Have you recently read a book where an orphan becomes the chosen one and saves the world? How about one where two characters fall in love with the same person and that person has to choose who to be with? Yes? Well, welcome to tropes.
Character tropes include:
THE CHOSEN ONE
Ah, the character who must stand alone to accomplish some vitally important task or purpose that acts as the pivotal moment in the story. Often to save the world. I will use Avatar: The Last Airbender as an example here because although it was an animated series there was a spin-off of stories as well.
Aang, or the Avatar, was the chosen one destined to save the world or resolve the conflicts that threatened the stability of the world. They were given a power reserved only for the chosen one and they must master it to achieve their goal.
Now the chosen one is not always given a power reserved just for them, but may be chosen based on prophecy or just sheer random selection, and they just to happen to be a completely normal person thrust into the middle of a conflict that they end up having to solve and defeat because only they can due to some characteristic they possess. And nine times out of ten they are orphans.
This often overlaps with another trope THE RELUCTANT HERO, where they don’t want to be the hero, but still continue moving forward to complete the mission out of obligation or necessity.
You most likely recognize this trope in everything from Harry Potter to the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. It is one of the most utilized tropes in fantasy, but the reason it works is because there is a sense of comfort in it. One of the ways to twist it is to make a person the chosen one, not by birth, but by events that happen either before the story or during the story that manifests in them becoming the chosen one.
A being that is pure evil in physical form, commanding legions of minions from their lair of darkness, reflecting their internal evil. A being bent on world domination and the destruction of the chosen one. Sauron from The Lord of the Rings is a perfect example, residing in Mordor, a land of fire and brimstone surrounded by his army of orcs and Uruk hai. His desire is power and domination of all through the power of the one ring. Oftentimes this character is male, though recently there has been progressing to more female evil overlords.
Old and grey, a long beard usually tucked into a belt or stroked at regular intervals. Or stooped over a cane with a strict countenance and proclivity for wrapping the protagonist over the knuckles when teaching them. Whatever personality of the character, they are usually old. And have a nasty habit of disappearing (either to complete another very important task or by dying ) when the protagonist needs them the most, leaving the protagonist to find the path to success on their own.
Lying in wait after a defeat in battle long ago, sealed away (the intention being forever) released by accident or intention, or having spent the time sealed away gathering its strength to break free of its bindings to wreak havoc and take revenge for having been trapped and beaten.
BLACK AND WHITE MORALITY
I don’t think I need to expand on this one too much, this is the fight between good and evil, a trope that exists in almost every fantasy book there is. Shades of grey are few and there are so many examples of this that if I were to list them, you would still be reading this for years to come.
WHEN ALL SEEMS OVER, THE CAVALRY SWOOPS IN
THE HOMOGENOUS SPECIES
A WORLD THAT DOES NOT PROGRESS
A world that is stuck in time, never progressing in technology or medicine, never moving forward. Cultures stay the same, political structures remain identical even thousands of years apart. High fantasy does this a lot as well, the world remains the same and only the characters change, the familiarity is great for the readers, it lets them reminisce, but don’t be afraid to make some progression.
Again I will use Avatar again here as an example of how you can progress a world but still retain familiarity. In the Legend of Korra, the different bender types exist, the Avatar still exists and the role remains largely unchanged, but the world has progressed drastically from a technology perspective as well as a political perspective.
From purely kings and Queens or lords through inheritance, you have the introduction of a democratic election. You have moved to a steampunk-inspired industrialised setting, but there is still mention and influence of the original characters and because there are still themes that run between the two series, there is still the sense of familiarity that keeps people engaged. Don’t be afraid to use the same device in your books.
AN ANCIENT ARTIFACT
Now tropes do not always have to be obvious. You may write most of the book leading the reader to believe that a certain character is the chosen one, just to switch it up and reveal that the sidekick was the chosen one all along. Or the big evil was just a puppet of a character that was unassuming and in the shadows.