Escapism and fantasy are very different from the world we live in. The very nature of fantasy is to be an escape and be different. Magical some might say. But, this brings forth a very interesting question about the current fantasy front runner A Song of Ice and Fire(Game of Thrones). Why is it so accurate to real world politics?
Escape and the over powered protagonist are great but they tend to wear thin as the reader ages and matures along with their literary tastes (I am well aware some people never grow out of what they read as a child). Readers still want an escape but don’t want the protagonist to be able to mow down scores of enemy soldiers or navigate a deadly encounter through sheer luck and being a one trick pony. Readers want tension and uncertainty which is a feat not easily done by something that advertises it’s length as much as a book does. It can be done and quite well which brings us to the answer as to why GoT is so popular.
All the really needs to be done is to introduce more realistic combat and removal of supporting characters no matter how major that supporting character may be. Those characters that seem safe throughout the entire novel dying unexpectedly because of a realistic combat injury is something that brings a lot of tension into the novel. There is another way should you be too infatuated with your characters that killing them off feels like killing a little bit of yourself (like when losing a D&D character).
It is one of my favorite things to do when I am writing a character and that is to give them some big flaw. In one of my projects it is crippling mental disorders and in the rest of the projects I am working on it is a foul mouth and a terrible nicotine addiction that dictates how they spend their day. Flaws add a layer of relatability to characters and makes them stop seeming like this god like being in the story using their over whelming powers to get through the challenge. But, it is best not to over do the flaw so that it seems that the character is skating by on luck through the entire work or series if you make it that far as a writer.
What I am doing in my main project is a bit of both. Not to spoil anything but the main characters have mental disorders that will grow to cripple them as people over time and I make sure that if they are in a situation that is overwhelming then they will not make it out alive unless by some crazy magical means. But, as an author I am curious as to what others do in their stories.
Do you give characters terrible flaws but let them live? Do you go the George RR Martin approach and drop them like flies? Or do you write a mixture of both. Please let me know as I am very curious.