On Chosen Ones–a discussion post except I don’t actually know how to do discussion posts

Ah, the chosen one. Just saying (or typing) the phrase is enough to send a shudder deep through the souls of many out there. There was a time when you could not escape from this character type in fantasy. They were EVERYWHERE. Chosen ones were annoying and numerous, like flies. I have said before that hating on cliches just because they’re cliche can be kind of silly, for lack of a better word; just because a trope is done a lot doesn’t necessarily make it bad, and for the most part, the execution of the trope is what makes a story awful, not the trope being there in the first place. But I will still admit chosen ones can get on my nerves. I’m not saying I actively avoid books with this trope, but I’ve never sought them out. Although–I do kind of miss seeing these types of books in bookstores. There’s a type of nostalgia, not in reading the stories (heavens no), but in reading the bad book blurbs. I’m an early 2000’s kid, you little ones out there don’t understand.

Actually, I’m just really weird.

But I’ve softened on this trope over the years. (Over the course of last year, actually.) Chosen ones and prophecies are bad when they’re lazily used, but the tropes aren’t bad in and of themselves. The issue is that, instead of actually trying to say something about fate vs. free will or the struggle of responsibility, the prophecy is only ever used as a way to push the plot forward. Gotta wrangle that hero in there somehow! Now quick! We’ve got a dark lord to defeat and a poorly-developed love interest to shove in our hero’s path!

Instead of being used to enforce the story’s themes, the trope is just used to remove agency from the main character. A prophecy is not the same thing as a motive, and treating it like one can be story-breaking in some cases. What’s more interesting, a hero who tries to defeat the dark lord with no way of knowing who will win because that’s what the hero wants to do, or a hero who tries to defeat the dark lord because a prophecy says he will? And that’s not even getting into the implications imbedded in the trope of how only special people can accomplish things and if you aren’t special you might as well not even try.

But! I still don’t think this trope is all bad! I’ll admit I DEFINITELY like it better when it’s subverted, but even played straight, I’ve still seen portrayals I like. Weak motivations and vaguely weird undertones can definitely be overcome with the right amount of witty banter and fun dynamics and painful angst. (Okay, I’ll admit that I’m struggling to come up with any examples of the chosen one trope played straight, just because I don’t read a lot of chosen one stories. Was the trope played straight in Kung Fu Panda?)

This trope honestly has SUCH fertile ground for subversions, though. I’ve seen some people say that even subverting the trope is pointless because everyone’s already done everything you can do with the trope already and I’m just **insert confused face here**. People have been writing for a millenium and everyone has already done everything you can do with a LOT of tropes. That doesn’t mean the execution of the tropes can’t still be interesting.

Off the top of my head, I can list several subversions I’ve never read in a story before: A chosen one cracks under the pressure, abandons the prophecy, and doesn’t get pulled back into the plot, leaving his friends to pick up the pieces of the abandoned plot thread, so to speak. A chosen one becomes friends with the villain and fulfilling the prophecy becomes something horrifying to them. An ACTUAL pacifist–not a fake one, sorry Aang–becomes the subject of a prophecy about killing the villain, and does not find it pleasant. Just…there are a ton of subversions that I haven’t seen done before, and even if it were true that all the subversions have already been done, that still doesn’t mean that interesting stories can’t still be made using this trope.

Anakin was the first character that really made me think I could love this trope. He’s the chosen one, supposedly, but it’s all very murky and he ends up killing a bunch of people and was the prophecy even real?? Did he fulfill the prophecy by killing Palpatine, even though Anakin still destroyed the Jedi order? Did he fulfill the prophecy by destroying the Jedi order and killing Palpatine? It’s a very weird subversion of the trope, and I honestly enjoyed it so much.

I LOVE chosen ones with fall arcs, okay? It’s such an interesting subversion. I mean, I love fall arcs in general. But chosen one fall arcs are especially interesting because of the things you can do with it. What’s the intersection between fate and free will? Is the prophecy nonsense or is there some kind of twist? How do you defeat someone with fate on their side, actually? And I love characters who are on the wrong side of the prophecy, too. What would the knowledge that a person is going to turn evil and there’s nothing they can do about it do to a person?

Basically:

Mordred: so i’m destined to destroy a kingdom

Me: you’re doing great sweetie 😍😊😋😍🥰

Anyway, it’s 2020 and I personally think it’s time for chosen ones to make a comeback. The trope has a lot of potential, and just because it got turned into a lazy plot device doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. I’d love to see more authors do original stuff with prophecies and chosen ones! I’ll briefly turn my whump-addict mode on and say that I mostly like prophecies that end horribly like in Greek tragedy, but that’s not a prerequisite for me to like this trope in a story. I like exploring concepts like fate and free will, and I like the idea of being destined for something you aren’t sure if you want at all.

Anyway, tell me your thoughts on this topic! I want to know if there are any subversions of this trope you particularly like or if you like the trope at all. Are there any stories with chosen ones you love? And I’m sorry this article is bad–I’m in college and my brain cells are dying (at least I have an excuse now lmao)

The Star Wars Character Tag

Sarah tagged me for the Star Wars character tag! I love Star Wars. I really, really love Star Wars. (Controversial opinion: The prequels were the best.) So a tag mixing both Star Wars and writing? It’s like it was tailored for me or something.

I watched a clip of Palpatine saying ‘UNLIIIMIITED POWEEEERRRR!1!!’ to gear up for this.

The Rules

1. THERE ARE NO RULES. (Excellent.)

2. Refer to number 1.

3. There is one absolute rule (nooo) (Feel free to read that in a Luke voice if you wish): you MUST use your own characters (OC’s) for this tag. (brownie points if you add pictures of your characters) (Oh okay I’d be so lost and confused if I had to use other people’s characters anyway) (More lost and confused, that is)

4. The Sorta Rule: scream a huge thank you to whoever tagged you for this whilst treating them to a pizza dinner at your favorite pizza chain. (Thank you so much, Sarah!! And enjoy your imaginary pizza, prepared however you like.)

5. The Kinda Rule: include this link in the post so that The Penny can read everyone’s answers to this smol strange tag: https://asouthernbellewithstoriestotell.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/the-star-wars-character-tag-i-made-my-own-tag-halp/ (I’m pretty sure the original maker of this tag changed their blog url, but I cannot for the life of me find the original post. Sorry!)

6. The Rule That’s Not Really a Rule But It Would Be Great: include the graphic, and tag at least three Jedi or Sith Lords.

ONE…Who’s your Obi-Wan Kenobi? (sassy, a great mentor, but can be a bit strict)

Annnd we start off with the hard one. No! I can’t write mentors! I can’t write adults! I can only write teenage-to-twenty-something-year-olds staring angstily into each others eyes while detonating bombs or taking over the world!!

Look, I’m serious. The only character I can think of who’s kind of a mentor figure is Morgause and if she is anything like Obi I…

Wait a minute. I won’t claim that she’s anything like Obi-Wan, but:

  1. She tells a few lies here and there. Obi-Wan is like a pathological liar. Morgause probably does not lie nearly as much as he does. Yeah, no, she doesn’t. Whatever lies she’s told, she has never handed the Infanticide Lightsaber to Mordred while talking about what an amazing person his father was before the-villain-who-was-totally-not-his-dad killed him–OBI, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU
  2. She definitely is pretty snarky
  3. Emotions are soo much easier to deal with when you push them to the side and pretend they aren’t there

So, I’m not saying she’s anything like Obi-Wan, but maybe in another life, she could have hit pretty darn close to this? She’s the closest character I can think of who fits this.

TWO…Who’s your Leia Organa? (feisty, incredible comebacks, does her own thing)

I had to think about this quite a bit, but I’ve finally hit on Livy. She was the main character of a short story that I plan on expanding into a novel eventually. She’s quiet, reserved, and kind, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a backbone. Leia’s a little less quiet, but I still think they’re similar. Livy even looks a little bit like Leia, something I’ve only just realized. And they even have the same hair. And their names both start with L…

I DIDN’T PLAN THIS YOU GUYS I HADN’T EVEN WATCHED THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY YET WHEN I WROTE THE STORY. IT’S KIND OF FREAKING ME OUT.

Same hair as far as this hairstyle, not as far as Leia’s space buns. Livy is fatter than Leia, and she has a slightly rounder face, but I can still see a bit of a resemblance?

Although I genuinely probably have a lot of characters who could fit into this category, now that I think about it. It seems like maybe a common character type for me? I didn’t even realize that until just now. Kimani, Ye-Seul*, probably Erika, and there are others that I could think of if I wanted to dig through my files.

*Aka, that time I accidentally copied a celebrity’s very unique name. The name was on a list called ‘common Korean names,’ and of course the internet never lies! As a side note, if any of you have a better method of finding foreign names for your characters, do let me know. Baby name sites tend to have whatever name sounds pretty, and those pretty and unusual names aren’t always what’s actually used in the country.

THREE…Who’s your Finn? (overeager, adorable, a cinnamon roll)

Uh. I am not sure if I have one. Tell you what, let’s say Rose from that short story I put on here. She’s about right for those adjectives? I’d say she’s a bit like Finn.

I love Finn, but I don’t write a lot of characters like Finn.

FOUR…Who’s your Padmé? (kind, loving, but also kick-butt)

Padme, also known as MY FAVORITE CHARACTER EVER. And I’m not sure if I can think of a character I have who exactly fits those adjectives–I’ve got a really bad memory–but I’ve always seen Guinevere from my story as being kind of like Padme for some reason. Guinevere isn’t exactly like her, definitely not. Guinevere is probably quite a darker take on this character type, for one thing (her character isn’t set in stone yet, but she’s getting towards a darker take I think). But I get one of those weird feelings that tells me I should put Guinevere down for this one. Sometimes those weird feelings are correct and my subconscious knows what it’s talking about, and sometimes I come back later, squint, and go ‘huh?’ So make of this what you will.

Also, is it just me, or is Padme kind of like (mythological!) Guinevere? Am I the only one who thinks that? Idk, I just see parallels. This feels like one of those dangerous topics I could mull over until I have a half-fledged deranged theory that I proceed to write a 30,000 word essay on. That I dump on you unsuspecting readers. I will get off of this topic because I really do not want to write that article.

Although maybe an article analyzing Star Wars characters’ tropes would be kind of fun…but then I’d have to analyze Star Wars, and that was a really weird and confusing show with dozens of interpretations, and then I’d probably get a bunch of things wrong because it’s been a while since I’ve seen the movies and–ahem. Let’s get off of this topic. It’s dangerous.

Changing the subject, Sepideh from that other story I posted here on the blog could probably fit in here too. Just a hunch.

FIVE…Who’s your Count Dooku? (deliciously evil, extra, sick burns)

Don’t have one. I really don’t.

SIX…Who’s your BB-8? (too cute, everyone loves them, can do no wrong)

I don’t tend to write cute characters very often. I never have.

But if I go way, way back (thirteen-year-old back *shudder*), then I guess Tacey? She was the heroine’s thirteen year old sister, and she was pretty sarcastic, but she was pretty cute.

This was back when I used sentences like ‘my aggravated feelings ceased abruptly’ and when I still thought I was funny. We don’t talk about those days.

SEVEN…Who’s your Yoda? (underestimated, extra, wise)

Confession time: I hate that little green frog. Apologies to all Yoda fans.

But I feel like Arthur is both underestimated and extra and wise. Just a hunch. Arthur is also a really hard character for me to get for some reason, and I’ve begun to just resign myself to that.

EIGHT…Who’s your Anakin Skywalker? (bratty, rebellious, whiny)

I disagree with that description of Ani a bit. He’s certainly whiny. I’ll even acknowledge that he could be seen as bratty. But rebellious? Nah. That boy wants nothing more than to fit in. And that’s what ends up breaking him, because he can’t.

Anakin is my other favorite character ever, so I’ve given him a lot of thought and analysis. Seriously though, I love that boy.

Anyway, I’d say this is a pretty easy one. It’s definitely Mordred. Right down to that monotone thing Hayden Christensen had going!

NINE…Who’s your C3-PO? (always worrying, gives depressing information, constantly wailing)

Oh. Oh goodness. I was right about to say that I have no idea, but…I think it’s Agravaine. I’m going to die. XD

TEN…Who’s your Luke Skywalker? (hero, has been through a lot, has their share of flaws)

Uhh

Wait. Do I not have a Luke? Luke is pretty much the quintessential hero? Where is my Luke?

I don’t think I have a Luke. Let me go process this information and probably think of the perfect answer as soon as I hit that post button.

Okay, so I guess I should tag people, but I have no idea who has done this and who hasn’t so here’s for three wild guesses:

Weez

Kenechi

And I have no idea who else does tags, has not done this yet, and likes Star Wars, so I tag you! Seriously, feel free to do this if you wish.

That was a lot of controversial Star Wars opinions to shove into one post, wow. I’m pretty sure all the Angry Star Wars fans want my blood now. It was so much fun, though. I love Star Wars so much.