Sometimes, juuuuuust sometimes, instead of your characters having beliefs of their own that mean nothing to you (all good writers must be able to do this at least a little--think of any antagonist which is engaging and you can get an idea of what I mean)...instead of your characters inheriting your beliefs (which is the most common, and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong about this at all and I do it all the time as a result)...sometimes...you inherit your characters' beliefs.
This is, obviously, a very rare occurrence. I am fairly certain that many authors, both professional and amateur, know what I am talking about, though, because it isn't too hard for your characters (if they truly take on a life of their own) to surprise you and do things you thought impossible or at least had never intended of them. Speaking for me, personally, adapting characters' beliefs as my own has happened maybe two or three times I can think of? Something like that.
...Well...today, I just added another instance. And it is from the most unusual of sources too, in that it's basically brand new. (The other times all came from well-established characters as I fleshed them out.) Funny story, there. It started last night, actually. I began thinking about one of my favorite superheroes I have created during commercial breaks for adult swim. He's existed in multiple stories, at multiple power levels. He could even exist in the Rubyverse, though I have no plans for him at this time.
And when I say superhero, I more mean supervillain in his case because for some reason, I've always envisioned him as an antagonist. Not evil, just not exactly a good guy. For some reason, he's always an opponent of the protagonist, I don't know why, it just works out that way. His name has always been 'Carat'. Well, actually, 'Caret' is what it's supposed to be, but at least 'carat' is closer than 'carrot'.
As you may be able to deduce, his power, at its base level, relates to exponents, the "^" sign of course having the technical name of 'caret', where he gets the name from. He can exponentially increase, or decrease, properties of things. This is his base power. What varies is the strength of that power, and beginning last night and continuing into this morning, I toyed with what it would be at its absolute strongest: above god level.
At the weakest, and a signature attack of his across all versions of the character, Carat (I figure that he could maybe have accidentally misnamed himself in-universe and by the time he realized his mistake, he decided to stick with it...a-la exactly the out-of-universe reason for the misspelling) can exponentially increase the mass of, say, grains of sand. Then, by throwing said super-dense grains, he can exponentially increase their velocity. Result? You get a shotgun-like barrage with each penetration potentially delivering the piercing power of a 50-caliber round.
Yes, that's him at his weakest. Now imagine if he can exponentially increase the size of the grains as well. Imagine having to face super-dense rocks the size of cannonballs moving at supersonic speeds. Tip of the iceberg for what the more overpowered version of the character can do. Exponentially increasing his resistance to damage makes him nigh-invulnerable. If you somehow damage him, exponentially increasing his regeneration makes him instantly heal from that. Exponentially decreasing his aging also means he can live basically forever.
Exponentially increasing his reaction time, and exponentially decreasing yours, makes your movements slow. Exponentially increasing how quickly he thinks, how quickly he analyzes, how intelligent he is, how knowledgeable he is, and so forth means he can instantly figure out how to fight basically any opponent. Exponentially increasing his exponential increases is not impossible, either, allowing him to metagame his own powers.
It was at this stage that I realized this stronger version of him (like I said, some of these things all versions can do, other things only his stronger versions can do, and I was focused on the stronger version today) would actually be kinda lonely: nothing could ever match him. Were he ever to die, it wouldn't be in a long, drawn-out fight he would enjoy. It'd be by a cheap surprise attack he wouldn't be able to adapt to, and he knows it. So basically, he'll either always win his fight, or he'll die before he has a chance to enjoy the fight.
And while the potential applications of the power are great, they also become addicting. Exponentially decrease the amount of sleep you need, and exponentially increase the amount of rest given when you do? Blinking your eyes gives 12 hours worth of sleep, along with the accompanying amount of dream amplification. Exponentially decrease the amount of food or water you need? Never need to eat or drink. Exponentially increase the enjoyment of food you eat? Congratulations, you've just had the best meal you've ever had, and you will never have food tasting that good again unless you use your powers for it...at which point, now you've become addicted and must ALWAYS use your power to get that enjoyment because otherwise, the food tastes dull.
In short: the lament of a character who is that powerful is that they will never be able to have the experience they truly want. So, I developed logical weaknesses. The first logical weakness? No matter how much you put it to the power of, one is always gonna be one. So while he can exponentially increase the number of rocks in hand if he has two...if he only has one, then he cannot. This limitation isn't that hard to overcome. One ton, for instance, is one ton. It cannot be increased or decreased, right? Except one ton is 2,000 pounds, which can be increased or decreased.
There might be more, but the second logical weakness I developed, tied to the first, and this is important, is...the power of zero. If someone's power is 'zero', at their very weakest, they nullify Carat. Why? Because anything to the power of zero is...one. In short, Carat's exponential increases or decreases...are absolutely nullified, and the things he was exponentially influencing are set back to their base, fundamental, normal level.
...At the strongest, the power of zero, however, is actually even stronger than Carat. "Damage inflicted: zero." Instantly healed. "Ability to harm: zero". Instantly takes your ability to fight away. "Amount of life left: Zero." Instantly kills you. "Number of years lived: zero." De-ages you out of existence. "Existence: Zero". Removes you from existence altogether, as deader than dead. He can raise the dead just as easily. "Time passing: zero." Freezes time. "Amount of time spent dead: zero." Brings the dead person back to the state they were in at the very moment of their demise. Then, it's a simple matter of eliminating the cause of death. For instance, if old age was the cause..."number of years passed since 25: zero". The power of zero just de-aged a person who died of old age down to 25.
This is just in giving zeroes. The scariest part is that taken to its logical extreme, there's absolutely nothing stopping this from being a valid sequence. "Number of things I can't do: zero." And, with an unlimited number of things he can do, he can then start taking zeroes away, an equally powerful tool, and the one that overcomes the logical weakness I thought of for his power: if a person believes, truly believes, that 'zero' means something other than what the person with the power of zero believes, then they will be affected by the zero in that matter.
Basically, if they have no concept of zero, he gives them his. If their concept of zero is similar to his, then his concept of zero power will work. The only weakness is if their concept of zero is entirely foreign, because then, he cannot "give" the power of zero to them, since they already have a different idea of zero, one which he cannot understand. He can overcome this weakness with the above method, but I figure that doing so requires him to first think about needing it, but he has a similar problem to Carat, in that--with nothing to challenge him--he's probably as strong as he needs to be and wouldn't think of it, and even if he did, might not even want to remove that unique, special definition of zero.
...And all of this is set-up for the conclusion. If that is the weakness of the power of zero, what kind of definition would be so foreign, so different from our typical understanding, that it would be enough to defeat him? And this is where the new character comes in. This brand-new person, made just to fight Zero, asked Zero--and by extent, me--the question, the defining question: "What if zero isn't nothing...but rather, everything?"
They presented a compelling argument, too. Well, at that point, I'm not sure whether it was them or me doing the argument (probably both), but the point stands: this character, who I don't even know the identity of, was able to ask something that could significantly influence my personal meism: in this case, with an idea, that zero, in a sense, that nothing, is a blank slate: anything can happen from nothing, including the continued nothing. Zero could become anything at any point, including continuing to be zero. It is only when nothing becomes something, when zero becomes a value, that the things it can be become constrained, that the values it can be become limited.
This seems so stupidly fundamental now that I actually have realized it, the kind of thing even a child should know (it's simple math!), yet it was so groundbreaking for me to think about, I'm actually laughing as I write this down. I still haven't fully grasped what this'll translate into with the grander scale of meism, but I know this was something BIG.