Creating (Super) Powerful Characters for Kids, a guest post by Shawn Peters
Has anyone ever asked you the question, “If you could have one superpower… what would it be?”
I’ve had the conversation many times in my life, and not just because I wrote a middle grade superhero adventure called THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER. No, this is something I’ve hashed out with friends growing up, college pals and coworkers. The reason why is because a person’s answer usually says something about them.
People who wish they could fly might be thrill seekers to would love to zoom over the clouds (or at least avoid the security line at airports.) Folks who wish for mental powers are often those who value deep thought and a cerebral point of view. And people who choose invisibility might tend to be a hint shy, with no need for the spotlight.
In short, imagining superpowers is a way of expressing who we are, or at very lease, who we’d like to be.
The creators of many of your favorite superheroes and supervillains have known this for a hundred years, and that’s why they so often have aligned their characters’ powers with their personalities and priorities.
Peter Parker’s webs let him “hang out” in his community, literally attached to the buildings in his area, which makes him the “friendly neighborhood Spiderman.”
Wonder Woman may be strong and fast, but it’s her lasso that forces people to speak honestly, even if they don’t want to. This is a golden symbole of her core belief in the strength of the truth.
Tony Stark was a famously distant genius and billionaire long before he put on a suit of high-tech armor as Iron Man.
Magneto may be able to draw any metal toward him, but what makes him truly special is the way he draws rebellious mutants to his cause. He is a magnetic figure, even when he isn’t using his x-factor.
None of this is by accident. Writers who are creating superhuman characters know that these powers aren’t just a chance to create action and suspense. They’re an avenue for reinforcing their characters’ truest traits in the minds of young readers.
That’s why when I was developing the superhuman foster parents in my debut, long before I decided their superpowers or superhero names, I first thought about who they were and how my main character — 12 year old, Logan—would see them.
Margie, the foster mother, is Logan’s defender; she’s strong, disciplined and maternally protective of Logan. So, the idea of her having a layer of hidden, impervious metal in her skin that makes her turn completely silver, head-to-toe, in times of crisis just fits who she is. And because she’s the one that makes an effort to understand Logan’s mindset, her ability to speak telepathically also bolsters her personality traits in the narrative.
Gil, Logan’s foster father, is very different. He isn’t confident or focused when in non-hero situations, dealing with a stutter in his speaking cadence. And although he is highly technical, he’s got a penchant for puns. This all led me to decide that he needed to be a lightning-fast hero—quick with the wit and the way he moves– whose molecules are only loosely held together by his will. It allows him to react in a flash while also having a hard time “holding it together” at times. His challenge as a hero and as a parent is to be present, despite that struggle for focus.
Even when I was decided who would be the first villain on the scene, I immediately reached for this kind of metaphorical super boost. Seismyxer causes intense earthquakes everywhere he goes. Who better to be the symbol of instability for Logan when his whole world is being literally and metaphorically shaken as he discovers that superheroes are real?
Then there’s the true BBEG – Big Bad Evil Gal in gamer terms—of the book, Necros. She takes the life of anyone or anything she touches. Now that’s a nasty superpower, but it’s also fitting because just as Logan is starting to envision the possibility of being part of a family and having real friends, she threatens to take that life away.
Now, does all of this mean that every superhero’s power has to be a not-so-thinly-veiled metaphor for how the author wants you to see them? Of course not. Reading too much into Reid Richards’ (aka “Mr. Fantastic”) rubber body is truly a “stretch.” But the fact is, for authors, every element of a character’s appearance, voice, perspective, and style is an opportunity to tell the reader exactly who they are. Why would we ever pass that up a chance to unmask key elements of heroes and villains while using their powers?
So, whether you’re reader enjoying a comic book or novel, or a writer looking to strengthen a story, don’t take superpowers for granted. Each one, if done right, might just have a secret identity… that tells you even more about the identity of each character.
Meet the author
Shawn Peters is a husband and a father of two living in Metrowest Massachusetts who has written a little bit about a lot of things in a lot of places. His career includes ads for for massive brands, fantasy sports articles for ESPN, TV scripts for makeover shows and police chases, and even essays about domestic date-nights that ran on the back page of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. On January 18th, his debut MG superhero adventure novel, “The Unforgettable Logan Foster” will be published by Harper Collins Childrens.
Launch Event: https://www.anunlikelystory.com/peters
Signed First Edition Link: https://aesopsfable.com/products/the-unforgettable-logan-foster-1
About The Unforgettable Logan Foster
Packed with superheroes, supervillains, and epic showdowns between good and evil, TheUnforgettable Logan Foster from debut author Shawn Peter shows that sometimes being a hero is just about being yourself.
Logan Foster has pretty much given up on the idea of ever being adopted. It could have something to with his awkward manner, his photographic memory, or his affection for reciting curious facts, but whatever the cause, Logan and his “PP’s” (prospective parents) have never clicked.
Then everything changes when Gil and Margie arrive. Although they aren’t exactly perfect themselves—Gil has the punniest sense of humor and Margie’s cooking would have anyone running for the hills—they genuinely seem to care.
But it doesn’t take Logan long to notice some very odd things about them. They are out at all hours, they never seem to eat, and there’s a part of the house that is protected by some pretty elaborate security.
No matter what Logan could have imagined, nothing prepared him for the truth: His PP’s are actually superheroes, and they’re being hunted down by dastardly forces. Logan’s found himself caught in the middle in a massive battle and the very fate of the world may hang in the balance. Will Logan be able to find a way to save the day and his new family?
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/18/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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