Okay so the back ground of my story is that everyone has the same super power. With hard work and other factors there powers can become stronger or weaker. The natives of the world are at war with other beings just as powerful as them. Now there are a number of chosen one types of characters who have a second type of power. They are either friend foe or neutral. How could you write a fight scene with super powers then write a training scene

This is a really hard question to answer without context and primarily why we don’t talk about how to write superpowers in anything other than generalities. Every setting with magic or superpowers come with their own rules and we’re not privy to what those rules are. Our focus on “realism”, technically just how weapons work in the real world, comes from that. Telling me “superpower” or even “telepathy” or “telekinesis” doesn’t actually help me much if I don’t know what it affects, it’s strengths and limitations, or how it gets used. I mean, even just telekinesis runs the gamut from “can pick up silverware” to “fling bus with startling accuracy” to “devour star system”. Move over to Star Wars, you’ll find Luke’s small time stuff in the Original Trilogy like choking, jumping, and retrieving fallen weapons to Starkiller dragging an entire star destroyer out of orbit. In the EU, one Sith Lord used the Force to slam two stars together to destroy a fleet that was chasing them. Babylon 5′s telepaths go from “can’t quite read your mind, but can tell their minds are being read” to “detonate entire planet”.

How do you write a fight scene with superpowers? You have to figure out what the superpowers can do and what they can’t do. Where the assumed upper limit is, where the actual upper limit is, and what that means for your story. Unfortunately, the primary onus for that is going to be on you.

You’ve got to figure out how the powers work, how they manifest, and the rules this society has erected to keep everyone in check. How they influence their day to day lives. How they’ve evolved to make use of them. Etc. Really good settings have very solid world building that show all levels of the society and how the powers at play have affected them. Harry Potter, for example, does an excellent job of showing the utility of magic and how the Wizarding World has evolved their use of magic to aid their everyday lives. Rowling creates a sense of wonder while simultaneously grounding the reader into her world through some rather mundane activities like travel or cleaning the kitchen.

So, world building. Fantasy settings need it. The rule set grounds you into the world. Writing combat is fairly easy once you gain a basic understanding of the rules, how they get broken, and how people behave when under pressure. Once you as the author figure out how to start thinking from that perspective, it gets a lot easier to predict how your characters are going to behave. While superpowers ultimately don’t alter the baseline of how people behave that much, they do change how the problems get solved. New toolkit, new methods with which to solve problems. Start asking yourself some basic questions:

If I had this power, what would I do with it?

How would I use it to affect my day to day existence?

What parts of my life would it make easier?

What would it make harder?

If someone was threatening me, what would I do?

Inside out rather than outside in. Then, consider the other character’s perspective in the scene. How do they respond? What do they do? If everyone has the same power and one character is more experienced at using theirs than the character who just activated their powers, then it’s unlikely the newbie can overpower them. Even if they are actually stronger. And, as you said, the strength talent is the based on hard work anyway. Your protagonist is probably going to get their ass beat the first time out and that’s okay.

Really.

(And if they show their special Chosen One ability in that fight when under pressure, I just want you to know that’s… very cliche. Not that you can’t do it, just know almost everyone does.)

If you’re confused or unsure then I suggest a Lit Review to see if that inspires any ideas. A Lit Review is when you go out and read a bunch of novels or view a lot of media that’s similar to your own idea to gain a better understanding of your genre. You’re not reading or viewing for enjoyment so much as raiding for ideas. It’s helpful to review what other authors have done in order to find inspiration for your own work.

You want to write a scene which involves a character new to their powers and unsure of how they work fighting someone else? Get thee to the fantasy section of the library or start reviewing superhero movies. From bad to good, there are a lot of examples from the humorous to the serious of characters screwing up, nearly dying, or scraping by.

This is all important when it comes to writing training sequences. Why? You as the author are teaching your audience about your setting. Your characters actually have to learn something and that something should be applicable to the job they’re going to perform. This requires understanding that something well enough that you can communicate what it is, what it does, and why to the characters and your audience. You want to write a training sequence for a spy? You need to understand the tradecraft and what a spy actually does. You want to write a military training sequence a la boot camp? Probably best to learn what the military is actually doing because they’re not just teaching their recruits how to kill people.

Sports movies are often mocked for being corny and cheesy, but the secondary aspects of the training are actually more important than the training itself. In the Karate Kid remake, for example, a huge part of Dre’s evolution as a character comes from his training with Mr. Han. He’s not learning to beat people up, he’s learning responsibility, respect, and building his confidence.

Good training sequences demonstrate an author’s understanding of their setting, their characters, and their subject matter. So, to teach, you first must develop your own understanding.

All combat training comes in three tiers: the physical (the body) and the psychological (the mind), and the additional overlay of whatever their training is molding them to become. This is the insidious part of training that most writer’s miss. Training isn’t just teaching you how to fight or how to use your powers, it’s changing how you think, it’s affecting your morals and your values, it’s redefining your perspective, and, in some cases, a character can come out of it as an entirely different person.

Is your character’s mind being broken down so that they can be remolded into a proper fighting machine? This is what Stanley Kubrick was talking about in Full Metal Jacket, the military’s dehumanization of recruits and stripping them of their previous identities in order to transform them into soldiers. I bring up Full Metal Jacket because it remains the go to resource for most writers when they’re writing military training sequences, but many imitate without understanding. The other big one is Fight Club. Often the theme of dehumanization actually ends up in the story through the training sequences and is portrayed as a good thing. Divergent is one such example where the themes of dehumanization and rather brutal abuse are introduced via Dauntless training methods but never extrapolated on.

Why? Because the process of transforming someone into an out and out psychopath is treated as “just hardcore” in a lot of fiction. That is the point of the Fight Club itself, by the way. It’s not about teaching someone how to actually be good at fighting. It’s actually about adrenaline junkies, about getting high off asserting physical dominance over someone else. If you want a novel that’s legitimately talking about “toxic masculinity”, then Fight Club is it. Real training doesn’t actually look anything like Fight Club, but then Fight Club isn’t actually about creating competent soldiers.

Some Quick Don’ts:

1) Don’t overestimate to be more impressive.

This is a pitfall almost everyone falls down the first time, but I’m mentioning it because everyone falls down it. Figure out what people can get away with in the real world when training, then compare that to the characters in your setting, and build into that. There’s nothing more annoying than the character who supposedly spent a year or five in solitary confinement showing no signs of sensory deprivation or crawling up the walls.

Boot Camp does blast you with near constant exercise in order to weaken your mind. If you’re interested in what they actually do, there are resources available to tell you the training regimen. It’s fairly sophisticated in what it’s actually doing.

2) Don’t go for shock value

The ones who fall down the Fight Club trap are usually going for shock value. Shock value is worthless in the long run. Substance is better.

3) Don’t forget that this is about teaching.

If the sequence isn’t teaching us something about the world, the powers, and the characters or advancing the plot, then the sequence is not necessary. And really pay attention to what your training is saying. This isn’t really one of those “fake it until you make it” endeavors, you gotta teach.

-Michi

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