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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. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    I have no issue with it, so long as you play with the concept. The Chosen One is a character Arc that is integral to the way Humans percieve things, so I find that on a spiritual level, it always resonates with me. However, it is IMMENSELY easy to screw up that kind of story.

    Again, it's a matter of adding your own twist. For example, my world has a prophecy, but the main story is not about the Chosen One, rather, the Chosen One's closest follower. Something like that, or an alteration of the typical prophecy can make your Chosen One unique.

    A place to start is this: A Chosen One character is easier to define more by how they affect the characters around them than how they themselves are as people. Why not think of how your Chosen One can have a Unique effect on the people around. For example, maybe being so close to the One makes them go slowly insane, or maybe the Chosen One makes thecharacters following start a cult about him.

    Of course, it depends on whether you want a "Heroic" Chosen One, or a flawed one. If you want a flawed one, think of the effects his position grant to him. He might be a narcissist, due to how important he is, and so on and so forth.

    So, even though people dismiss it so often, the Chosen One is, in my opinion, a trope that still has a lot of room for subversion and innovation.

    Sent from my SM-J700M using Tapatalk
     
  2. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    I think we need to ask, chosen to do what? There's a lot of dislike here for chosen to save the world/kill the bad guy/make the world a place of everlasting peace and rainbows. And yes, I do roll my eyes at those too, but I would argue that these are bad not because chosen ones are bad but because the goal is pretty vague and uninspiring.

    Do you feel the same about a chosen one chosen to destroy the world rather than save it? Or if the chosen one was chosen to be the mother of the hero rather than the hero himself? Or if they were chosen to travel back in time to change the future?

    All I'm saying is that yeah, if you told me a story was about a hero chosen by the gods to defeat the big bad I wouldn't be exited about it. But that's not because I hate chosen ones, its because these stories tend to feature very black and white morality and ill thought out goals (so often these books tell us how evil the villain is but then never tell us how exactly the heroes going to be different besides just not being evil) which I'm not a huge fan of. I'd jump on board with a chosen one story if it had some moral ambiguity and more specific goals than something like "saving the world".
     
  3. "Chosen one chosen to destroy the world" does sound interesting. Of course, it all depends...

    I also agree about black and white morality. The "chosen one" trope (when done in the usual way) can set up the MC to be a beacon of morality that can do no wrong (either actually, or through the lens of the story...it might just end up justifying everything the MC does.) and the villain as Ultimate Evil...It can divide the characters very clearly into good and evil...something I dislike.

    I guess the main thing I hate about the trope is that the chosen ones often are either bland everyman types or perfect, flawless Gary Stu/Mary Sues who are good at everything and right about everything. (Or both. As much as I love the Harry Potter books, the protagonist is one of my least favorite examples of a chosen one.) A chosen one who's selfish, morally ambiguous and gets dragged unwillingly into the role would be more interesting than those two, at least.
     
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  4. I agree. Words can't describe how tired I am of good/evil divisions.

    I have an annoying habit of making my main characters into 'purity sues'--but from a narrative perspective, they are divine/angelic beings who incarnate to help others, and learn valuable lessons along the way, so I guess it works a bit.
     
  5. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    And what if the CO has 'the power to save the world, or destroy it'? This is far more realistic.

    If I were to see a man attacking a woman, and I had a gun, I could just as feasibly shoot the attacker and save the woman, as I could shoot the victim and take the attacker for a pint. Power is subject to the one wielding it.

    There is duality to everything and everyone (I'm sure there are some exceptions). We're all 'good' and 'bad'; all situations are good for some and bad for others. As long as you can show the duality in a character and their situation, you're good (goddamn it, not good, you're... on the right path). I like the line "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", as controversial as that may sound in today's world.

    I'd much rather see a morally ambiguous hero do the 'right' thing after much deliberation (or do the wrong thing for the right reasons), than a Gary/Mary doing it because it's what they've always done. Evolution of character is crucial here, to me.
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    One of my least favorite examples of the Chosen One is the most recent: Moana. I love the movie for everything else that's in it, but its use of the Chosen One is flat and by the book.

    I mean, Moana was chosen by the ocean as a child to do something the ocean could have done all by itself. The ocean isn't even given any context. It's just a magical wave, and it behaves like an animal sidekick.
     
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think there's a more general problem of having characters who seem only motivated by the main plot and their single end goal in relation to the plot.

    I like books in which the MCs have multiple desires, multiple cares, and have more to deal with than simply killing the bad guy and/or saving the world.

    But I don't need a morally ambiguous hero for this. A character genuinely trying to do the right thing but with conflicting paths and desires who is being pulled in multiple directions works also.
     
  8. C. A. Stanley

    C. A. Stanley Minstrel

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    Fair point. And I totally agree with you. But if your goal is to save the world, do not all other things pale in comparison?

    I'm just playing devil's advocate here :)
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think stories with a shorter time scope, and high tension from start to finish, like some thrillers, allow for the one-goal monomaniac of a character. Something like Jack Bauer from 24 comes to mind. He stays mostly focused on the end result. From what I remember of some early seasons, this wasn't entirely the case; e.g., he would risk sacrificing progress in order to save his daughter or wife or whatever. But for the most part, he stayed on-track with a single dedication. However, one of the tricks in such a story was to divide up the overall quest into many smaller quests–corner a source of information or acquire some information, defeat an antagonist's smaller-scale early attack–so when he's focused on these stages, the sense of monomania is softened. (These end up being like the multiple desires and cares I mentioned before.)

    Also, the detective novel can work, in which the detective is always focused on the end result of solving the mystery or crime. Again, though, there are lots of little stages, smaller mysteries to be solved along the way.

    Your mention of Mary Sue characters spurred my previous thought. They don't have to struggle much at all, and the little stages come across as merely parts of the whole goal. This is the direct path from A to Z approach, hah. There's actually a technical term for writing only scenes, conversations, whatever that focus only on the main plot (as if characters have only the one thought in mind) but I can't remember it.


     
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  10. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    I'd burst out laughing if characters stopped to talk about their feelings for each other while the fate of a nation or the world was at stake or while the villains have their finger on the button.
     
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  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    One season of 24, Jack Bauer's daughter worked in the same anti-terrorism unit but she was more concerned about whether her father knew she was dating his partner than about the fact that all hell was going to happen to the world.

    Yeah, that always annoys me.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2017
  12. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Minstrel

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    I'm indifferent to the chosen one trope but like any other trope, it can be done in a good or bad way. A really good example of the Chosen one trope was avatar the last airbender which made it a plot point that's vital to Aang's development as a character. That's the exception. I'm more inclined towards stories where the person does something to prove that they're the hero rather than the forces that be tell them they are. It's a matter of show and don't tell. Show me they're the hero. Don't just say they are and write about them bumbling around doing nothing. Hence, I find save the world plots sucky as the main characters don't seem to care about the stakes at hand.

    It's a matter of whether or not you're willing to make it good that matters.
     
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  13. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    The "chosen one" is disrespectful to the chosen one's allies when victory was clearly a team effort.
     
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  14. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Sounds like that is a different type of story.
     
  15. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    I don't believe so. Unless the chosen one is doing 100% of the work required for victory.
    Which he or she never does.

    There's alot of underlying work and logistics that gets put in place that doesn't attract the attention, but that the "chosen one" would have had no chance of victory without. So it is fundamentally arrogant and belittling toward the effort of others to think victory comes down to a chosen ONE. It was never one. A chosen people I can believe.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  16. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Ah, I see I replied to this one some time ago, and reading back over it, I think I would make the same comments.

    And AK I do appreciate that you bring the perspectives you do.

    You are right, most stories have a lot of underlying characters that all contribute. I am not sure I would go as far as to say they are disrespected (seems an odd word for fictional characters anyway). But that is not the story many are reaching for. And chosen one's usually spend a good portion of the story as the chosen one, and that is understood by others. I don't think they all feel disrespected just because.

    If it was my focus to make sure everyone got credit (and I am not sure even with a chosen one story that other character are necessarily denied credit), I would be writing a different type of story. But you know, you gotta write the story about someone, and whoever that is, I would hope would be the one that was most interesting the to story and events. Given their special status of being 'the one I am writing about', they all kind of fall into chosen one territory.

    Easy enough to avoid chosen ones though, just don't use them.
     
  17. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    You don't have to feel disrespected to be disrespected. Often what annoys readers most are what characters don't feel, and characters under reacting.

    The problem is chosen one prophecies are vague in order not to spoil future events, and so in being vague, goes far beyond the so called chosen one's actual role and foreseeably implicates more characters For example:

    "Bring balance to the force" - Luke did at least as much as Vader. It's arbitrary that Vader's the chosen one.

    No one's forcing you to give characters the credit they deserve. It's the implicit denial (of other character's) deserved credit, inherent to the term chosen one that makes the chosen one a douchebag for accepting it.

    I'd hate that character. Because it's forseeable that you alone ain't bringing balance to nothin. You alone ain't ending a war, or saving the world, or whatever other vague prophecy.

    The character has to know that. Anybody with fundamental reason has to know that. Throwing the title of Chosen One around sounds to me like someone is trying to love bomb the character. The only reason anyone would ever accept it is because they want it to be true and are in love with the idea of an individual, idealized saviour.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  18. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I think this is lacking in a little imagination.

    It could be just as you say, and the one accepting the role of "Chosen One' (Does one really accept such a role if they are?) is really being a prick and discounting everyone else. But it could also be something else. Can you not imagine that?

    Was young Aang a jerk for being the avatar? I thought he was kind of a jerk for not taking it seriously. Was Sokka disrespected? In fact I thought he was, often as the brunt of the jokes, but I thought he was the best warrior in the series. I did not discount him.

    So, what am I supposed to do, say you are wrong? If its not your thing, than it not. But this, like so many other aspects of the craft, is just something that sometimes has a role and sometimes does not.

    I find an interesting perspective that you would consider it disrespectful, and to me that even sounds like an idea to use in a story itself, but I don't think I will go with you and say it is defacto that. I think there is room for it to be many things.

    Star Wars, Meh... So maybe he did not reach his pinnacle. It is just one of many stories. Its problems are its own.
     
  19. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Afaik, Aang wasn't the chosen one, he was simply the avatar because he uniquely had control of all the elements.

    I can't.

    The chosen one trope is saying I'm more important than you, or being called more important without having earned it. And while being assisted in some way. It's I'm more important because somebody somewhere said so at some point in time. It means nothing in practical terms.

    It's actually worse than that, it's actually saying no one else matters an iota. Because if a prophecy is believed true, and the actions that lead to the foretold event are unknown,than the chosen one will fulfill it regardless. If you truly believe it, as an ally to the chosen one, then just quit and let the chosen one do everything. It is foretold m i rite? Prophecy said it, you believe it, that settles it.

    Or you don't believe it, and so you'd agree with me that it's just self aggrandizement. And so you'd actually bother to wake up in the morning and join the fight or quest or whatever.
     
  20. ^Have you ever played Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss? Both games deconstruct everything about Chosen Ones.
     
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