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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. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    One of our boarders is writing just such a story. Or was, been a while since he popped in.

    I do recollect a few such stories. Alas, their titles escape me at the moment.

    One story I have been considering for a long while now ('Pilgrimage') would pretty much have to be told from this perspective. It'll probably be ages before I get to it, though I do have a couple of excerpts and old stories featuring other characters.
  2. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

    Definitely something I'd be interested in reading - powerful movements tend to create their own powerful opposition (obviously in this case the opposition was already there, but it initiated a stronger and more devastating counteroffensive). The very act of seeking success can sometimes induce failure. History gives so many great ideas for situations that went right / wrong / got out of hand etc.

    On a slight tangent... In my WIP, my MC achieves what he needs to, but in doing so causes so much destruction that the world is changed forever (Pyrrhic victory I guess). Another thing I think is underrepresented in fantasy
  3. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

    If the 'Chosen One' goes down that path (I'm too busy, lol), how exactly would the story play out? Would the story follow the MC's normal life, whilst the big stuff goes on in the background?

    Pilgrimage - is this just an idea at the moment or do you have some planning in place?
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    With great power and expectations can come, isolation, depression, and who knows how many other negatives. Plus one can be "chosen' for something they don't want to become or do, much like a story of a mortal child of Satan discovering who they are and what is expected of them.

    The trope has unlimited variants, so whether you hate or love it probably comes down to how narrow one's definition is of "chosen one".

    C. A. Stanley likes this.
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Beyond other possibilities...I've been thinking of how things can go terribly wrong when you hire a new employee, elevate a CEO, or elect a public official: Chosen Ones can sometimes do unexpected things.

    I mean, you spend centuries trying to create the Kwisatz Haderach and....Oops!

    But this concept relies heavily on the in-story choosing for defining the Chosen.

    The other variant is simply one in which the reader is informed fairly early that MC is going to be the special one who will invariably solve things, defeat the antagonistic force, by the end of the story. Funny enough, that's typically expected of certain types of story; reader just sticks around to see how it will happen. Perhaps a clever writer will use some smoke and mirrors to present an illusion of indeterminacy, but the reader doesn't really believe all that, in his heart.

  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    One consequence of the thought for me personally: My suspicion that I've often complicated the process for myself unnecessarily.

    Maybe sometimes, if not always, choosing an easy match for protagonist and antagonist, or MC and antagonistic force, is the best course of action rather than, say, picking a protag as far removed from the expected requirements as possible.

    Although....this isn't just a matter of picking protag, but also of picking circumstances. (Determinism in both.) So for instance, GRRM could have chosen to have Tyrion or Arya be captured by Ramsay Bolton—making those pairings for opposition—rather than Sansa and Theon. But I think that Sansa and Theon were particularly suited for the task at hand, i.e. surviving Ramsay's sadism. They were inherently weak of character, submissive: just the sort a sadist would keep alive in order to toy with.

    But the problem one might run into conceptually: a fear of being too "on-the-nose" or designing a Chosen One perfectly suited to the task at hand. For example, if you chose an extremely powerful fire user as your Chosen One...because the villain is an Ice King. But maybe this is an irrational fear, or merely a caution to be considered when you reach the stage of execution of the story.

    Similarly, choosing a set of circumstances particularly "fit" for the story might seem like too much shoehorning—but is it?

    So in your story, this MC is chosen "accidentally" or just as a matter of coincidence. But what if he weren't?

    Apparently, such individuals have arisen in the past, albeit rarely, and the rareness seems to me (based on the info you've given) to be a result of a mating between a man and woman from two different continents. Your MC is the only person on the entire continent who fits that criteria; so, very rare.* But what if it weren't entirely accidental? Say, his father had some foreknowledge of the coming conflict and traveled to the other continent to find a wife in order to produce your MC? Such a discovery could play into your MC's mental well-being. (What kid doesn't rage against his parents' meddling? Heh.)

    This sort of thing could give a reader the sense that what's happening in the story isn't merely all happy/unhappy coincidence, or the writer merely throwing in a Chosen One or set of Chosen Circumstances because that's what he wants. Heh, order in the chaos, and all that.

    *Edit: Or is he not the only one with such parentage on the continent, but merely the only one Ishar chose at this time?

    "if there is someone of appropriate parentage" —this suggests to me that the condition is exceedingly rare. But your other comments regarding these powers suggest it might not be. People possess one or two of the powers....so are those who possess two...mixed lineage? And your MC just happens to be the only one who gains the third, of those?
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  7. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

    It's a fine balance, to say the least. What takes precedence - plausibility or practicality? I'm still trying to find the right balance.

    The GoT reference is a good one. His character placement was exceptional across the board imo. I'd love to re-read the series and analyse what GRRM does, and how / why, as I'm sure there's a veritable treasure trove of things to learn in there... but it's a huge undertaking!
    I wonder how things would play out if he'd made different decisions - Arya the betrothed? Sansa a Faceless agent? Would they have fulfilled the roles given to them in much the same way, or would their vastly different characters have led to vastly different outcomes? I guess we'll never know.

    It’s slightly more complex than that (I forget that I know it intuitively where others don't, but I will try to explain). A few notes before I begin…

    - Travel in this world is severely limited due to extreme climate disparities, and hostility between nations (result of a fairly recent bloody war, couple hundred years ago), and so ‘inter-racial’ breeding is extremely uncommon. Some children are of mixed lineage because of traders crossing borders, and occasional mingling in 'disputed territories'.

    - The secondary power is significantly inferior to the primary (or at least the potential for growth is massively limited).

    - Magic is strongly tied to the land (each continent has a different flavour of magic).


    Power in this world is usually determined by a) parentage, and b) land of birth. Due to the magical nature of the powers--and its ties to the land--land is actually the dominant factor over lineage (I neglected to mention this before).
    A few examples, where A / B / C refers to nationality of parent, and land of birth

    Parent A + Parent A + Land A = Primary power A + No secondary (99% of world population)

    Parent A + Parent A + Land B = Primary power B + Secondary power A (<1% of world pop.)

    Parent A + Parent B + Land A = Primary power A + Secondary power B (<1% of world pop.)

    Under normal circumstances, even with the below [practically non-existent!] combination, 2 powers is the max possible:

    Parent A + Parent B + Land C = Primary power C + Secondary power A / B (dependent upon which parent’s genes are dominant, like… hair colour?)

    Now... the third criterion is inconsequential most of the time ('The Determination of Ishar' so-to-speak). It only comes into play when the world-order is at risk, and the world is close to disequilibrium. In this case, only the rarest of combinations is given special power.

    Parent A + Parent B + Land C + ‘Global Stress’ = Power A + B + C

    Important to note: if MC is not the only person with combination at the time of Criterion 3 being valid, he would not be the only person with 3 powers! This is a very real possibility for the plot. (How do people react when the ChosenOne is in fact OneOfTheChosenTwo??).

    This is the first time I’ve written it out as a ‘formula’… useful.
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Would be funny maybe if the villain was OneOfTheChosenTwo, heh. Maybe as a prelude to the final battle, they are having a détente, over dinner, discussing who Ishar truly favors. But little does your MC know...the villain has poisoned the meal.

    Or maybe it's the largely-ignored–except when harassed and bullied–stable boy who is the other and ends up saving the day instead of your MC....Lots to play with there.
  9. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

    Haha as much as I like these ideas, I just cannot do that to my MC! Villain being TheOtherOne though is a very feasible possibility...
  10. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Absolutely no problem with it.

    I guarantee that very soon a new movie will be released where the main character will be clearly identified as a Chosen One and it'll make a billion dollars.

    As with all these things, it's not that it's been done before, but that it's executed well.
    Ronald T. likes this.
  11. deilaitha

    deilaitha Sage

    I don't mind "The Chosen One" type character arcs, but I like it when the choosing is more of an accident than the result of a prophecy. In many ways, every main character is a "chosen one" because you, the author, have chosen to make them the center of the story.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  12. My story has many chosen ones...but just because you may be chosen doesn't mean your destined to be great. Power is given but your destiny is not

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  13. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

    I have some mixed feelings about the "Chosen One".

    Choose just about any person from history that did anything. All of them felt like they were chosen in some way or another or special. So it is actually fairly common it would seem. Either by religious right, blood rights, divine nobility, etc. There are tons and tons of examples of this just in history alone before you throw fiction into the mix.

    The thing is that I feel it is so over used that the special nature of the star born prophet fortold child of deliverance story has been told to death even though it is somewhat necessary in certain circumstances. Any "chosen one" rise to power story can be done seamlessly and it would still be excepted even if people dislike the trope behind it. There are still many out there who love that type of story.

    I am just growing tired of the chosen one stories that the MC surpasses everyone with zero effort or minimal effort that has taken everyone years and years of maximum efforts and the C-O just strolls in and everything is handed over.

    I get that most stories do not have the time to develop the characters background training story in order to have things make much more sense in a more realistic time frame. Who would want to read about 10+ years of training? So I get that it is much easier to just use the mantra to streamline things and shoehorn straight into the story,

    The other part of the "chosen one" is that while the author is trying to get the main character up to speed with the rest of the supporting characters to take on the antagonist it sets a presidence of power that tends to spiral out of control and especially so in any additional book, stories, films, etc.

    I have tried to avoid the chosen one stigma in my own writing. I am going a more distructionist route that affords me the luxary of skipping that whole ability chapter save for some flashbacks at points in time when they are needed.
    C. A. Stanley and glutton like this.
  14. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    I usually prefer to start the protag off with years of training at the beginning of the story (and usually practical experience too) rather than showing them as a complete newbie who then goes through 10 years or whatever of training, sure it makes them seem like less of an "everyman" but no need for every hero to be that and it's not like the noobish Chosen One gifted with remarkable powers is really more of an everyman.
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  15. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    The Chosen One is an arrogant premise. The implication that it all comes down to one person in the end and that person takes the credit as "chosen" to save the day. What about the hard work of everybody else? Allies who fought and worked to put the chosen one in a position to bring it home? Unless the Chosen one is doing it all solo, I think there could be some humility for what is usually a team effort.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The trope of a Chosen One comes from a world view in which gods and fate are real. In such a view, either the gods or fate chooses one individual to play a key role in some world-changing event. We can find that trope in the early mythologies of just about every culture. It's not arrogance, it's nearly the opposite of arrogance, for the humans involved are hardly more than chess pieces moved by powers greater than themselves. The lure of the stories lies, in part, in seeing how the humans manage to squeeze out some bit of autonomy. Or, in watching them believe themselves to be free only to discover every step they took led to their doom.

    I recognize there are a great many modern fantasy tales in which the hero is chosen only in the sense that he is over-powered. Fate or gods exist in such stories mainly as mechanisms to avoid having to provide believable situations and motives. Such books are the literary equivalent of M80s, because ... explosions.

    That's not the fault of the trope, it's the fault of the writer. You know the old saying that an idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it? I'd like to suggest a variation: a trope is not responsible for the people who write it.
  17. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    It depends on how its done. With a twist I think that "chosen one" can be great fun but I also thinkt that if you just take it out of the box it will be pretty predictable and boring. So something to make the "chosen one" story stand out and be different from other "chosen one" stories, some twist or unseen perspective would've been great.

    As an example of the on the issue of chosen ones I remember one story written by the Swedish author Niklas Krog which has it essentially be so that two great cosmic forces each picks a champion to fight it out, and then some guy, the protagonist of the books as it would have it, and kills both chosen and thus causing cosmic chaos with the previous orderly fight between two sides with their chosen ones.
    glutton likes this.
  18. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    I love the "chosen one" type of story. In fact, it's probably among my top two favorite story types. All I require from such a story is that the author has the talent to make it interesting, exciting, and believable. If they do that, they've got me, heart and soul.

    And I can't think of any story type that hasn't been done to death, and yet continues to appear again and again. I believe the reason is simple: most people love these stories. The secret to being successful with such topics is also simple: make it interesting and exciting.

    If repetition of a story concept doesn't work, then how do you explain the fact that romance novels sell more books than any other genre? If there was ever a story type that could be defined as a "cookie cutter" genre, that's it. But it works. And why...because people love that kind of story.

    It's the same with SFF stories that use the "chosen one" theme. I still works because so many people continue to love it. Based on how long these stories have been around, and upon how many continue to be written, as well as produced on film, I doubt they will ever be lost due to lack of interest. They are simply too enjoyable.

    As with any story type, it is only as good as the author's ability to keep the reader interested. As writers, that's our primary job: make it interesting and believable. If you can do that, you've got the reader by the short-and-curlies.
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  19. Crimstone629

    Crimstone629 Acolyte

    For me, it depends on how the "Chosen One" is written. I honestly don't mind characters who are simply fated by prophecy to do something, especially if they don't want to accept their destiny. Chosen Ones who gain special powers for their status can be good too, but I usually find it has more meaning if they have to learn to properly control that power or if the power has inherent drawbacks. Finally, another good way I can think of to portray a Chosen One (although this doesn't really apply to the one you talked about since it's your protagonist) is to tell the story from the perspective of one of the Chosen One's allies instead, which also allows you to explore how that kind of person affects the world and people around them in ways we don't normally see.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  20. Ruru

    Ruru Troubadour

    In general, I'm not a fan of the Chosen One concept. I find it makes a character hard to relate to, especially in the situations where the young newbie suddenly arrives on the scene, can do everything bigger and better than those who have trained all their lives to the same end, and ends up winning the day.

    That's not to say that a gifted character doesn't have a place, and I do also enjoy the concept of a Chosen One where, actually, they are no better then anyone else to begin with, but because they were chosen they are conditioned to be the hero that a culture needs them to be. It's the Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom situation: either could have been the 'Chosen One', it was the actions of the villain that decided which it was. Neither had to be 'special' to fulfill the role, they had to find their strength because they had been chosen.

    I often struggle reading stories where the MC is special, probably for the same reason that they are hard to relate to. Exceptional circumstances, sure, but innately special is a bit of an off putter. It was a bit of a heartache to discover my oldest character, one of my two MC's, was exactly that. Being an old character, she was very resistant to change, and I've actually found that the creation of the second MC, who is a much more 'normal' character, has helped to even things out. Especially since this second character has 'got it together' much more than the first!
    Rkcapps likes this.

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