Aragorn. Richard Rahl. Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. Bella Swan? (okay, okay, don’t get so mad)
What do all these people have in common?
Yes, the title gives it away. They have all been chosen, in some manner or another, to avert or subvert the LOOMING DISASTER UPON ALL THINGS, but there’s no real clear reason why they have been chosen. Perhaps they mostly chanced into it. Perhaps there were big prophecies. Perhaps they volunteered. Perhaps it was just to prove that everybody has something to contribute inside of them after all.
So what is one to do?
Should we forever swear off this ages-old trope and find other ways to tell our story, or should we spend our energy trying to figure out how to improve the wheel instead of trying to invent something better than the wheel? (speaking of the cliche, I thought I would use one)
One thing I love about tropes is that they provide a way to build a story’s scaffolding when you’re just starting out. Maybe you’re not entirely sure what you want to do, so you go to the bucket of tropes, pick out a few, and build up a story. So maybe your early drafts look a lot like a bunch of tropes played straight. Totally fine.
Once you’ve REALIZED the tropes, it just might be time to take each of them and flip them on their heads or turn them just a little bit.
So, how do you turn The Chosen One to make it new and fresh while still keeping the structure or scaffolding offered by the trope?
Maybe The Chosen One is prophesied, but your chosen one rejects it. The story could then reflect ALL THE WAYS the chosen one refuses what needs to be done and maybe the Unchosen One ultimately becomes the Chosen One.
Perhaps the Chosen One is really bad about making the right decision at the right time. The chosen one has all the right stuff to defeat the ultimate bad, but none of the right stuff to actually get there.
Perhaps the Chosen One is the villain, who does not have a change of heart at the end (like you, Darth Vader).
In what I think would be the ultimate challenge, the Chosen One is actually defeated or killed by the villain halfway through the book and now what?? Perhaps, if you also used the Group Of Faithful Companions trope, you could twist the trope and ultimately WIN the GvE battle.
Up to this point in my novel series I’m working on, I was playing The Chosen One pretty straight, but research for this particular post has me rethinking this. Being a pantser, and only one book into this story, I have lots of room to develop and change things (and believe me, I will). I’ve actually paused writing this post and gone into my novel where I explicitly reference this trope and made a note to modify that particular exchange.
Tropes are not evil. They don’t necessarily need to be avoided at all cost, because they can provide some much-needed scaffolding to a somewhat shaky story. Readers also like a bit of familiarity in a story. If a reader has to work too hard to figure out what’s going on, you risk losing that reader (and many others).
I find that in fantasy, when so many things can be strange, and new cultures and creatures take up brain space, a trope can be a point of grounding for readers. Maybe they felt lost until you started building your Group of Faithful Companions and at that point, they came right back to you. (Oh, I know what’s going on here! *phew*) Push the boundaries, come up with new and fun things, absolutely, but don’t toss out using tropes just for the sake of not using a trope. Instead, harness some of your extra creativity to turn or twist the trope in a not-often-used way or try to find a completely new way of twisting it.
I’ll still have The Chosen One element in my story, but hopefully, since I caught it now, it won’t be eye roll worthy material, but instead, will be a point of grounding for my readers, and a place where I can add in some extra creativity by turning it in an unexpected manner (which has yet to be determined).
Who is your favorite Chosen One? Your least favorite? What other tropes have you run across that make you want to roll your eyes or throw the book across the room?
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