Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Choosing the Right Supernatural Abilities for Your Character

When preparing your paranormal romance story, choosing which mythical creature to focus on as your main character is the easy part. But what sort of abilities does your character have? A lot of these can be answered as you do your research, but for those of you still wondering where to start, here are a list of possible abilities.

1) Heightened senses - sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. These enhancements are commonly seen in shapeshifters and vampires.

2)Heightened reflexes - Often where there are heightened senses, heightened reflexes or speed accompanies them.

3) Superhuman strength - Shapeshifters and especially vampires are often subject to a greater-than-human strength, such as in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series.

4) Supernatural know-how - I'm sure you've read books where a main or minor character inexplicably knows when another supernatural creature is near, or if not, where to find one. This is different from a heightened sense of smell, as seen in many werewolf books. Instead of relying on their physical senses, this sixth sense sometimes works through an innate sort of radar or unconscious sense of telepathy. 

5) Accelerated healing - Like in Christine Warren's Others series, when a shapeshifter, etc., is hurt, shifting helps to heal them entirely, if their natural boosted metabolism doesn't do the job beforehand. Vampires, such as those in Lynsay Sands's Argeneau series, drink blood to close wounds. Or, if not an accelerated healing ability, paranormal creatures often have a superhuman durability to them, or a high pain threshold, able to take a battering which would render most humans unconscious with the first blow.

6) Shapeshifting - All sorts of werewolves, etc. go through this type of change, morphing into the animal they are associated with. Some change into a human-animal hybrid as well, as seen in Big, Bad Wolf by Christine Warren. Still more take on certain traits of animals (claws, heightened hearing or smell, the ability to breathe underwater, or even poison secretion) while still remaining in humanoid form. 

Aside from were-animals, some authors have also included shapeshifting witches, Christine Warren included. 

7) Immortality - While the main characters of books usually are not truly immortal (in the sense that they can be killed), many paranormal creatures, vampires especially, enjoy a certain longevity. In the case of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series, this extends so far as to heal non life-threatening wounds, such as chopping off one's arm or leg. 

8) Telepathy - Whether used merely to communicate or also to take control of someone's mind, many writers work this into their writing. Vampires especially seem to be given this trait, such as in Lynsay Sands's Argeneau series or Christine Warren's Others series. 

9) Precognition - also known as clairvoyance. Whether the past or the future; worked in through dreams, visions, hunches, etc.; seers are a popular element in many books. One example is Nucking Futs Nix in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. 

10) Magic -  If all else fails, you can also turn to "magic" and make your character a witch or a warlock. If something needs to be done to forward the plot, fear not, there is a way! 

And, if your character happens to be a sorceress or wizard, you could also introduce the well-known concept of a familiar. Cheyenne McCray, in her Magic series, introduces familiars as regular animals which boost the witches' powers. However, familiars could also be former witches trapped in the bodies of animals (think Salem off of Sabrina the Teenage Witch), or even a shapeshifter, as employed by Kresley Cole in Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night or L. K. Below in her upcoming release of "His Familiar Touch" (yes, I have had the privilege of a sneak peek!).

Or you could try some of these other, less common traits:

  • Ability to manipulate/enter another's dreams - as seen in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dream Hunter series, and Lynn Viehl's book Private Demon.

  • Animation - the ability to bring inanimate objects to life or the ability to become an inanimate object.

  • Control over the elements - Including but not limited to: shadow, light, air/wind, cold/ice, heat/fire, water, earth, plants, weather, etc. When considering the dominance of demons/gods, one does not need to be limited to the elements. Think harvests, pestilence, pain, dreams, etc. 

  • Cross-dimensional travel - such as in Angela Knight's Mageverse series, which allows the witches/vampires to move freely between the Mageverse and Earth. 

  • Ecological empathy - or a connection to the environment, once which might make the character physically ill if it is harmed, such as Willow in MaryJanice Davidson's "The Magicka".

  • Empathy - the ability to feel or influence another's emotions. 

  • ESP/Astral projection 

  • Flight

  • Illusions 

  • Mediumship - The ability to communicate with ghosts/the dead.

  • Memory manipulation - As seen in Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series

  • Size-shifting - As seen in Pixie Lust by Lois Greiman.

  • Telekinesis - the ability to move objects without physically touching them

  • Teleportation

  • Time manipulation - the ability to stop, slow, accelerate, or freeze time.

  • Time travel - used by the were-hunters in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.

For a more comprehensive list, including some powers used in genres outside of paranormal, look here.

Next week I'll be launching a (long) mini-series about mythical creatures!



  1. This is a great list and source of inspiration. What's great is you can pick, choose, mix and match, and create your own new twists. The possibilities are endless. Thanks for the wiki link too. That's going in my bookmarks as well.

  2. No problem, glad I could help :)

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  4. I enjoyed reading it and I think other readers might enjoy reading it as well.Thanks.