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You are the chosen one

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Being the chosen one. It’s one of the oldest tropes in storytelling. And I’m growing sick of it. I feel that it’s an easy way out to get your character into the thick of it. “Oh, I need to propel my character into the story and give them motivation. Easy. They don’t have any other choice because they’re the chosen one!”

Sorry. That’s too easy.

Why don’t we attempt to push ourselves as writers. There has to be another way to setup your protagonist in your story. And I would imagine the other choices are far more interesting. There is a perfect example of this.

Original Star Wars trilogy vs the Prequals.

Luke wasn’t a chosen one. He was a farm boy with big dreams. Obi-Wan didn’t come to his house one-day and say “You are the one destined to defeat the Empire! Go forth and do great things.” Kind of the opposite. Obi-Wan was trying to hide Luke from Vadar. If anything, he was trying to keep Luke away from it all.

It was the unfortunate deaths of his Uncle and Aunt that forced their hand. So they buggered off Tatooine. Did they leave to go confront the Empire? No. Let’s be honest. Obi-Wan was trying to squirrel Luke off to another planet. Too bad that planet got blowed up.

All of this created a much more interesting story and character arc for Luke. We get to discover his true past and connection with the big story over time. Which creates a more engaging story.

The Prequals stomped all over this. Anakin was the Chosen One! And so he was just pushed along by everyone around him. The motivation wasn’t really his own. It was everyone else around him. All of the choices Anakin made were coerced out of him by others. And it made the character fall flat to everyone.

I won’t get into how this all could have been fixed for the prequals. There are enough blogs that deal with “what ifs.” And all of them are better than what Lucas did.

But I think the two trilogies illustrate my point.

Anakin was handed a destiny.

Luke made one.

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3 Comments

  1. That is a super cool point! It’s cool to think about it also in terms of the story of your day. Are you going to go out there and wait until what you want chooses you, or are you going to go and make it freakin happen? 🙂 It’s more empowering to empathize with the latter choice.

  2. James Darrow says:

    Definitely a fantastic point. It’d even be a refreshing chance of scenery if “the chosen one” actually used some ambition and made the story go forward on their own. Instead, every time, we are left with “chosen ones” who always become the pawns of everyone else around them.

  3. There was an awesome story not too long ago on Podcastle (I think) that took the trope you’re talking about and up-ended it. These twins were “The Chosen One,” but they kept killing all the magically speaking animals that told them this. They got rid of anyone or anything that tried to force them into a destiny they didn’t want. In the end, they diverted “Chosen One” status to an older brother they didn’t much like. It was amusing.

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