In 2013, I was fortunate to receive a critique from the lovely and ever-encouraging YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith. After reviewing the opening chapter of my second middle grade novel, Cyn told me humor was my super power. Me? I have a SUPER power? Well, if I have one, I know for certain you do too.
Maybe your super power is . . .
- Writing realistic dialogue
- Riding that fine line between sweet and sentimental
- Creating rich, other-worldly settings
- Weaving intricate, suspenseful plots
- Concocting quirky, but believable characters
- Being just plain funny
- None of the above–it’s your own proprietary blend
It’s always easier to pinpoint someone else’s super power, isn’t it. My friend Lisa Wheeler is a whiz with rhyme. Catherine Bieberich and Kelly Barson are able to strike a perfect balance between heart and humor. Jennifer Whistler crafts novels with a highly visual, cinematic quality. Others, like Monica Harris, are grand researchers who cull little-known tidbits from old texts to make even snoresville non-fiction topics intriguing.
What’s the point in knowing your super power? Well, as with a lot of things, it’s empowering to have a “go to”—like that perfected dish you can always whip without worry or that compliment-winning outfit in your closet. You can’t make lemon chicken piccata or wear that same suede jacket every day, but when the time is right, it’s confidence-building to know it’s there when you need it.
You can’t lean on your superpower for everything. (Even Superman had his day job as Clark Kent.) That’s why it’s important to read widely, request critiques, participate in workshops and stretch yourself by writing outside your comfort genre. Because my super power is humor, it’s easy for me to write in silly sound bites and let my characters make clever asides. While being funny can be engaging and amusing, overuse of humor can lapse into what I call “snarkasm.” Chronic quipping distances readers and makes otherwise 3-D characters seem shallow. A clever boy can become what political consultant David Alexrod described as a “congenital smart aleck.” There’s nothing super about that.
So, how about you? What’s your super power? (You may even have more than one!)
Spot Your Super Power Quiz
- When someone critique’s my work, the first positive thing I most often hear is:
- You’re so ___________________________.
- Your writing is ________________________.
- I feel most at ease writing ____________________.
- If I had to compare my work to someone else’s, it’d have to be:_____________________ and his/her work is known for ____________________________.
- Three words I’d use to describe my work:
- Text/call a fellow writer and ask for three words to describe your work:
- Is there an overlap between the answers to questions 4 and 5? If so:_______________________.
My super power is:__________________________.
Super! Please use your super powers for good. And remember to pick up your cape from the dry cleaners.
We must be careful with our words – we’re like superheroes and words are like our super powers. Super powers should always be used to help others. ~ Dianna Hardy