How do you feel about a 'Chosen One'?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by C. A. Stanley, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Master

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    The MC in my WIP would likely be referred to as a Chosen One (though I'm not entirely sure yet if he is or not!).

    I have no issue with this–I think it’s fun to have a singularly powerful character, as long as there are appropriate limits, costs, and balances–but I know there are many fantasy fans who are getting sick of this ‘cliché’.

    What are your thoughts?

    What ideas do you use in your own work to develop a relatable Chosen One, or transform the concept completely?

    I’m happy to give more details about my MC, if anyone is interested.
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    If it's "Chosen" like it is in the Hunger Games? Then I'm all for it.:p
    Chosen can mean very different things, from a fated life to walking around with a target between your shoulder blades, being revered or reviled or any of a dozen other things.
    It's what it means in the story and to the character...
    Do they know or like that they are the chosen? Would they rather not be so named?
    I don't think I can write a "chosen" hero.
    I tend to have MCs who are almost peripheral to the main event, or at best a small cog in a bigger machine. I like the freedom and distance it gives me to write.
     
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  3. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    I like "singularly powerful" characters but prefer ones who earn it through hard work over the usual chosen ones who are just "gifted" and can access unusual levels of power with little or no training/experience (although they would probably still need a good amount of inborn talent to be far above most others even with a lot of training and experience, but they don't tend to have unique supernatural gifts, just tap into their (exaggerated) physical potential more). My typical MC type is a cute girl who has years of combat experience, carries around a gigantic weapon and can slay kaiju sized monsters in straight physical combat. Rather than being a green kid they're more likely to be the ones calling someone else "kid" although many of my heroines are still in their late teens to twenties, but they're old hands (and full of scars) experience wise. :D Often they're similar to a big sister/mentor type character in a more standard story, but as the lead.

    As hinted above mine basically choose themselves. They want to be strong (or to get strong to be able to survive/protect others) so they are. XD
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  4. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Master

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    Basically the MC is born in the right place, at the right time, to the right parents (or is it the wrong place at the wrong time? :)). He is chosen only by circumstance (though, that circumstance is intertwined with a 'natural force' that rules magical energy in the world).

    His specific lineage, and the approximate time of his birth (leading up to a time of great global 'stress', in this instance an inevitable, intercontinental war), means he has control of 3 forms of magic rather than one (usual) or two (uncommon). He can hide this if he chooses (once he figures out that he is 'special'), but the position of Terishar is rare, and he feels that for once in his life he may be accepted (the Terishar is seen as an almost mythological figure, revered by some, reviled by others).

    I hope to show the two sides of power, which might be a trope in itself... He has the power to save the world, or destroy it. He will both love his position of power, and hate it. He will be a flawed protagonist (not just too trusting or anything soft like that), and will rely heavily on those around him.

    I totally appreciate your final comment - I imagine it's nice to have that freedom, whereby your MC is involved but not integral. It gives you the opportunity to show events through a wider perspective, and have the MC discover things at the same time as the reader. I haven't written that perspective yet, but I will surely give it a go.
     
  5. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Master

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    Great point, power has to be earned or learned. It's difficult to sympathise with a character who doesn't deserve what they have!

    They're great characters--the ones who already have training and proficiency--I just prefer to have them as secondaries, so that my MC can display the same awe that I would myself :) always useful to have one or two around in case things get messy.

    This cute badass you reference... in the same vein as Sucker Punch, by any chance ? :D
     
  6. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    Kind of, but more visually obvious and imposing ie. usually scarred up and likely with intimidating looking weapons and/or armor. This is my favored aesthetic (ignore the impractical outfit, I mean more the confidence, weapon size and hint of dirtiness):

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Dark Lord

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    I'm fine with it if they've actually been "chosen" by someone or something for rational and compelling reasons. (No, no, teenagers are NOT the right people to select to protect the planet.) Half the time you have a "chosen one" who has been "chosen" by some vague concept or even nothing at all. I hate that. Make it make sense.
     
  8. glutton

    glutton Grandmaster

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    Cavet: if the teenager is already proven and considered one of the best fighters on the planet (real life example: Mike Tyson at age 19) and what they need is a fighter... although I'd guess that's not functionally the same as the type of teenagers you're thinking of. :D
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I don't have strong feelings about ideas. Plot ideas are to writing what a sketch is to a finished building.

    I react to writing. Write well, and I'm in. Write badly and it doesn't matter how clever or unusual the ideas, I'm out.
     
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  10. TheCrystallineEntity

    TheCrystallineEntity Dark Lord

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    For me, it depends on how it is used. If it is used as a deconstruction [like in Harry Potter of Tales of Symphonia/Tales of the Abyss] or with clever twists and turns, then I find the premise interesting.
     
  11. pmmg

    pmmg Scribal Lord

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    I kind of think most Main Characters are chosen one's of a sort, whether they wear the title or not. I think 'chosen ones' tend to be a somewhat natural consequence of writing about the most interesting people on the planet (obviously, if something or someone else was more interesting, I ought to write about them instead). I don't mind any of the cliché's, they all rise or fall on the many other factors other than they just are. Compelling, Engaging, well written will trump efforts to write things off as cliché.

    Actual, full blown, born with the most metachlorians, chosen ones certainly run a great potential to make a readers eyes roll, so if you have one of those, you have to work on all the other important aspects as well.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  12. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Mystagogue

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    Chosen one is kind of an ill defined term so before I answer the question I have to supply my own personal definition. For me a chosen one has to be 1) chosen by someone in the narrative be it prophecy, gods, or just other people 2) the last/ and or only hope. A good example of this distinction would be Harry Potter.

    In the first few books, he's clearly going to be the one to thwart Voldemort (he is the protagonist after all) and he's got some unusual, but not unique powers, but I wouldn't consider him a true chosen one because even though he has a special connection with Voldemort, up until the prophesy is revealed, its conceivable that someone else could ultimately be the one to kill Voldemort. Dumbledore, for example is a powerful enough that Voldemort's afraid of him. My point is, Harry doesn't feel the burden of being the only one who can kill Voldemort. Its only after the prophecy is revealed that he feels the enormity of his destiny and becomes a true chosen one.

    Star Wars is another example of this. I wouldn't consider Luke in the original trilogy to be a chosen one because he's the best choice for defeating Vader but never the only choice (Laya or even a concentrated effort by the rebels might have been able to bring down the empire) but Anakin in the prequels is (albeit not a good one since his prophecy is very vague)

    Okay now that we've got that out of the way, what makes a good chosen one. Well there's got to be a pretty good reason as to why they're the only one who can do this. Having a famous dad or being the strongest/ most powerful doesn't cut it for me. If a chosen one is just the most powerful, then I question why couldn't one more intelligent or several less powerful people combine efforts achieve the same goal.My favorite chosen one's are all uniquely qualified for their task. They usually have a special power or ability no one else has like immunity to the bad guy's magic or they're the only one who can wield that magic sword. Basically, they've got to be the bad guy's Achilles heel. If the antagonist has more than one weak spot, what's the point of having a chosen one?

    Secondly, they've got to have a good reason for having the unique ability they have. If its been inherited then there's got to be a good reason why their parents didn't defeat the bad guy or why it can't wait another generation. If not inherited, I expect it to be explained at some point. I find superhero origin stories to be a treasure trove of inspiration if I'm stuck on this part.

    So, basically if you can answer the questions: Why this person? Why now? then you're good to go.
     
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  13. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Grandmaster

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    I think the character dynamics of how one would react to being the chosen one don't get fleshed out enough. Most of time they feel a bit intimidated or may initially refuse the call, but then we don't really get to know their feelings once they accept their title and go on with their adventure. I'd try to get a clear idea on the thought processes of your character. For example, he could become paranoid thinking that everything he's about to do is going to be the moment in which he fulfills his destiny, or he can become extremely cocky and think that no one can kill him.


    If the Chosen One is revealed through prophecy, then another thing to flesh out are different interpretations of said prophecy. People are going to have different ideas on who the chosen one is, what exactly he's suppose to do, and how exactly he's suppose to do it. You can use this as an advantage too, creating a mystery, leading on that the prophecy is going to be fulfilled a certain way, and then do a big reveal that is in fact different. I think that's an easy way to get the reader theorizing about your work and really look for details.
     
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  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Like pmmg, I think that most stories do feature a particularly unusual, better, stronger, more intelligent character as main character—at least, there's something to distinguish them from other characters in the book. These are "Chosen Ones" at least in as far as the author has chosen them to be the heroes.

    I like the example of Ender Wiggin, who was chosen by the powers that be in the novel on the basis of his intelligence and personality and then trained up. Those who chose him nonetheless still felt uncertainty as they watched his development. Also, those choosers had chosen many others, basically sparring partners, and I suppose any one of them could have become the ultimate "Chosen One." But Ender's the one who rose to the top, after all.

    Using the very idea of "Chosen One" within a story adds a particularly new dimension. Someone else in the novel, perhaps even a group or a whole society, might come to know that character as the Chosen One ("chosen by the gods" or whatever.) Or even that character might come to see himself as the Chosen One. In either case, you would be introducing another character or set of characters: the Choosers. Thereafter, these play a role in the tale, either as background or up front in the story, and someone else in the tale will have ideas/opinions about these. Plus, you then must address how the recognizers (group, society, individual) have their own concepts of the world altered by this knowledge of the existence of a Chosen One. Others may treat this person in a special way (positively or negatively), and the person himself is likely to treat himself in a special way, if only to think about himself while having the knowledge that he's a Chosen One influencing his thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
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  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    My favorite Chosen One is Brian, from the Life of Brian, heh heh.

    I see the argument over Chosen Ones as overblown, they're either done well, or not. In general, if you see Chosen One! right up front people will be more skeptical, but like Luke, Harry Potter, and probably a bunch of others, if the status of chosen one shows up later, readers/viewers will have less of an issue with it.

    In my WIP I'm just about ready to shop, I use the term Chosen One once, in reference to the antagonist. While one could argue the protags are "chosen ones" in a vague sense, the real chosen one in the book is the guy they're all fighting.
     
  16. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Master

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    glutton - I like it. Personally I'm not a fan of oversized weapons, but hey, whatever floats your boat, or indeed, kills your enemies :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  17. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Master

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    Demesnedenoir - Totally agree. My MC doesn't know he's special until maybe halfway through the book, and then things start clicking into place. I aim to introduce it subtly; the last thing I want is for readers to become apathetic to the MC because he is OP.

    I really like that last point, I'd never really considered it before. Do you mean the 'Chosen One' is the antagonist specifically in your book, or in antagonists in general? Because I feel that argument has some serious weight... Antagonists tend to trigger enough conflict to generate a whole storyline, and in that sense, they are special.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    I might be forgetting the specifics, but didn't Harry Potter become the Chosen One precisely because he was chosen by Voldemort, the villain? Had Voldemort come to the Longbottoms that night rather than the Potters, it might have turned out differently?

     
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    In general to a degree, but quite specifically in my book. He was chosen by the gods for a rather nasty "the ends justify the means" task and the other characters are out to stop him. He (and the gods indirectly) are the catalyst and drivers, the characters are the pawns.

     
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    I just rolling with what someone else said, I couldn't get past chapter 2 and didn't really like the movies much, think I saw the first and second with kids while spacing off... so... I'm not a Potter person by any stretch, LOL. What I vaguely recall... he comes off as sorta chosen to me early on... bearing the mark kind of indicates this. He has the feel, but was it really explicit early? I'm not sure. It was implicit at least, I think.

     
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