A reader asked...
In the beginning of my book the main character is given powers, and by the midpoint she has to be relatively competent (but no expert) in using them. How do I have her training and learning to use her powers (while discovering the setting of the book, the other characters, etc) without it being super boring?
I'm going to guess learning to use the powers isn't the driving force of the novel. Some other problem is driving your hero to act, and mastering these new powers is just one way in which she hopes to win. So if the core conflict is stopping an evil wizard who is using an amulet to raise the dead and attack the land with his zombie horde, then saving villages, finding magic to counteract the amulet or weapons capable of killing zombies might be steps to that greater goal.
Each obstacle your hero encounters gives her a chance to put that power into action. It also provides opportunities to show other traits she might need for that final showdown, and gives her chances to fail and raise the stakes.
- What obstacles could be learning opportunities for her?
- What quiet moments might be spiced up with a little training scene?
- Are there personal conflicts you could explore if you combined them with her training?
Look at your plot and see what could be made worse if the hero messes up while trying to learn.
- Where are places she could fail?
- Where can she succeed, but it costs her something else? (Like she magically burns down a house to kill a zombie, and loses the respect of the guy she loves).
- Where are places she might be too scared to act because of a past failure?
It can also affect her internal conflicts as well.
- Does the power cause trouble with something she believes in?
- Does she has an issue or hangup that is made worse by these new powers?
- Are there any ethical concerns she can struggle with?
- Does the power go to her head and cause personality changes or reckless behavior?
Don't forget to also give her moments where she does master the power, as you need to show her getting it right to make her use of it later believable. Mix those small victories in with other plot issues, so while there's a win in that aspect, something else goes wrong in another to keep the story moving.
The powers are just another tool she uses to win. She's likely going to act no matter what, so let the powers be one more option in the problems she meets on her way to the big resolution.
*Extra brownie points to those who get the title reference.