You’re Not Geeks, You’re Subject Matter Experts.

By Dame Toni

I used to be a Business Analyst (something I may have mentioned before). When a BA is figuring out how to move forward, they consult an SME – a Subject Matter Expert.

So, right now I’m working on several writing projects, some of which are under contract and some of which are not (yet). And, as it turns out, pretty much every project has at least one or two things on which I am not sure how best to move forward.

I understand a lot of readers, writers, and wannabe writers of Urban Fantasy visit this blog. I also speculate that a fair number of you can quote large sections of dialogue from the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spend a certain amount of time wondering how the heck Dean Winchester is going to get out of purgatory.

You are all Subject Matter Experts.

May I consult you?

I am writing the fourth and final book in the Mercy series. [Side note to those of you who keep asking me when there will be more Mercy novels. First there were to be three more, then two more, and now one more. This is the publisher’s decision, not mine. And, during this decision process, I wrote two complete Mercy novels, each of which was deemed to be inappropriate for the publishing line with which I have a contract. I am now starting over for the third time.]

So, anyway, in Mercy’s world, there are no “creatures” – no demons, were-critters, fanged types, fae, etc. There are people, some of whom have extraordinary abilities. Mercy can compel people to obey her. She’s also a telepath.

In this book (working title Mercy Killing, but there is about a 50% chance that will change) Mercy, who has always wondered whether or not she is human, is going to encounter a number of others like herself. It shall be revealed that the special abilities among these people vary with DNA – like you’re a brunette and I’m a blonde (well, I could be a natural blonde), not everyone has the same special powers. So, I need some ideas for special powers people could have. Nothing too X-Men; Mercy’s world is a bit more reality-based than that.

For each of these powers, I need to know a potential way that someone who was not supernatural could stop them. What’s their kryptonite?

Brainstorm away, you SME’s, you. What kind of powers would you like to see in Mercy Killing?

Thanks a bunch in advance…


P.S. Is it only me, or does anyone else think turning Elena Gilbert into a vampire might have been jumping the shark? Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

P.P.S. Team Alcide. Just sayin.’


  1. says

    I can talk more about “Kryptonite.” Maybe that will help us back into some ideas.

    I’m sort of an SME “lite” on PTSD. When you have it, even when it’s “under control,” it’s like having a so-called trick knee.

    Certain sounds, a certain subject matter in a movie, a song that comes over the radio when the original traumatic incident happened, odors, an anniversary date. Even if you know about what can happen, the potential can be easy to forget until the trigger hits.

    That said, the powers could be affected by childhood trauma, even triggered by childhood trauma or circumstances that led up to childhood trauma. (Like Magneto in X-Men II)

    FWIW, there’s a school of thought now that combat veterans suffering the most from PTSD may have picked up a sensitivity to trauma after some very likely long-forgotten childhood events.

    Anyway, specific childhood traumas may or may not repeat in adult life, but the circumstances leading up to or surrounding them may re-occur, like a song playing on the radio that played in the background or the smell of freshly mown grass coming int the window, etc.

    Anyhoo, just possibilities. Didn’t mean to go on so. I’m not a shrink, nor do I play one on TV.

  2. says

    PTSD is a powerful thing. And it’s something I’ve already thought of as a theme in MERCY KILLING. but maybe I need to give it more serious consideration. It could work on so many levels…

  3. CCRead says

    Several ideas come to mind; Seeing a few seconds/minutes into the future, being able to turn one substance into another, i.e. metal into wood, being able to rewind time maybe a minute or less, able to tell who was the last person to touch something. Is that what you were looking for.

  4. says

    I’d look into the legends of what elves or other supernatural could do–and assume those legends arose from real people who could do some of those things and then those abilities became exaggerated.

    Could include: supernatural stamina, added strength, better and faster reflexes. Psychic stuff like an ability to appear unseen, fade into darkness…stuff like that.

  5. says

    I’d like something that comes and goes and can’t be counted on until someone figures out it’s related to say, vitamin D intake. Superpowers are always so reliable in books. So maybe when someone takes fish oil, they can suddenly swim like a shark.

    I like invisibility as a power. Seems so useful.

  6. Meryt says

    Well to borrow from heroes… A deaf woman has a form of synesthesia that allows her to see music and sound as colour who can then manipulate the sound as a weapon..
    The empathic nurse who absorbs the abilities of others but is destabilised by the plethora of abilities.

    Notably, there’s a cheerleaders whose ability is hampered if her brain is impaled. I think it’s a reasonably common thing to forget that any power would be controlled by the brain and that anything that affects the brain would affect the power.

  7. says

    Hmm, I like the idea of going with mythological powers say Medusa with the idea that the myths arose from truth and then became exaggerated. Being able to “paralyze” people would be very handy especially if you were a parent. Sheesh – enough means enough and no means no, so quit your whining!

    Uhm, I wonder what you could use for the idea of “immortality” or someone who seems to always avoid death but really it’s that they can for short bursts manipulate the time continuum and they aren’t in the spot at the time the bullet hots or the bomb goes off. Only it would need to be in say four minute increments. You’d want a “magic” number and maybe using one from India would be better than Western European lucky numbers althjough they have changed throughout the centuries.

    Actually, looking into India for special powers or anywhere on the Asian sub continent might make for some more interesting “powers”.

  8. Serena says

    I like the idea of powers having consequences. For example, one power I think would be cool is the ability to make others see things, like illusions. But the flip side would be that the more you used the power, the more you would see things that aren’t really there.

  9. Karen says

    Have you thought about the different ways that people with disabilities use their senses?

    My son has aspergers syndrome, which is a form of autism. He has some unique abilities that you might find interesting. First, once he’s seen a movie, tv show or video, he can actually play it back in his head rewinding it and rewatching portions. And he remembers the most minute details because he remembers and stores everything visually. He also can (as he puts it) “overlay images” on his surroundings, so that he might be looking at me, but also visually running a set of computer data thhats actually scrolling superimposed over me. I would imagine those traits in a supernatural world would be useful.

    Hes a genius with computers and electronics, and can store books hes read just like videos. Thats great for tech books or educational material. The downfall is he cant read social cues or others emotions, which is a huge challenge.

    He is also hypersensitive to touch and sound. Unexpected touch registers as pain in his brain. His hearing is acute, so noises that are normal to us are often painfully loud to him. In addition, he can hear whispered conversations from two rooms and a good 40 ft away with the tv on! Some aspies are hypersensitive to visual, taste, smell stimuli.

    Imagine someone who could use their senses to do extraordinary things.

    You might want to read up on sensory integration dysfunction, which could definitely be used to give a human character unique abilities. Also synesthesia could prove a useful ability.

  10. Jennifer says

    Please tell them that the fans vote for MORE MERCY!! The ending of every one of them has sent me out to get the next one immediately! I read them all at once and now am waiting for the next…. :-)

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