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The Kindle Storyteller Winner, 2021 – with Rachel McLean (The Self-Publishing Show, episode 310)
THE GRAINS OF TRUTH
Why is it so hard to embrace weakness
when we were born with it?
Small and helpless beings utterly
dependent upon the hands of another.
With no strength to feed, drink, or nourish
our bodies with sustenance.
Why is it so hard to embrace weakness
when it allowed us to be loved and cared for?
What is strength without first knowing
the pangs of weakness?
What is nourishment without the knowledge
of dire hunger?
It was weakness that first allowed us to know
the comfort of assurance.
It was weakness that allowed us to grow,
become strong and resilient.
It was weakness that allowed another to
embrace our needs until we were mature.
But yet maturity means to reject our
Maturity means we dispel others who seek
to embrace our most basic needs?
It means we reject the weakness that
seeks out the flood of unborn tears.
It means we actively suppress the nature
that makes us passionate human beings.
It means we scurry away from the weakness
that brought us all the vigors of life.
Yet real maturity means we embrace the
brittleness that is—the essence of life.
It means we open to the oppressed well
of tears, and embrace the fears of flowing.
It means we grasp the grains of truth,
reject the lies that keep us from knowing—
That we are not truly weak.
We are just human.
© Benjamin Thomas
THE WEIGHTLESS KISS OF TRUTH
There’s a misbegotten truth,
weighing heavily on the tip of my wings.
Impeding the ascent to the height—
the cumulus flight to bigger, or better things.
Whispers of resistance, continue, in the
soft echoing of resilient wind it seems.
Companies of snow-capped mountain
ranges now break upon my sight.
Arises now a forgotten strength, and
defiance—to engage in a bitter fight.
Suddenly a pang of thought, rushes to
mind, and its presence was just right.
I bear no burden, I need no wings, the truth is
weightless—instantly I am light.
I am lighter than the restless, ageless wind.
I am lighter than the veiled, open air known to men.
Lighter than tenfold painful lies.
Lighter than the unheard strangled cries—
For the swift healing of crippled wings.
Or laments that the mourning dove always brings.
Lighter than the feigned beast, we call doubt.
Lighter than the wicked, weighted world of pout.
Lighter than the futile, hurled exercise of hate.
I just evaporate.
For I am lighter than the lightest of them all.
For I’ve become the Paraclete, unsung molecule,
Even until this very day.
No one knows the mystery, so they say.
Who wrongly assumed a premature victory,
in the gist of a weak, fledgling history.
But you’ll never know where I’ll be.
Perhaps, when you round the corner—
There I’ll be.
But don’t be surprised when you see…
The weightless kiss of truth—
© Benjamin Thomas
THE SENSE OF INSPIRATION: Marry The Gold
The beauty of inspiration is hardly inimical.
The might of its contagion spreads like the wildfire
of French marigolds.
It seeks to hold the retina captive—taken hostage,
with its awestruck glamour, like a tenfold hammer,
sizzling optic nerves piped to the brain.
It seeks to remain, replicate its burning sunset flames
spewed out to whimsical petals—
edged and tamed by the guardrails of amber yellow.
True healing seems to be its abiding fellow;
burning away the dross of pain, anger, and torment
of hidden sorrows.
The true rapture of inspiration knows no tomorrow,
for the skilled nature of its artistry demands the here—
It is an alluring shield against the precise arrows of anxiety,
deflecting the anguish of a perilous state of mind.
If we would only labor to find, dig, for its glittering treasure,
marry the dimension of its true measure, and seek the gold—
Prompt from Poeticbloomings.com
The “Chosen One” Trope: Walking The Line Between Classic And Cliché
There are plenty of explanations for why the “Chosen One” is such an evergreen trope, appealing to writers and readers alike. It’s a truly versatile device that presents ample opportunities for authors to craft complex worlds and relatable characters. However, because of its ubiquity, you also run the risk of writing yourself into a cliché-filled corner!
Learning how to avoid clichés, and lazy writing in general, is essential to literary success. To that end, I wanted to give some advice on how to make this classic trope work — and crucially, how to avoid its worst pitfalls. First and foremost, you need to…
The Chosen One, as the term implies, is a character who has somehow been “chosen” as the only one capable of defeating evil, saving the world, or resolving some kind of major conflict in a story. It is especially common in speculative fiction and is often paired with a hero’s journey.
Some well-known examples include King Arthur, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Indeed, this trope can be adapted for any genre; what unites these characters is that they have all been elected to play a pivotal role in their respective worlds.
With countless “Chosen One” sub-tropes to explore, my first tip for any writer is to read extensively! This tried-and-tested method gives you a chance to:
While I can’t warn you against every potential pitfall with the Chosen One (there are too many variations of this trope for that), here are some key things to watch out for.
For every story that features an element of “chosenness,” there is usually some flavor of destiny or predetermination involved. This can (unsurprisingly) lead to predictability — the protagonist discovering their chosenness, setting out on a quest, and meeting some type of opposition so they can undergo personal growth and, eventually, realize their true potential to defeat their opponent.
It’s a tricky line to skate. As a writer, you want there to be some element of inevitability, because it’s a central conceit of the Chosen One narrative. Perhaps you can twist it a bit in your writing (the reluctant hero’s internal battle against their true destiny is always a fun one).
That said, destiny can start to eat away at the agency of your characters, or inadvertently give away the plot. After all, if we’re so sure the hero’s going to defeat the villain, why bother reading to the end of the book? This is why you need to keep readers on their toes, even if it means misleading them for a little while.
Carefully planning your novel can help you maintain good pacing to keep readers on the edge of their seats, even if they already have an inkling of the overall arc. The potentially predictable nature of Chosen One plots require extra care to prevent readers from growing disinterested. If you’re struggling with this, break it down into manageable chunks! Make sure you have at least the following things outlined before you start writing:
This will give you a solid idea of when best to deploy certain action beats to keep your pacing tight, while still allowing the creative freedom to get from point A to B. In short: you can ensure you have a good grasp on all the different threads that need to be tangled and subsequently untangled over the course of your novel, and become a true puppet master of your characters.
Once you’ve structured your novel with plenty of surprises, you’ll want to map out your characters. Unfortunately, the Chosen One device can lead to lazy characterizations because well, she’s the chosen one — isn’t that interesting enough? Spoiler alert: it’s not.
Flat characters are the kiss of death to any book, and what could be more flat than a perceived lack of agency? Predictability and inevitability can make your characters seem powerless and anonymous, as well as utterly replaceable. It also makes it tough to create the necessary tension to carry the novel forward and make your readers really root for the protagonist.
So how do you avoid this? It’s actually pretty simple: give your “Chosen One” their own choices and introduce them as having a real personality and relationships, using the following tactics:
Every good Chosen One story needs a great antagonist. It doesn’t have to be a person, but it often is — which may tempt you to create an out-and-out villain, verging on caricature, to offset your good guy/girl. This might be fun to write, but it isn’t super compelling to read. And, more importantly, writing a strong, complex antagonist is a useful way to avoid accidentally making your story’s morality too black-and-white.
Whether your main character is facing an evil mastermind or fighting a wider threat to peace, plan your antagonist(s) out and consider what motivates them. One good exercise is to think about how you would write the story from their perspective, and incorporate your insights about their motivations and feelings into your main story.
It’s easy to over-simplify the world around us and write an antagonist who’s obviously, undeniably evil, but people rarely think of their own choices as such. It is far more interesting to read something that makes you question your own assumptions about what is right and wrong, so adding shades of gray and character flaws to your antagonist (and your protagonist too!) is an opportunity to shy cleverly away from this binary worldview and spice up your Chosen One tale.
When you take on a common trope, there’s a great deal of pressure to create something familiar yet unique. If you’ve made it this far and you think it seems like an impossible task, I have one more tip that might help you think of it in a different, more freeing way.
I’ve hinted at this already, but once you know the pitfalls like the back of your hand, you can use them to your fullest advantage. Toy with your readers by subverting the common characteristics of the Chosen One trope and make it fit your story, not the other way around. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, which can stump even the most imaginative authors, look for what is real.
By all means, use your imagination to make up whole new worlds, but always put your story and characters first to create something readers can relate to and which speaks to them. Religiously adhering to a mold other people have created (or trying desperately to avoid one in the pursuit of originality) is not going to serve you in the long run. When you write what is real to you, it doesn’t matter if it has been done before, because it will feel fresh and unique to the reader.
Whether it was some mysterious force that put a pen in your hand or your own pure determination, you’ve got this! Happy writing.
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and analyzing literature into the ground.
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