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New Powers As The Plot Demands / Literature

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People gaining New Powers as the Plot Demands in literature.


  • Parodied in Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, in which our heroes create a comic strip character, The Escapist, just before the start of World War II. He begins as a detective-escapologist character. By the later years of the war, he's pulling tanks apart with his bare hands.
  • Anita Blake is the best example of this ever, having morphed from a simple animator/necromancer in the book series to... frankly, this editor lost track of them all a long time ago. But in pretty much every big confrontation, she gets a new Power of the Month.
    • These days, they all require her to have sex to activate.
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    • In every single book, Anita pulls a new power out of her ass, spends a bit in the hospital from "overdoing it", and from then on can use the power whenever.
  • Artemis Fowl:
    • Dwarves in this series get a new ability every book. They can tunnel by eating through earth, fire a devastating barrage of digested rocks/mud/whatever they just dug through, propel themselves underwater and ignore the bends because of intestinal bacteria, have saliva that works as a healing balm, can cling to walls if dehydrated, have glow-in-the-dark spit, which can also solidify to trap enemies, have prehensile beards/antennae (very handy lockpicks/emergency automatic surgical needles), expel 1/3 of their body weight out of their rears as a sort of jet-assisted escape...
    • Every so often, it's mentioned that one of the fairy powers uses so little magic that it can still be used when a fairy is otherwise depleted. Which power this is changes every time — in book 1 it was the mesmer, in book 2 it was the gift of tongues, in book 7 it was healing...
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  • Daniel in Daniel X by James Patterson. Almost every chapter he gets a new power. He can create people from thin air, control animals, turn into animals, create different scenes(like turn a messy room into a clean room), has an internal iPod, and is incredibly intelligent. And this is just the first book.
  • Dora Wilk has been given new powers every book, going from half north witch - half fertility witch who sometimes sees things to wielding powerful magic, forming mind-bond with angel and demon and having two vampires and an entire werewolf clan at her disposal - all appearing when necessary. Her best angel friend Joshua gains ability to Manifest just in time to save Dora and then ability to heal - again, to save Dora and Miron gets fire powers right before he really needs its Required Secondary Powers. This has caused some negative feedback among fans, as they start to have a feeling that instead of coming up with a clever solution to a given problem, the author just throws in yet another superpower.
  • The Dragonriders of Pern books are guilty of this when, in the 2001 book The Skies of Pern, the characters suddenly discover the foreshadowed power of telekinesis when the book's protagonist's dragon buddy gets attacked by giant cats (and when they discover that by getting rid of the Red Star and Thread, it opens up Pern for bombardment by meteors).
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    • Menolly in the Harper Hall subseries has a bit of this in the second book. When she and a couple of friends are menaced by the Alpha Bitch and her boyfriend Benis, she decks said boyfriend — who is quite a bit larger than she is — with a right cross. We're not told where she learned this. Perhaps Anne was attempting Getting Crap Past the Radar as a YA book at that time couldn't have the heroine kicking an assailant in the balls.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden has a fair amount of this going on, but it is generally justified. Each book generally takes place about a year after the previous one, giving him time to practice skills or make new magical tools off-screen and he'll remark to various friends or to himself about why he learned or made something before using it. Demonreach would be an on-screen example, and so would becoming the Winter Knight, though Mab has been predicting that he will do so because he will need to invoke this trope.
    • The only seemingly-inexplicable examples were Hellfire and Soulfire, but those were explained in-story later.
  • Max Frei's books run on this. Throughout the first books, Sir Max discovers a new magic skill in almost every chapter, making him essentially a Creator's Pet.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Lupin repeatedly points out that the Patronus charm is incredibly advanced magic. He highlights that only very powerful wizards can pull it off, and that even fully qualified wizards struggle to master it. By Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, pretty much everyone in the narrative can cast a full corporeal Patronus without any trouble whatsoever, including most of the adolescent members of the DA (though Harry notes that they're doing it without the suffocating presence of Dementors, which make casting the spell harder). In the next book, Dumbledore uses his Patronus to send a message to Hagrid (the Patronus speaks with the caster's voice), and later books show Tonks, Kingsley and Arthur Weasley using that ability as well.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: In the movie that Haruhi filmed for the arts festival, Mikuru's character had the ability to fire a "Mikuru Beam" from her left eye. At the end of the movie, Itsuki's character randomly and conveniently awakens his esper powers just in time to defeat the evil alien. Thanks to Haruhi's subconscious Reality Warper abilities, Mikuru actually did get a "Mikuru Beam" that continuously endangered the lives of the film crew, especially Kyon. Yuki, thankfully, was able to suppress these abilities...at which point Haruhi would give Mikuru a new type of beam that Yuki had to deal with.
  • The Heroes of Olympus has this on a series level, not within the series. Apparently certain children of Hephaestus can wield fire, and all children of Aphrodite have apparently always been able to speak French, and some can charm-speak people into doing what they want.
    • The sword Riptide, which can turn into a pen for concealment purposes, is revealed to be usable as an actual pen.
  • Dr. Maracot from Arthur Conan Doyle's sci-fi classic, The Maracot Deep, is introduced as one of the world's leading experts in marine biology. Then, about four fifths into the book, the narrator suddenly reveals that he's also an expert in ancient mythology, which happened to be what the plot needed at that point.
  • The whole Flock in The Final Warning, the fourth Maximum Ride book, and Angel throughout the series. All of the flock get this throughout the series, it was just not until that point that James Patterson threw up his hands and decided that they were uncontrollably mutating which would cause them to develop random, unplanned powers.
  • Princess Merry in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series is just like Anita Blake. Starts out as having only a slightly extended lifespan and the ability to craft glamours (illusions) around herself to alter her appearance, making her effectively human in power level. Then she gains the power to turn someone inside out by touching them. Then in the second book she gains the power to make someone bleed to death in a matter of seconds out of any cut, no matter how small. Then, because it's a Laurell K. Hamilton novel, she gains the power to give anyone who has sex with her major mojo. Then she gains more random stuff for herself that's typically forgotten by the next book.
  • In the Molly Moon series, Molly picks up a new power for each book. She starts out semi-plausible in the first book by learning how to hypnotize people, but from this basis power she begins learning other, increasingly exaggerated, powers: In the second, she learns how to stop time. In the third, she learns how to travel through time. In the fourth, the new power is mind-reading, and in the fifth, it's shapechanging.
  • In the second book of the Night Watch series, we are introduced to a character called "the Mirror", who is capable of becoming more powerful and acquiring complex magical abilities in order to match whatever situation he is facing at the time. It is justified due to the fact that a Mirror is formed from the magical Twilight for the specific purpose of redressing imbalances in the power structure of the magical Others, and once that goal is accomplished, it ceases to exist.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: Defied, as said in the first novel:
    You can't decide a few hours in that [your character] knows kung-fu or anything, just because it's convenient.
  • Happens to nearly every plot-relevant magician in Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle at some point or other. The meta main character, Pug, seems to experience as much of his development by being forced into new powers by circumstance as by study and learning. Nakor also exhibits this frequently later in the series, though it's implied that he has known his new 'tricks' for a long time and simply did not choose to use them for whatever reason.
  • The Ohmsfords, main characters in some of Terry Brooks' Shannara books, run on this. Fair enough, their power is actually called "The Wishsong", but it means the plot follows a hundred iterations of "Boy he's screwed," ... "but suddenly the song asserts itself and does whatever he needs!"
  • In Star Wars Legends, Luke Skywalker goes through this to a certain degree. After several books, it became known in-universe that he is ludicrously powerful and can learn pretty much any Force-based skill very quickly. Many of these skills never come up again, or only when that same author writes him again.
    • Star Wars: Allegiance has the spirit of Obi-Wan guiding Luke through discovering the unlock code for the room he's locked in.
    • Rebel Force: Luke is captured by someone who's developed a particularly nasty form of brainwashing, involving destroying someone's past and personality to make way for a new, loyal one. He escapes shackles by persuading them to stretch wide enough to let him pull his hands through but is put through the procedure anyway. To all appearances and instrumentation Luke is brainwashed, but thanks to the Force he is in fact completely unaffected. This power also keeps his morale up during the process.
    • In Splinter of the Mind's Eye, proximity to the Force-boosting Kaiburr Crystal lets Luke channel Obi-Wan Kenobi to help him fight Darth Vader, come Back from the Dead, and heal Leia from the brink of death. Alas for him, the crystal only gave him such a power boost when in that particular temple on that particular planet.
    • Marvel Star Wars has some.
      • In The Empire Strikes, Luke ends up in a coma and is captured... and later his body fights free of restraints that should have held him when awake, finds his confiscated equipment, and fights off everyone who tries to stop him. While he was in a coma. He came out of the coma completely ignorant of what had transpired.
      • In Saber Clash while fighting Orman Tagge, a man who had had years more experience in the art of the lightsaber, Luke was initially at a severe disadvantage and almost died... but the Force then let him make a comeback that had him fighting without art or polish but with such skill and control that he was able to cut off Tagge's cyber-vision goggles, leaving him unhurt but a quivering, shocked wreck.
      • The Last Jedi has Luke calling on the Force to show him where his enemies are and how soon they'll reach him. The artist chose to portray this in a way visually similar to Toph sensing vibrations, albeit more colorfully and rippling out from his head.
      • Hello, Bespin, Goodbye! has him find and detonate the primers to a number of bombs whose locations he does not actually know in a spectacular display of Stuff Blowing Up... not the bombs themselves, just the primers.
    • In Shadows of the Empire, during a round of hand-to-hand combat against an Expy of a Terminator, he discovers that he can use superspeed.
    • In The Truce at Bakura, he can talk to the parasitic lungworms infesting his body, which will soon kill him, and persuade them to stop chewing on his tissues and crawl out of his mouth.
    • In Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Luke is able to absorb blaster bolts without harm, communicate with meltmassif creatures that do not understand the concept of organic life, 'feed' said creatures so that they are forever free of the Big Bad's control, and in a very trippy mind-battle, when the Big Bad becomes a black hole and swallows him, he becomes a white fountain.
    • The Courtship of Princess Leia has him casually root through Isolder's memories while the other mentions his past, and when they're falling he manages to slow the falls down.
    • The Thrawn Trilogy, and Timothy Zahn's work in general, gives him the ability to read someone's presence like a second face, picking up on emotional states and knowing if someone's had an idea, the ability to enhance his senses, plus a kind of short-term Photographic Memory — he can rewind his short-term memories, within an hour or so, and recall with perfect accuracy things he wasn't paying attention to before. There is mention of him learning this from Yoda, at least.
    • Dark Empire grants him the power to make legions of droids self-destruct, the ability to generate dopplegangers, send two way visual/audio messages across great distances, and in the audio drama, the ability to fix hyperspace anomalies.
    • In the Jedi Academy Trilogy, a prospective student won't come study with him until he's crossed a lake of lava. Half way across, Luke fights a creature living in the lava, which covers up the stones he's been hopping across. Not a problem! He extends the power he's been using to defy convection and just walks across the surface. He's also able to invade peoples' minds to find if they're Force-Sensitive.
    • In I, Jedi he has the ability to retrieve lost memories and damp down any of his senses.
    • The Black Fleet Crisis gives him rather pointless super-architectural powers which would make anyone who's ever worked with stone white with envy. He goes to the beach where his father once had a fortress and finds only widely-scattered rocks.
      "The sand around him stirred. The rocks shuddered, shifted, then began to rise from the sea and the sand as though sifted from them by an invisible screen. Swirling through the air as they sought their place, the stones took shape as broken wall and shattered foundation, as arch and gate and dome—the ruins of Darth Vader's fortress retreat.
      It hung in the air around and above Luke as it had once stood atop the cliff, a dark-faced and forbidding edifice. [...] As he had redeemed and reclaimed his father, he would redeem and reclaim his father's house.
      Now the stones swirled again in the air, joined by others plucked from the sea and stripped from the face of the cliff. Now broken edge fused against broken edge, and the dark faces of the rock lightened as their mineral structure was reshuffled. Now heavy rock walls and floors thinned to an airy elegance as if they were clay in a potter's press."
      He then instantly builds a tower that is perfectly camouflaged with its surroundings, has the gravity act however he wants it to, and makes door and window holes open wherever and whenever he pleases. In lieu of furniture he tells a guest to sit and forms an "air cushion" under them.
    • The New Rebellion extends the heat-redirection power, letting Luke literally heat the hollow insides of some hostile acidic balloon-things until they burst.
    • Tash Arranda of Galaxy of Fear is not Luke Skywalker, but she does have The Force. From time to time during the series it spontaneously helps her out by letting her grasp new powers, though her lack of training means she can't use most at will. Right from Eaten Alive she gains the power to create a kind of personal Disruptor Shield, though she can't hold it up for long. By Clones she can perform minor telekinesis at will.
  • In Super Sales on Super Heroes, Felix learns his ability to alter a person or an object's stats as if they were an RPG character also allows him to give them new powers. He can't affect himself, but any super he owns (slavery is legal where he lives) can be upgraded by him. It's one way he secures their loyalty. For example, Kit is already a powerful area telepath, but she can't shut off the voices without a special helmet. Felix upgrades her power to directed telepathy, while also leaving her the option of doing an area scan. He then gives her telekinesis. Lily can suck out people's souls and cast magic by drawing glyphs. She asks to be able to cast glyphs instantly, and he grants her that upgrade. He then also gives her the ability to store spells in objects (also known as enchantment).
  • Richard Rahl from The Sword of Truth falls victim to this trope fairly regularly. Understandable, since he's also subjected to Only the Author Can Save Them Now at least once a book.
    • There's also the convenient twin features that nobody actually knows what his powers are or how to use them intentionally, and his powers always seem to activate instinctively when he really, really needs them. He eventually finds a book the should tell him how his powers work... but cannot read it at the time because he's been depowered (it's established early on that there are magical trip mines in magic books that erase the memory of the contents from the mind of anyone who really shouldn't read that particular book).
  • The resolution of the Telzey Amberdon story "Resident Witch", by James H. Schmitz, relies on Telzey's psychic powers including the ability to Body Surf, despite no previous indication that she could do this.
    • In another story, Telzey has to do some lengthy cross-country running. We're suddenly told that she "liked a lot of sports and played hard at them" (despite carrying a full course load at university plus her psi spy work) and could do this with ease. This is the same story in which she does file management on the villain's mind, to erase half of it, rendering him harmless. Why she did not do this when he first started menacing her is not explained.
  • Justified in Villains Inc. (sequel to Wearing the Cape) when an encounter grants Astra the ability to sense magic, allowing her to make several observations key to the plot. It is suggested that this added power is temporary, however.
  • A bit of subversion with Lionblaze from Warrior Cats, since his power covers the incredibly wide umbrella of "being really good at fighting", meaning the authors are able to make them take the shape of whatever they're in the mood for writing. What to show how crazy and out off control he is? He is invulnerable, and bloodthirsty to the point where he bathes in his enemies' blood. Need something heavy held up? He has super strength. Bullet time is fun to write? He fights in bullet time.


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