Last week's teaser we found out a bit more about Giaan, that he has a rather strange ability. Someone said she always thought my WIP was "realistic fiction" and nothing to do with powers or stuff like that, and was quite shocked at the reveal (which pretty much mirrored what everyone else was thinking, judging by their: "Woah, I didn't know he had a power!"). Lol it is realistic fiction, in a way, and I'm happy about her reaction, cos it means I'm on the right track. I didn't have to result to any "my character has this weird power and he's confused and he doesn't want to use his powers but he has to, blah, blah, blah" to generate tension and make her feel for Giaan.
Giaan's biggest problem is not power-related. He's in a bad place right now and he can't come out of it through magic or doing something freaky. And you know what, that's cool.
I believe a character's power shouldn't define them. Who they are – not what they can do – is what should count the most. Giaan's pain, his "normal" struggles, his personality, his choices in "normal" situations, etc, are the very essence of his humanity, and that's the part of him I want readers to empathise with.
I guess this is me revolting against the norm. There are too many YA books out there today where the biggest problem a protag faces is one she has to solve by utilising her paranormal gift, and said problem is the only problem capable of striking true fear in her heart. All other problems, though strong enough to trigger some minor distress, border on the mundane, and only exist to expand the book's pages: protag has a crush on a boy and worries whether he likes her back and if he'll ask her out; protag has to deal with bullies or mean girls; etc.
Romance and encounter with mean girls are not sufficient ingredients in creating believable, three-dimensional teenagers, especially when we know by the book's conclusion the protag will most likely end up dating her boy-crush and defeating the mean girls. If your character's only normal problems are boys/girls and bullies and homework, and their only biggest problem is defeating the mystical beast with magic or paranormal powers, then you risk your character falling victim to the Peter Petrelli effect.
Peter Petrelli is this dude from Heroes, a TV show, who had a lot of cool powers, and everyone wanted to be like him at some point in the show's first season. When he lost his powers he became the most boring ass dude in television history. Why, cos without his powers he had no purpose. He had no vision. He had nothing. I started to ask myself, who the hell is this guy? He became worse than one-dimensional. There was nothing interesting about his life, because he had no life to begin with. The only time he seemed to breathe was when he could shoot something from his hands or read minds or do some shit like that.
Separate your characters from their powers or abilities; render them "normal" and see how interesting they are without the ubiquitous, clichéd young adult problems: "I like a boy but I don't know if he likes me?", "Those girls at school are always picking on me", etc. Doing so could help you and your characters circumvent the Peter Petrelli effect.