Teaser Tuesdays: Should I Include Destiny?

Yahoo Image Search

A favorite topic of mine.  For those who have followed the blog since the Legends of Windemere era, you knew it would have to be in there.  A reminder that this is only part of the entry.  Enjoy.

Should I Include Destiny?

Very few tropes are as common in fantasy as the destined heroes. This motivation has existed since the days of mythology and continues to be used today. Authors find twists and variations on the concept of destiny and fate, but it tends to boil down to the same thing. The hero is on a path that was chosen for them by a greater power, which brings up the question of if they are in control of any of their actions. Needless to say, readers and authors have railed against the concept. Does that mean it should be shunned and ignored? I’d be a hypocrite if I said yes since the God of Destiny is a major player in my stories. In fact, Legends of Windemere is all about destined heroes . . . Of course, there’s more to it than that, which I will get into after we go over ‘Fate vs Free Will’.

This has been a debate for years if not decades. It shouldn’t be surprising since the concept of destiny has been overused to the point of ultra-cliché. Audiences see the use of destiny or fate or being chosen by a higher power as a cop out by the author. Why does the hero go on this dangerous adventure? Well, they don’t have a choice. More importantly, it goes against our desire for freedom, which is shown through free will. Readers want to connect to the characters and destiny can be a glaring obstacle.

After all, if destiny exists in our world, then it’s not something we’re aware of or fully grasp its influence. This is different than in fantasy where it’s stated as a known force on the characters and plot. Either the heroes are told directly or the audience knows they are reading a story about fate. Even revealing this in the middle or near the finale of a story can have negative effects. This is because we don’t live in the times of older stories where destiny was accepted. It comes with a lot of baggage now.

The biggest problem with using destiny is that it removes the sense of control a character has on their own life. Readers will question every decision and action the hero makes because they aren’t seen as having freedom.

This is extremely true when they are successful or a convenience happens. Every victory is seen with the lens of there never being any other option. Failures are considered to be destiny forcing the hero to go in the right direction instead of a legitimate mistake. Once this factor is introduced and shown to be the major motivation of a character, it leads to many inferences that revolve around there being no threat of defeat. How can a destined hero lose before the finale? It’s hard to believe even if they routinely make mistakes. In fact, I would say that makes it worse because it shows that the heroes can fail upwards. If a loss doesn’t cause them to fall off their path, even a little bit, then it’s not seen as true. Readers will see it as an empty ploy meant to make them believe that destiny isn’t at play here.

While failures in a destiny-driven story are viewed with suspicion, there is a plot event audience’s rarely see coming. That would be the death of a character, especially the one who has been chosen. Authors may do this to shake things up and shock the readers, but it isn’t an action that can be taken so casually. People will see the destined hero as untouchable from the beginning. Every dangerous situation lacks the proper tension because they won’t believe death can occur. So, you have that issue right out of the gate. This is what can drive an author to drop a flaming bowling ball into their own story by killing off the destined hero.

See? Fate can be fickle and isn’t always written in stone! Now, you have to accept that . . . I can kill . . . Uh, where did my plot go? Yup, an author can derail the entire story by killing off a chosen hero and having no explanation as to how the adventure continues.

About Charles Yallowitz

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.
This entry was posted in Teaser Tuesday and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Teaser Tuesdays: Should I Include Destiny?

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great post. I guess I never had an issue with this trope, because I never considered the characters to be puppets lacking freewill. Anakin is someone I think of, especially since he was destined to bring balance to the force. And Obi-Wan yelled, “You were the chosen one,” as Anakin fought him almost to the death in the third prequel. So Anakin didn’t actively work toward balance though he eventually brought it about, despite trying to fulfill his own agenda. Maybe someone might think he was “used” to bring about something he didn’t want. But I don’t see it that way. A character can have a full circle moment in his or her life.


    • Anakin comes from the school of ‘vague prophecy’. It gets left open enough to allow flexibility and mystery. Technically, he destroyed both the Jedi Order and the Sith, so he balanced things out that way. Another option is him fathering Luke and Leia who did it. I will admit that his fall from grace felt a little stretched though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the flaming bowling ball image. I think that would be most outcomes of killing off the hero. I wonder if an author could do that with the idea of resurrection. Might look like a trick though. (I killed off the hero and have nowhere to go so I’ll bring him back.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. V.M.Sang says:

    A fascinating insight, Charles. It is something of a problem. Much food for thought here.
    I have something of a similar problem with my Wolves of Vimar series. A prophecy suggests the companions are ‘chosen ones’. I hadn’t thought much about the trope until now. Thanks for this.
    I’m reblogging, but scheduling it for 10th October when I’m away and won’t be able to blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually have this situation floating around in my head in two different formats. I don’t want to reveal them here, but it involves the prophesy being more vague, or even unreliable, possibly misinterpreted be mortals. It actually gets fulfilled in the end.


  5. I feel like people often conflate things backward when talking about destiny. For instance, the turns of an battle could be termed a matter of destiny afterward, when the outcome is known. However, going into that situation, the combatants might think it’s just a routine skirmish. No one is looking for their “destiny” at all.

    Certainly in terms of a protagonist, it’s possible for characters to be told of a destiny and embrace it, taking all steps willingly to make this happen. Such characters could be written as noble and earnest in their desires, or as fools who are used by others to carry out some hidden agenda.

    It’s also equally possible for someone with evil or fascist tendencies to give out that they have a destiny, and persuade others to follow them. (See: the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler.)

    All of these stories could be told effectively if the author believes in them.


  6. Diane says:

    That’s an interesting take on destiny. In the fantasy story I’m currently writing, one of the main characters is told she is destined to… Yet, there are discussions about this destiny and what destiny really is. One character tells her, “your destiny is in your hands, not anyone else’s.”

    Another character thinks: While fate and destiny might shape and sway his life, he was the one who determined the ultimate outcome.

    Those who raised the child have convinced her it is her destiny, but another asks, “Have they predicted it or planned it?”

    So there’s lots of back and forth. Ultimately, the character doesn’t follow the path she was told she was destined to follow.

    Sending a character off to do something else or being only the supporter of someone else who ‘defeats the bad guy’ thwarts hero’s destiny.

    Killing them to end the destiny is harsh. Killing the main character just to kill them or to get a knee-jerk reaction is weak writing. It’s also mean to readers. Readers want a victory. At least this reader does. Kill the main character, one I’ve invested my time and emotions in, and it will be the last book I read by that author. And if I own it, I’ll burn it.


  7. Pingback: Destiny in Fiction | Dragons Rule OK. V.M.Sang (author)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s