I love high stakes stories.
I love when the heroes have to battle against all odds and sacrifice all of themselves to reach the end goal. And I love when that end goal is “life as we know it” or Armageddon.
And I love the hero who is plucky and normal but housing some extraordinary power. The “chosen one” or the “you were born to be this” trope. I eat that stuff up when it’s done well.
Sometimes even when it’s done poorly. We can call them popcorn novels for me – great fun but not a lot of substance to them.
The problem is, as a writer, I know it’s cliché.
I know the moment my character reaches a height that she couldn’t possibly have reached on her own, that I’ve crossed into the “chosen one” trope, and while every single fiber of my being is buzzing with delight because I LOVE those stories, I have to yank myself back. Or at least tailor things to try to disguise this trope.
Trenna in my Sedition series – and in that first book particularly – was a chosen one trope. I tried to disguise it with magic amnesia and the fact that she was the General of an army, but it’s there if you look hard enough.
Elsie Delgora in my Witch-Born duology was clearly a chosen one trope – especially in the final novel – but I tried to disguise it with birthrights. This was likely not as well disguised as I’d hoped, but I do still love that first novel… probably because I love the cliché.
And today I’m staring at the final chapters of Darkside of Bright, struggling with the desire to make poor Nora Grayson more than an empath counselor. There are things to like with both versions of the character, and in truth there is a path that I can take where her story becomes a series and more is revealed about her origins with each book, but the writer in me is still conflicted.
What’s so wrong with letting her just be Nora? Draw on the empath, on her ability to read and understand relationships and their complexities, and I get a story about relationships and how they shape us as people.
Let her be more, and I can still get that story about relationships while also opening an adventure that drives into the heart of Fairy. BUT, I fall into the trope hard. So hard it will undoubtedly be mentioned by reviewers. Not that I should permit reviewers to dictate what and how I write, but that’s a whole different conversation. Suffice, even my own inner critic would be on top of this one, sneering at the “unoriginal” “just like all the other books on the shelf” plotline.
At this moment, I am reminded of Stephen King. In his book On Writing, he admits that many people criticized him for writing horror. They asked him why he would waste his talent on that genre, and yet, here he is still writing horror. Because that’s what he loves.
I’m certainly not in the same league as Stephen King, so please don’t think I’m comparing myself to him. But you know what? Even cliché’s and character tropes are a part of a writer’s toolbox. They only go wrong if you’re not paying attention to crafting your novel.
So I’m going to take that trope and play with it. We’ll see where it leads. Maybe only people like me will love it, or maybe I’ll nail it. Either way, it’ll be fun to write.