7 Tips to Using Flight in Fiction

DC Characters

From the picture above, you can see how many ways there are to fly. Wings, flying mount, technology, wind, magic, simply going, and the list continues.  It’s probably one of, if not THE, most common and popular special ability in fiction.  So, what are some things to consider?

  1. You don’t really have to explain how the character flies if they simply have the ability to go up.  People will wonder, but you aren’t obligated to do so.  If you do then you may inadvertently limit the power or make it seem less plausible within the rules of the world.  For example, if the character can fly because they’re strong enough to resist gravity then everyone with super strength should be able to do so.  It also doesn’t explain how they can hover or move around like a plane.  Just be careful with your explanations and don’t think you really have to.
  2. Flight is more than soaring into the air and traveling.  Remember that the air is thinner and the temperature is colder.  A character who can only fly and has no protection from the elements won’t be able to go higher than birds.  The further away from the surface they go, the closer they are to the icy, suffocating grip of space.  That’s another thing to toss in here.  Eventually, they can hit a point where there’s no gravity or any forces that will normally help them return to Earth.
  3. Wings . . . They get in the way when in tight places.  If the character has them and can’t put them away then they need to operate accordingly.  Either they’re careful about moving around or they have a way to keep the wings restrained.  Yet, this would be like tying up your arms, so a character can demonstrate a discomfort with this necessary action.
  4. Flying with a passenger isn’t as easy as you think.  First, the character needs the strength to carry the person.  Flight doesn’t grant them the ability to lift a heavy person, so catching them will cause both to plummet.  At best, they can slow the descent to a safe speed, but this will also leave them open to attacks by any villains in the area.  So, think of ways that a flying character with normal strength can solve this problem before you throw them into it.  After all, they’ve probably considered the issue in their own world.
  5. If a flying character is knocked out while in the air, it doesn’t mean that they will survive the fall.  I’ve seen this a lot where a flyer is zapped, passes out, and falls from the height of the Empire Statue Building.  They’re not dead, which is weird since they don’t have enhanced durability.  A crash landing is the greatest threat for a character with this power, so either make it a threat or give a reason why they don’t have to worry about it.
  6. Wind in the eyes!  This is why some flyers have goggles, but people don’t usually remember this issue.  You have wind hitting your eyes between blinks, which can be painful and debilitating.  It’s just asking for the character to slam into an airplane by accident.  Think of ways they can avoid this problem since it’s one of the easiest to get around.
  7. If your characters flies using magic or technology then think about limits.  Is there a maximum amount of time before the spell or batteries wear off?  Once you figure this out, try to be consistent and don’t make it fail only when it’s dramatically appropriate.  This makes it feel like there’s no real limit and it’s only there to cause tension from time to time.  It’s easy to add this in too without making it a problem.  Just have the character charge the batteries while at home and doing something else.  It takes one sentence to recharge or recast here.

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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9 Responses to 7 Tips to Using Flight in Fiction

  1. L. Marie says:

    So many good, practical tips! So many times we’ve seen characters get knocked out of the sky only to survive when many birds don’t. Yet superheroes plummet to the ground, smashing into cars only to survive unscathed.


    • Thanks. The landing issue has always been weird, but I never really questioned it. I think it’s a difficult problem to work with because you have to disregard reality a little bit less when they can die from crashing. It really is the worst with superheroes since they walk off all injuries.


  2. Good points, Charles. It seems to me if they are not addressed they could get in the way of a good story. Accounting for stuff in the eyes seems like a no brainer but I’m believing you are the only one who has thought about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. V.M.Sang says:

    I have some characters in my Elemental worlds series who fly. At least, it’s not really flying, but gliding. They have a membrane that joins the wrists to the elbows. This of course, makes the wearing of clothes difficult, but as the temperature is warm, this is not a problem. The people (called Ariels) go without clothing. When my protagonist first arrived, he thought they were wearing cloaks.
    In these books, the protagonist flies by riding on a flying horse and also a dragon. I tried to show the difference in the flight of these creatures through his sensations (bumpy or smooth). Neither went so high as to have problems with temperature, but I never thought of wind in the eyes, nor foreign bodies in them, either.
    Thanks for this post. Next time someone flies, I will try to remember what you said.


  4. Another thought provoking post. In some ways, not explaining everything is a good way to go. People who enjoy these kind of tales are going to give a certain amount of leeway.


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