Of the fictional character types, superheroes fly to the top of the list. They rule all the categories, including bravery, appearance, strength, charisma, intelligence, health and speed. These abilities come at the cost because to exist, their outlandish plots and physical attributes violate every science rule. What about magical characters? They must take some categories? It is not even a contest. Harry Potter needs to cast a spell to be bulletproof. Superman just needs to wake up in the morning.
Why don’t we put superheroes into every story? Like all character types, superheroes have their marketing niche. In the 1950s, westerns ruled every media corner and have since declined. Remember all the 1980s detective shows? How about all the vampire movies in the 2000s? Zombies ruled the 2010s. Why did things change? Society gets tires of one genre and writers to adapt to the times.
Why don’t I jump onto the bandwagon and write a superhero book? I could call it Power-Bill. [Hey, that was an excellent pun. You should be laughing.] While I enjoy a few superhero movies, they are not my cup of tea. Why? I find it challenging to get into the concept. To explain why let me take a step back and define how all characters are created. First, we must establish their background, strengths, weaknesses, relationships, and issues. Superman is strong, fast, tough, and can fly. He loves Lois Lane, and he is powerless against Kryptonite. This concept seems like it has an reasonable foundation.
The problem comes when I try to relate a superhero to something. In the Superman universe, physics allows this being to fly. Let’s examine my foundation. I certainly cannot fly, and I know for sure that no other human can. Are the rules only altered for this one individual, or are there others who defy physics? Umm? I guess there are a bunch of super people. That way, Superman can have super friends and enemies. Does the reader have to understand how physics are altered? They are supposed to blindly accept (and not care about) the alterations the universe must undergo to make them possible. “Superman flew from the building to stop the flying airplane.” Next scene.
Every moment of my life has been spent obeying the laws of science. I would love to fly to work. Yet, I cannot, and neither can anybody else. What changes to the known universe are necessary in order to allow Superman to fly? What other science rules changed? Can he get a cold or would the viruses bounce off his blood cells as the bullets bounce off his chest? I cannot mentally construct something that would allow all that to occur.
Wait, a minute. I wrote books (in editing) with aliens. These creatures came right out of my imagination. Invented fact: My alien characters exist, and they came from another world on spacecraft that traveled faster than the speed of light. Truth: No alien has been conclusively proven to exist, and it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light.
How did I make sense of this altered universe? Umm. I asked my readers to take a small leap of faith. My aliens are ‘people’ who live in another word. They have slightly different features that obey all the laws of biology. Going faster than the speed of light? Alright, that is a big leap of faith, and I did not attempt to explain the science.
How about Batman? He is a rich person without super-abilities and uses this wealth to fight crime with fantastic devices. Everything he does (mostly) follows the rules of physics. Umm. That concept still seems unrealistic. Why not pay somebody (like a private security guard) to fight crime? A million dollars buys a lot of rent-a-cops.
What about a halfway point? The characters in Guardians of the Galaxy movie (except for the last film) do not (really) have superpowers beyond their exaggerated natural abilities. To summarize, they were somewhat ordinary people on an adventure that nearly followed the rules of science. I still find this story difficult to relate to and let me explain why.
Here is my first Guardians of the Galaxy story. Character A is human man [insert long implausible backstory] character B is a green alien girl [insert long super-implausible backstory], character C is an engineered raccoon… Umm… The first half of the book is an interwoven complex back story. Readers would never accept such a book. To get around this issue, writers create a brief backstory and fill in the gaps over many books. Easy money!
I simply cannot write like that. “Hey, reader. Take this massive leap of faith.” I need to start off with a solid foundation that I understand, and only then will I attempt to create something that my readers might be able to relate to. Can I fake a background? Readers easily spot awful concepts. Not a good plan.
Do I respect superhero writers? Every genre has good writers and bad. I enjoy watching a few superhero movies, but I do not read superhero books. Yet, I grasp that writing is difficult, no matter what genre.
Superhero stories are not in my wheelhouse. Unlike Superman, I cannot take the leap.

You’re the best -Bill
May 20, 2020

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