7 Tips on Writing Characters with Healing Factors/Regeneration

Wolverine

One power that I use a lot in War of Nytefall is the regenerative powers of the Dawn Fangs.  They can heal quickly and keep fighting as long as their head and enough limbs are attached.  That second part is debatable for some characters too.  Parts can be reattached if pressed to the wounds as well.  It means that their fights can be very bloody, but only because of how I use this power.  I consider every usage to make sure it still fits, which makes me realize how healing factors might not be as easy to write about as I thought.  It can fall into abuse before you know it.  So, what are some things to consider?

  1. Consistency of the healing factor is key in terms of rate and severity of wound recovery.  You can’t have them struggle to heal a small knife wound to the arm while rapidly healing half of their body getting blown off.  Not without explaining why small wounds take longer than large wounds.  You would also need to make sure it stays that way.  Otherwise, it comes off as a power that works only as well as the story needs it and readers will lose interest in the character.
  2. Not every character with a healing factor is the time to rush into battle and take on damage.  Being able to regenerate doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain.  They still need the right kind of personality to be like Wolverine or Deadpool.  For example, a hero who doesn’t like getting hurt will be more inclined to avoid damage even if they can heal it.  Have them act accordingly.
  3. Leaping off #2, you have to be careful in making a clone of popular healing factor characters.  The rest of the powers and the name might be different, but you need to avoid giving them the same personalities.  Not easy when you have them revel in being hard to kill.  You can still go this way, but you have to prepare yourself for the comparisons and find some other way to make them stand out.
  4. Consider downsides to having a healing factor because they come up more often than you think.  Your audience has thought of them though.  Can someone with regeneration lose a tooth?  If not then do they still have their baby teeth?  Giving blood or anything with an extended piercing of the skin could pose a problem.  Has the healing factor made it that they are subconsciously less careful?  This could lead to them taking unnecessary risks.  Can they shave since hair can be regenerated as well?
  5. If you do have a combat-oriented character with a healing factor then really have some fun with it.  Downplaying it can work at times, but there should be at least one time where the power gets a ‘spotlight’ moment. Fighting heroes will have these much more than others. They love the thrill of battle, so have them abuse their power.  As long as it’s consistent, of course.
  6. While not something to do a lot, regeneration and healing factors can open the door for some extreme physical comedy.  There’s no worry about permanently hurting or killing these heroes.  So, accidents can happen or another hero can lash out in comedic rage with no concerns.  Much of this requires certain characters, story tones, and author preferences.  So, do this only if you’re sure it makes sense.
  7. At some point, you need to establish a threat to this character.  They can’t spend the entire adventure feeling invulnerable and the audience shouldn’t think they are either.  It can be anything that bypasses their hardiness.  You can have special weapons, magic, psychic attacks, devices that block the power, and any number of things that forces the character to think with more caution.  This is how you can evolve the hero or villain beyond their regenerating starting points.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to 7 Tips on Writing Characters with Healing Factors/Regeneration

  1. L. Marie says:

    I enjoyed reading the tips and your thought process behind them. I don’t have any characters with this sort of ability, but I can remember scenes in your books where your characters showed this. And of course there is Wolverine, whose gif you included. 😊

    Now you make me wonder what I would do with a character who had this ability.

    Like

  2. I thought point seven was well made. it would be pretty boring if there was no threat at all to a character. Good post, Charles.

    Like

  3. twixie13 says:

    I have one major character with a regenerative ability. He doesn’t know exactly HOW strong it is (and parts of it vary from universe to universe). But let’s see…Travis’ hair regenerates just like any other part of him. An attempt to cut his hair will lead to 1) actual physical pain on his part, and 2) bleeds for a few seconds when cut, before healing…again, in seconds. Hair being cut tends to be about…I’d say on par with a paper cut, in terms of healing time. Other cuts also heal in seconds. Bullet wounds vary depending on caliber. Amputations take him a few days to regenerate from, and the nerves are the absolute last part of, say, a lost limb to come back online. He both loves and hates that. On the one hand, “Hey, it’s back!”. On the other…PAIN. There was one incident where his back was broken. It took him a week to recover from that (not that he had any real idea of the passage of time). He can (and has) died, but has this tendency to not *stay* dead. The two main things he needs help recovering from: tooth loss and burns. Eyes…that depends on which version of him. There’re some that can regain a lost eye in the same amount of time as a lost body part, a few with eyepatches, and one whose eyes had been replaced with cybernetic ones after this incident with a cult. Because of his regenerative properties, he tends to eat more than your average person (especially after a major healing). He sees the regen as both a positive and a negative. On the plus side: he’s able to use that power to protect people he cares about and sort of likes the knowledge that he’ll be okay. On the down side: he’s found that he stopped aging after that first death/resurrection, has begun to wonder if he’d actually be immortal and thus forced to watch as everyone he cares about ages and dies, while he outlives them all. There’s also the part where he’s pretty much the first of his kind in the book ‘verse, leading to him becoming a major curiosity in a city known for its high volume of labs. He’s been the subject of an alarming (or hilarious, depending) number of experiments, and when someone attacks his family, they usually come gunning for him first.

    Like

  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    More great tips for fantasy writers 😃

    Like

  5. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House and commented:
    Writing Tips – Healing and Regeneration

    Like

  6. Staci Troilo says:

    Great points, Charles. Sharing on my Friday list.

    Like

  7. Neat post, and #7 looks like it has a lot of possibilities. It would be fun to permanently strip this power, then force the character back into action. Kind of like a recluse who’s given up on things, because he doesn’t have his edge any longer. Great opportunity for a character arc. Lots of dark moments about what was lost, etc.

    Like

  8. Could you throw the hydra in here? It isn’t exactly the same, but the extra heads makes him even more dangerous.

    Like

  9. You could make a case that characters with strong regeneration would be MORE cautious. Just because they can walk away from an injury doesn’t make them immune from all the agony of it. They might not want to let people know they can regenerate, because then they’ll be the first one sent into all the most dangerous (and consequently painful) situations.

    Like

  10. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  11. Pingback: 7 Tips on Writing Characters with Healing Factors/Regeneration – Written By Charles Yallowitz – Writer's Treasure Chest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s