Did you see the movie, “Avengers?” Did you like it? I saw it last weekend. It was … wow! Another blow-’em-up New York City movie.
God help poor NYC if anything ever happens to it like what happens in the movies!
Natasha was a bad dudette! She had “super power” out the wazoo. But she had no real flaw, no Achilles’ heel. Nothing that made her warm, likeable, vulnerable.
In her opening scene, she’s being interrogated by Russians (so 1970s, but whatever) tied to a chair. She appears vulnerable, weak, at the mercy of evil men, but she’s toying with them. When she gets a phone call that she’s needed for a special assignment — Yeah, I know. Who answers a phone during an interrogation? — she breaks into action, defeats the two bad Russians, all while tied to the chair.
Throughout the movie, she has no fear. No hesitation. No doubts.
And I didn’t like her.
Yeah, great. She could jump onto flying machines and take out a dozen men before drawing a deep inhale. In my dreams! So what made Natasha like me? Nothing.
Natasha Romanoff needed a real human side, a flaw, a weakness, a man she loved who was captured by the bad guys.
On the contrary, in Christian fiction we often create weak, flawed, mealy-mouth protagonists, especially heroines, who seem to barely lift their heads off the ground.
If they’re not too sweet and always apologizing, they’re too boisterous with bravado and sarcasm.
What these protagonists need is a super power. A strength that keeps them going. A talent, gift, ability that gets them through a hard time.
A super power makes the protagonist “cool,” — likeable — and allows the reader to think that even though she’s lost the love of her life to war, she’s going to make it through to the other side.
In Siri Mitchell’s “A Heart Most Worthy,” the protagonists are poor, immigrant Italians in early 20th Century America. They can’t speak English. They’re at the mercy of their families, their customs, cultures and prejudice, yet they’re living in a brand new country.
What are the heroines’ super powers? They can sew. It’s their avenue to confidence and freedom.
In “The Wedding Dress,” Charlotte Malone lives a lonely existence since being orphaned at the age of twelve, but she’s good a running a bridal shop and has the amazing ability to dress any bride from the inside out.
This ability is what makes her competent to the reader. It gives us confidence Charlotte is going to be all right.
It also allows the reader to believe this “super power” is why Charlotte is “given” the antique wedding gown.
The super power actually ties the story together in a small way.
In “Dining with Joy,” Joy can’t cook but her super power is charm, charisma, the fact that she is so good in front of the camera. It endears her to people. It’s why she did the show in the first place.
So, what’s your protagonist’s super power?
What can he or she do that shows competence?
What talent or ability do they have that gives them confidence?
What super power will have the reader cheering for them?
How to create a super power
Think of your protagonist. What are her unique skills and talents? What can she do that no one else can do? How does it relate to your story?
Think deeper than “she can love the unlovable.” Okay, well that’s swell, but will probably get her into trouble more than show her competence.
What kind of story are you trying to tell? Develop a super power that resonates with the theme or goal of the story.
In the “Avengers,” Natasha Romanoff needed to be super human at some level. She needed beyond-human powers. Otherwise, she’d not be in the movie!
Charlotte needed to be good at dressing brides or she’d not be fascinated with the wedding gown when she discovered it.
Joy had to be good at entertaining viewers or she’d not be a TV host.
So, spend some time musing over your characters and assign him or her a super power. You’ll find it adds a layer of insight into your character and creates a multi-dimensional protagonist.
Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, bestselling author. A graduate of Ohio State, she spent 17 years in the corporate software world before leaving to write full-time. She is the past president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and now serves as an advisor. She’s married and lives in central Florida.