Bees and Wenches: Kim Alexander Expands on the Chosen One Trope

Okay, this is going to be a difficult one.

We’ve been talking about the elements of world building, and specifically world building for your very own fantasy novel, and this one is going to be about one of the most common, nearly unavoidable tropes that ever troped: the Chosen One.

You know how it works. One minute you’re a milkmaid, or a farm boy, or the illegitimate child of a nasty nobleman, and the next you have ninja-level fighting skills, magic you can’t control, or (if you’re super lucky) a dragon drops from the sky and declares undying devotion (in Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, ‘Why not?’)

Now you’re probably thinking I’m going to advise against using the device in your fantasy world, and tell you to write that five-part series about the adventures of the sullen beekeeper and his pal the bar wench who dreams of a day job in the big city. You are mistaken. (Partly because I think I may write it myself, hands off the sullen beekeeper.) The part I’m going to throw a yellow card at is how your character came by their newfound Specialness.

Nothing grinds my gears more than the idea of an unearned skill/gift/dragon. If you want your milkmaid to be a fighter, she’d better trade in her kirtle for some leather trews (I guess) and practice getting down and dirty with the local blacksmith. (This suddenly turned into Forged in Fire fan fic, and for that I do not apologize.) If your ignored bastard child is going to be the savior of his or her people, for Pete’s sake let them at least meet some of those people – they’re got to have a reason to welcome your hero other than ‘it is written’ because that, my friends, will not fly. Using prophecy or dreams of (God forbid) eye color to justify your Chosen One is plain lazy writing.

In my own novel, the hero is indeed the Chosen One, and he got to be that way because of a carefully orchestrated campaign at his birth by his mother, who was looking to consolidate her own power. Is he really capital S Special? It matters less what he does than what the people believe, and it saves Mom’s bacon, so yes, in a way, he is. Will he actually ever do what they say he will? Hey, I’m only on Book 3, so the jury is out. (Spoiler: probably!)

So make your main character a Chosen One (or the CO’s best friend, or worst enemy – life is a rich tapestry!) but think about how they got there, where they are going, and what they did to deserve their dragon. Make ‘em earn it, and their journey will be all the more meaningful.

Now, off to write about bees and wenches!

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