Posts Tagged ‘ random ’

Proof, Proof, Proof, or Prove that You’re Human

We’re all guilty of it.  I anticipate doing it as I’m writing this post, and catching it shortly after I publish.  

We make mistakes in our writing, be they typos or simply grammatical kerfuffles that we overlook because our brain is mush, bashing out words without taking care to ensure they all fit harmoniously together.  Sometimes it’s because we’re in a rush, other times because we just didn’t know any better, and usually because we’ve been reading and re-reading the same passage over and over and over again that we’re just skimming things now.

People have written about how you should always proofread, always, always, always.  Go ahead, type “should I proofread” into Google and see how many articles you pull up.  A lot of them will tell you never make a mistake.  Polished pieces of writing don’t go out with mistakes.  Of course, that’s not true, sometimes they do.  The really honest articles will tell you to just try not to make a mistake.  Proofread your work several times and then have a few friends proofread it too.  I always grab my sister for my editing needs, she’s a proud grammar Nazi.

As writers, we should strive for our writing to be as polished and perfect as possible before sending it out the door.  We tout ourselves as professionals at this, so everything we write should be par excellence.  Right?

But sometimes, we don’t have the time or it just isn’t logical to proofread something we’ve written that many times. I will admit it, I have sent out Tweets on Twitter that were garbled messes it’s a wonder readers were able to begin understanding my meaning (but they do!).  I mostly blame my “smart” phone and it’s oh-so-awesome autocorrecting technology (yes, that sarcasm is dripping).  Ultimately, we’re only human.

So what is the solution? Does it matter all that much that the blog post I hammered out between homework assignments in an effort to remind the digital abyss I still exist is littered with typos that should’ve been caught my third draft were it a manuscript?  Is it hurting my reputation as a storyteller that I tweeted “twat” instead of “twit”? 

Oh well, it’s what editors are for.  There are a lot of other things in my writing that people will have problems with outside of that silly typo that slid right by.

Renewed

Just renewed the domain name, and it’s my blogs anniversary.  Yay!  Happy anniversary, blog!

I haven’t posted anything in awhile.  Been busy writing, doing side projects, and working (which now includes a hefty amount of writing).

Work, so far, is going surprisingly good.  I’m still trying to figure out ways to direct traffic to the site, but the boss likes me well enough.  He seems to think I have a good attitude and the perfect personality for the job.  I sure hope he’s right about me.  A lot of people are counting on me to be successful.  They’re not counting on just me, thankfully, but enough of it relies on my ability to generate interest in the company for me to be extremely stressed.

In the meantime, my personal writing is divided between a script for a comic/graphic novel I’m collaborating on with an artist friend/former co-worker of mine, brainstorming for the game I want to develop that I mentioned last post, and working on a short novel I’m hoping to get finished within this coming year; working title is “White Rabbit”.

On another post, I talked about my DIY projects.  This holiday season, I made laundry detergent, lotion, lip balm, bath salts, and a sugar scrub.  I’m most satisfied with the laundry detergent, lip balm, and bath salts.  The sugar scrub was pretty decent, but I would have to use it long term to determine if I like it or not.  I had a small breakout by the corner of my lip, and I’m suspicious it might’ve been the scrub.  Of course, I could just be seeing the consequences of this past couple months’ major stresses, too.  The bath salt was wonderful to soak in, though, very relaxing, left my skin feeling really smooth, and was so easy to make.  Took maybe 5-10 minutes to mix together.  Sort of used Lia Griffith’s Homemade Lavender Bath Salts and Martha Stewart’s Homemade Bath Salts recipes as guides, kind of borrowing from both and streamlining the ingredients.

My Bath Salts

2 Cups Epsom Salt

1/2 Cup Himalyan Pink Sea Salt (bottles of this are available everywhere now, I’d never even heard of them before.  They give the salts a pretty color, but you could prob sub regular sea salt or just omit it altogether)

2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (though you could probably sub any vegetable oil here, like olive oil or jojoba oil)

5-10 drops Lavender Essential Oil

5-10 drops Eucalyptus Essential oil

Directions: Combine epsom salt and sea salt in a large bowl.  In a double boiler, melt coconut oil (I just put the oil in a jar, then put the jar in hot water from the tap, mixing it until fully melted.  Pour oil over salts, add the oils, and mix until fully combined.  Store in a sealed container (I put mine in glassware with a silicone seal lock-and-lock lid that I got at a home goods store for cheap).

To Use: Add a few tablespoons to bath when you first start running the hot water, and use your hand to stir the salts in until the sea salt is fully dissolved.

I worried after I’d first made the salts that I might’ve put in too much of the eucalyptus essential oil, because it smelled overwhelming in the mixing bowl, but the bath water diluted it a lot.  The Himalyan pink sea salt gave the bath a kind of peppery smell, which was interesting but nice.

As for the lotion, I colored it with powdered raspberries, and that didn’t work out so awesome.  It’s alright, but a bit gritty, so I have to figure out a way to get that pretty pink color without the grit.  The lotion itself was very oily — which the recipe’s author had forewarned, so I already knew it would be — but I think I’ll try out a less oily lotion next time.  It turned out very liquid-y,  which the author had not forewarned about but I think might be due to the oily-ness, and I don’t like it’s consistency much at all.  I want to try making a lotion for my face, my skin gets really dried out.  I started using diluted apple cider vinegar as a face toner after my cleanser a couple days ago.  I haven’t noticed anything testimony worthy yet, but I will say that it does significantly reduce redness after application, but I think that it’s contributing to the dryness of my skin.

Next on my DIY To-Do List is shampoo and conditioner.  I decided I would try out these different “recipes” for a month, recording my results.  Unless, of course, I immediately see drastically horrific results.  I’m thinking I might start a blog about it, but not until I’ve got everything made and have been using them for awhile, so I actually have something worth blogging about.

And that is all for today.  Yup.  Back to writing.

I didn’t know this was an actual theory…

Death of the Author is a concept from the field of literary criticism which holds that an author’s intentions and biographical facts (the author’s politics, religion, etc) should hold no weight when coming to an interpretation of his or her writing; that is, that a writer’s interpretation of his own work is no more valid than the interpretations of any of the readers. The logic is fairly simple: Books are meant to be read, not written, and so the ways readers interpret them are more important and “real” than the ways writers write them. There are also the more practical facts that a lot of authors are not available or not willing to comment on their intentions, and even when they are, artists don’t always make choices for reasons that make sense or are easily explained to others—or, in some cases, even to themselves.”

– TV Tropes; read the rest here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathOfTheAuthor

Beware when clicking the above link, you may find a huge chunk of time lost visiting this site.

I have a test in a couple hours.  I should be studying, but instead I’m here, procrastinating.

For no real, particular reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and where I’ve placed it in recent times.  Also, I’ve been thinking about the weird ways in which the world works.  They seem like profound musings, but really I’m dwelling on a fellow classmate that seemed to make valiant efforts to befriend me and now I feel did it solely to take advantage of me (and my far better study habits than her own), and how the other day when I got in a car accident I also received invitation to interview at the new job I’ll be starting next week.

Life, at least from my perspective, always balances out in the long run.  Which I think is a very optimistic outlook, given that I grew up a household that focused entirely on the bad things and completely ignored or, it might be more appropriate to say, let the bad overshadow the good.  When I moved out of the house, I very gradually came to realize happiness really does come from within, and that it’s really not about where you are in life but what you do while you’re there.

Or as Yoga Jones put it in Orange is the New Black:

“Work hard to make something as beautiful and meaningful as you can, and when you’re done, pack it in and known it was all temporary.”

Spam – Not Just a Processed Meat

I love that WordPress is generally very good at filtering out spam comments.  It makes my life a lot easier.  Of all the spam comments I’ve received since starting this blog, only one has ever slipped by the filter.  It was a tricky one too, short and sweet, but obviously computer generated due to its referencing something that had nothing whatsoever to do with the post.  Because I’m paranoid though, I always skim through my spam pile to make sure someone who wrote a real comment didn’t accidentally get filtered out as spam.  It could happen, you never know. There are times I write things that look like such a garbled mess, I wonder if I didn’t momentarily channel a bot.

The interesting thing is, sometimes I enjoy reading spam.  It makes me laugh, makes me cry (when it’s the only comment I get for a post, that is…), and sometimes, the spam bot throws together a combination of words that’s just so profound, I find myself wishing I’d written it.  Only to Google the phrase and find out spam bot just lifted the entire paragraph from a comment someone actually did write in an obscure forum post.  Plagiarism, not just for desperate college students.

In a way, spam makes me think of Descartes’ mind-body dualism theory, what would later be referred to as his “Ghost in the Machine”, which is another story for another day.  My actual point being, as with any human writer, if you let a machine generate enough sentences, eventually it will create something meaningful.  Of course, I like to think human writers have a higher success rate than machines.  Though some days, I’m not so sure.

Anyhow, here are a few recent spam comments I’ve received that really made me smile.

“My buddy encouraged I’d quite possibly this way web page. He or she seemed to be completely perfect. This publish truly made this morning. A person cann’t believe that purely precisely how so much time frame I had put together invested because of this details! Thank you!” [sic].   — I especially liked the line “This publish truly made this morning”.  You’re welcome, spam bot.

“These are in fact enormous ideas in about blogging.
You have touched some good factors here. Any way keep up wrinting” [sic] — I will keep wrinting.  Thank you.

“It’s as you master my head! You peer to grasp lots relating to this, such as you submitted the ebook there something like that. I’m sure that you choose to is capable of doing with just a few per-cent to help electricity what it’s all about residence a bit, but instead of that, which is amazing blog site. An incredible examine. I’m going to easily be rear.” [sic] — I am a master of heads, as it so happens.  Though I don’t recall submitting an ebook.  This spam comment must have been meant for someone else.

“You could surely view your capabilities from the art you are submitting. The sector desires for much more passionate writers just like you that aren’t frightened post where did they consider. Everyday stick to your coronary heart.” [sic] — well, if we’re going to be getting anatomical up in here, you struck my humeral medial epicondyle, spam bot, and tickled my ulnar nerve.

“If any one wishes to be a successful blogger,subsequently he/she must learn this chip of writing,for it contains al} strategies related to that.” [sic] — this one was posted to my short story “Comedy of Fables”.  It’s entertaining, but I’m not sure it’ll help you become a successful blogger.  Hasn’t helped me none.

And that’s all folks.  Read spam, it’s as bad for your health as the stuff in the can, but if prepared right, sometimes it’s just so gosh darn good, you can’t help yourself.

Have you ever known something, though you didn’t really know, because no one had told you, you had no proof or evidence, but deep inside you knew?  

Then you’re given that confirmation, and suddenly you really know, and you’re taken a bit aback?  And in that emotion that comes from suddenly really knowing, you realize, maybe you didn’t want to know.  Which is silly, because you did know, you always knew, but maybe, a part of you just didn’t want to believe it was true.  You wanted a little hope, which you never had to begin with, so you really just wanted someone, anyone, to tell you that you were wrong, that you didn’t know, and that you were allowed to hope.

But now that you know, really know, you’re left with this odd kind of heartache.  It’s silly to be sad to now know something you always knew?  And how can you mourn a hope lost that you never had, you were only hoping someone would give you?

Thinking, Believing, Supposing

I’m thinking about believing who I’m supposed to be

To become who I was

Or change what I am

Who I’m supposed to believe I think I can be

Will it change what I think I believe I am

That I was

Who I’ve been

What I suppose I believed

Thinking if I am supposed to believe what I was

Changes who I am

Believing if I think I can change who I’m supposed to be

That maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally see me.

Procrastination and Other Drugs

I’m thinking about buying the game Minecraft.  I know I’m a bit behind not owning it, and buying it would make my sister (who is obsessed with the game) so happy, but I’m a tad concerned about my preoccupation with buying it at this particular juncture because of what it means, that it’s that time of the season again.

School is in session and I am all geared up and ready to…procrastinate!

Because my goal this year is to get straight A’s (or four A’s and a “pass”, which is the only “grade” I can receive from my internship), I thought I’d write out my Top Five Ways to Procrastinate, listing them out will help me think up ways to avoid and overcome them, and I figured if I’m writing them out I might as well share them with all of you!

So, here goes nothing.

My Top Five Ways to Procrastinate

1) Play video games.  In my (nonexistent except in my delusional fantasy world) spare time, I’m a bit of a gamer.  Not hardcore, mind you, but I’ve been acquainted with a joystick or two.  My favorites of the moment are Don’t Starve (which is a beta indie game about survival in a Gothic-inspired, demon infested, alternate dimension) and Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition (I played the original and all its subsequent incarnations, sequels and side-stories, so this is an old favorite reborn).  Typically I keep my game play to a reasonable minimum, but when school is in session,  it becomes a chore pulling myself away from the tree chopping and kobold slaying (little bastards come in packs of ten with fire arrows!!).

Breaking the Habit: Right now, my method of putting this procrastination fix on hold is to shift to another addiction on this list, but it only lasts for so long.  Now I’m taking a cue from Felicia Day.  She’s an actress, writer, Youtube sensation, and gamer that I’ve been following on twitter (@feliciaday if you’re interested).  She doesn’t tweet often, I imagine because she’s so busy with running her successful Youtube channel but every now and then she mentions having an “hour to play” some game or another, usually as a reward for having gotten some big project done.  This seems to me to be the best way to motivate myself to do homework and also nip this bad habit in the bud.  I’ll do homework for an hour, take a twenty minute or so game break, then do another hour of homework.  We’ll see how that goes.

2) Browser Window Shopping.  In the digital age, window shopping has never been easier.  I’m already at a computer, my mind is numb from having to read about Life History Theory again, and although I may not have any money, there’s no reason why I can’t simply browse through books on Amazon or build my if-money-were-no-object dream PC on  CyberPowerPC or  assemble my fantasy wardrobe on Modcloth.  Of course, this is all just a gateway drug, because eventually surfing the shopping sites leads me to Youtube, and Youtube leads me to a video of a cat chasing snow and suddenly…suddenly…hours of my time have flown by and what have I been doing?  Watching the, albeit adorable cat, pounce through white powder and not learning a single thing about how Life History Theory ties in to Cultural Evolution and behavior change as adaptation.  Do you see how this is a problem?

Breaking the Habit: This one is tricky.  The web is literally at my fingertips, and I am a few keystrokes from window shopping addict’s heaven.  I can hear Etsy calling my name right now, and gosh darn it all, there are way too many cute octopus necklaces on that site than ought to be legal.  I don’t know why I’m obsessed with the tentacled-beasties, I swear I don’t!!  That being said, I need a way to get on the wagon and fast, I just don’t know what it looks like or where it’s going.  I’m thinking this one might have to be a rubberband trick.  You know the one, put a rubberband round your wrist and flick it every time you go to do the bad habit (run of the mill behavioral conditioning).  Except, instead of a rubberband, I think every time I feel the urge to window shop, I will put my computer to sleep and take a ten minute break (stretch my legs, get a drink or snack).  This should give my mind the obviously much needed refresher, and keep me from getting sucked into a spiraling vortex of cute kitty-dom that will rob me of my entire study time.

3) Watching television or Youtube.  Typically, I’m not much for watching shows.  I usually spend free time writing, nothing worth reading mind you, but it feels more productive  than staring mindlessly at the boobtube watching other people’s stories unfold.  I have a few television shows I watch (like Justified, and can I just say, this season has been so fucking fantastic, I gape at the screen five minutes after an episode ends crying “I can’t wait until Tuesday, I want more now!”), and I take care of watching those off the DVR on my day’s off from work.  The problem is Youtube more than anything, and those amalgamations of insidiousness Netflix and Hulu.  Once again, right at my fingertips…and, let’s face it, all links lead to Youtube.

Breaking the Habit: I have to quit cold turkey.  It’ll hurt for awhile, especially since i just discovered Table Top (courtesy of my all-things-nerd expert, aka, my older sister), hosted by Wil Wheaton.  Youtube is a huge time suck, it’s like a giant, swirling blackhole for time except…theoretically…time goes slower the closer you get to the center of a blackhole, therefore if Youtube were a blackhole and my free time was approaching its center I would have an eternity of time…but this is not astrophysics here, this is a metaphor and I got literary license for it.  I’m going to walk away from this one and I’m leaving Youtube behind with it.

4) Socializing.  In general, I’m not really a social person.  I have friends, family I like to see from time to time (and then immediately get drunk right after) but overall, I’m a hardcore introvert.  I prefer spending my free time alone in my room listening to music and typing up stories or reading a good book.  That being said, I go out so much when school is in.  I book plans every weekend: lunches with old friends I haven’t seen in months, hiking trips and family dinner/game nights.  Anything that gets me out of the house and far, far, far away from my homework is high up on my must do now list.

Breaking the Habit: This one is tricky because it involves friends, family, loved ones in general.  But I have to do it…I have to silence the phone, cut off the text messages and stop making plans.  The mountain can wait, even if I only have two months left on my season pass to Red Rock, my friends can go another month without hearing from me, family dinner is sort of locked in and unavoidable, but I need to focus on getting more homework done earlier in the day, which I should be able to do if I can overcome all the other procrastination techniques on this list.

5) Last, but most certainly not least, Writing.  Yes, at this very moment, I am procrastinating.  I’m actually, currently, supposed to be reading a chapter of my textbook for my Patterns of Human Growth and Development class and then writing up a quick discussion post based on those readings and yet…here I am!  I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but my number of blog posts has increased over the past few weeks and that is because…school started a few weeks ago.  This is probably the worst method of procrastination on this list.  Why?  I can justify it.  I’m a writer.  I maintain (sort of) this blog, and I have the twitter thing I have to every now and then post to in order to justify it’s existence and then I also have to dedicate time to writing my stories in hopes of one day writing something worth selling and…well…maybe you’re starting to see my conundrum.

Breaking the Habit: Or not.  Take inspiration where you can get it, right?  Because if I flunk out of school, at least I’ll always have writing to fall back on…er…well…I guess, taking into consideration that writing is a really difficult industry to break into and it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a lot of rejection before you can even come close to making money you can live off of…right, on second thought, I think I’m going to go hit those books.

On Superpowers – Part Two

(Warning: Links might take you to strange and amusing places…also, huge reveals of the true depth of this blogger’s nerdiness)

A while back I posted a quick (and completely unintentional) How-To ‘On Superpowers’, all about using superpowers in a story, and promised a follow up.  Months and months (and months and months and months) later, I keep my word!

As I said in my earlier article, introducing any kind of superpower into a story brings with it a whole slew of questions.  Previously, I addressed explaining superpowers either in a fantasy or sci-fi context, as well as, setting up capabilities and limitations.  Today I’m going to address: what exactly are ‘superpowers’?

Okay, I know, dummy moment, right?  You’re all saying, “Who doesn’t know what a superpower is?  It’s any ability possessed by a character that can be deemed extraordinarily outside of the normal range of capability.”

Yes, yes, I know, you are all smart cookies.  But that is a general, all-encompassing definition.  On an individual basis, what are these superpowers?  Even better, what superpower(s) should you give your character?  Better yet, what superpower(s) do you want to give your character?  And even better yet, what can you do with these superpower(s) to make your character stand out from every other character out there with the same superpower(s)?

In the world of sci-fi/fantasy, there are several basic superpowers that dominate the genres.  This post will cover those basics and what they entail, provide a few samples of each, and then briefly touch on how to brainstorm new and innovative super powers.

Let’s get down to basics:

Senses – one of the easiest superpower to come up with and utilize in any story is to take an ability a character already innately has, something simple that everyone is already born with, and crank it up to a ridiculously subhuman level.  Humans, for instance, all (well, mostly all…) have the five basic senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.  How do we make these ho-hum abilities super?  Easy.

Take sight, we consider the best-of-the-best vision as being 20/20.  I’m not an optometrist, so I have no clue what that actually means, something about field of depth or something other perception…I give up.  Anyhow, some people might have slightly better than 20/20, a lot have less than 20/20, but for the most part, 20/20 is considered top performance.  Now to give your character super-sight, just multiply that 20/20 vision by…let’s say…a hundred.  No, that doesn’t mean we’re giving them 2000/2000 vision, or maybe it does, I don’t know, like I said, I don’t know what that actually means but now we’ve got this character that can see a hundred times better than the average person with great eyesight.  Voila, super-sight!

I know, I know…this is all no-brainer.  But do you know why this is all so no-brainer?  Because this superpower (super-senses) is so basic that it is gifted to nearly every superpowered character in creation.  In the sci-fi world, we rarely find a hero that isn’t either genetically supercharged with awesome hearing, sight, smell, etc., or that hasn’t built themselves some sort of device that gives them an edge on these abilities.  In the fantasy realm it’s the same deal, modern lore often incorporates into vampires, werewolves, etc., these gifts, whereas, flip-side, magic-wielders not naturally gifted with super-senses are always equipped with some spell that will boost these abilities.

So overused is this superpower, I’m not even going to bother with an example, though I can think of a super powered man that became famous for having every one of his senses kicked up a notch (you know who I’m talking about, Mister Leaps Over Tall Buildings in a Single Bound).  They’ve become mundane in their overabundance in the literary world; readers almost come to expect these gifts of the hero.

Strength – Speaking of Mister Leaps Over Tall Buildings in a Single Bound, we move on to the second most overused and perhaps what can possibly be considered the oldest super power in creation: super strength.  We can trace super strength back through millennia of story-telling mythos right back to good ole’ Gilgamesh of Mesopotamian fame, though Hercules from Grecian tales may be a more familiar heroic legend.  Super strength can range from being reasonably within human capability, albeit after a lifetime of hardcore training and with a few hormonal enhancements, to being insanely outside of the norm.

In its varying degrees, this is another super power that gets handed out to heroes like Kool-Aid in a cult.  Beyond Superman, with Hercules and Gilgamesh aside, some more modern examples of super strength may include sparkly vampires and their wolfy friends, cyborgs of every variety, and…oh, I don’t know, almost every comic book hero in creation.

I’d also throw in witches and wizards, but seriously, who needs super strength in a magical world of conjuration, there are so many other spells that can get the job done in a much more efficient or fanciful way.  Need to move a giant boulder, why not have it sprout legs and move itself?  Disintegration works just as well!  Or, instead of growing bulging muscles that allow you to toss it aside as though it were a pebble, you could just shrink it to the size of a pebble and toss it aside.  Oh yeah, feel the burn.

Invulnerability – Keeping in line with the most super of super heroes’ abilities, one such ability that usually, but not always, comes hand in hand with super strength is invulnerability.  This can be a limited ability in the sense that your hero can either be invulnerable to a certain degree or a certain type of damage (Dungeons and Dragon style, dwarves, invulnerable to magic effects) or be invulnerable at limited periods of time such as Colossus of the Marvel X-Men Universe, who can change his body into a metal form that is near indestructible, which brings me to an aspect of invulnerability that needs to be bore in mind when working with this super power.

There are different types of injury and different methods of attack.  When utilizing this ability in your story, it’s best to keep in mind what other super powers will be present in the story, and therefore, of those other abilities which ones your hero might be invulnerable or vulnerable to.  For example, keeping in the X-Men universe, one incarnation of the character Psylocke is shown to be invulnerable to psionic abilities, telepathy and other such mental intrusions from other mutants, this is a different type of attack.  Although Colossus, when in his metal form, is near invulnerable to numerous physical attacks, he may still be attacked through methods of mental aberration.

Speed/Reflexes – Way back in the late 1930s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first developed Superman, they said, what powers should we give our super hero?  All of them, of course!  Anyhow…uh yeah, eventually we’ll get to a super power that Mister Leaps Over…eh, you know the rest, does not have…

I listed super speed and super reflexes here together because one usually begets the other, however, these are not the same super power and don’t necessarily come hand-in-hand.

Let’s clarify real quick.

Super speed is the capability of moving at an abnormal rate, for example, the Flash’s main modus operandus (AKA: primary super power) is speed.  Technically it’s his only super power, he just uses it in creative and varying ways; like, for instance, running so fast against the rotation of the planet, he can turn back time, or vice versa to flash into the future.  Ah, puns, I kill me!

Super reflexes, on the other hand, is simply the ability to react with subhuman reflex to an action in the instance of its occurrence.  This implies that the process of seeing something occur or about to occur, analyzing and understanding this sudden occurrence (its cause and subsequent effect), making a mental decision of how to react to it and then having that decision communicated to all necessary parts of the body, and finally those parts thus moving as directed is much faster in individuals with this ability.  Need an example?  Probably.  Okay, Wonder Woman, while not capable of super speed, could deflect oncoming bullets using her invulnerable metal bracers, because her reflexes were so lightening quick.

Typically, we expect a person capable of superhuman speed to be able to hastily react to a sudden situation, thus super speed usually infers super reflexes, however, as in the example I gave, super reflexes does not always infer super speed.  One thing I should mention, super speed does not always necessarily mean that the character need have super reflexes either!  Keep it in mind when writing with one or the other super power, and remember the differences.

Superior Intellect (Extreme Egg-headedness) – You know, one of the super powers people tend to forget Superman is gifted with, including – ahem – particular television shows that utilized the character, is Superior Intellect.  He was supposed to be a genius in the comics.  Other genius super heroes that seemingly lost this trait in certain current media incarnations: Spiderman and Batman.  Its way more fun to watch them bash bad guys though, right?  Right.

At least Iron Man and Bruce Banner kept their intellect fully intact in the Avengers.  And Thor was still an ignoramus oaf, though he more than made up for it with his unabashedly good looks.  Nothing makes you realize how overplayed these super powers are, at least in the comic books world, than running the full gamut of the basic super powers and thumbing around for perfect examples of them.  Let me step outside the box (or panel, as they’re referred to in the comic world) a moment and look at other fine media examples for Superior Intellect, starting in the literary.  Sherlock Holmes, he defined the forensic detective subgenre with his Superior Intellect, can we deem his a super power.  Elementary, my dear Watson, this is my blog post, so, of course.  He used his extreme power of deductive reasoning to solve murder mysteries.  In television, short lived ABC show “No Ordinary Family” explored Superior Intellect in a somewhat different way, giving the youngest son of the starring super family the gift of intelligence.  He utilized his intelligence to calculate football trajectories on the fly, allowing him to become a star quarterback on his school football team overnight, although I have many, many reservations about using Superior Intellect in this sense, as a subhuman grasp of mathematics does not make up for lacking in physical capability and hand-eye-coordination, I certainly give the show points for semi-creativity.  A British show called Misfits went a far more innovative route (and I will discuss Misfits ad nauseum when I get into making old new because of their incredibly creative usage of old and development of new superpowers), gifting one of its characters, Kelly, with what they referred to as the “Rocket Scientist” super power.  Basically, she could look at any machine and know exactly how it worked.

My point in all this rambling being, oft overlooked and, typically given to super heroes as an almost after thought for use only on rainy days or when writers on certain shows suddenly remember the hero has it at all and need something to shake up the plot a bit, Superior Intellect on its own can be a really great super power and gives you extensive opportunities for more innovative methods of utilization.

Flying – I tend to get into odd moods, I think every writer does, where I start asking the strangest questions of people in my life, the kind of questions you only ask of your friends and co-workers when you’re at a social gathering forced to play so-called social games that force you to ask strange questions of the people in your life.  One such question was “If you could have any super power, what would it be?” Surprisingly I got telepathy a lot, once invisibility, and from my dad’s girlfriend, flying.  It took me aback a bit, as flying is one of my least favorite of all super powers, but it befits her personality I think – she’s an uplifting, free-spirited person.

Flying is another one of those old super powers, antiquated because I think it speaks to a deeper part of our human nature.  Every ancient culture has some lore of flying human like creatures, winged angels, and men from the skies that ride in magical vehicles (chariots and carpets and such).  We spent how many decades dreaming up flying machines, and running, oft-times deadly, experiments with various designs until the Orwell brothers finally got us off the ground.  Flying is also the last power on my list with which Superman is gifted, though obviously not the last that he possesses.  Yes, that means I won’t be talking about super breath or heat vision.

Other flighty figures: Peter Pan (Yes!  Been wanting to throw him in here), Angels (I said angels already, didn’t I?  Not to be confused with Buffy the Vampire Slayer-verse’s Angel, he does not fly), and witches and wizards on broomsticks – though, to be perfectly honest and not to cause any kind of fan war, I prefer Phillip Pullman’s flying witches to Rowling’s, any day; also, the Rocketeer, which if you’re wondering, jet-propulsion packs totally count as a Nifty Device gifted super ability (see original post On Superpowers).

Physiological Manipulations (Including, but not limited to; extreme contortion, localized or full-body stretching/elasticity, transmutation and transmogrification) – Thrown under this very basic of superpowers is a vast array of sub-superpowers that include anything which involves transformation of the hero’s body.  Contortionists in reality are superhuman in and of themselves, but subhuman contortionists like Mr. Fantastic and Elasti-Girl are Play-Do on a playground, they further supplement their ability with stretching/elasticity, by elongating either their limbs or trunk to ridiculous lengths.

Other forms of physiological manipulation include some already covered, such as Colossus’s ability to transform his body into metal (there are other forms of personal molecular manipulation, such as, super villain Sandman’s ability to turn portions of or all of his body into particles of sand, and the Human Torch and Iceman’s abilities to turn themselves fully into the respective elements fire and ice) and then there are shapeshifting abilities; this can be limited to one form, Dr. Jekyll can only become Mr. Hyde; or whatever form one chooses, like Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; or limited to numerous forms, like the Animorphs who can only transform into animals whose DNA they have managed to copy with a touch.

Invisibility, not to be confused with the ability to alter a person’s mental processing of their perceived surroundings thus making them unable to realize they are seeing your hero which falls under the telepathy (or mental aberration) superpower, and regeneration, like the oh-so-famous Wolverine, can also fall under this particular range of superpowers.

Telekinesis/Psychokinesis – Hands down, my favorite super power in the deck is telekinesis, sometimes referred to as psychokinesis, depends on how fancy the writer wants to be.  Maybe because it speaks to my personal level of laziness, but there’s always been something incredibly appealing about the ability to move objects with only one’s mind.  According to Wikipedia (the almighty resource), Telekinesis refers to any direct influence of the mind on a physical system.  This can be adapted to the digital age, altering digital readouts or causing short-circuits in electrical systems for example, and can include sub-varieties of telekinesis including manipulation of the elements, such as, fire, water, ice, and earth.

Examples of telekinetic ability are riddled through the sci-fi and fantasy genres.  As an extension of Superior Intellect you might see ideas littered through super powered stories that increased brain power would unlock other mental capabilities such as telepathy and telekinesis, this can be seen in the Observers of Fox’s sci-fi show Fringe.  In the recent movie from DC-verse, The Green Lantern, auxiliary villain Hector Hammond is also afflicted with this trio of abilities.  The television show Charmed featured telekinetically endowed witch sister, Prue Halliwell, who needed to incorporate some physical trigger (hand flick or eye squint) to utilize her ability.  And, as an example of limited telekinesis, in the old movie, Firestarter, a very young Drew Barrymore has the ability to manipulate fire, sometimes referred to as pyrokinesis.

Telepathy – Otherwise referred to as mind-reading, or ESP (the extra-sensory thing, not to be confused with the sports channel ESPN), telepathy is any ability that allows the hero to be communicated information about another living entity not by traditional means.  This can be a blunt “I can hear what you’re thinking” power like Sookie Stackhouse of the book franchise by Charlaine Harris and the television show they inspired, True Blood, as well as the flip side “And I can also make you hear what I’m thinking”, attributed to the most powerful telepaths in nearly all comic book universes like Professor Xavier of the Marvel-verse’s X-Men; from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy there is Abe Sapien, and in DC comics corner, the Teen Titan, Raven.

Mind reading is not a far cry from mind control, and many of the aforementioned telepaths have displayed this ability, though you should note that they are not one and the same, illusion/delusion, compelling and the power of suggestion are versions of mind control, altering the perception of the influenced to see/think/feel and ultimately do whatever the controller wants of them.  Syfy’s Alpha series features Nina, who “pushes” people to do whatever she wants by simply looking them in the eye and suggesting it.

Empathy is another form of “telepathic ability”, and now I get to reveal my old Japanese animation obsession which I have (somewhat) grown out of, Hisoka Kurosaki from the series Yami no Matsuei (Descendants of Darkness) is a prime example of an empathically gifted character; one touch and another person’s emotions quickly overwhelm him, making him a bit haphephobic.  Many writers skew the realm of mind-reading forms of telepathy and empathic forms of telepathy, perhaps, because emotions and thoughts are often very intrinsically tied, but there is an allure to separating the two, and thus creating a dilemma for your character.  Thoughts without the underlying emotions or emotions without the thought processes behind them can give an interesting twist to an age-old ability and makes for an abundance of plot fodder.

Another form of “telepathic ability” to explore is clairvoyance (precognitive or retro/post-cognitive abilities), that being the ability to see into either the past or the future of a living (and in some cases nonliving) entity.  Since I’ve already mentioned one Charmed sister, let’s throw Phoebe Halliwell in the mix.  I’m not sure where Phoebe was at ability-wise when the show ended as I jumped ship when the show jumped shark shortly after Prue died, but Phoebe’s original power was premonition.  She would touch a person or object and get a flash of that person or objects future or past.  In the beginning she couldn’t control when the visions came to her, and she was typically shown things because she needed to involve herself and her sisters and save the day.  Later she learned to control her ability, and force visions.  While most people think of crystal balls and tarot card reading when they hear clairvoyant, sci-fi has had its fair share of fortune tellers as well, notably, Trance Gemini from Gene Rodenberry’s Andromeda (Starring Kevin Sorbo as…Hercules!  No…wait…Captain Hercules!  Got to remember his title).  Trance was a little purple alien girl, that later swapped places with her white and gold future self (long story…) who was in a constant state of seeing the most probable futures given present circumstances, all of which were constantly in flux as situations changed.  Obviously this means that a clairvoyant character does not have to be able to see into both the past and the future, doesn’t have to have the ability on call at her whim, and probably doesn’t always have to understand what she’s seeing or how to change it.

As you can see, telepathy is a fun and diverse power; also, it’s often underused.  As I said, Phoebe eventually ‘lost’ her power of premonition; I guess, the show’s writers (falsely) believed it wasn’t very cool.

Immortality – “…I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings…yeah…!” Admittedly, I probably only put this superpower on the list because I get to flashback to the late eighties into early nineties, and my childhood, waiting (im)patiently for new Highlander episodes to air (I was a wee one, but by God, I loved the violent clanging of those swords).  It still kills me that neither Highlander (Conner nor Duncan) had a Scottish accent.  And they both used katanas!  What was up with that?  Where were the Claymores?  Really?  There were flashbacks of them wearing kilts and that made them Scots?  Sidenote, Duncan, where did you always hide that sword?  Picture this, abandoned warehouse, Duncan walks in all cool like with tiny ponytail blowing in the wind, suddenly, the bad guy enters the scene, and out from the magic vortex inside his trench coat, Duncan pulls out his katana!

See…only reason this power is on the list.

Getting back on track, immortality is not to be confused with invulnerability, and vice versa.  Immortality is the ability to live forever, whereas invulnerability is the ability to…uh…not be hurt.  Immortals can still be injured or even killed; invulnerable characters can still die of old age.

Highlanders, and other immortals in their fictional realm, have amazing regenerative abilities, but a quick beheading and they’re done for.  Which reminds me of another immortal, previously mentioned but I get to throw him on here twice and my child at heart rejoices, Peter Pan!  Every child grows up, except one.  In current pop culture, vampires are perhaps the most well-known immortals out there, but if we’re talking vampires, let’s steer away from teenage angst vamps and stick with the types popularized by Joss Whedon and Anne Rice, and Syfy’s Being Human (which I just finished watching this week’s episode…so awesome) with special mention to its British muse.  In all of these cases, the ability to live forever comes with heavy price, as though watching everyone around you grow old and die, never being able to form attachments weren’t price enough.  No price was greater than that paid by Greek mythological figure Tithonus, who asked of the Gods that he be able to live forever, but the dope didn’t ask to be young forever too.  So he grew older and more decrepit with each passing century, begging for sweet release.

All of these are things to bear in mind when using immortality.  It does not mean invulnerability, living forever typically comes with a hefty price, and there is a huge difference between eternal life and eternal youth.

Making New the Old

Now that we know the basics, how do we come up with something new?  As you probably can see by skimming this post, there’s not a lot in the superpower genre that hasn’t already been done, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.  So then what do you do?  Give up?  Throw in the towel?

First, I’m going to tell you something that I feel doesn’t get talked about a whole lot in the writing community.  Here it goes: everything has been done before.

Okay, maybe not everything, but there is a quote, I believe it comes from Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, if you prefer), and I’m going to paraphrase horrendously, but we only have a handful of stories and we just keep retelling them over and over and over again.  Nothing you write will ever be, in its entirety, innovative.  Samantha Meyer did not invent the vampire drama, J.K. Rowling was heavily influenced by Tolkien, and likewise, Tolkien was heavily influenced by folklores and mythologies that have been handed down through the millennia.  This is not a terrible thing.  Too often, there is this great emphasis placed on innovation – which works fine and well in the free market, but in writing, you don’t actually want to create something so far off the charts that it is completely, entirely, utterly unique because chances are you will not have an audience.  Much of your story will springboard off the backs of stories previously told and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it is an inevitability and it is the beauty of writing, and humanity as a whole, that we find inspiration in the works of others who were inspired by the works of other and so on and so forth, in this endless evolution of the imagination.

That being said, unless you are making the conscious choice to blatantly rip off another person’s story, you do want your story to be different from what’s already been done, to stand out from the crowd, in order to catch the readers’ eyes and get your story sold.  How do you do this?

If the stories have all been told, and these superpowers have been explored inside and out, what does that leave?  Characters.

I know there is a great debate in the literary world, what is more important, story or characters, and I really don’t want to incite or incense those arguments at all, but I have always been a firm believer that characters are, without a doubt, the most important aspect of any piece of writing.  They are what move the story along, they are what the story shapes and affects, if they do not exist, there is no story, they are who the readers relate to, feel for, the reason readers come back again and again, and they are what stay with the readers long after the story has ended.

So how does this apply to superpowers?  I’ve gone over the various manifestations of the basic superpowers, they are at their root very simple, flying is flying, but for every superpower I have given numerous examples of characters with those superpowers, often times characters that have the exact same manifestation of those superpowers and I assure you there are worlds more.  Yet it is the characters themselves, how they use their powers, how these powers affect them either physiologically, psychologically, or both, and how it changes the course of their lives.

Take, for example, Superman.  He has a royal flush of superpowers, about half the ones on this list, and a plethora of others I didn’t even touch.  Yet, he’s not unique.  His cousin, Supergirl, for instance, shares all his same abilities, and has a franchise of comics and movies nearly as popular as his own.  Mon-El, member of the legion of superheroes, also has much the same powers, as well as, Martian Manhunter.  So what makes these characters, with these same abilities, so unique?  They do.  The readers aren’t interested in the superpowers, but instead, in the way the characters experience these powers, especially, the negative aspects of the superpower.

Everyone knows having superpowers is awesome.  Even if I had my least favorite power, flying, having the power itself would be awesome.  But what about the consequences of that power?  What about the costs of having it?  What about the side-effects that come with it?  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, readers DO NOT LIKE PERFECT CHARACTERS.  They want to see the characters struggle, they want to see them suffer, they want to see them make mistakes, because in the characters’ screw-ups or their emotional pitfalls it is then, and only then, the characters feel real.

I know it’s hard to write flaws in your character.  Maybe not for me because I love torturing my characters, but I understand the appeal of writing the perfect character, the hero/heroine that is the shining example of all that is good and righteous in the world.  You want them to be smart, to be strong, to be daring, courageous, to always say the right thing, and always, always, have a great one-liner, they are beautiful, athletic, charismatic, and they volunteer at homeless shelters in their spare time because most of all, we want readers to like our characters, but they won’t, because they can’t relate to our characters.

Think of Peter Parker, why do people love him?  It’s not because he’s Spiderman, it’s because he’s that nerdy kid from school that all of us comic book nerds were, who gained superpowers (strength, agility, precognitive awareness, aka Spidey-sense, etc.) and at the start fell to temptation, used it for selfish personal gain.  Yet in a moment of anger, he failed to make the right choice which led to his Uncle Ben’s death, a consequence of his actions that will hang over his head for the rest of his life, and because of which he fights crime in an effort to find some sort of personal redemption.

When using superpowers in your writing, you always have to think about the consequences of having those powers and there must be consequences.

Going back to Superman, how many times have writers explored the negative impact of his powers on his psyche?  His powers put him above and beyond the majority of superheroes, making him a god even amongst the godliest of men, and it sure is lonely being a god.  It strains his relationships, how many times has Lois lamented that she isn’t quite his equal, not to mention, the unrealistic expectations and unwarranted pressures it thrusts on him.  If he’s the greatest of the superheroes, and the threat is beyond his capabilities, who does that leave to save the day?

Those are all psychological effects of superpowers, but let’s also examine physiological consequences using my all-time favorite superhero, Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm “The Thing”.  Although the radiation he and his fellow Fantastic Four members drifted through in Mr. Fantastic’s space craft gifted him with super strength and enhanced physical durability, it also drastically altered his appearance into this ghastly monolithic behemoth, cursed for the rest of his life to look as though compiled of yellow stones.  No hero hates his superpower more than Ben Grimm, prone to bouts of depression and violent rages, and none would more quickly cast it aside were the option given, yet he still uses it, albeit grumpily at times, to save the day, despite the people he saves being more likely to run screaming from him than the evil villains.

How do you make the same tired old superpowers new and exciting?  It is all in the way you craft them into your character.

Blazing a New Path

Let’s say you don’t want to believe that everything has been done before and that you do want to try your hand at making a power entirely unheard of, how would you go about doing that?  How do you create new superpowers?  I’m going to touch on this very briefly, because I imagine most people wanting to write a superpower laden story already have the powers in mind that they want to use, and also, because I’m not going to hold your hand through the entire creative process.

For this portion, I am going to refer to a British show called Misfits, which is an amazingly creative spin on the “superhero” genre, with an interesting storyline, incredibly compelling characters and, most importantly, it features a very new take on superpowers.  In Misfits, a group of delinquent teenagers serving community service are trapped outside during a strange storm, struck by lightning, and wake to find they’ve developed superpowers.

The superpowers presented in Misfits, particularly in the first season, are typically manifestations of each individual character’s personal pathologies.  One of the characters is a shy, awkward introvert, and gains the power to turn invisible; another is extremely self-conscious, gains telepathy; still another is plagued by his past mistakes, namely the one that landed him in community service and sent his girlfriend to jail, and gains the power to turn back time when he experiences extreme regret.

I mention this show because it illustrates perfectly one of the best ways to brainstorm new superpowers: by looking at the role that power will play in the overall storyline, how it will affect the character that has the power and, how it will help to develop that character for the reader.  By using the characters themselves as the basis for what superpowers they develop, the show manages to create some very different superpowers.  For instance, one sub-character is a former drug dealer that gains the ability to take powers from one person and give them to another, but cannot use the powers himself.  Another single-episode character has the ability to telekinetically manipulate dairy products.  And yet another single-episode character is able to bring back spirits of the dead in order for them to resolve any unfinished business.

I’m going to wrap this up, but I will probably write a third part – hopefully sooner than I wrote this one – that goes more in-depth on superpower creation, and how it can affect the character’s world.

Remember, superpowers are a great tool to use in your story, but they cannot themselves be the story.  The only thing that will help your story to stand apart from the rest is the characters.  There are several basic superpowers, but they can manifest in various ways, and you can shake them up a little or a lot by looking at how the powers affect your characters psychologically and/or physiologically.

One final tip: Superpowers, like anything in a story, should serve a greater purpose to the story.  Don’t just throw them in there because they seem (are) cool.

(If you want to add some superpower examples of your own, feel I misrepresented a superpower or hero, think I left something out, could’ve expanded on something more, or didn’t quite get my point across, please feel free to share in the comments below!)

Clip of Maybe Something Longer One Day

He checks the watch-face for the five hundred and fifty seventh time.  He’s missed his bus, but he couldn’t catch his breath.  She is cold stone, her eyes glisten yesteryear.

“Is this the end of the story,” he muses, soft symphony.

“It questions the start but wraps up nicely, I think,” she replies.

“Do we go on or stay put?”

“Everything goes on.  Besides, I’d rather not stay here.  We’ve been on this page far too long, I fear I’ve memorized every word in every passage.”

Too familiar, he thinks, mentally succumbs, drinks the tea in his hand and invites her to dance a moment as he steps in time to the dead man’s heartbeat.  

Take care, they remind themselves – gliding graceful in the stilted lights, if you stand with your hands held open, palms up, simply waiting, you might never grasp the moon.

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