Sunday, July 25, 2021

Jeffe's One Rule of Character Leveling-Up

This coming Friday, July 30, at 6pm Mountain Time, I'll be joining these great friends and powerhouse Fantasy Romance authors for an online panel! Tickets are free for this event sponsored by Love's Sweet Arrow bookstore in Chicago. Join me, Jennifer Estep, L. Penelope, and Lexi Ryan for a chat moderated by Jen Prokop. Ask us anything!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Leveling-Up: Is it necessary for protagonists to continually gain power/ability/expertise as a series progresses?"

I had to mull over the basic premise of this question. Do I do this in my own books? I don't always have the same protagonists in successive books of a series, but when I do, do they continually level up?

I guess... yes. That's the pattern I've followed. 

My usual rule with writing in general and worldbuilding in particular is, when I discover I'm implementing an element or trope without consciously examining it, that indicates some programmed ideas I need to investigate. 

Thus the mulling. 

So, is it necessary for the protagonist to continually gain power/ability/expertise? No, it's not necessary. BUT, character growth is fundamental to my concept of storytelling and the progression of ability to control one's personal power is a key metaphor in books that are about magic. I suppose you could have the magical/paranormal abilities remain constant and have the character grow in other arenas. As human beings, however, our lives are largely about gaining and refining our skill sets. That aspect of humanity makes it an evergreen topic of interest for us. 

Now that I think about it, it might be fun to have a wizard at the top of their game get tired of it and try a new career, learning an entirely foreign skill set. 

The rule I do cling to is, if a fundamental of the world is set as a limitation of powers, then that can't be discarded in order to level up later. This is akin to making a disability magically vanish, or an incompatible species couple suddenly have a magic baby. Some limitations should be real and permanent, not exploded for plot sparkles. So sayeth I.