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How well defined should abilities be?

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So in my current WIP, my characters are a group of semi deities who are tasked with protecting the planet.Now, while I've stated their abilities to stem from their connection to Earth, I'm been more vague as to the actual limits and folds of their powers (focusing instead on a certain power or two and letting the rest be known when the time comes). Is this the way to go or is it better to lay out a set of powers and restrictions right off the bat?
#1 - May 20, 2011, 09:16 PM

Danyelle

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I think it depends on what the story needs, but as a reader, I like to learn about these things organically rather than having a ton of world building rules up front. I would definitely use some type of foreshadowing so the restrictions feel like a natural extension to the story and plot.
#2 - May 20, 2011, 09:51 PM

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I agree with Danyelle - it's really offputting if a pile of rules get dumped into the story too fast. Try to worm the details in naturally over the course of the novel. It helps if you, the writer, are very clear in your own head what the extents or limits of the characters' supernatural powers may be. That'll assist in making the descriptions come naturally. Maybe even when you write about them using their powers, you can hint at their limitations. e.g. "Even as he made the pesticide-attacked tree grow tall and strong again, Bob felt regret that he couldn't make it live forever, for no god could defeat ultimate death."

Although if a plot twist depends on some limitation or special ability, it's important to have that mentioned previously so it doesn't come out of nowhere. e.g. "But aha! the goddess Jane cannot defeat the god Bob because a deity's magic cannot ever be used against another deity!" - that'll need to have been mentioned earlier. Unless it's a surprise to the characters themselves. (although you could attempt to do a thing where the reader knows while the characters don't, but that's harder to pull off satisfactorily)

Hope this helped. Good luck with the writing! :)
#3 - May 21, 2011, 04:26 AM

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Thanks for the advice. That was the direction I was going in, but a little conformation goes a long way. Thanks guys
#4 - May 22, 2011, 09:39 PM

JustinDono

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As long as you're not using the powers as deus ex machinas and you're sticking to logical conclusions for their abilities, it's fine to introduce things piecemeal.  I'd only ever be put off as a reader if an earth god started using water powers, or they pulled massive, heretofore unknown abilities out of their butts.  Sounds like you got the right idea though.
#5 - May 29, 2011, 11:55 PM

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