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I want to create a character with matter manipulation powers, down to the atomic level. However, I've become aware that this is essentially exactly what Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen does- rearranging matter and spacetime. Though my character has significant limitations compared to Dr. Manhattan (for example, he doesn't have as high an amount of control, and he can't see the future/past/whatever), it's still too similar. Even the name of the power I gave him (omnikinesis) is the same.

How do I differentiate this power from Dr. Manhattan's? I've already given him a material weakness that prevents him from using his abilities when in contact with it, as well as preventing him from using his abilities on the material. (I don't believe Dr. Manhattan has a material weakness, only certain limitations.) But apart from that, how do I make this more unique?

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closed as off-topic by Aify, Blade Wraith, Rekesoft, Frostfyre, Culyx Jul 19 '18 at 13:33

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you want your character to do (and not to do)? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 18 '18 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ He should only know how to reform matter (for example, give himself armor or build a weapon from scratch), move around matter and energy, create forcefields, change biology, use thermal and electric powers, teleport, use telekinesis on a macroscopic scale, and any other logical ones (flying, underwater breathing, etc.), if that's what you mean. $\endgroup$ – Ian Ng Jul 18 '18 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ If your concern is that your character's powers are too similar to another existing character, rest easy. Nowadays it looks like inventing a superpower that both generic and original is nearly impossible. Take a look: Matter Transmutation Superpower $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 18 '18 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ Like Alexander said, you'll never be able to create a truly unique power. Dr. Manhattan isn't even the only matter manipulator out there, it's a somewhat common ability in comics. Silver Surfer, Firestorm, and Captain Atom all do it off the top of my head. The important thing is to make your character itself unique. Different design, different personality, different motivations, etc. $\endgroup$ – MetalJimmor Jul 19 '18 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ This question seems to me to be about a specific character, or about story-telling itself, both of which are off topic here, rather than about the construction of a world or element of a world which is our focus. Can you Edit your question to clarify how this fits within our subject scope? Especially see the points on actions of individual characters and character building both being off topic. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 19 '18 at 7:19
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Like Alexander said, you don't really need to worry about your character being too similar to Dr.Manhattan unless you are targeting fans of Watchmen with your story/world/character you are creating. There are too many characters now-a-days that super powers are always going to overlap and certain characters will always feel the same to a normal person.

Based off my memory, Dr. Manhattan is the blue guy who blows people up, is super giant and walks around naked all the time. If your character isn't that then to me he isn't exactly the same. You often give characters a unique appearance or trait which is what makes them different from other heros with similar powers.

Take for example Superman. His hair curl is pretty iconic along with his hair style and the glasses he uses. Any character with anything similar can be closely associated with him and you can see this in Ready Player One with the Clark Kent glasses.

However there are a ton of heros who have powers that overlap with some of the ones he has. If you take Super Strength then you have the Hulk, or All Might from Hero acadamia. You also have wonder woman and thor who could also be considered similar.

If you want your hero to be unique and different, then you need to give them more than a power. They need a personality, an appearance and a history. They need to use their powers differently from heros with the same power and have their own iconic moves and strategies.

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So, you want a character that can shape matter that isn't Dr. Manhattan? No worries! That's not what Dr. Manhattan does anyway.

The key distinction here is on the technical use of the term "matter" - anything that has mass and takes up space. From what I know of Dr. Manhattan, he's able to control basically everything, but everything is not matter. When we talk about matter, we're usually referring to fermions instead of bosons. Dr. Manhattan's powers appear to include things such teleportation and timey wimey things.

The clearest example of non-matter is light - photons are massless and bosonic, which means that they neither have mass nor take up space in any real way (you can stack any number of them onto the same spot). This can actually be extended to block any ability to control the four fundamental forces of nature, preventing him from controlling electromagnetic, weak, strong, or gravitational fields.

That alone makes for some interesting hamartia. Any kid with a laser pointer could arguably blind him, and he's susceptible to any and all gravity attacks. For other boson-based powers, see the answers here.

Now, bosons are intricately tied to fermions, and any nuclear physicists reading your book are likely to be able to easily pick you apart. But the focus on truly "matter" based powers will be distinct enough that nobody will make the connection to Dr. Manhattan unless you point it out.

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He is very clumsy and very dangerous.

The control is the thing that differentiates them and I am glad you thought of it. Dr Manhattan is a god and acts that way. He is very sure of himself, does whatever he wants and gets it right the first time.

Your character has godlike powers too but he lacks control. Godlike power and lack of control can lead to terrible accidents. It is like the difference between a stunt driver and my friend Paul. Both have excellent and powerful cars. The stunt driver is perfectly in control of his car and can make it do anything a car can do. Paul is lucky to keep the car on the road although he is good at playing music on it.

Your character will (probably) know his control is poor and may also know that his poor control makes him incredibly dangerous. He might be cocky and just bang away regardless, making a huge mess of things as he tries to accomplish his end, getting something like what he wants after a number of tries. Or he might be exceedingly careful and incremental, like a driver who drives very slowly in the right lane, aware of his limitations. He might be reluctant to use his power at all, haunted by the disasters he has caused. He might practice small endeavors over and over, trying to refine his control. He might limit the exercise of his power to the small things where he is pretty sure he will not irrevocably damage things (like sitting in the driveway and listening to music), going big only out of utmost necessity.

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