I recently had an idea for a novel. Which I will hopefully begin the process of writing soon. I have ideas for novels all the time but never one this fully formed and seemingly perfect for my knowledge, abilities and potential for generating an interesting plot. I have always wanted to get at least one novel out during my lifetime and perhaps this is it. Either way, I’m thinking more about the creative process now and so some of my blog posts will now be discussions on different parts of the creative process, or rather, tropes. Partly for fun and partly to get me thinking about how to apply them in my story. Even though the first topic I’ve chosen is something that currently is not part of my plan.
What it is, as the title should have given away, is omnipotence. Now, I know why it’s used. It’s a very tempting thing to make a character all-powerful and able to solve any problem. For one thing, it makes it easy to project on to them all the things you wish you could be doing rather than having to desperately eke out a living while you summon up the motivation to pursue your dream of writing on the side. I know that several of my daydreams are based on something I would be able to do were I all-powerful and able to solve any problem that came my way through a variety of different solutions that are easy to think of and take little effort to exact. Unfortunately, this means that omnipotent characters for obvious reasons don’t make very compelling reads. While it may be fun at first to see this character smash aside his problems, often very quickly it becomes boring. A story needs conflict that a character can overcome to be compelling, even if that’s the way we expect it.
The way many people get around this when they do want to write omnipotent characters is to put them into a situation where them beating their problems is not the object of the story, rather the enjoyment comes from the situations themselves, character interactions and most probably humour and parody. That’s basically what One Punch Man is built upon, or Deadpool (though he isn’t quite omnipotent), nothing can threaten these characters so they are vehicles for comedy more than anything else. The comedy of these types of omnipotent characters is almost expected, if you cannot tell a serious story because your God would smash their way through any serious villains, have a laugh with it. While this can work, comedic writing is very hard to get right. I consider my writing to have more of a comedic slant than most and I’m also fairly sure that few of my jokes are anything beyond wry observations, if you’ve even noticed that I have any jokes. There are some. It’s not easy and the market’s already fairly well saturated with these kinds of omnipotent characters as it is the most common route when you want a character who cannot be defeated to be the main part of your story.
So, make your character serious. But then, even when you try your best to give them limitations, plot holes will emerge from the very fact of the word omnipotent. It means there is nothing they cannot do, and if there are restrictions placed upon them as stories demand, then any enterprising reader can figure a way out for them because anything is possible. An example I like to use for this is the Star Trek Voyager episode Death Wish. In it, a member of the Q, demigods who show up from time to time within the Star Trek universe wants to commit suicide, saying he cannot handle being immortal anymore and that he has done everything worth doing, so he wants to feel the sweet release of death. Now, this would be an argument I could buy were Quinn, the Q in question, only immortal but not omnipotent. For if he were only the former then yes, escape from the eventual heat death of the universe is something that could be argued. You can argue whether the Q are omnipotent, it’s never outright stated, but they can, at the least, time travel, summon anything they wish to them, move inexhaustibly within space and create and destroy what they want, which is fairly close to me. With the wealth of experiences within the universe, everything we can now do on this planet times by a billion not even scratching the surface, a Q should never, literally run out of things to do, and even if it does happen, memory loss such that old experiences feel like new ones, or just re-experiencing old experiences for nostalgia are solutions that should not be beyond them. Yet this Quinn is desperate to die and escape his omnipotent life, something that no rational being should want. And it comes up as a plot hole to me because the Q are too powerful, too able to make anything they want out of life, that his story feels like it has a plot hole.
Essentially to make an omnipotent character relatable they must have their motivations so removed from that of a normal character that the audience can see why they aren’t fixing their problems like they would in their place. Which requires doing the opposite of what is normally done. Saitama from OPM is good because it’s made clear that his character is as well as being the ultimate fighter, he’s also the ultimate in being apathetic, a trait much of his audience might be able to relate to. The focus is not his omnipotence but his character, and it’s helped by the plot not being particularly serious. Even then he’s one in a million, not only in his own series but it would be very hard to write a series focused around omnipotent character without making him similar to Saitama. Including an omnipotent character is something I’d like to do but I am so very wary about it going wrong that it is unlikely that any will make it into my novel. Which is nothing to do with superpowers at the slightest at the moment.