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April 9, 2013

What’s Your Superpower?

Statue holding arms up to make muscles with text: What's Your Superpower?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have heard the news about my recent broken bone. *sigh* Again.

I have a special talent, it seems, for breaking my middle toe. That’s right. Not the big toe or any other appendage that sticks out. Nope. I have to be different and break that middle toe tucked between the others.

Note that I’ve never broken any other bones. (Yet.) Just this same toe—three times. Calculate the odds of that.

I broke it the first time two-and-a-half years ago, and it took over 6 months for it to heal because I kept re-breaking it before it was fully mended. (“Oh, I’m tall. I can reach that upper cabinet, no problem.” *stands on tiptoes* Crunch.)

The second time, I broke that same toe one year later, nearly to the same day. I think I rebroke it only once or twice that time before it healed.

About a month ago, a year-and-a-half after that last incident, I broke that same toe again. I’ve already rebroken it once, and this time I was just standing around, not doing anything. It’s enough to make me feel like I can’t win.

(Why yes, I do stub my toes a lot. There’s a reason I have the Klutz Queen crown. *smile*)

We Each Have Unique Skills

My point is that bad stuff happens to everyone, and it’s easy to let those setbacks bring us down. Each time I re-break this toe, the clock of six-to-eight weeks of healing resets and the pain comes back even stronger. But I think we all have special talents of the good kind as well.

I believe everyone can do something that hardly anyone else can do. Maybe that skill is useful. (I could sure use the superpower of writing perfect queries. *grin*) Or maybe it’s useless, or silly, or bizarre. But that talent is ours and ours alone.

That “superpower” makes us unique in the world. No matter how worthless that skill might be, it still makes us special and that’s something to celebrate.

Celebrate What Makes You Unique—No Matter How Bizarre

The sense of belonging to a group is nice, whether it’s as part of our family, our job, our hobbies, or something else. But it’s nice to remind ourselves that we’re one in a billion too.

We’re the only ones who can do what we do. That uniqueness means we have a way of looking at the world no one else does. No one else can be the kind of parent or employee or friend we can. We should celebrate that fact as well.

It’s easy to observe all the things we can’t do. Every once in a while, we need to remind ourselves of the things we can do and take for granted.

Maybe we give the perfect hug to a child in pain. Maybe our bright smile is the highlight of a grocery cashier’s day. Maybe our goofy klutziness brings a belly laugh to someone who’s down. We each have something to contribute to the world that no one else can.

Story Characters Should Be Unique Too

As writers, we can apply this lesson to our characters as well. They should bring a unique talent, skill, or way of looking at the world to the story. Ditto for them having unique flaws too.

Yes, character strengths and flaws often fall into broad categories: he’s arrogant, she’s forgiving, etc. But the way those traits manifest and affect the story should reflect the characters as individuals.

More importantly, we can think about how those strengths and flaws play out over the story’s arc. Do they recognize their superpower at the beginning of the story? What about at the end?

My Superpower Is…

My superpower? I can peel Clementines (like mandarin oranges) in a single S-shape 99% of the time. Useless, silly, and bizarre, but kids look at me in awe, so it’s all good. *smile*

Clementine peel in an "S" shape

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Also, a reminder that I’ll be holding a one-hour live Q&A session about all things WordPress this Thursday, April 11th, at 7 p.m. Eastern time on the WANA International Facebook page. Come pick my brain! *smile*

What’s your superpower? Have you ever impressed anyone with it? Do any of your characters have unusual abilities? What makes their strengths and flaws unique? Do their traits tie into the story arc?

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Carradee

Well, I can look at something and tell you if it’s knit, crochet, macrame, etc. I can often even identify if a fabric or yarn is acrylic, wool, or cotton, to touch it.

I can also look at a knit or crochet item and make a copy of it, but I rarely demonstrate that particular ability.

Buffy Armstrong

I have a heightened since of color. Does that count? I can distinguish all of the various shades of any color and I know all their fancy names.

Melinda S. Collins

I LOVE how you can peel a clementine in a single S shape. That’s awesome. 😀

Hmm…I’m tall like you, Jami (I’m 6’1″), so go figure my toes are like fingers. When I was a teen, I played “chopsticks” on the piano with my toes. *blushes* LOL! We were screwing around in band class one day and my buds dared me to do it. Haven’t done it since then, though. 😉

Another thing I haven’t done in a looong time, is I can play a tune by ear. It’s like Carradee’s knack for fabric. I only need to hear a song a time or two, and then I can play it on either the flute, the sax, or the piano. It’s been a while, so I’m rusty on this one. 🙂

daniel
daniel

Really long toes or skillful?

Marcy Kennedy

I’m sorry you broke you toe (again), but this post is awesome. And I think I might be your toe cousin. I’ve dislocated my toe so many times that I don’t even go to the doctor anymore. I’ve learned how to pop it back in myself.

My superpower is that I’m an animal whisperer 🙂 I seem to be able to understand them better than most and I’ve never met an animal who didn’t like me. When I worked at the vet’s during high school, I could handle animals that no one else could touch without getting bitten. With my own pets, I know when they’re sick long before they start showing actual symptoms. My husband has often called my affinity with animals my superpower 🙂

Amanda

I have the inane ability to recall the most unnecessary pieces of information (usually pertaining to pop culture and/or entertainment.) Need to know a random factoid about the snowglobe scene in Citizen Kane? I’m your girl! The subject matter of U2’s song “Running to Stand Still”? I can totally tell you that. Need to know what 7 times 4 is? Ask someone else; I can’t do it without a calculator.

Stay off your feet, Jami! Hope your toe heals quick!

Renee Schuls-Jacobson

You are so freaking hilarious.

I’m sorry to hear about your toe.

But you clearly have mad skillz.

Cindy Dwyer
Cindy Dwyer

My kids would be impressed.

My superpower is the ability to know which lane will take the longest at a store. Unfortunately, it always turns out to be the one I’m in.

Shah Wharton

I have broken a few bones – thigh, nose x 2, and my ankle. OUCH! Poor you… I’ve stubbed my toe many times (my middle toe sticks out a lot. I do wonder how it hasn’t broken already, but it’s bound to one day.

I freak peeps out with my Super-tongue! I touch my nose and the tip of my pointy chin with it – seems quite normal to me, but I actually made my father-in-law heave a few days ago? *Evil grin* Not sure it’ll help me succeed in anything other than freak peeps out, but hey, it’s me: Odd.

Get well soon. And have you considered a pin in that vulnerable toe? 🙂

Serena
Serena

Hey Jami, It’s a good idea, thinking about our story characters’ unique superpowers/ flaws. When you gave examples of general traits, like “she’s arrogant”, that reminded me of what I’m studying right now in my Intro to Personality (psychology) course. (I’m going to revise this material for the exam while I explain this!) According to the course, we can understand a person’s personality/ individuality through 3 levels. Level 1 is the broadest TRAIT level. So we’re talking about the Big 5 traits, Extraversion-introversion, Neuroticism-emotional stability, level of Openness to experience (receptiveness to new things/ experiences, preferring more complex experiences or forms of art, having intellectual and / or aesthetic interests, etc.), level of Agreeableness (not just being friendly and pleasant, but also about being altruistic, sympathetic, warm, generous, kind, etc.), and level of Conscientiousness (being diligent, organized, punctual, responsible, perseverant, disciplined, etc.) This level 1 is the “fuzzy outline” of one’s personality. We can even categorize strangers or people we don’t know very well into all or some of these Big 5 traits. Level 2 is the CHARACTERISTIC ADAPTATIONS. These are basically things that people use to adapt to certain challenges in their lives. This includes a person’s specific motivations (e.g. whether you’re highest on “achievement”—want to keep improving and achieve goals, “power”—want to be noticed and make an impact on others, or intimacy—want to understand and have warm and meaningful relationships with others—motivation; you can be high on more than one or even low on all motivations), their specific…  — Read More »

Serena
Serena

It’s me again! So I thought my last post was WAY too off topic after all, so here’s a proper post, lol. Some of my “superpowers”: I have NO PMS symptoms. : ) (Yes, be jealous XD) My voice is uber low that people on the phone always call me “sir” or “Monsieur”. So I could easily pass off as a MAN (not even a boy) if people can’t see what I look like. XD By the way, I sing Tenor. Alto is too hard for me, lol. I’m VERY short (5’ 1”) -_- which is bad, but occasionally this confers some advantages, like not bumping my head on low ceilings, and my legs aren’t in too much agony when I’m forced to sit in a lecture hall for a long time—I keep seeing those poor tall people writhe in their seats as they try their best to stretch their legs in that cramped space! Lol. Hmm, wonder if this counts…I’m a very lucky person and good things happen to me all the time. : ) I’m also one of those lucky people who KNOW they’re lucky; and I’m very good at noticing the good and happy things in my life/ seeing the bright side of life or the silver linings. Not sure if this counts either or if it’s too common: I’m able to get extremely, heads-over-heels obsessed with something, e.g. writing, or pokemon, or psychology, that I can keep talking about this same topic for a VERY long…  — Read More »

Serena
Serena

Sorry for posting again—just wanted to share one more superpower:

I have the ability to dream about my story characters very often, and I write down all these dreams. In fact, for my favorite story character, I’ve dreamed about him at least 47 times in these past 2 years, lol. (Yes, I counted, because I jot down all these dreams)

Reading other people’s stories intensely may make me dream about their characters too. During the time when I read all three Hunger Games books, I dreamed about Peeta Mellark 3 times. And when I was reading through the whole Artemis Fowl series, I dreamed about Artemis 3 times as well. Now during the week where I read the five “The Mortal Instruments” books, I dreamed about Jace 5 times! (5 times in 6-7 days!)

You can tell I’m very proud of this particular superpower of mine, lol.

Julie Glover

That’s gotta hurt, Jami. I broke my pinkie toe just once, and I was amazed how much it threw off my balance. Best wishes for quick (and permanent) healing!

And my superpower is…silly songs. At least for the moment, that’s what I came up with. I have a tendency to get people laughing by coming up with ridiculous lyrics and tunes. Even better if I can sing them to my kids (or–why not?–adults) in a silly voice.

I try to give my fictional characters their own delightful quirks as well.

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[…] Writing Stuff Last time I asked you to share your superpower, that trait—useful or not—that makes you unique. Everyone shared some great stories, although […]

Diana Beebe

I’m so sorry about your toe. I hope you let it heal faster this time!

My superpower is being able to write and read backwards. I can also read upside-down writing. The second one is more useful sometimes.

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[…] of thinking of some as “being gifted” and others not, I believe we all have special talents and skills. That means we all have something we should consider gifting or sharing with the […]

Ava
Ava

I can purr like a cat, and people start wondering how a cat got in the room, and where it is. It’s quite funny 🙂

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[…] Despite being a klutz my entire life, I’m still not careful enough with my movements to avoid issues. As I mentioned a year ago, I’ve broken the same toe three times. […]

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