Masterplots Theater: C is for Chosen One

C Masterplots Theater-2It’s week two of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and time for our next installment of Masterplots Theater.

Episodes thus far include:
A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love

If you like focusing on a strong central character, creating clear-cut moral conflicts and enjoy getting down and dirty with fight scenes, this could be your plot. The Chosen One might be the most popular masterplot we will cover all month. It’s widely used in Sic-Fi and Fantasy, but shows up in every genre. It’s adaptability means it works for any age range reader. That flexibility also means there are a lot of Chosen One stories already out there. You will need to work extra hard to make yours stand out.

Chosen One Plot Notes:

The Chosen One character is always the hero of the tale, however a story can have more than one chosen character.

The Chosen One has little to no say in their destiny. They are appointed the task by external forces. This might happen at birth with a divine sign, such as the alignment of stars that announces the arrival of The Chosen One. Or this character might start out exceptionally ordinary, until the day their special fate is revealed. This often happens in conjunction with a coming-of-age birthday.

There can be a magical item that defines the hero, something powerful and significant that only responds to the touch of the true Chosen One.

This main character can be any age or gender, and is often named or called The Chosen One by the other characters. There is also a tendency for authors to title these books The Chosen One. According to my last Amazon search there were some 84,000 books with “Chosen One” in the title.

This character can be physically striking, with a high level of sexual attraction. Love triangles abound in this masterplot. But the Chosen One often has no clue how attractive or gifted they are. Insecurity is sometimes the only character flaw in this hero.

Typically, it’s not fun to be The Chosen One. They need to make sacrifices and their character arc is critical. This masterplot packs in the internal conflict as the Chosen One learns how to put their own needs aside for the greater good.

The midpoint of this plot almost always contains a major moment. It’s either a “turn back” moment when the hero wants to give up and pass the job to another. Or the “give in” moment, when the hero decides to stop avoiding danger and fight.

The Chosen One story always has high stakes, with black and white, good vs evil morality. The Chosen One and they alone must save the world from a powerful dark force. If they fail, so shall humanity.

Often the external conflict carries the action in this masterplot. And there can be a lot of action. With high stakes comes epic battles.

Example to Study:

There are so many examples for this plot, but I’ve selected The NarniaLion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis.

Here’s why:

  • MAGICAL ITEM:  The wardrobe in this story is the portal to Narnia, yet it has failed to open for decades. It takes the touch of The Chosen Ones to activate the magic. Of the four children, it is Lucy who opens the doorway. It is also Lucy that first champions the cause of saving Narnia.

  • COMING FORETOLD:  Mr. Beaver has the task of telling the children about their destiny. He recited the old rhyme and does his best to convince them of their mission. This is when we find out all four children are The Chosen Ones. They all must complete the mission to save Narnia. However, Beaver meets with little success; The Chosen Ones haven’t reached the “give in” moment.

  • HIGH STAKES: Jadis, White Witch of Narnia, has held the land in perpetual winter for centuries. Under her rule, fear of being turned to stone keeps everyone but the darkest and most vile creatures enslaved. The coming of The Chosen Ones triggers the arrival of Aslan, High King of Narnia. These two events create the turning point in the story’s stakes. The mood shifts as everyone starts to anticipate the epic battle of good vs. evil.

  • GIVE IN MOMENT:  Before the battle can start, Peter tells Susan to take the others and go home! While Susan is ready to retreat, Edmund and Lucy are not. This is the moment each of them stops avoiding and accepts they must work together and embrace being The Chosen Ones to fight.

  • BONUS: This story gets points for having four Chosen Ones. Each of these characters brings a different layer to the story. Also because the children start out ordinary, every reader can cast themselves into the shoes of one of these characters.

Future Research:

There are so many examples of this plot in books and movies, I would need thousands of words to cover just the high points. ENDER’S GAME, THE DARK IS RISING, DUNE! Instead of creating a huge list I’ll leave this link to the TV Tropes entry and you can explore books and movies with The Chosen One masterplot on your own. And do come back tomorrow for another installment of Masterplots Theater, D is for Dystopia.

Please share your thoughts on Chosen One stories in the comments below.

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

44 thoughts on “Masterplots Theater: C is for Chosen One”

  1. I admit I do enjoy a good Chosen One story from time to time. I like to imagine myself in the role of this magical being who is destined to walk alone on their quest to save the world.

    1. I’m not a fan of love triangle either, and they are everywhere. I guess there are just so many irresistibly hot people in books.

    1. Hi Yvonne, There really was a huge wave that started a few years back. I guess we will have to wait and see the wave is over or if more books are coming. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi Sheila, Thank you! This masterplot was a hard one. I could have gone on for another 500 words and not covered all the points. : )

  2. I don’t read a lot of fantasy but I certainly recognize the chosen one plot in the few books in that genre that I have read as well as the many films I have seen. As already mentioned, Harry Potter immediately came to mind. Would Luke Skywallker also be a chosen one? I recognize it in other genres as well, but it seems much more predominant in fantasy and science fiction.

    Melissa Sugar
    http://melissssugarwrites.com

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Which books or movies fit into which masterplot is slightly subjective. Many stories have subplots from a second masterplot making their classification harder. And with a story like Star Wars, which is multi generational, you have so many storylines to consider. However, I would not put Luke in this masterplot. But I will be covering the masterplot I think Star Wars (almost) fits into later this month. Let me know if you see it. : )

  3. Hello, I’m a new subscriber of your blog. I’ve read a number of “Chosen One” stories. There is one book I’ve read awhile back called Un Lun Dun by China Mieville which contradicts the Chosen One formula. Here, the chosen one actually isn’t the chosen one after all, but it’s the friend of the chosen one who ends up being the hero.

    1. Hi Cynthia, Thanks for subscribing, it’s always nice to make new writer friends.
      That book uses a twist. I considered mentioning it, but I didn’t want to confuse people. Making a change to the masterplot structure is great way to make the story your own. A lot of experienced writers will do that, take the bones of a masterplot and give it a spin.

    1. Hi, I’m glad you liked the post. I’m working hard to place the Golden Child but coming up with a blank. I’ll have to look that one up. : ) Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi Ellen, Many people feel the same way you do about these characters. I guess that’s why so many of them are written. I also have a few Chosen One books I just adore! However, if I ever write one I will not be calling it The Chosen One. : )

    1. Hi Srivi,
      I’m so glad I tricked everyone by picking something different as an example. : ) Thanks for stopping by.

  4. You know, I think that’s part of the reason Harry Potter was such a big hit–because he was a chosen one, but he wasn’t at the same time. He was completely average and in the wrong place a the wrong time. I’ll admit, I get annoyed sometimes when reading fantasy because of that. I want someone to be average, but maybe not, but definitely not a the-world-will-end-if-you-don’t-save-it type. It’s overused in my opinion.

    C is for Cheese

    1. Hi Crystal,
      Harry Potter isn’t revealed as a Chosen One until mid series, it’s in Order of the Phoenix. I think that’s what causes the ambiguity you feel about his status as a Chosen One.

      I’m intrigued by your C is for Cheese. I love cheese. I’ll be by your blog later today to check it out.

  5. Chosen one seems to my kind of topic, though i am writing neither fantasy nor sci fi – is that possible? Chosen one or the main protagonist/hero/heroine is it same or different?

    1. You can find a Chosen One in any genre, but they’re common in fantasy. The Chosen One is the main character. I can only think of one case where it wasn’t.

    1. Hi Mary,
      I was over at your blog yesterday and cracked up on your B is for Bananarama video. These dancers! I couldn’t believe the outfits. However, my stupid computer crashed during my comment. I’ll try again tonight to leave you one. : )

    1. Hi Becca, Thanks for stopping by. We have some great masterplots planned this month. I hope you enjoy them.

  6. As soon as I saw the term “Chosen One,” I immediately thought of Harry Potter. 😉 And that series fits your description very well. But I hadn’t thought of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe to be a “Chosen One” plot… and now that I think about it, it definitely is, because the Pevensie children’s coming was foretold to the Narnians.

    Like Sarah Zama, the “Chosen One” isn’t one of my favorite plots, since it’s been done many times over now. However, if the story is written well enough, or if the “Chosen One” aspect is woven in seamlessly enough without being emphasized too heavily, chances are I’ll still like it. In fact, the novel I’m reading right now has a “Chosen One” plot – but that didn’t occur to me until I was reading your post!

    Well done, Robin. Looking forward to the rest of your and Heather’s A To Z series. 🙂

    1. Hi Sara! I love that I threw you a curve with my example. : ) I had a hard time picking just one book, I considered so many novels and films. And I had so much to say about the Chosen One! Heather talked me into holding back several hundred words for a second post at a later date.

      Your experience discovering the masterplot of the book your reading is one I’ve been having since last year. As soon as Heather and I picked this post theme and started to research, masterplots were everywhere. I guess it’s like any other form of writing craft, once you learn about it you can’t read anything the same way again.

  7. There are many excellent Chosen One books including Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but when I see a “Chosen One” blurb, I am hesitant to bite. It’s hard to do this one well.

    1. I think it’s easy to fall into a rut with this masterplot, it’s a challenge to find a fresh angle, but it can be done. I think both Harry Potter and Hunger Games make it work because it’s not the main plot focus at the series onset, it comes in later.

    1. Too funny! We could have gone the Harry Potter angle, it would be the expected pick. But Heather and I like to mix it up, keep everyone guessing.

    1. Thank you! Blogging from A to Z is a great way to discover new blogs. I’ve been meeting some amazing people and it’s only week two. : )

  8. Great description of a plot I bet we’ve all read many times. Maybe the Chosen One is popular because we’d all love to be heroes, and we can imagine ourselves the hero of whatever story we’re reading – or writing.
    So far, I’m loving these A – Z posts. Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s.

    1. Thank you, Sharon. That’s good to hear. We have a lot of great masterplots left to cover. : ) I find the chosen one character harder to put myself into than some of the other common characters, but they can be fun stories to read either way.

  9. I know the Chosen One masterplot is common in fantasy, but I wonder if it is used very much in other genres. In your research, did you run across any contemporary books that utilized the plot structure? A few classics come to mind, but I can’t think of any recent books.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, The Chosen One is still an indie favorite, I found a huge number of books with the term right in the title. Traditional publishers and agents are not as welcoming, some agents will say “no Chosen Ones” on their submission lists. However, this masterplot still shows up in a ton of places, TV, movies, books. As a theme or a character it’s honestly in too many places to list: Sleepy Hollow, The Matrix, the last book of The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter books, the Percy Jackson books, The Stand by Stephen King. I could go on, but the link I included is a much better source.

  10. I have to admit, the Chosen One is probably one of my least favourte masterplots. Maybe because it’s been done so many times (I’m a fantasy reader, I know about it!),it takes a lot for me to get into a Chosen One story. If I see the words ‘Chose One’ on the cover, I’ll probably not even read the blurb.
    On the other hand, I like ordinary characters a lot more, so that’s probably my main problem 🙂

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    1. I’m with you! I like my characters to become great heroes. It’s one of the reasons I picked the example I did.

We love comments and questions.