Writing Tips from Pokémon Sun and Moon

If you read this post, you’ll recall my mentioning that I’d almost finished this post. Well, here it is, finally. Bullet undodged.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s a joke title if ever I heard one. Why doesn’t she just get to the giveaway winner already? Patience, my young padawan. That will come in time.

In case you’re wondering (even if you aren’t, I’m still going to tell you), Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are two versions of the same videogame developed by Game Freak for the Nintendo 3DS—one of the many ways Nintendo celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Pokémon franchise in 2016. I have both. Each game has its own variations.

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Because of the popularity of Pokémon Go, even if you didn’t play it, you’re probably familiar with the concept of catching Pokémon to collect and train.

Starter Pokémon

Starter Pokémon

Essentially the game is a hero’s journey. The hero—you—leave home and battle several threshold guardians (friends, island captains, and kuhunas) in order to reach your goal—becoming the world champion Pokémon trainer.

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One of the most fun things about the game is that as your character explores, he or she finds useful items either on the ground, or they’re given to your character by others in the game. These items help your Pokémon grow stronger, which is your main goal as a trainer. But knowing which ones to use at different points in the game is part of a winning strategy.

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Videogamers love clues that can help them figure out how to succeed in the game. So what does this have to do with writing? Well, consider the fact that readers also like to be successful. They like clues that help them make predictions about a story’s outcome. Which brings me to writing tip number 1: Foreshadowing is a way of cluing the reader in on what’s upcoming. A character in your story might say something that triggers an “ah-ha” moment in the reader and helps him or her anticipate what could happen later on. So, foreshadowing is how you help a reader win in the game of reading.

Tip number 2 probably goes without saying. But I’ll say it anyway. Make each threshold increasingly difficult to help your characters grow. This is what’s known as upping the ante or raising the stakes. As you start off Pokémon Sun or Moon, the first threshold guardian is challenging, but far less challenging than the ones later in the game. But at each level, your Pokémon are growing stronger. By the time you reach the end—the final five trainers—your Pokémon should be at a level where they are able to successfully defeat the five. So, overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles makes your characters grow.

Tip number 3 goes with the second tip: Make your antagonist three dimensional. Duh, right? A three-dimensional antagonist As you play Pokémon Sun or Moon, you’ll run across a surly kid named Gladion who demands to battle you every now and then. He’s often rude to you. But he’s not just a bully. Gladion has a very poignant back story and an interesting motivation, which you learn during the course of the game. Knowing his story helps you begin to understand what makes this kid tick and even empathize with him. And that’s the reaction you want from a reader. You want them to care about your antagonist, even if he or she is horrible to your protagonist.

pokemon-sun-moon-trailer-screenshot-12Okay, I’ve lectured you enough. If you read the interview with Andy Murray (click here for that), you know I’m giving away a copy of Mythos, the volume in which Andy has two short stories. His publisher, Michael Kobernus, kindly offered an ebook of Folklore, book 1 of the Northlore series. Too cool for school!

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The winner of both of those books is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Charles Yallowitz!

Congratulations, Charles! Please comment below to confirm, then email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail address and the email address you use with Amazon. I’ll forward the latter to the publisher for the Folklore giveaway. Thank you to all who commented.

Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon logos from segmentnext.com. Starter Pokemon image from inthegame.nl. Gladion image from capsulecomputers.com. Obtaining TM image from gamerant.com. Hau image from usgamer.net. Professor Kukui photo by L. Marie. Book covers from Nordland Publishing.

A Night at the Opera

Have you ever had one of those days when you looked in your closet and picked out several things to wear, all the while thinking of each, Nah this won’t do? That’s how I’ve been the last several days with blog posts. I started one on writing tips from Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon (yes, really; it’s almost finished) and one on the great outdoors (less finished). But this post you’re reading is neither of those (Perhaps you’re thinking, Whew, I dodged that bullet), nor any of the other ideas I had swirling around in my head.

Last week, a friend of mine and I attended a student production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute (which also is playing at the Civic Opera House in Chicago). Though I have attended several operas over the years, and enjoyed them, I can’t say I’m an opera aficionado. But I have friends who love the opera, and one friend who is an opera soprano (and a faculty member at the University of Illinois). So, that’s how I found myself at the opera several times.

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I didn’t know the storyline of The Magic Flute beforehand (click storyline in the first part of the sentence for the synopsis), though I’d heard one of its most well-known arias elsewhere. That aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) is sung by the Queen of the Night, a character who does what is needful to regain her kidnapped daughter, Pamina. You can listen to that aria here if you like.

You probably already know this (if you do, you know way more than I did last week), but I’ll tell you anyway. The Magic Flute is a fairy tale that follows the hero’s journey model. We meet the hero, a prince named Tamino, whose call to action from the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night is to rescue Pamina from Sarastro—her kidnapper. Along the way, he gains a sidekick—Papageno, who is forced to accompany him on this mission. In Act I of the opera, you start off with one idea about who is good and who is evil, then find that notion overturned in Act II.

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At left in black is Abi Beerwart, who played Pamina; in yellow, is Bethany Crosby, one of the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night

I love the hero’s journey story model and fairy tales. Having grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales and musicals, thanks to parents who took my brothers and me to musical performances, this opera was right up my alley. I love that my assumptions were overturned, but not in a frustrating, this-doesn’t-make-sense kind of way.

Several small children in the audience were very vocal in their commentary. Some burst into tears, wanting to leave halfway through the production. Others, knowing cast members, cheered when their favorites appeared. Still others just wondered what was going on. Early in the performance, I had the same question. But at least the children were there, soaking in the rich tapestry that was The Magic Flute.

I’m reminded of a recent post at Jennie’s blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.

Major pieces of art? Masterpieces? Introducing this to preschoolers? It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children.

You have to read the post (click recent post above to do so) to understand why I thought of it as I wrote this post. Jennie ends the post with, “Art makes a difference.” Perhaps watching The Magic Flute will be life changing for the children who attended it as well.

What kinds of art (musical performance, movies, books, animation, dance, painting or other forms of visual art) were you exposed to as a young child? What difference did it make in your life?

P.S. Extra bonus points if you can guess where I got the title, “A Night at the Opera,” from. Though I had one specific source in mind, there is another possible answer.

Photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Charms of the Feykin

Return to Windemere in Charms of the Feykin!

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

To make a champion fall, one must wound their very soul.

Nyx is leading the charge to rescue Delvin and Sari, who have gone missing in the southern jungles of Windemere. Battling through the local predators, the champions are surprised when they reunite in the Feykin city of Rhundar. Instead of captives, the missing heroes have become the city’s rulers and are on the verge of starting a war with those that want to exterminate their new followers. Even with such a noble cause, Delvin and Sari have changed into brutal warlords that may kill each other and their friends long before they step onto the battlefield.

Have Delvin and Sari really changed for the worst or is there a greater threat pulling the champions’ strings?

Grab it on Amazon!

Add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

Excerpt: Broken Bonds

Sari draws two daggers and sprints at Luke, slashing at his sabers in an attempt to cut his hands as he unsheathes his weapons. Instead, the forest tracker unclips the scabbards from his belt and spreads his arms to avoid the gypsy’s attack. The swords still sheathed, he does his best to deflect his former friend’s strikes while harmlessly smacking her in the sides. When a dagger slices his arm, Luke kicks out to knock Sari back. A hint of a grin on her face causes him to slow his attack, his foot aching as it bounces off her immovable body. Knowing he has to trick her, the half-elf runs backwards to get the gypsy to charge. Before she falls behind, the warrior lets her gradually catch up while remaining out of slashing range. Once Luke reaches the riverbank, he lunges forward and aims a swing at the sprinting woman’s knee. Forced to decide between taking a blow that would surely break bone or risk a similar injury by turning her power on while running, Sari tries to twist out of the way. She lands on her back at the forest tracker’s feet and curses when he pins her arms by jamming his sabers against her wrists.

Before Luke can tell the gypsy to stop struggling, an arm of water bursts from the river and bats him away. Phelan leaps out of the rapids and sprints at the prone warrior, his daggers lengthened by keenly edged liquid. The weapons sink into the muddy earth when their target rolls away, the ringing of drawn steel revealing that the champion is no longer restraining himself. With a flurry of stabs and slashes, the half-elf drives his new opponent back and whittles away at the watery daggers. Trying not to kill the Feykin, Luke delivers an echoing hilt punch to Phelan’s head every time the other warrior attempts a counterattack. Faced with the full speed and skill of the agile forest tracker, the outclassed hunter has various watery weapons fly out of the river. None of them hit the champion, who remains close enough to continue his barrage of muscle-rattling strikes.

Ducking to the side, Luke slashes at the other man’s exposed flank in what he hopes will be a crippling, but non-lethal, blow. The saber clangs off a patch of icy armor and a freezing tremor makes the half-elf’s arm go numb. A searing pain erupts from his lower back and he whirls around, the motion preventing Sari’s dagger from doing more than a long cut across his side. His first saber swings an inch over her head, but his second weapon leaves a gash up the middle of her chin. Enraged by the pain, the gypsy moves out of Luke’s reach and summons a massive hammer of water. She freezes the forest tracker’s feet to the ground before he can move, which allows the large weapon to connect. It repeatedly comes down on the warrior, breaking several ribs and one of his arms. Sheathing his sabers and remaining on the ground, the half-elf draws the stiletto and hurls it into Sari’s thigh. A look of shock is on her face and she stares at Luke’s battered form as if seeing such injuries for the first time.

Need to catch Legends of Windemere from the beginning? Then click on the covers below!

You can start for FREE . . .

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

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Cover Art by Jason Pedersen 3D Conversion by Bestt_graphics

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen
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Also Available in Single eBooks:

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

Cover art by Jason Pedersen

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Interested in a new adventure? Then grab your Kindle & dive back into the world of Windemere! Don’t forget an apple for Fizzle.

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About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Wall-to-Wall People

IMG_3542Admit it. You tuned in to see who won a copy of Louise Hawes’s young adult novel, The Language of Stars. (The interview with Louise can be found here.) Well, I’ll get to that right after this.

The last five days have been wall-to-wall people days, starting on Wednesday with my weekly train ride into what’s known as the Loop in the city of Chicago. I left a crowded train station with thousands of people and blended into the well over half a million people headed to work or school.

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I pass by this sculpture every week. If you want more information about it, click here.

On Thursday, a friend and I headed into a crowded mall for a quick merchandise return, then into a crowded theater to watch Star Trek Beyond.

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The weekend featured activities that fit the full spectrum life, starting with a funeral in a crowded chapel one day, and a baby shower the next. (I ducked out of the baby shower, due to feeling under the weather.) In between those events were a dinner at a crowded restaurant with a family of friends and a lawn/garage party with another crowd of people. (Almost 200 people were invited.)

Getting back to Chicago, I realize the difference between what seems “crowded” in Chicago, versus “crowded” in New York City, or “crowded” in Shanghai, having been to all three places. Though I grew up in Chicago, I felt dwarfed by the sheer mass of people on the streets in New York and Shanghai.

But walking through the Loop each week, I can’t help noticing the diversity of the crowds. Now, I realize the word diversity gets some people’s hackles up for various reasons. Some see the outcry for diversity in literature or other media as an attempt to shoehorn people of various ethnicities into stories, as if staffing a meeting at the UN. Others see it as a challenge they can’t surmount, and resent being told what they “need” to add in their stories, particularly ethnic or gender perspectives they know next to nothing about or may not want to know anything about. Still others might want to add the perspectives of people different from them, but fear insulting those cultures by the use of careless, uninformed language. I understand the latter desire all too well, since I struggled with that issue in my WIP.

Walking in an area with wall-to-wall people helps me see what diversity looks like on a daily basis. It’s not tokenism, but rather, a natural occurrence. The crowd is what it is. But I live near a city that is a melting pot. I’ve walked the streets of other cities or towns with a very different ethnic profile—one that is homogeneous, rather than diverse.

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I can’t pretend I know “all about” the perspective of someone who is different from me—even if I have  a diverse group of friends. But I know my own perspective in a diverse world, and can address my observations. And I can keep asking questions to get to know people who are different from me.

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What are your thoughts about diversity in literature, the movies, or elsewhere? While you think of that, I’ll move on to the winner of The Language of Stars.

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The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Lyn Miller-Lachmann!

Congrats, Lyn! And thank you to all who commented!

Star Trek Beyond poster from ign.com. South Park image from nakanoasam118.wordpress.com. Photos of the My Mini MixieQ’s figures and the Calder stabile by L. Marie.

Lift Ev’ry Cup of (Butter)beer

The night was warm and the beer was butter.

It was the return of The Party That Shall Not Be Named. I went with a friend to meet up with more friends in downtown Naperville, Illinois, where sixty businesses teamed up with the ring master—Anderson Bookshop—to throw the biggest party of the year around these parts. All to celebrate the release of this book:

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My copy. Wheee!!!

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The Party That Shall Not Be Named was a regular occurrence during the series’ heyday. On Saturday, there were Harry Potter-themed contests, plays, crafts, merchandise, and a ton of butterbeer. Check out this article in the Chicago Tribune or click here for more details about the festivities.

Several streets had been roped off and traffic diverted for this event. Thankfully, I only had to wait five minutes for a parking space!

To say there were thousands of people in attendance is an understatement. If you read the Tribune article, you know how many people were expected. By the way, that article provided old information about the number of books sold. By the end of Saturday, employees at Anderson had taken orders for well over 2,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I know, because a friend of mine had number 2073. I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble and was number 678 in line.

Actors stood in the windows of Anderson Bookshop and simulated the wizard cards you get in the Chocolate Frogs boxes. (Sorry about the quality of many of the photos in this post. I had to snap each photo quickly. We were on the move a lot. And there were so many people dashing in and out of the shots. Sometimes, I couldn’t move closer due to the size of the crowd.)

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After walking around a bit, we headed to the candy shop near Anderson, which had been turned into Honeydukes Sweet Shop (naturally).

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The line to get in was a block long, but we were willing to wait. This is where we purchased our butterbeer, which was part ice cream, part cream soda, and butterscotch flavoring. But I totally avoided Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, having ingested some pretty disgusting ones in the past (like the vomit one).

We then watched some live performances of scenes from the first seven books. Then after grabbing a snack at Jimmy John’s, we watched the judging of the costume contest for adults (the kids’ portion of the contest having been judged earlier in the day).

Jimmy John’s contribution to the cause:

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Some photos from the contest are below. Wish they were better! I failed to get a good photo of the winner: a woman in a Mad-Eye Moody costume. The crowd favorites (Moaning Myrtle [the person at the far right in the second photo below], Hagrid, and Voldemort) did not win, so the result was a bit controversial. Another crowd favorite was a couple who called themselves Expecto patronum (first photo, the people at the far right). The guy dressed as Harry Potter, while a woman dressed as Harry’s patronus had a white, filmy cord attached to her that led to “Harry’s” wand. If you know about the Patronus Charm from the Harry Potter books (particularly Prisoner of Azkaban), you’ll see immediately how clever that costume was. Most of the crowd expected them to win. But they came in second.

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I know there have been some awful things in the news lately. That’s why I loved seeing so many people rallied around something fun. Everywhere, people smiled and talked to one another, instead of gazing at their phones. While I stood in line in various places, I talked to a number of people, some with kids in tow. Kids and adults were in costume, making wands, answering trivia questions, drinking butterbeer, and cheerfully waiting till the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I especially love that everything centered around a book everyone was eager to read. How wonderful for an author. But how wonderful for us too. We had a great time on a perfect summer night, a night for making memories. Now to avoid internet spoilers until I can finish the book!

Party flyer from visitnaperville.com.

A Shocking Revelation

With Mother’s Day having passed, I considered writing a post about moms. I’m not a mom, so I can only write about them. But rather than wax eloquent here about the joys of having a great mom, I called my mom on Mother’s Day to experience the joy, rather than write about it. (We live far away from each other and could only communicate by phone.) So, you won’t get the eloquent waxing on that subject. Sorry to disappoint.

But this brings up something I’ve struggled with lately: how much to reveal about myself on this blog. As I’ve mentioned before, L. Marie is a pen name. That’s why I avoid posting photos of myself. Photos would defeat the purpose of a pen name. (There is a reason for the need for a pen name, which will be revealed at some point.)

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We live in a culture where revealing the day-to-day minutiae of one’s life to strangers online is the norm. But I struggle with that, not just because of the pen name. I’m a shy person. I have trouble introducing myself to people in person, let alone online. So I’m always amazed at how much people reveal about themselves, especially on social media outlets like YouTube. I’ve seen vlogs about the contents of YouTubers’ bedrooms, refrigerators, purses, iPads, and TV screens.

I’m also amazed at what’s done for the sake of entertainment on YouTube—another way to reveal information about oneself. The other day, I clicked on one of my YouTube subscriptions to find a video of two guys playing a Russian Roulette-type game involving electric shocks. You can buy this game on Amazon, I later discovered. But I clicked away from the YouTube video before the game began. The thought of watching someone take an electric shock quite frankly horrified me.

Now, I’m not debating anyone’s right to buy this game or show it on a YouTube channel or even to watch someone else play the game. But this video brought up something I need to reconcile.

I’ve read the Hunger Games books and watched three of the movies. Now, the premise of the books and movies involves more than people using a party game to administer electric shocks. Young people in this world are expected to kill other young people in gladiator-style games. So if I can watch that, then why am I so horrified by two guys doing something that will cause one or the other pain?

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Probably because they’re not actors who are paid to pretend they’re some else, while being supported by a huge special effects budget. So while my mind tells me the movie scenes aren’t “real” (thus cushioning the effect), there is no cushion for real life.

Still, you might argue, how much of YouTube is “real life”? Some vlogs, like reality TV, have a “scripted” feel to them, since the participants know that the camera stands before them, and they can edit out mistakes.

I’m not here to debate that issue. I’m here because the video I clicked off caused me to think deeply about what I watch. (See? You and I both learned something about me.) While I know they were playing a game, the experience reminded me that real life can be messy and scary at times, and beautiful and sacred at others. Some images stay with you for life.

That’s why I’d rather not watch two people waiting to see who gets an electric shock. I want to see or read something that makes me feel good about life. Like this blog post from Penny over at Life on the Cutoff or this post from Andy over at City Jackdaw.

How about you? Has something caught your breath in a good way lately? Please share it!

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The lone red tulip in the yard

Woman with bag from svtrainingconnect.com. Hunger Games movie logo from pop-break.com.

Guest Post: Chosen for Greatness

Whoowee! I can relax in this here comfy chair, since Charles Yallowitz is guest posting today. Please take it away, Charles, while I have something cool to drink and put my feet up.

Comfy Chair

Thank you to L. Marie for helping to promote the first book of my fantasy series, Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero. It’s been out since 2013, but I’ve made it permanently free to help get people into the series. All of that is beside the point since I’m here to talk about the Chosen One trope. You know that character destined to destroy an evil villain and has everything handed to him? Well, that’s the lazy way to do it. Let me explain how I did it and use poor Luke Callindor as an example. He’s the half-elven warrior you see on the cover and he’s not nearly as shiny these days.

Authors who use the Chosen One template have to be careful and avoid the trap that has people hating this thing. That trap is having the hero destined to DEFEAT the obstacle. For example, Harry Potter was destined to defeat Voldemort. There is no ambiguity there. His path is to win the fight no matter what. Chosen Ones of this school worked way back when, because people didn’t want their heroes to lose. Times have changed and people don’t always want the victory to be handed to the Chosen One.

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In Legends of Windemere, six champions have been crafted by the Destiny God to face an ancient evil. Not win, but merely face the villain. The god admits that he can only lead them to the final battle and the victory is entirely in their hands. There isn’t even a promise that they will get there in one piece or all of them will survive. In fact, it’s mentioned that the heroes will reach the final battle “in some form” and one of them has to die. So here you have multiple Chosen Ones continuing on with the knowledge that one of them doesn’t have a future beyond the big battle. That’s if they win anyway.

This addition makes the Chosen One trope more like a curse, which is how it should be from some perspectives. Luke Callindor starts the series as a young warrior looking for his first adventure. He takes beatings, nearly dies multiple times, and has his ego brutalized all in the first book. This is before he learns that he is destined for greatness. When that happens, things get even worse for him. Powerful creatures are out to kill and torture him and terrifying powers are offered to him. A Chosen One really shouldn’t step into the role and carry on like it’s a natural thing. They’re simply humans with a great story to tell and a big target on their backsides. Luke has doubts, fears, and comes close to breaking so often that a few readers have dubbed him weak. They haven’t even seen the worst that happens to him.

I think we forget the downside to being hoisted above the crowd when we read or write about Chosen Ones. Those characters are exposed and targeted because the villains always know they’re coming. Loved ones are in danger and those who aren’t chosen may become resentful enough to turn into enemies. There is no flexibility of path and they can’t think too much about the future since they are a pre-written story to some extent. All of this can create some level of anguish or distance for the character. Without that, the heroes are empty and can come off as arrogant.

matrix-bestSo, should the Chosen One trope be retired? No, because it isn’t really any different than being born with natural talent. I’ve met artists like that and it isn’t always pretty. Instead, maybe authors should make it less of an honor and more of a Sword of Damocles. Personally, I don’t think a Chosen One should reach the end of the road without baggage, scars, and being less shiny than they were at the beginning. For example, quality of movies aside, Neo in The Matrix lost a lot before he came to the end. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my champions if they win the final battle. The survivors will not be getting away clean and become symbols that being a Chosen One isn’t as great as one would think.

Hero Cover FinalCover art by Jason Pedersen

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New Charles Author Photo Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Legends of Windemere is his first series, but it certainly won’t be his last.

Harry Potter and Voldemort from blog.wordnik.com.
Beginnings of a Hero cover courtesy of the author. Keanu Reeves as Neo from 21stcenturywire.com. Target on back from peacebringer7.wordpress.com. Comfy Chair Shopkins figure photo by L. Marie.