What is the most important thing to do to keep a superhero story connected to reality?

From the Webcomic Wonderland Goodreads Q&A I did a couple weeks ago:

Leila wrote: “What’s so great about this story [The Young Protectors] is that the characters seem so real, and have their own, real and fleshed out “normal” lives.

I’d like to know what is the most important thing to do in order to keep a superhero story connected to/relatable with reality.“

That’s a very nice compliment, Leila! Thank you!

And I have one main rule when it comes to genre-fiction (i.e. sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, action, etc.): “You can make the situation as fantastic as you want, so long as the characters’ reaction to that craziness is very close to the reaction we would have in that situation.”

Faster-than-light travel, human-like android, sparkly vampires, whatever – readers will buy all of that (and in fact that’s what they signed up for). But if you try to twist your characters’ motivations and actions into pretzels just to hit some plot point you think is interesting, God help you.

So, I start with thinking about what really motivates each of the characters, find that part within myself and then put myself in their shoes – if a hot android who attacked me earlier starts to thaw and get romantic, how would I react if I had had Jeff’s experiences [from Artifice]? etc.

That’s a place I begin anyway. 🙂

(UPDATED NOTE 4/7/13: My day job is as a filmmaker and while I was on-site for a client this week, I noticed they had a list of story-telling rules from Pixar as a poster on their wall. And one of them was very similar to this. It was nice to get a little consensual validation from the big boys. 🙂 )

Read more answers over at the Webcomic Wonderland thread.

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