Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fantasy Manifesto #3

3. Enough with The Chosen One already.

Miracle babies who are destined to destroy the evil warlord. Hidden princes, raised humbly on some tiny farm, who will grow up to reclaim the throne. Prophecies that foretell their coming.

Been done. To death.

For one big reason: it kills tension. If someone is the Destined Hero, then you've already told us he's going to win. Now, I go into most fantasy books, pretty much figuring the heroes are going to win. But I want to feel they earned it. If you lay out this huge prophecy of destiny of how said person will do everything… well, then, you’re just giving us the outline right off the bat, aren’t you? If you just make it obvious that your characters are chess pieces in a big, planned out game, with no choices of their own to make… then you’ve lost me.

Now, I have to admit, one well-worn trope I love is a prophecy of defeat. The best are the ones that seem to be a declaration of immortality, but are, in truth, telling someone exactly how their defeat is going to happen. Those then give you the satisfying “I am no man!” or “Macduff from his mother’s womb was untimely ripped!” moments.

You know what I’d love to see—and maybe it’s out there—is for the humble, goodhearted farmboy to be the Chosen One of Prophecy… but he is destined to become the Dark Lord. And in the end of the book, that’s exactly what happens. Is there anything like that out there?


Anonymous said...

the humble, goodhearted farmboy to be the Chosen One of Prophecy… but he is destined to become the Dark Lord.

I sort of hate myself for even thinking of this, but... Anakin Skywalker?

Lex Luthor as depicted in Smallville kind of fits the pattern; there's no prophecy involved, of course, but we know from the beginning that he is destined to be a great villain, which is pretty similar.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is a good example... if his fall had been well handled. I always felt the whole "Dark Side" of the force was a bit of a cheat in this regard... it wasn't a slide slope into darkness, but just a hole you fall down with no degrees or shades of gray. I wish that story had a slower descent. It would have been a lot more powerful had the transition from Anakin to Darth Vader been more like Michael Corleone in The Godfather.