In our world, I see too much talk about power as a way to dictate outcomes to our own liking. At its worst, power is about controlling others.
But at its best, I see power as self-determination.
Stories typically revolve around power struggles and power shifts. Main characters tend to find their power at the end of a story, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they conquer all. It may mean finding a voice, a patch of ground, self-respect. Often it means giving up the desire for external signs of power, instead seizing on some greater inner gift.
In Bunheads, the main character tests whether she wants to find her power only on the ballet stage, or risk seeking it in other places as well. In Unwind, the characters assert power over their own futures in a dystopian society that claims ownership of their very bodies. In Want To Go Private? a girl discovers her own voice is found within herself, not under the spell of a mysterious stranger. The characters in The List struggle within a society that tells them the source of female power is looks, external beauty.
Often, characters find that like Dorothy in Oz, the magical slippers were on their own feet the whole time.
Questions I like to think about when developing a story: Who has the power at the beginning, and who has the power at the end? What is the true power in the story, and what do the characters think it is? How and when does the power shift?
With every story, we challenge characters (and readers) to discover the sources of power and use them wisely.