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How do you feel about a 'Chosen One'?

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

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    He gets the mark from Voldemort because Voldemort came to him when he was a babe, planning to kill him. But Voldemort targeted him because of a prophecy he'd heard. There were two boys who could have fit the prophecy, Harry and Neville. Voldemort chose Harry (having only heard a part of the prophecy), and from that moment forward, Harry became the Chosen One—having been marked as such, and changed, because of what happened that night.

    This kinda plays in to a subset category of "Chosen Ones," i.e. those chosen by the villain. This is like killing John Wick's dog; from that moment forward, John Wick is the "Chosen One" of the tale. Revenge tales, where the hero suffers calamity caused by a villain and returns the favor, might also fall within that "chosen by the villain" subcategory, when the person seeking revenge just happens to be particularly good in the qualities necessary for revenge, heh.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Not sure if HP was ever called a Chosen one specifically, but he was definitely in the mold of being chosen. Its clear he's the one the main villain is after, and he is the one who has to face him, with world changing consequences.
     
  3. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    Ok so I'm basically a forum novice, and didn't expect to get so many great replies... Apologies if I don't delve into each response as much as I'd like too. I'm also quickly learning that I don't know anywhere near as much as I thought I did, which is GREAT :D

    It seems to me that the consensus is, a Chosen One is specifically chosen by someone, whether that be fate, gods, society, individuals etc. WIP is in early stages, so this is all good brain-food. My original inspiration was to have a character in the same vein as Aang the Last Airbender--who can manipulate all elements rather than one--hence my conviction that my MC must be a Chosen One. However, I currently have no prophecy or 'Choosers'; the MC is simply (un)fortunate enough to be born in a certain generation, to certain parents.

    The primary antagonist is powerful, and commands a fearsome army, but does not have a protagonist-specific weakness... And so I'm starting to think my MC is in fact just a fortunately powerful protagonist! Hmm...

    If my MC can command three types of magic--rather than the standard one or two--and people believe him to be their hero, their champion, does their belief make him the Chosen One by definition, regardless of whether he is uniquely suited to 'save the day'? Would he need to land the final blow against the antagonist, or would a significant and critical contribution be enough? Specifically would he fulfil this role, if he were to unite two nations who historically have hated (and killed) each other, and teach them to work together in ways not thought possible, with the end result of victory against a common aggressor?

    I fully intend to flesh out the character, playing on the emotional impact of events, and the pressures of expectation (Dalinar, Kaladin, anyone? :)). I've found all too often that protagonists / Chosen Ones slide too easily into a role they are not prepared for. I like to compare it to winning the lottery... It'd be incredible, but could you trust people around you after coming into so much money? Would people resent you for winning? Resent you for not giving them what they feel they are worth? And what do you spend it all on...? My MC craves recognition, but hates attention; craves purpose, but hates responsibility... People are grey, characters are grey.

    This post is pretty chaotic; in the 45 mins it's taken to write it, I've completely shifted the origin/purpose of this character. A prophecy sounds like a fun endeavour...

    Loving this discussion guys and girls. Everyday's a school day.
     
  4. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    Haha, brilliant.
    "So, John, how did you become the Chosen One?"
    "Someone shot my dog."
     
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  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    The Outlaw Josey Wales... you killed his family AND his dog? That's the kicker.

    Killing the dog is also one of the greatest trope that just keeps on giving, heh heh.

     
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  6. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    I feel that Harry Potter ultimately deconstructs the idea of the Chosen One. Right from the get go he was the Boy Who Lived, but as the books go along he eventually winds up getting all sorts of sh*t dumped on him. It gets to the point that we winds up getting portrayed as an attention seeking liar by the wizarding government for saying that Voldemort came back. In the end it wasn't some prophecy that matters but the choices of people, Harry's choices and Voldemorts that matter.
     
  7. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I thought the dog was the chosen one up to the moment of its death, and then the mantle was passed...

    Not sure if John Wick meets the chosen one mold, but I think he is defined as such when the villain tells us he is a man with singular focus who killed three men with a pencil--WITH A PENCIL. John was already one of the chosen ones at that point, we were just then clued into it.
     
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  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    If you're a chosen one, I think you can expect a whole lot of shit dumped on you, it's part of the gig. Heck, you might even be forced to drag your own crucifix like Brian! Of course he wasn't the Messiah, he was a very naughty boy... but still!

    Follow the Gourd!

     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think that this boils down the issue pretty well.

    Basically, the author is always the chooser of the Chosen One.

    But why this One, this particular character, with these particular abilities, involved in these particular events, leading to this particular outcome? For some readers, "Because the Prophecy [that I, the author, created,] says so" is not a good enough answer.

    And really, those questions should probably be answered for every MC, not just super special types called Chosen Ones.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  10. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    I think that's fair. My original plan was to have it be almost a 'natural phenomenon', but I think if I throw in a workable prophecy just to add some spice and intrigue, the two will work nicely together (I still don't have it 100% thought out, but I will get there).
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Does he need to be a "Chosen One" in the story? I mean, do you feel that being known as such is important, either known as such by people in your fictional world or by those outside it reading the story?

    I think that maybe the issue is motivation for your character. Look at John Wick again. He had a motivation. But it wasn't simply that his dog was killed. It was also the fact that the dog had been the last gift given to him by his recently deceased wife–after she'd died, even. So the blow he felt was greater than having lost a pet.

    It seems to me that you are looking for a way to make him "The Chosen One" in order to avoid having to isolate any other motivation. He does what he does because...he is chosen, or he is the only one capable of doing much, or he's born at the wrong time and place. But these aren't necessarily motivations.

    What is his personal stake?

    In part, your lack of clarity on what he would need to do also speaks to a lack of real motivation for this character. What's he want to do? What's he driven to do?
     
  12. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    I realise I haven't given enough information to give context to my character.

    He travels north on a dangerous journey, in order to find a remedy (medicine, healing magic) to save his dying mother. Whilst he is away, there are many attacks on his home continent (Ahtesk), by agents of a foreign nation (Ferneru). Many townspeople are killed across the western Ahtessi coast, including the whole of his home town, his family included. When he returns, finally able to heal his mother, he finds that she is already dead. The guilt at being absent, and his anger at the destruction of everything he loved, drive him to push forward his nation's war effort against the perpetrators. Basically a vengeance motive.

    MC commands three types of magic as a direct result of his parentage (each parent was born on each of the two other continents in this world), and the 'supernatural' influence of Ishar, which is the name for the magical energy in the world (I suppose could be seen as a god, as it shows some signs of being sentient). The Ishar knows that a war is coming, which will cause great global upheaval, and so bestows special power upon anyone with specific parentage (in this case, only the MC). He is not specifically chosen to be an opposing force to the antagonist of the story, it is a natural quirk that happens every time the world faces danger (if there is someone of appropriate parentage).

    I should have shared this info originally! My bad.

    I feel he needs to be seen as the Chosen One, as it will force him into a position of expectation and responsibility. He is proactive in this sense, but I feel the additional 'dependence' of those around him will provide an interesting internal/external dynamic, and personal struggle.

    I welcome your thoughts. I'm still ironing out the kinks.
     
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    [​IMG]

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    Personally, I don't have any issue with a chosen one. It's all in how the story is written. I don't really have much to offer because most of it has been said already. I'll just echo that just because they're the chosen one, doesn't mean they don't have to earn things. I think many a look askance at the mention of a chosen one is due to someone just being handed something without facing any real challenges.

    Fine, someone has tremendous power or someone has natural aptitude for something and doing that thing comes easy, but it doesn't mean they have the wisdom to control or wield this power or skill properly.

    A few of my favorite chosen ones are Buffy and the Avatars Ang and Korra.
     
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  14. I dislike chosen ones in almost every sense of the word.

    1. Chosen ones who are the only ones who can save the world or something. I like my heroes average joes who choose their destinies, or just so happen to have an important role.

    2. Chosen ones with special powers no one else has. I prefer the MC to be of the un-special sort, maybe with skills, but extraordinary magic powers...I only like those if the hero has to undergo immense hardship and difficulty to use/control their powers.

    3. Chosen ones picked by a prophecy. I hate prophecies; id rather the MC end up in their situation by an accident and eventually have to choose to be the hero.

    (What can be gleaned from this: I like my heroes to be driven by their CHOICES, not by a prophecy or by magical powers that dropped out of the sky on their heads like bird crap. Also I like the hero to struggle, and hate it when it appears that the hero must inevitably succeed.)

    But a concept itself can't really be bad. A story in the idea stage is Schrödinger's cat; it's not bad or good (or bad and good at the same time? lol) until the book is written. And I could like a chosen one story.

    I mean, I loved Harry Potter, but disliked the chosen one part...

    Maybe you could look into what is so appealing about the chosen one trope, and why it is so common, and use that.
     
  15. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

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    I don't feel strongly about the Chosen One trope either way, really. But I noticed something that Dragon wrote that I thought needed some commentary.

    You seem to be implying that the Chosen One trope causes characters to not be driven by choices? And that Chosen One characters don't struggle?

    A Chosen One doesn't need to be a choiceless mannequin. That's got nothing to do with the trope. Chosen One characters make story-defining decisions all the time. E.g. choosing to accept the destiny thrust upon their shoulders, choosing to deliver the final blow as the prophecy says they must, or choosing to abandon friends and go fulfill their destiny or save their friends and let the world go to hell. Stuff like that.
    Ender's Game is a very good example of this (I see him as a Chosen One, since he is chosen by the governments and thrust into training to defeat the Buggers):
    Ender is trained and raised to become this super general person. Partway through his training, he becomes very rebellious against this idea, and against the people trying to mould him. And most strikingly, he ends up going against the wishes of his superiors (even though that inadvertently ends up with the result they'd wanted).

    As for the struggling, I'm also not convinced that Chosen Ones, by nature of their Chosen-ness, struggle less than other characters. They still need to make hard decisions. Do I leave my family to go and do a mission this old bearded guy tells me I'm destined to do? Do I kill this baby because I was chosen to destroy all the evil guys, down to their children? And if your hero is stronger than your villain and/or his henchmen, that's again not a characteristic of the Chosen One trope.

    As for them inevitably having to succeed, I'm not sure what you could mean. That the prophecy states they'll do it? That's no guarantee. Just look at Anakin. That sure wasn't how Obi-wan thought it would turn out. And many Chosen Ones end up trying to subvert the prophecy, only to have to twist around back in a way they didn't expect. And besides, all stories with comedy (as opposed to tragedy) endings will inevitably have the hero succeed, and all tragedy stories with end with the hero failing. The Chosen One trope doesn't affect that at all.
     
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  16. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I suppose I have a couple of 'Chosen Ones' in my stories.

    Titus Maximus is a minor scion of a major aristocratic family in the Solarian Empire - but his mother hailed from the 'Great Maze,' a sort of magical labyrinth on the far side of the world. That heritage gave him a connection to the animating essence of the Great Maze, as well as the minor bonus of a near infallible sense of direction.

    Li-Pang...perhaps not so much 'chosen' as 'possessed,' though even that term is misleading. More of an avatar for a insane deity of creation and chaos, something he deals with by 'selective amnesia' - deliberately not remembering much of his true nature. To most people, he is a wandering Asian type with a perpetual vacant expression, earning a living as a flutist, cook, or menial.
     
  17. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    This sounds like a good motivation.

    I'm a little uncertain as to why he might fight the expectations others have placed on him, or be disincentivized by those expectations, however. [Or, feel "forced" to take up the task by expectations.] If he is extremely motivated to go to war and others want him to participate in a prominent way, then I'd think that maybe he'd be more than willing to try to fulfill their expectations even while feeling the weight of those expectations.

    On the other hand, I've encountered examples in real life (including doing this myself) in which some person strongly advocates some course of action but when he receives the answer, "Ok! Sounds Great! You can do it!" he backs off with a "Whoa...uh, no, I didn't mean I would do it!" I can't say this is a very admirable response, heh. But it's one thing to try to convince others to do something and a very different thing to take on the task all by oneself.

    So in a way, this seems like a fortuitous "accident." He wants vengeance; he has the tools for it.

    I've read your comment multiple times and have been mulling over it, trying to put into perspective something that seems related. It seems important, but I'm not sure how important. Here goes:

    I've often found myself starting the conceptualization phase of a new project by first creating a hero that I really like, creating abilities, personality, history, whatever. And then, once that's done, I focus on finding a story and/or plot that I really like. Or sometimes it's the other way around. Sometimes it's not an absolute focus on first one then the other, but I feel more drawn to one for a bit until I move more into the other. And then I reach a point, moving more into specifics, where I try mashing these two things together.

    And run smack into a brick wall or thorny, shadow-enshrouded maze.

    I think there's something to be said for designing the character specifically to fit a given scenario, rather than trying to mash an already-conceived character into a scenario—i.e., rather than consider the two things as being largely separate.

    So, relating this to what you've described so far about your story...I've noticed that the powers, your MC's situation, his history are described as being circumstantial—actually, incidental?—or an accident; he is "simply (un)fortunate enough to be born in a certain generation, to certain parents," and so forth. In a way, this is like an avoidance of "Chosen Oneness," in the sense that he's just an accidental hero, fortunately the wielder of special magic that will come in handy but not particularly designed especially for the situation.

    And I can buy that.

    But I don't think designing a character specifically for a plot and set of events is particularly wrong. In fact, I think that's usually a great thing to do.

    The trick is to make everything seem organic, interconnected—each aspect is important for the story, not merely incidental—without making this character seem like a perfect robot or Superman or Mary Sue designed to thrash the villain without breaking a sweat.

    Anyway...there's something about the interplay of randomness vs determinism to be considered. But I also think that what goes on behind the scenes (what the author does when designing the story) is different than how the reader might experience it, or often ought to be.

    ^This happens all the time in fantasy tales with characters not typically thought of as Chosen Ones. I.e., kings and queens, princes and princesses, generals, court wizards, court covens: People with some power and authority are expected to take care of important business. These characters are often shown to be cognizant of the burden placed upon them. Sometimes they fret that they are incapable of meeting expectations. Sometimes they run from responsibility or try to deny it. Etc.

    The difference between those and your MC seems to be the suddenness of the burden, or the unexpectedness. He wasn't born into that position, didn't seek that kind of position. But otherwise, there's a similarity.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
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  18. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    Thanks for the posts... I don't have time to read/reply atm but will come back this afternoon/evening.
     
  19. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    But this is precisely why I love a good chosen one story. In my opinion there's no better medium to delve into the question of free will or the feeling of being trapped in your own life, unable to alter the coarse.

    Minority Report is one of my favorite movies, and although not a chosen one story in the strictest sense, its about a man struggling against what he's been told is his destiny. I thought The Matrix also handled the idea of a chosen one quite well.

    Besides not every prophecy is a guarantee of success and even if it was, there can still be quite a bit of suspense because even if victory is guaranteed, that doesn't mean it won't have a high price.

    Feel free to dislike chosen one stories, that's all personal preference, but I take umbrage with the idea chosen one protagonists have no agency.
     
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  20. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I've been wondering if the heavy focus on the first part of the phrase in this discussion, Chosen, might be distracting from the second part, One.

    Delving into that question of freedom vs being trapped is made more interesting if the character is indeed the only one who can do anything meaningful and lasting about the situation.
     
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