Friday, April 14, 2017

7 New and Improved Versions of the Chosen One Trope

There he is. The perfect hero. There was of a prophecy of his coming. He was born to save the world. He may have grown up an average person, but when he becomes a teenager he learns of his destiny. With the help of a gruff master and quirky sidekick, he becomes adept at all hero techniques inside of a week: Sword fighting, strategy, being able to experience traumatic events without any lasting damage to his charming personality. He will fight. Win. He is...The Chosen One.

He's also boring. Fortunately for the millions of writers who use the Chosen One trope, this is absolutely fixable. The Chosen One is like a cracker. Bland on its own, but the perfect vehicle for something amazing. Like cheese. Or salmon. Or Nutella. Or hummus.

I'm hungry right now, in case you couldn't tell.

Now, I'm sure you all are brilliant writers, so you've put clever twists on this cliche. Hopefully. But I have some twists here in my brain that you may not have heard of. I can safely assume this because they are the product of my very tired, very hungry, very stressed, oh-my-gosh-I-forgot-I-have-a-blog-post-due brain. Which means that these ideas come to you unedited, stream-of-concsiousness style. Prepare yourself. Here are 7 lesser-known, improved versions of the Chosen One.
Hannah Heath: 7 New and Improved Versions of the Chosen One Trope
1. The mid-life crisis. He knew he was the chosen one. He found out when he was a teenager. However, he simply had no interest in being a Chosen One. It sounded like too much adventure. It didn't fit into his plan for his life. He had a list. A spreadsheet. Go to college. Get a degree. Graduate by 24. Get a job. Climb the ladder. Get married. Have two kids: A boy and a girl. Nowhere in there did he have a space that said: Become Chosen One. So he simply didn't. But now he's 40 years old and bored with his spread sheet life. His wife says he's too set in his ways and he can't seem to connect with his kids. It's time for a change. So he ditches his perfect job, buys a motorcycle, and goes out to fulfill his Chosen One destiny while also saving his family relationships.

2. The Self-Appointed Savior. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Which is why she's decided she's going to be the Chosen One. Okay, so maybe the prophecy was about somebody else. But they're doing a pretty inefficient job. Move over.

3. The Eager-To-Please Chosen One. Okay, so, maybe he's not very good at saving the world. He tends to make everything a lot worse every time he breathes. But people seem to believe that he can do it and he really, really doesn't want to let them down. So stand back everyone, because Carl's going to fix this. Just wait a second while he tapes together his glasses.

4. The Unbeliever. Pffft. Chosen One. That's all a lot of tricks and nonsense. She's a realist. She believes in what she can see, not that weird shaman that showed up on her doorstep the other day. But things start changing around her. Like that guy who saw her birthmark and started babbling about dark lords. Or the soldiers who keep trying to arrest her. She leaves her village to escape from all of these delusional people, but the delusion just seems to follow her. Pushing her. Before she knows it, she has a sword that glows. And apparently she has an arch-nemesis now, who doesn't seem to believe her when she says that she doesn't buy into in all this conspiracy crap. Nope. Arch Nemesis is out to kill her, so maybe it's time to start defending herself with these new magic powers that are probably just some really intricate illusions.

5. The Infiltrator. When the prophecy surfaces, the tyrant knows just what to do. He understands that marching into a person's house to kill their Chosen One Baby is a terrible idea. There's an entire series on why that doesn't work. The natural thing to do is to do is to win the Chosen One onto his side. So he moves in next door (undercover, of course) and helps raise the Chosen One into someone intelligent. Talented. Selfish. Somebody who, with the proper bribing, will pretend to do the duties of the Chosen One while secretly letting the tyrant succeed.

6. The Grandmother. Teenaged chosen ones can be inexperienced. Whiney. Lacking necessary skillsets. The Chosen One Chooser (because yes, that is absolutely a term) decides to gift the title of Chosen One to somebody more qualified: Grandma. She's been around. She knows things. Like how love triangles are a distraction, how nobody wants to hear you whine. She's fed up with Bad Guy's attitude. He clearly never listened to his mother. Armed with knitting needles and a plate of cookies, Grandma is off to give this young man a talking to.

7. The Irresponsible One. He's been trained since a child. Had every necessary Hero skill pounded into his head since birth all because of that lady prophet who showed up on the king's doorstep. He spends twenty years preparing and completely missed out on his childhood. Then, just as he's about to depart to kill the bad guy, some star-readers show up out of the blue. That prophet that told him he was the Chosen One? She's actually the real chosen one and the only one who can save the world. She just didn't want the job. She's been out having a grand time while he's been slaving away. Sorry.

Personally, I'd like to see these Chosen Ones much more than the usual cliche type. What do you think? Which of these is your favorite? If you've ever seen them used before, please let me know. That is a story I must read. Also, if you have any twists on the Chosen One that you'd like to add, please leave a comment below!

Related articles:
7 Cliche Characters in YA Fiction that Need to Stop
Romance in YA Novels: The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

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  1. Love your changes to the hero theme, and I agree, let's see a different type of chosen one. What about that Chosen One who just happens to be in the right place at the right time? He/she has had no training, never even heard of What's-his-face who wants to take over the world. Just a regular Good Samaritan who hates injustice. I could probably think up a few more, but I'd love to see someone write one of yours. The Hidden Prince was a good take on the chosen one trope, he disappears and gets recruited to play himself! Imagine that! Great post.

    1. Do you mean The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen?

  2. Have you read The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins? It's not as funny as these takes on the Chosen One, but it definitely mixes up the idea of a Chosen One.

    Also, can someone PLEASE write these? Especially 5 and 6. I would shovel over my money for these.

  3. "Self-Appointed Savior" and "Grandmother" are my absolute favorites!! Not only would I read those...I would write those stories. lol. I'm pretty sure I've seen "The Unbeliever" but I can't think of an example off the top of my head...oh. The first season of "Once Upon a Time."

  4. I love all of these, but #5 is my favorite...not sure what that says about me! Actually, #5 holds the potential for so much conflict: the villain seems actually competent (incompetent characters are my nemesis)--and what will the hero do when he finds out he'd been used? Betrayed? Lots of potential there. Great list--I love how you think outside the box!

  5. This sparked a lot of ideas for me. I am excited to see where they lead.


  6. I would read all those books but number 4 is my favorite. I imagine there could be many humorous moments for such a Chosen One.

  7. First "Terrible Writing Advice" posts a video about how to write the "perfect" Chosen One. Then you post this great article. (I love #3 by the way. I have a soft-spot for dorky hapless heroes who just wanna help.) Then today I get an idea for a brilliant (or at least mildly amusing) spin on the Chosen One cliche.

    Whelp, looks like the stars are aligning and the prophets have spoken. Step aside for a moment, dear novel that isn't going anywhere! I must write a three-part mini-series following the exploits of The Prophesied as he digs through trash and barks at squirrels.

  8. Great post, Hannah! I love finding a way around those cliche`s' :)I really like #2 and #6.

    This post is so funny, partly because I'm currently using #4 and #5 in my book, though in a slightly different manner. And even though my MC isn't "the Chosen One," per se, she still ends up being manipulated later on, because she pushes away the notion that it's up to her to save the world, so it takes awhile for her to realize that. I had a moment of "Phew, for once in my writing, I'm actually doing something right!"

    I think I need to work on her skill set, though. Like you said, the "Chosen One" always learns the important hero skills in a week and masters them. Unless my MC is supposed to be incredibly gifted (which, she's not) it's just a bit unrealistic. Now off to editing... oh joy...

  9. OH MY GOODNESS, I LOVE 2, 5, AND 6. I tend not to write Chosen Ones, but I am plotting a novel where the main conflict is that the Chosen One is assassinated (bc she's useless), which causes a civil war to erupt. The main characters are her two assassins, and the story follows their fight to stay alive and get out of the country before they're found and killed.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

  10. I've got tons of "chosen ones" in my book, and none of them fit the classic cliche. Lucy keeps trying to convince people that they meant to choose her kids, because she's too old and boring to save the world. Muriel is literally a grandmother (she knits, too - I'm waiting for her needles to become a weapon). And I think Basira fits #3 pretty well!

  11. Wow, these are great! I really want to do #2 at some point.
    I'm trying to twist the chosen one cliche. My current protagonist does believe he is the chosen one, but that doesn't fit in with his plans. However, since Arch Nemesis is out to kill him and dying really doesn't fit into his plans either, he keeps going along with what his mentors want in order to survive, thinking he'll just do one last thing in their plan and then go back to his more important (he thinks) mission. And before he knows it...

  12. Now you've got all my creative brain juices going... I should know by now to only read your posts when I have time to write. Arg I just get so excited to read them, but now I have to do school instead of writing the next generation's greatest novel.... oh well.

  13. I'm almost writing 'The Self-Appointed Savior'. But also the only influence this 'chosen one' has comes from the fact someone started a rumor this girl would save them someday. He had a plan to fulfill it too, but died before it came to fruition. So now the wrong girl is trying to be a heroine. Which doesn't matter as long as people get rescued. However I've got a bit of 'The Infiltrator' going on as well and that makes things complex.


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