Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Chosen One: Has it been done to death?

I ask this question because of a post I just read on Sam Sykes' website, in which he and N. K. Jemisin offer their opinions on the very-Fantasy trope of The Chosen One. It's well worth a read and I highly reccomend it for all writers out there who are thinking about using a Chosen One as a character in their work - read it here.

The really brought it home to me that I don't in fact have a Chosen One in my novel. I also didn't actually plan to have or not have a Chosen One-type character. Reading Sam and Nora's opinions really made me realize this - and now I've begun to actually pat myself on the back. :) Lemme explain:

I've not a particularly intensive writer, i.e. I don't actually sit and plan everything up the wazoo, deeply think about the characters and what the believe or how they think, and I also don't think about the 'themes' that I may or may not want to deal with. I find it incredibly difficult to do this, to be honest, and if I'm more honest I guess I gotta say that I'm terrified of trying to do it. I can't even actually say that my writing process is more malleable, changeable, since I rightly don't have a clue (having only written one novel, so far). I can say that I'm breaking rules in my novel (which I've also said before).

When I originally had the idea for this novel -around 2003 / 2004- there were two brothers, twins, a civil war, an extinct race (who were the only people who could wield magic) and not much else. Now that I've finished the first book, one brother has survived, there's no civil war, and magic is back. The closest thing I've got to a Chosen One is an Emperor who has issues, and my main POV character buggers off midway through the book. There's also a prostitute (no other way to say it, no matter what title she has in the book, a kid who could do magic, except the people who could teach him have been mutilated in such a way as to make teaching him impossible, and another woman who has to deal with her own issues while also being the empire's religious leader. I won't even mention Alun - he sneaked his way in, the upstart. :P Thinking about it more, I don't have one character that the story actually revolves around, and now, I'm pretty proud of that. :)

Whether the choices I've made actually pay off or hold up is something I'll leave to the readers who may eventually read this book, but I already know that some people won't agree with me - that's a given, and a necessary given, at that. I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

So I pose the question (and the challenge, I guess) to you: does the story you want to tell / write actually need a Chosen One-type character? Is the Chosen One actually needed at all? And if your tale needs a Chosen One, are you using him / her / it in the way that they usually are used - to resolve the story, save the world, get the girl, etc? I guess the challenge is *not* doing that. :)


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