Subtle action

by Dawud
(New York)

Question: How do I take a subtle (and kinda quirky) super power and write in a way that keeps the tension and the book flowing? My characters in the book have the ability to manipulate hormones through pheromones. But, since this cannot be a fast-acting ability, I am having trouble figuring out how to write it into a scene requiring immediate action without a) sounding ridiculous or b) killing all tension.

Answer: I see your dilemma.

Just a thought, but... I think if I had such a superpower, I would become very good at slowing situations down. I would look for opportunities to be alone with someone for a period of time, so the power had time to work.

I might waylay people in elevators, sit at the next table to them in restaurants, share a cab with them.

Incidentally, I think this kind of power would work very well for a villain. You might have a greater challenge if your character is the hero.

But again, I think your character would have to specialize in the kind of slow approach used in espionage stories -- which can be very suspenseful (hence tension).

If your hero must use violence at some point (when his plan goes wrong and he has to improvise), that may be okay. It can just be something he uses sparingly.

For example, there's the X-men character Mystique. She can fight hand to hand when she needs to. But most of the time she relies on her superpower (disguise) or espionage skills.

The best Mystique scenes in the X-men films are those which make great use of suspense. You watch her slowly carry out her mission while the risk of getting caught grows larger and larger.

Best of luck.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.