The Slippery Slope Of Power Slides
Here’s the thing. No one likes to be treated like an idiot. Especially when they give money for a product that stares them squarely in the eye and slides back an idiot note the perfect size of their forehead with some glue on it.
Stories are comprised of a few basic elements; plot, characters, conflict, theme, and worldbuilding. In the superhero, fantasy, and sci-fi genres (spec fic), worldbuilding can be a wild beast with horns, sharp teeth, and claws. Wild beasts can be managed, even appreciated, so long as they aren’t threatened. And nothing threatens worldbuilding more than the plot.
Unfortunately, many superheroes have had their stories savaged when their plot crosses worldbuilding. Inevitably, the writers run into this problem where their powerful protagonists must suffer a setback or threat. The writers look at one another, confused, and ask how can this indomitable superhero fail?
The easy answer? They pull out the shiny slide of plot convenience and shove their heroes down with gleeful disregard.
Hey, you arrogant prick, it’s easy for you to criticize after the fact. Making stuff up is hard. Give them some slack.
No. Making stuff up isn’t hard. My kids do it every day with the most basic prompts at hand. What’s hard is keeping your ducks in a row and not run over them with the bulldozer of convenience. No one wants to see that mess.
Worldbuilding is the iconic wonder that wraps a story in shining glory. OK, hyperbolic, but you understand. When the worldbuilding is treated with disdain, the audience, the fans, of this world will smell the aftermath of those flattened ducks and grimace. They will wonder if the creatives behind their favorite IP hold the same level of respect as the fan who paid for the disrespect.
Worldbuilding is a system of limitations and conflict, of wonder and authenticity. When an author hands over their spec fic stories to beta readers and editors, they will suffer rounds of criticism to get the story right. I know. I’ve been there. They will find the tiniest contradiction and point it out. Guess what? I, and all authors, love these people for their efforts. It saves our face when we publish a story and holds said story to a high standard.
Why, then, don’t we see the same attention to detail from our cherished superhero content? Why do these writers not endure the same intensity of scrutiny?
I’ll tell you what I think. They found it too difficult, whipped out the power slide, and issued a ton of idiot notes for their fans to paste to their heads as they watch their iconic heroes fall prey to their greatest foe, inept writing.
None of this must happen. A good writer will understand the world they create stories in has its own laws. The characters have their own abilities, which have their own costs and limitations. These aspects are boundaries. They are guard rails to keep the story contained. They’re obstacles, points of friction. They are to be respected.
If a plot point is easily overridden by the powerset of the heroes, it’s not for the writers to take the lazy path and diminish the hero. It is up to the writers to change the plot point with something more creative. It is up to the writers to be creative.
And once this story is written, it is to be checked and double-checked for continuity compliance.
I’m done. Now off to revise my novels for the umpteenth time to ensure all my ducks are in a row.