7 Tips to Having Characters Power Up

Dragon Ball Power Up

There are plenty of jokes about the powering up sequences in Dragon Ball Z.  Some took a few episodes because they opened the door for flashbacks.  Others occurred and it didn’t make a difference.  Still, there’s some use in having a character power themselves up in the heat of battle.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Powering up can change the tide of battle and increase suspense.  You have a character on the ropes and suddenly they regain their strength.  Now, the audience isn’t sure if they’re going to lose like they expected.  This also acts as a refresh for the battle to squeeze a little more time into the scene.  Of course, you can only do this once per fight.  Maybe twice if you have each opponent pull it off, but that’s really pushing the limit.
  2. Powering up doesn’t need to be flashy like the GIF above.  This really makes sense if you’re dealing with a character who doesn’t do energy attacks.  There should be some kind of physical component, but it doesn’t have to be a massive shockwave.  It could be healing, an increase in muscle size, or simply moving faster.
  3. Try to make the transformation or activation sensible and quick.  If they’re standing there screaming and giving off energy, people are going to wonder why the other fighter doesn’t rush in for a punch.  An opponent who stands there and lets it happen will be seen as idiotic.  Really sucks the air out of the battle because the audience no longer believes the idle one wants to win.
  4. Give an explanation for the power up instead of having it simply appear.  It can be hinted at beforehand while they were training.  Maybe they have a magical item that activates and gives them a second chance, but you have to introduce this earlier than the battle.  Plenty of ways to make this believable and avoid the character getting stronger simply because they want to.
  5. Don’t have the power up take forever.  I’m pretty sure that’s trademarked.
  6. Remember that a power up works best when it’s a temporary state.  If the character is able to permanently walk around at this stronger level then it creates a problem for the future.  Now, they will need stronger opponents, which requires that they gain higher levels of power.  In a series, you may end up having this go until the abilities and strengths are at ridiculous levels.  So, there’s a benefit to having a power up come with a time limit.
  7. Similar to #6, consider if there are any side-effects.  Powering up tends to revolve around surpassing natural limits, which means the character is putting a great toll on their body and mind.  Having this increase come at a price means that it works as a last resort and that’s where you tend to see these happen.  The hero is getting pummeled and whips this out to rally back.  If there’s no downside then one has to wonder why they didn’t start that way.

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.
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4 Responses to 7 Tips to Having Characters Power Up

  1. Those are good points. I hadn’t given this much thought, but it all makes sense.

    Like

  2. L. Marie says:

    Interesting topic and points. I have never written about the kind of power that would require a power up, though I have seen anime episodes where these things took place. The tips make sense. Especially number 3.

    Like

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