My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome our own Michael R. Underwood (aka Mike) back to talk about how the power of being a role-playing gamer applies to his novel The Younger Gods.
Jacob Greene, the hero of The Younger Gods, had many lives before I wrote the novel.
The first version was the star of a short story I wrote called “My Big Fat Demon Servitor Life,” as part of my senior project in college for my undergraduate degree in Creative Mythology.
Then he was a slightly different version of himself in a barely-begun screenplay version of the story.
Then another short story, starting over from zero. This one was a bit better, but the character didn’t really become more than the outline of his circumstances.
But the most important version of Jake was from a tabletop role-playing game in Bloomington, IN, where I played a version of Jake in a large party of other characters. This version of Jake was influenced by David Tennant’s Doctor – he was verbose, confident but awkward, and comfortable with his power.
When the time came to write Jake in The Younger Gods, it was the RPG version I drew upon most deeply, as it was the version that was most well-developed, the best-rounded version in my mind.
But he was too competent, too self-reliant. To tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed a more vulnerable, less confident version of the character, so that he’d have more room to grow, a character that would be thoroughly incomplete without people, who needed to reach out to other people but was not equipped to do so.
So that’s really my superpower that let me write The Younger Gods – the ability to re-imagine a character across a half-dozen versions to create the right version to carry the story that I wanted to tell.
Michael R. Underwood is the author of the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, and the forthcoming Hexomancy), as well as superhero fantasy novel Shield and Crocus and supernatural thriller The Younger Gods. By day, he is the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike is a co-host on the Skiffy and Fanty Show, and in his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts, games in-person and on-computer, and makes pizzas from scratch.