We’re back with the second installment in this series of posts about various writing tropes, and this week’s topic is the infamous Chosen One trope. You have probably seen this one a lot as it’s one of the most common tropes and appears everywhere–though especially in the fantasy genre.
As I’ve mentioned before and will stress it again, THESE TROPES ARE NOT NECESSARILY EVIL. They can be used. The catch is that they’re so widely used that they can easily be boring and predictable.
Anyway, back to the chosen one.
The Chosen One writing trope is the trope where the hero of the story is the hero because of ancient prophecy–or anything else along those lines including being specially gifted with certain powers, etc. Many of these “chosen ones” end up being Mary Sues or Gary Stus, perfect people that get thrown into a new world and act so confused and bewildered by it, but still manage to succeed at everything. They are often flat characters and unrelatable because they have no depth, no struggles, nothing that the reader can relate to. Sure, I’d love to get told that I’m a super special person who’s going to save the world or get visited by Gandalf asking me to go on an adventure or find the wardrobe to Narnia (something I’ve been trying ever since I was eleven), but that’s not reality.
Before we go on, I’d like to point out that those two literary examples I used above are actually good uses of the “chosen one” prompt–but more on that later.
All protagonists are in their own way chosen ones. They’re the protagonist for a reason, whether it be because something tragic happened and they’re on a quest of revenge, or they were sent on a quest, etc. Now, the way to write a good protagonist is to flesh them out before sending them on a journey–whether literal or figurative. They need to have strengths, weaknesses, skills, dreams, fears, hopes, etc. and they need to be relatable to the reader. Trust me, even if they’re not 100% relatable to a certain reader, if the reader can sympathize with them and hope they will succeed, you as a writer have already achieved success in creating a likable main character.
Now, when writing the “chosen ones,” it’s important that you do the same thing. If you’re going to go for the chosen one, you NEED to make sure the “chosen one” is relatable and realistic. If they’re going to be given a special skill set, show them learning it. Show their struggles with it. That’s realism, not just someone suddenly being super good at this one thing with no prior training… *looks at Rey from Star Wars*
Furthermore, change it up! Have the chosen one not realize they’re the chosen one until at the end of the story, make the prophecy false or the “chosen one” is actually not the “chosen one.” (Example from The Binding of the Blade series by L.B. Graham) Or, have multiple characters that could be “chosen ones” or someone step up even though they’re not the “chosen one.” Other twists could be the prophecy being so vague that no one knows who the “chosen one” is supposed to be or the “chosen one” is discovered as a young child and subsequently dies of mysterious causes and someone else has to fill in. The possibilities are endless.
So, can the chosen one be used?
There has to be a reason it’s still so popular, after all. So yes, it can be used, but it must be done right. 🙂
Next post will be a rant on Mary Sues!
If you missed the previous post, here’s the link to Writing Tropes Part 1: The Wise Old Mentor.
Song of the week is Solstice by Marcus Warner. It’s slightly cross-over genre, but I really enjoy listening to it–especially when editing.
Graphic of the week is: (Yes, I know I haven’t done these in awhile.)
Until next time,
~ Cheyenne van Langevelde