really seeming to come together.
I just have one question that maybe you could help me on or give your opinion to. My novel is about a group of 17 year old kids who live in a small, present-day town. They were all born on the same day, at the same hospital, within the same hour. They are now all developing supernatural powers. A local scientist who is looking for a big discovery that could boost up his status from local-scientist-gone-mad to scientist-that's-history-book-worthy finds out about them and kidnaps them. He tries to do experiments on them, his goal is to come up with a way to inject their powers into himself and others.
The ONLY thing I can't seem to think of is what exactly caused their powers and why they aren't appearing until 17 years later. Do you have any ideas what of I could research or suggestions in general?
Thanks for your time and the pure act of putting up this site!
I can't tell you what your story should be (you're the writer, after all), but here are a couple of thoughts...
On the one hand, it doesn't really matter what device you use to explain why these kids have their powers. It's going to be a violation of known physical laws no matter what.
The important thing is whether the characters and their conflicts will engage the audience - the protagonist's inner struggle, the dramatic tension as he/she pursues the goal, etc. If the characters are people the readers find interesting and engaging and the plot is sound, the readers will accept whatever device you use. The reality of the characters is what makes the book believable, not the fantasy world it is set in.
For example, vampires do not exist. But no one criticizes the Twilight
series on that ground.
Warp drive and light sabres do not quite follow the laws of physics, but that doesn't stop people from enjoying Star Wars
or Star Trek
It also depends a little on your audience and the genre you're working in. Hard core science fiction readers expect the device to be scientifically plausible. (That's when you really must bone up on the latest scientific research.) Soft science fiction readers are more forgiving. Fantasy or supernatural readers don't care and will accept pure magic as an explanation.
That said, readers do like the world of the novel to be internally consistent, and they appreciate a well-thought out device. For example, something fans love about The Lord of the Rings
, is its rich, imaginary cultural, historical, and even geographical detail. Similarly, the magic system in A Wizard of Earthsea
is beautifully laid out. But readers will accept much simpler devices so long as they can relate to the characters' struggles.
Knowing your genre, you have to decide whether the source of your characters' powers is based on science, magic, or something in-between. You should also consider where your interests lie. Are you a science buff or do your interests lean toward magic? What sort of origin stories do you like?
You have made a good start at coming up with an explanation of the factors that conspired at a particular time and place to give your characters their powers. Keep asking yourself questions -- the same kind of questions a reader might ask - and make lists of possible answers. Eventually, something will gel for you.
For instance, a couple of questions that come to my mind are...
What doesn't the scientist understand about these kids?
What unintended consequences might his actions lead to?
Was it just a random event that gave birth to these heroes, or is there a hidden purpose/history behind it?
Is there a particular event that happens when these kids turn 17 that triggers the appearance of their powers?
But that's just the way my mind works. You must come up with your own questions.