Anonymous asked: “Hi Lizard! I’m having a problem with motivations. I want my villain to take notice of my protagonist but it feels like he has no reason to, and I absolutely hate ‘The Chosen One’ or ‘the I’m SO special and powerful’ tropes which kinda feels like my only options… Do you have any advice for me?”
To be honest, “The Chosen One” isn’t something that bothers me as a reader, though, I read a big mix of things and perhaps if I was strictly a fan of fantasy, maybe it would get old fast.
But with that said, there’s some examples that come to mind where I’ve seen a bit of a twist on “The Chosen One.” Have you read the novel Uprooted by Naomi Novik? I think she did something really interesting there. So I won’t give too much away about the plot, but I found this book to be a unexpected treasure. Really fantastic. So in this pastoral valley village, Agnieszka waits for the Dragon to visit. Every ten years, the Dragon arrives to steal away a girl of his choosing. Everyone in the village knows he’s going to pick Kasia – she’s beautiful, kind, talented and Agnieszka’s best friend to boot. There’s no rescuing her, she’s just his type. But then, guess who he chooses – here’s a hint, not Kasia!
So, this is pretty much exactly “The Chosen One” but it felt refreshing and new because Agnieszka really sells us on the idea that she really isn’t all that special and her best friend Kasia really is. She doesn’t fit the mold of the girls he’s taken in the past and there’s the mystery of why Agnieszka is chosen instead of Kasia.
I would even dare to say that Agnieszka is “not like other girls” in a way that somehow works as well. The main reason for that I think is that Agnieszka as a protagonist is a very relatable “normal-seeming” character. The reason she’s different is actually because of her normal-ness. The girls the Dragon has taken in the past are the special ones – they’re talented, beautiful, just all-around obvious “chosen ones.” She isn’t like that and as a result is an obvious contrast, turning the trope right on its head.
Don’t get me wrong though, Agnieszka is a “Chosen one” – she was quite literally chosen by the Dragon and she’s got some super special secret abilities that not everyone has, but even though these things are true, this to me did not feel like the tired and overdone character that we’ve all seen countless times.
Now, let’s look at The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I won’t go quite as much into detail with this example because I’m pretty sure the majority of us know this book or at least the film, but I wanted to point out, Katniss is not “The Chosen One.” She is the one who goes into the games and competes, but she didn’t have to do that (well, she did, but she had a reason for it). Katniss volunteered. Her little sister was technically “The Chosen One” and Katniss said, no way.
This might seem like a small thing, but actually, it’s an important distinction. Instead of someone pointing into a crowd and saying “you,” we get to see Katniss making a choice. She cannot let her sister march off to the slaughter and she decides to volunteer in her place. This tells us that Katniss will do anything for her sister, including potentially die for her. This also tells us that in the eyes of the games and the rest of the world, Katniss is not special. She’s just like anyone else in her district. She just happen to be the one going to compete.
You can write a story with a “Chosen One” and have that chosen character truly not be special or significant to anyone in the world of the story. The “Chosen One” can also be relatable and grounded and even bad at things and still be “special,” it is all about context. Your character can stand out to a villain. They might be the most vulnerable, the most naïve, the one who didn’t realize this is exactly the kind of shady situation her mother warned her about. Little Red Riding Hood was a “Chosen One” too. Right place at the right time and she got eaten at the end of that story.