Made in America

Show Don’t Tell: The Chosen One

The ‘chosen one’ trope, typically found in fantasy or science fiction novels, involves a character being chosen for a specific task that only they are capable of carrying out. Whether that involves defeating a great evil, saving someone in peril, honing magic or science for a specific purpose, or some combination of the three, being ‘the chosen one’ involves a great responsibility being put on the shoulders of your character. Although the journey of a chosen character is long and adventurous, the reveal that they are the chosen one is also important. Rather than telling the reader directly, the idea that a character is chosen should be shown using dialogue, characters, action, and events.

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Strange Happenings

One way to hint to your reader that your protagonist is ‘the chosen one’ is to have strange occurrences happening around them. Perhaps someone is after them and they keep narrowly avoiding death. A stray hockey puck is flung toward their head while they’re watching their friend play or a car almost hits them out of nowhere while they’re on the sidewalk. A near-death experience happening once can be life-altering, but when it happens repetitively the reader will start to suspect something more is going on.

There is a wide array of strange external events that can signal to the reader that a character may be ‘the chosen one’. Perhaps a man in a trench coat has been following your character everywhere for the past few weeks. Or maybe it has rained everywhere they go for the past month. Maybe they’re having a string of bad luck from breaking mirrors to seeing black cats, to a series of injuries. Or even the opposite, a string of good luck where they seem to magically be getting everything they wanted out of nowhere.

These strange happenings, ranging from the bizarre to the supernatural, can hint to the reader that something more is happening with a certain character. This will help make sense of the ‘chosen one’ reveal when it happens.

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Inner Qualities

Just as there should be external evidence of your character being ‘the chosen one’, there should be internal evidence as well. This could come in the form of strange occurrences happening within your character. Maybe they sit down to have cereal for breakfast and their spoon seems to come to their fingers as if by magic. Perhaps they’re laying in bed at night, thinking of a certain place they’d like to be, and then all of a sudden they find themselves there. Or even that they’re thinking about getting a haircut when suddenly they realize their hair has morphed into exactly what they were thinking.

This could also involve setting up the personal traits that help make this character ‘the chosen one’. Things like empathy, compassion, kindness, bravery, resourcefulness- these are traits that ‘the chosen one’ has, regardless of the story and context. Setting your character up to have these traits, even to have them in nontraditional ways, can allow your reader to anticipate where the story is going and also to gain an appreciation for your character.

For example, let’s say your chosen character isn’t an outwardly sweet and benevolent person, but we get a small scene where they give the last piece of their sandwich to a stray dog. This hints at the idea that they’re more like a chosen one than they may first appear.

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Another way to show rather than tell your readers that your character is ‘the chosen one’ is to utilize that character’s friendships, family, and relationships. One way they can be utilized is to further highlight the character’s ‘chosen one’ traits. For example, your character can have a conversation where they give their friends sage advice and their friend expresses gratitude toward them. This scene, or a similar one, will highlight how your character is benevolent through action, rather than by directly telling the reader.

The friends and relationships of ‘the chosen one’ can also be useful in that they can be used to further highlight some of the strange happenings surrounding the character. Let’s say one character is with your protagonist for multiple strange happenings, they can point out the various linking events through dialogue with your protagonist. On a character level, this will allow your protagonist to have their suspicions confirmed. It will also provide further confirmation of bizarre events for the reader.

Finally, the relationships between ‘the chosen one’ and other characters can be used as a strange event in and of themselves. Perhaps everyone starts treating the protagonist differently all of a sudden, whether in a positive or negative light. They will start to wonder what is wrong with all of their friends or family, which will then prompt their suspicions and make the ‘chosen one’ reveal pay off.

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