The Problem With Chosen Ones

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The trope is endemic to fantasy literature. Especially middle grade and YA fantasy literature. How many times have we gone through the old song and dance of a single person who is “special,” who feels like an outsider or doesn’t fit in, and turns out to have special powers or is the long-lost heir to the fairy throne or some other trite nonsense that hangs the fate of the world on the decisions of a single hormonal teenager? (Nostalgia Critic’s review of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief covers a lot of the issues with this trope of “Wowed Teenagers” quite nicely.)

Now, to be fair, a lot of people do connect with this base character type, and as long as the story does something interesting with it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the trope. For people just discovering works featuring that character type, it’s something new and unfamiliar to them. For people like me who have read a lot of fantasy and see the same tropes and cliches turn up over and over again without much variation, it can be a little grating. To each there own, of course, and I would prefer to see more variation. But a lot of people, especially those in the middle grade and YA audience, do feel like outcasts and want to be reminded that they to can be something special. It can be inspiring for them and help them discover their own talents.

But there’s a Dark Side to this emphasis on being a special, super-powered Chosen One. It can help reinforce two very unfortunate mental states: Magical Thinking and Delusions of Grandeur.

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Pros and Cons of Writing Groups

I personally don’t have much experience with writing groups.  I’ve never officially joined one and find the idea of doing so unappealing and intimidating.  It’s hard enough for me to share portions of my work with close friends, let alone near-strangers, especially since I am not good at summaries.  I’m sure a few readers will think, “Well, if you don’t try to get to know them, of course they’ll remain near-strangers and you’ll never feel comfortable sharing your work.”  True.  But I would rather gravitate towards friends who already like to talk about writing and slowly create a group that way.

The success or failure of a writing group really depends on the people in it.  If you are in a group that has people you trust who will give you honest, solid feedback, then I think you’ll have fun and improve your writing.  But if the others in your group don’t give good feedback and are not decent writers themselves, then neither you nor your writing will have much fun.  Some writing groups do weekly or monthly writing assignments or exercises for their members to participate in, and if that’s something you and your fellow writers are interested in, go for it.  However, don’t get so bogged down in exercises and “being a writer” that you forget to have fun.

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