Back when I wrote my topic list, I had a bunch of examples for what I’m talking about here, but I forgot them. Sorry about that. I did remember one that really brings the general idea to the forefront. Couldn’t find a video though, so let me example:
In the original ‘Teen Titans’ cartoon, one of the heroes fights the big villain at the end of the season and his body is badly damaged. Don’t worry because he’s a cyborg . . . named Cyborg. Not the point. He’s unable to move until he suddenly realizes the reason the psychic villain can’t control him isn’t because of the tech, but his human will. So, he suddenly repairs himself by absorbing the surrounding evil, full robot copies of himself and saves the day. When asked if he’s got new powers, he states that he’s pretty sure it was a one time thing. In other words, this incredible regeneration ability appeared and will never return.
This is a common trick in stories where the character stumbles onto a power, skill, or tool that is exactly what they need. It might not be what they use right away, but it comes in handy at a climactic moment. Once it’s used, the ability or tool disappears. Sometimes there’s an explanation like it’s a potion or certain environmental factors allowed it to occur this once. There are also stories where it’s used . . . and nobody ever mentions what happened again. That guy just unloaded a massive energy wave that turned every zombie into a harmless Go-Go Dancer? Let’s not talk about such things because then it might have to happen again.
Don’t get me wrong though. It isn’t always a bad thing and you can make it work if it fits the character. Being a natural evolution or addition to their already established set of abilities means it’s a possibility. They could simply not have any idea how to do it again or decide it’s too dangerous. Again, we find that a reason really should be given. These are great set pieces to create that ‘awesome’ moment, but some authors tend to forget that things happen afterwards. Only way to avoid it is if you do this at the finale and never return to the characters. Totally fair, but it is a shame if there ends up being more that you can tell.
Kind of related is something with video games too. Ever see a character do something killer attacks in a cut scene or they’re insanely difficult when you fight against them? Then, you get to use them and they aren’t able to do anything of the things that you either saw or had trouble with. It’s a major inconsistency and I’m starting to see it in movies recently. That exhilarating scene in the trailer might not be in the movie, which can be very disappointing. Sadly, I think many people do focus so much on flash and one-upping the previous big move that they forget to reuse things or carry them over when the situation changes.
So, what do you think about one-time use powers? Have any examples?