• Want to support a good cause? Visit https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ to see how you can help the Black Lives Matter movement, even without donating.
  • This spooky-themed special episode wraps up the inaugural season of The Writer's Locke! As a sweetener we’ve included a roundtable with glancesherlock, all about Gracidea! Clocking in at around 100 minutes, this episode is an absolute chonker and an utter delight. Thank you for your support, Nuzforums!
  • New here and still figuring out the site? Check out the New User Guide and FAQ for some help!
  • No paparazzi clickbait here! Just a good old fashioned feature with exactly zero gossip about celebrities' love lives. Honest.Check out our spotlight of Rhema's storylocke, As Above, So Below.
  • Trying to figure out how the different forums have changed? This thread is the place for you.
  • One of our new features includes receiving a message on Discord when you have alerts. Find out how, here!
  • Have you seen our Stream tab? It let's you peek in and chat with our forum streamers on-site, from both Twitch AND Picarto! You can even view multiple streams at once. You can submit your own channel via Streams > Submit Channel.
  • If you're a fan of giving and recieving constructive criticism check out this resource about Critique Level Tags!
  • The results are in for the Nuzlocke Forums Extravaganza! Congratulations to everyone that placed this year!

DotW: How special do you like your protagonists?

Rumors

Or so they say...
Writer
Pokédex No.
258
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
970
Pronouns
male
Pokémon Type
Fire
Pokédex Entry
A Pokémon shrouded in hearsay and urban legend, spoken of only in whispered tales and hushed gossip.
Hello Nuzlocke forums! We finally got this forum up and I'm pretty darn excited! So much so I'm actually making this topic from my phone on lunch break rather than waiting to get home. Anyway, I'm going to run a series of weekly discussion questions for however long. It's all totally unofficial and informal, so feel free to join in even if you're weeks late or make a new thread if there's some other topic you wanna discuss. I hold no monopoly here!

So, first week's topic: how "special" do you like your protagonists to be compared to other characters in their setting? Whether reading, writing, watching, or drawing them? Do you like your leads to be average, everyday people? Should they have one or more qualities that make 'em stand put for better or worse? Should they be the one chosen by prophesy and be half pirate and half ninja who is destined to bring balance to a ten year old meme? Share your thoughts and discuss other's opinions!

So I don't dominate these discussions with my responses, I will post my thoughts later on. (Also, I'm already sick of typing on my phone >.>)
 

Trollkitten

Kitten of Lore
Artist
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
208
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
1,392
Location
Gatto Region
Nature
Quirky
Pronouns
She/her, Aetherai Lorekeeper
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Clever
Pokédex Entry
Autistic writer who starts more things than she finishes. Hyper asexual Twitch Plays Pokemon lorewriter. Rather be a happy shill than an angry critic.
In the Secrets of Aetherai series, I currently have two protagonists revealed. One of them is Rocket the Eevee in Ori's Gift, and the other is Sandy the Chespin/Quilladin in Lines Crossed.

As far as protagonist characters go, they're pretty different. Rocket is the Eeveetar, a legendary hero chosen by Ori to wield the powers of eight Relic Badges (each one representing a different Eeveelution/partner signature move in LGE). Rocket has always dreamed of heroism and jumps at the chance to save the Gatto region from its severe wraith problem. Sandy, on the other hand, is just an ordinary farm boy whose land is threatened by two princely brothers warring over his homeland. He doesn't want to be a hero; he just wants to find a better life. But then he runs into this ostensibly crazy Scatterbug who claims that he and his group will save the region from an 'ultimate weapon'... and things only get weirder from there.

Not to mention the protagonists of future runs -- I know I mentioned the heroine of Destiny's Shadow a lot when I used to be in writechat (and I still refuse to say her name because spoilers), but I will say that she's just as different from Rocket and Sandy as they are from each other. Rocket is a special 'chosen one' who's always dreamed of this; Sandy is a normal guy who just wants to live a normal existence in a world that's not torn by war. The heroine of Destiny's Shadow, on the other hand, is anything but normal and certainly doesn't want to be 'chosen.' Her main goal throughout the first third of the run (an Omega Ruby navlocke, in case you haven't already heard) is to recover her lost memories and find her way back to her homeworld. Naturally that isn't going to be her only goal throughout the entire story, but going into details, which I'd love to do if I could, would be spoilers that I can't afford to leak.
 

SimplyUnknown

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
242
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,216
Location
Invisibly Watching
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
A silent watcher who speaks only when something needs to be said. Offers free hugs to those who need them.
When it comes to special in stories, I tend to prefer the ones where a character isn't 'that' special, or at least not completely unique. They may have a special skill or power, but it's one that other people also have. I find that characters who have a very special/unique skill that no one else is allowed to have tend to become either overpowered or very very boring, or both, at least in the stories that I have read. Not to mention that for me, creativity using a skill others may have is much more interesting than having the skill itself be unique. It allows the protag to show off their intelligence as well.

Another big thing is that with a completely unique skill, the stakes are a bit lower so to speak. The protag is usually put into a situation where 'only their special power can get them out', and that isn't as fun to read as a character with a less special ability put into a situation where it might take more than that to get out.

The best examples that come to mind are the Xanth novels from Piers Antony. Everyone in Xanth has a special talent that rarely can be repeated over the generations, but the main protagonists usually have a spot on the wall talent that is only good in specific situations. So if they do use their talent, it has to be done creatively, even if their talent also causes them problems as well.

I also like it when a protagonist is special in a negative way. They usually have a lot more to prove and much harder time than those blessed in a good way, so it's more rewarding when they succeed. The Xanth novels started like that, with the main character Bink being the only person who didn't have a magic talent, and all the problems that caused for him along the way. When he got his happy ending, it was really cathartic because of how hard it was for him in the beginning.
 

Memento

The Princess of Darkness
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
202
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
443
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
Nature
Timid
Pronouns
She, her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
She is known to spend hours daydreaming about her stories.
It honestly depends on the fiction for me (even though all of my worlds are pretty much interconnected between alternate dimensions and timelines. It's a lot to take in, so I won't bore y'all.) Granted, a lot of my characters are superpowered, so there's that. Those characters are somewhat special. In the few that aren't...well, I'll give a few examples:

In three of my anthropomorphic animal fiction (think a much, much darker and more gray area Redwall with a bit of Mistmantle sprinkled in), it focuses on the ancestors of a young, physically-disabled fox (his right footpaw was broken and never healed right) named Spivar. Given that he's the last fox alive after a genocide, he has a prophecy about him that caused said genocide (along with species-wide mistrust of foxes as a whole)...but he doesn't drive the action; that falls to his friends and mentors for the most part. He couldn't care less about the prophecy about him; he just wants to avenge his mother's death. So, technically, he is a special character; he just doesn't care about it.

In another different anthropomorphic fiction (birds who have human-like characteristics - such as the ability to hold specifically-made objects that are carried in pouches, like cigarettes, for example - set in a Prohibition era), it focuses on two ravens (Slashthroat and Voeteameia) who are eyeing a bunch of gold bars owned by a crime lord Haast's eagle. It's not because they're ravens who are wont to look at shiny objects, but because they're a young married couple who are broke as hell and struggling to make ends meet. The difference is that they're mainly described by the other characters in limited third-person. So I suppose they're both special characters, in a way?

Then there's Yusuf Bilal, a police officer in a monster taming world (sort of like Detective Pikachu, but at the same time, not, if that makes sense?) set in a city that takes a lot of characteristics from Dubai. He's a rookie on the beat who's focusing on a menial job that, naturally, turns into something more. Yusuf isn't even close to special; he's a rookie who gets no respect from his superiors and peers (who all happen to be better tamers than he is, given that he's at the bottom of the totem pole.)

Sorry if I didn't do this right.
 
Last edited:

woodsparrow

!!
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
2913
Caught
Nov 15, 2020
Messages
8
Location
Canada
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Normal
If I may chime in on this, for me it depends on context and setting. Here are my pedestrian thoughts.

Having a chosen one in a sea of average joes has never really pushed any of my narrative buttons (not to say that it can't be done or done well, of course!). I think a good example of a Chosen One done well is--and your mileage may vary on this--is Rand from the Wheel of Time series. At least, that is the example that jumps to mind.

He is the Chosen One destined to end the Big Bad, but he is surrounded by people who not only ground him, but at times make him relatable. Chosen Ones who are the pinnacle of humanity just personally don't do it for me. I empathize more easily with protagonists who are relatable and seemingly approachable.

This reflects a lot in my personal work, which I have yet to share here.

Having leads be average, everyday people put into extraordinary situations is more exciting. There is "less" for them to work with. Presumably no special powers or abilities to deus ex machina their way out of them, either.
 

Epsilon

Queen of Birds
Writer
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
192
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
87
Location
I'm not entirely sure
Nature
Docile
Pokémon Type
???
I can read/watch just about anything, but my favourite kinds of protagonists are the ones who aren't born particularly special, or have any great destiny or prophecy attached to them. My favourite kinds of protagonists are the ones who end up in their situations through coincidence, accident, or a result of their own actions, and everything spirals from there.

It's more, idk, 'true to life' I suppose. Like in real life ninjas aren't gonna kick down my door and tell me I'm the legendary prophesised hero of their clan and whisk me off on a magical adventure. I emphasise more with the average joes. And I guess with prophecies there's always that question of 'are they doing the right thing because they want to, or because they were told they had to?' Not that every protagonist has to do the right thing all the time but you know what I mean.

It does, however, as others have said already, depend entirely on the context/setting. I'm also aware I don't practice what I preach.
 

SimplyUnknown

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
242
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,216
Location
Invisibly Watching
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
A silent watcher who speaks only when something needs to be said. Offers free hugs to those who need them.
It's more, idk, 'true to life' I suppose. Like in real life ninjas aren't gonna kick down my door and tell me I'm the legendary prophesised hero of their clan and whisk me off on a magical adventure. I emphasise more with the average joes.
This actually reminds me of a video I saw a while ago talking about how the person's favorite hero used to be Spider-man, but now is Doctor Strange. Peter Parker became special through no work of his own. He was in a freak accident where the spider bite happened to give him superpowers. Even if he didn't choose to become a hero, he still would have been special, and it could have happened to anyone. Dr. Strange gained his abilities through hard work and he had to choose to seek them out rather than anything wonderful happening to him. In fact, the inciting incident was his own fault to begin with considering the car crash.

Basically, both kinds of protagonists appeal to people more at different points in their lives and for different kinds of people. Both can be done rather well, and both can be done horribly. It really depends on the context and the skill of the writer/creator involved.
 

JavierE64

Masks are so 2016!!! But don´t forget to wear one
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
310
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
693
Location
Perú
Nature
Modest
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Grass, Water
Pokédex Entry
The Master of both Light and Darkness; who loves the Violent and Dramatic, and the Fun and Adorable.
Honestly, I'm fine with any kind of protagonists, as long as it isn´t a chosen one; I´m not fond of that kind of narrative, both for how limiting and predictable it is, and the historical context behind it. I´m more a fan of character driven stories; where they make their own decisions, and react to what their world throws at them.

Although, like many others have mentioned already, it truly depends on the context and tone of the story: Special protagonist serve better for either cheerful/comedic stories, while they can also work for any dramatic runs about discrimination or social difficulties. And regular people also have their own charm: Either for stories about the struggles of live, or if the main enphasis is on the world itself and not the characters themselves ( my favorites are the ones where the normal MC is the antithesis of the crazy world)

There's a lot of different possibilities, all with their own unique charms.
 

0 Anonymous

Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Pokédex No.
193
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
448
Location
Zetaboards
Pokémon Type
???
There's nothing inherently wrong with a protagonist having unique powers or being "The Chosen One". The issue is when a writer tries to use those things as a substitute for actual character and personality to try to make a bland / poorly-written character interesting. This problem is even worse if the reader perceives that this makes the character HAVE no problems, and no real struggle or reason to get invested.

It's kind of funny that SimplyUnknown mentioned Bink as a good example of being special in a negative way, because Bink is actually the most overpowered person in Xanth. Throughout his book and the series, it's STRONGLY hinted that his power is basically Plot Armor incarnate; his power disables and redirects other people's powers and to keep him alive, can't be disabled itself, and constantly works in a way that makes it not apparent that he's actually being protected, like being knocked unconscious by toxic gas as a kid instead of, you know, literally dying. Everyone with incredible powers in the novels hint that Bink's genuinely the strongest, but even they are unsure how exactly it works and end up being friendly to the guy, even the villains. The main antagonist of his series tries to go medieval on his ass when he realizes his powers aren't missing, they're being redirected, and then basically calls a draw and ends up being his neighbor when he can't actually kill the guy.
He's a perfect example that even having a god-tier unique power in a setting isn't a bad thing, as long as that character goes about things in an interesting way and isn't perceived as being overpowered in the setting. Other characters are able to have the spotlight when they show off their own cool powers, so focus isn't unhealthily on Bink.

I think my favorite example of "The Chosen One" plot working well is the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. Everyone looks at Gregor as this fabled hero prophesied by the founder of their civilization underground that's destined to save their entire underground way of life despite him just being a rando kid in a very, very grim underworld with the only real power to his name being the belief people have in him by proxy and a pimped out ordinary sword. Oh, and his perfectly ordinary baby sister, interpeted as being a sacred being among 9-ft large Cockraoch-kind (those bugs were all total bros too). As the series goes on he pretty much learns that people are maybe a bit too invested in these random scribblings made by a genuinely horrible person that kind of led people to an awful place in anticipation of an overworld apocalypse, and he watches his allies go out of their way to interpret the various prophecies in different ways than they were originally perceived in order to give hope to others when their original interpretation (and faith in their founder) flounder. This comes to a head when those prophecies say he's going to die, and after going through some real grim stages of acceptance for a children's book and basically gray-rocking his own impending death (this series was pretty metal considering the audience) until Rat Haymitch says that maybe those prophecies are full of it, he ends the books by actually surviving the final confrontation and telling everyone that the prophecies are junk, which causes the public to affirm that the prophecies totally are real because if you interpret his actions in a metaphorical way, he actually did die.
The Chosen One plot worked because the outcome wasn't per-ordained; between his own doubts, the doubts of those around him, the vague and awkward nature of the prophecy, and his own general powerlessness that leads to a fatality rate among those around him similar to that of a Roach Motel more than adventuring group, there's a very real feel that everyone's just going to die. He has his own family reasons for getting involved in the incredibly dangerous prophecies throughout the series so he has justification for going along, and he doesn't blame himself for any deaths that happen like he's having to babysit everyone and it's his fault if someone scrapes their knee (with the major "exception" of his actual baby sister, which actually makes sense). If the Chosen One is randomly picked from a humble station to become Chosen, that person shouldn't act like they're incredibly invested or incredibly responsible. Gregor very much doesn't.

In terms of nuzlockes in particular, I think people could learn a lot from the Dwarf Fortress school of picking favorites. Everybody is a nobody until someone does something actually insane, and don't pretend that someone is actually special unless they earn being considered special.
 

Chess

birds can't hurt me these shades are gucci
Globetrotter
Artist
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Team Omega
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
5
Caught
May 13, 2019
Messages
795
Location
in forest floor detritus
Nature
Docile
Pronouns
They/Them/She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Grass
Pokédex Entry
can be bribed with shiny objects and spices to do household repairs. utterly incapable of many things, but does them anyway
I feel like the question about whether or not a protagonist is special or relatable enough misses the mark a bit? It's a holdover from the time when we (generally literary internet types) had entire charts of traits that would prove whether or not a character was a mary-sue or not and the drive to make characters and write stories that specifically avoided those traits to guarantee that they wouldn't be accused of being too self-indulgent - as if that sort of thing was determined by whether or not you ticked specific boxes on a list you'd find somewhere on the internet.

As long as they're the right character for the story, it's fine.

I have to admit I was radicalized against this question heavily influenced by the fact that when The Name of the Wind was big, because Kvothe is very intentionally a hardcore sue protagonist - he's good at everything he does, he works himself up from nothing with only his wits and magic that he's innately attuned to, he's quite possibly either a lost noble scion or one of the fae and has the looks to match, he generally gets to charm his way out of the consequences of his actions and into opportunities that no one else would ever have a chance at - and people were bending over backwards to explain that he wasn't a mary sue, and most of it boiled down to the fact that the book was still generally good, or that the book was professionally published, etc; which missed the (surface level) point of the entire thing, namely that the book is him telling his own story about how being a hypertalented dumbass with a wonderful singing voice and a penchant for bullshit got him into more problems than it solved until he ruined everything for everyone forever.

He was the main character and the book is a long exercise in why he was the main character: what specific traits got him into trouble and what traits got him out of trouble. And in that sense the books sort of feel like a writing exercise in how to handle a character, because they're very much an examination of why a certain character is the main character - and the fact that while the world might or might not revolve around your main character, your story absolutely does. Whether they're relatable or powerful or chosen or just a bystander, they have a toolkit for navigating the world, and the problems they face should be things they're equipped to deal with. Which basically is just a fancy way of saying that if your character has to be the chosen one, the story has to be about the thing they're chosen to do - and that's no more restrictive than saying your story about a teenager struggling with school should probably involve their struggles with school in some way.
 
Last edited:

Trollkitten

Kitten of Lore
Artist
Writer
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
208
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
1,392
Location
Gatto Region
Nature
Quirky
Pronouns
She/her, Aetherai Lorekeeper
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Clever
Pokédex Entry
Autistic writer who starts more things than she finishes. Hyper asexual Twitch Plays Pokemon lorewriter. Rather be a happy shill than an angry critic.
Everybody is a nobody until someone does something actually insane
I can attest that the heroine of Destiny's Shadow does in fact do several actually insane things. In various definitions of the word.

I feel like the question about whether or not a protagonist is special or relatable enough misses the mark a bit? It's a holdover from the time when we (generally literary internet types) had entire charts of traits that would prove whether or not a character was a mary-sue or not and the drive to make characters and write stories that specifically avoided those traits to guarantee that they wouldn't be accused of being too self-indulgent - as if that sort of thing was determined by whether or not you ticked specific boxes on a list you'd find somewhere on the internet.
This. So much this. I never liked Mary Sue witch hunts -- some of my favorite characters have been accused of being Mary Sues despite part of my attraction to them being my ability to empathize with their flaws, which pretty much proves they're not perfect characters.

One particular example that stands out to me is Webby Vanderquack in the DuckTales reboot. Sure, she's ridiculously skilled when it comes to adventuring (particularly considering she's a ten-year-old girl), but being raised alone in a mansion has left her socially incompetent to the point in which, in one of the first episodes of the series, she completely Nat 1's what just might be her first social outing ever and she gets banned for life from the Chuck E. Cheese knockoff she visits after only one trip. (To be fair, she did accidentally set a few things on fire by knocking over a lamp with her grappling hook after she mistook the ball pit for a booby trap. It makes sense in context.)

Honestly, 'relatable' is in the eye of the beholder, since everyone is different and different people relate to different things. Part of why I relate to Webby is because we're both incurably weird (and socially awkward), but people that don't relate to that are less likely to understand that.
 

0 Anonymous

Conqueror of the Mahogany Gym
Pokédex No.
193
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
448
Location
Zetaboards
Pokémon Type
???
I feel like the question about whether or not a protagonist is special or relatable enough misses the mark a bit? It's a holdover from the time when we (generally literary internet types) had entire charts of traits that would prove whether or not a character was a mary-sue or not and the drive to make characters and write stories that specifically avoided those traits to guarantee that they wouldn't be accused of being too self-indulgent - as if that sort of thing was determined by whether or not you ticked specific boxes on a list you'd find somewhere on the internet.
I think that you're absolutely right on your criticism of the whole Mary Sue circlejerk witch hunt of old, Chess, but at the same time I'd argue that the question of whether a character is a Mary Sue or not is an entirely different question than being special / "chosen" and so on. The perception of Suedom is more a subjective thing done outside the narrative by the reader (and just for negative purposes), and is generally established as a trend and indeed can change through a character's actions and impacts. On the flipside, special qualities, abilities, being "chosen" and so on are explicitly stated inside the narrative, are usually more static & only change by virtue of narrative itself changing them, such as by introducing a NEW Chosen One or taking away powers in their entirety. While all three strongly depend on the story, I think that they are all topics / criteria in their own right, and that stuff like being the "Chosen One" / special in some way and so on aren't just fragments of Sue-dom checkboxes and a worth discussion on their own, and that criticism over a character being "overpowered" or "the chosen one" is not calling someone a Mary Sue.
Honestly, I don't even think what a lot of people consider to be a Mary Sue is particularly a bad thing either.

It's really annoying for me to argue what Sue stuff is or means since the entire concept of the Mary Sue has kind of been overused and run into the ground to the point where calling something Sue or looking at something as Sue-suspect is kind of meaningless, since it's actually difficult to point out a character and say what would perfectly entail them being a Sue that everyone would agree with since, exactly like you said, it's not something you can diagnose with boxes or traits. It's just perception stuff which is KILLER for me since it's hard to discuss something I can't nail down and get a good look at, and that can change at a moment's notice. It's even worse because it has a negative connotation, so the Mary Sue discussions stops being about actual literary merits and becomes more of just a buzzword you throw at characters you don't like, and mires down actual discussion.

Kvothe has traditional Sue tendencies, but such lofty status is imperiled by the known facts that Kvothe's future self fails on the reg and is basically just waiting to die and, even in the past, that he causes problems he doesn't really fix / talks to The Tree That Ruins Everything For Everyone Because It's a Jerk and thus can theoretically found at fault for every problem even tangentially related to anything he touched after the encounter forever. Both the ignominious current state and incredible web of culpability he wove counteract that he's the Swiss Army Knife of plots to make a more reasonable character despite the suspension of belief his abilities and what he gets away with requires. I don't really think he's a Sue at all.

This pic I think perfectly embodies the "Checklist Sue" versus the "Antichecklist Character", but the thing I mega disagree with is that the Sue example is considered boring, which is of course not a given, and that it assumes that Neko Girl cannot be a Sue herself and therefore is implied to be interesting. Character weaknesses aren't interesting unless you actually do something with them, and the same goes for character strengths. What this checklist is doing is trying to imply that character creation is responsible for what a good plot and narrative is supposed to do, which is make cardboard cutouts of characters be fleshed out in a reader's eyes and actually interesting. A character can be interesting because they're good at everything and boring because they're good at everything, and interesting because they have flaws and boring because they have flaws.


While the world might or might not revolve around your main character, your story absolutely does. Whether they're relatable or powerful or chosen or just a bystander, they have a toolkit for navigating the world, and the problems they face should be things they're equipped to deal with. Which basically is just a fancy way of saying that if your character has to be the chosen one, the story has to be about the thing they're chosen to do - and that's no more restrictive than saying your story about a teenager struggling with school should probably involve their struggles with school in some way.
I totally see things the same way with how your story has to be around your main character if you establish one, as open-ended as that is. Disconnect between the world itself and the story of your main character can also be an interesting way to go about things. I do disagree that your main character has to be the one with the toolkit, though, and indeed that they themselves have to be capable of fixing the problems they face. Conflict over whether someone was rightfully chosen is of course extra spicy when the chosen one may genuinely be worse than the disgruntled unsung hero doing the heavy lifting, and being 'special' doesn't necessarily mean you have the answers.

Honestly, 'relatable' is in the eye of the beholder, since everyone is different and different people relate to different things.
HUGE agree.
I also feel like 'being relatable' also can sometimes put pressure on a writer in a negative way, since people are usually suuper quick to point out characters and their behaviors that they don't like. I remember one of the earliest comics I read had a lot of feedback calling a particular character evil / crazy / bad, and when the character itself was supposed to be antagonistic I imagine those comments get kind of annoying.

Edited: a lot of the Sue stuff, since I think I did a terrible time of saying that Sues are okay and that this isn't about Sues.
 
Last edited:

Rumors

Or so they say...
Writer
Pokédex No.
258
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
970
Pronouns
male
Pokémon Type
Fire
Pokédex Entry
A Pokémon shrouded in hearsay and urban legend, spoken of only in whispered tales and hushed gossip.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #13
I'm not gonna post my actual answers to the question until tomorrow, but I wanted to step in and say this topic isn't meant to be a sort of "Sue witch hunt" or anything along those lines. Rather, it was more intended of like "in a given scenario, would you prefer a protagonist to be perfectly ordinary in every way or to stand out from the crowd in some manner and, if the latter case, how much should they stand out." As far as the question goes, I would consider something like a middle schooler who really knows C++ coding to be "special" whereas a college student with the same talent to be relatively "not special". Or someone in modern society who can shoot fireballs would be special but someone employed at a mage's guild who could do the same would not be.

Of course though, feel free to continue to talk about Sues, Chosen Ones, and the like! The posts are fun to read regardless and I'll probably get some comments ready on that topic myself when I jump in properly. Just wanted to make it clear they weren't what the original question was specifically targeted at.
 

Rumors

Or so they say...
Writer
Pokédex No.
258
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
970
Pronouns
male
Pokémon Type
Fire
Pokédex Entry
A Pokémon shrouded in hearsay and urban legend, spoken of only in whispered tales and hushed gossip.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
Didn't mean to stymie conversation there! (Assuming that I did, anyway.) But, thinking I might do next week on Chosen Ones and the like since that seems to be a topic people like to chat about? Of course, assuming nobody goes and starts a new topic on that before then, in which case there's plan B. Or C. Or D. Or L.

Anyway, disclaimer on my response: I'm going to echo a lot of you and say that context definitely matters. Some stories do need someone who's just super duper special and some just need someone who's just super duper ordinary. For example, Henry VIII: Wolfman would not have worked if the protagonist wasn't a werewolf, which I'd probably qualify as "very special" in that given setting, for good and bad. Meanwhile, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy probably also wouldn't have worked if Arthur was anything more than a "boring, ordinary british guy" since a lot of that humor plays off of him being a fish out of water.

That being said, I tend to prefer my protagonists to usually have some relevant skills, training, or experience prior to the plot they find themselves in. I kinda adopted this stance probably about a decade or so ago when I really got sick of reading sci-fi and fantasy stories where the uneducated farmer's kid winds up being the savior of the country/world/universe just because circumstance. I mean, it can work, like in the original "Star Wars" with Luke Skywalker. But often I found it difficult to believe that these sorts of people were the best picks all the time, especially once you got the prophecies, destinies, and chosen one stuff involved. Done right, it can pull a "anyone can be a hero" type of message, but it's often not done right.

Plus I also kinda get tired of the first 30-75% of a story being about training.

But, yeah, my ideal protagonists tend to be characters like Jasmine from Artemis. Jasmine doesn't particularly stand out from the crowd, but she still gets chosen for the inciting incident for the plot that gets her involved in all the craziness that spirals from there. Why? She was an apprentice welder and metalworker, she knows how to operate an EVA suit on the surface of the moon, and she was also smuggling goods onto the moon, like cigars. All skills, talents, and experience that make her stand out from the crowd and makes her an ideal fit, but not stand out so much that it goes back to being unbelievable.

As for too unbelievable because he's too special, I'd probably pick Ender from Ender's Game and Speaker of the Dead. And I assume later books but I really don't plan on reading them. At the age of like.... 5, Ender is already smarter and more perfect than you are. And he only gets even more smarter and even more perfect as the plot progresses. He's the prodigy of prodigies. He succeeds at everything he does, gets treated differently because he's so awesome, solves puzzles that literally weren't meant to be solvable, and so on. He never "permanently fails" in the first book. Some of the puzzles take a few attempts, but he clears them. He loses a game to another cadet early on, but only because he literally didn't know the controls and, since it's best of three, he wins the next two rounds handily. And then in Speaker, he fails once in a way that felt ridiculously out of character as it was a very thoughtless move for a character who thinks and analyzes everything. Honestly, you could have made him half as smart and gave him the ability to spit fireballs and he would have been more believable for me.

Buuuut, yeah, for own examples on protagonists I like, I'll mention three. 1) My Leaf Green Nuzlocke rewrite Stolen Dreams had Shawn, who prior to the story was a "Senior Division Champion" over at Sinnoh. Sounds impressive until you realize that there's a tier above, Master's Division, which is where people like Cynthia hang out at. Giving him that experience helped give him a running start into the story and lended credibility to being able to take on the skilled trainers he encounters. (When he does, there's actually surprisingly few battles in Stolen Dreams.)

2) Current Nuzlocke Eclipsed Dawn has a very special protagonist. Luna grew up on the streets, got into a ton of street brawls and knows how to kick butt, and has picked up a deal of street smarts and survival skills that'll help in her current plot. It won't solve everything since street survival =/= wilderness survival, but it's better than nothing. Not to mention the traits and abilities she gets from the plot's inciting incident. She would probably be overpowered and Mary Sue-ish in a normal Nuzlocke because of said incident, but I'm planning on giving her appropriate level threats.

3) The protagonist for the novel I'm working on at a snail's pace. Fantasy and he's spent most of his life training in the art of combat. The story would actually start with him attempting to becoming the champion of his clan, a title for the strongest warrior in said clan, and it'd go from there with his duties and adventures with help from supporting characters to cover the areas he's weak in. Also, he spits fire, but so can almost everyone in his clan while other clans would have different, equivalent abilities, so that bit is actually not that special.


But yeah, there's my general take. I wanted to reply to some specific points brought up, but I got work soon and my timing is bad. >.> But yeah, thinking about the Chosen Ones and all that sort of thing for next week's topic, but feel free to jump the gun and start that if you guys want. Again, I hold no monopoly here.
 

Vexelbun

Robo-bun of Friendship
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
419
Caught
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
32
Location
Route 113
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
any
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Steel
Pokédex Entry
It Just Works
Honestly, it depends on the story I'm writing and what the intention of the character is.

In one Nuzlocke story idea of mine, the MC is effectively a run-away royalty trying to cope with isolation, and in another Nuzlocke story, they're just a nobody until the plot stumbles into them, since their schtick is coping with change.

I think "The Chosen/Special One" gets a bit of a bad rep since it's been done so often, and there are definitely real-world issues of people believing "Chosen One" narratives for themselves, but as long as it's handled with at least a bit of nuance and care, I'm fine with both.
 

Inksword

Conqueror of the Celadon Gym
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
1784
Caught
Apr 9, 2020
Messages
42
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
Bug, Normal
The chosen one story line can be good, but it gets a bad rap because it's often used as a crutch. There's external plot (the conflict what's going on with the world) and internal plot (the conflict and change inside your main character or characters.) Ideally, your external plot and internal plot should resonate and reflect in one another, who your character is on the inside motivates what they do in the external plot, and events in the external plot can change who the character is inside. The character needs to be motivated to act, not forced to. The Chosen one is an easy way to get the character into the external plot, and make it so they can't escape it, but because it's just random chance/fate that the character is Chosen, it does nothing for their internal plot.

That's not to say that the Chosen One plot can't intertwine with the internal character arcs, it's just really really easy to not think about it and fail to do that. Why is this baker fighting the evil king? IDK he's the chosen one, it doesn't play into their deep inner need to bake the most special bread and prove themself to their deadv father at all but hey they's a general now I guess. For a example of one done right: Take Avatar the Last Airbender. Aang was the chosen one, but what that meant plotwise is that he had to travel around the various nations and meet a whole bunch of different cultures and people and conflicts. His main character arc is about growing as a person, specifically, about his naivety from growing up sheltered as an air nomad. His world-hopping adventure is a way to directly facilitate that central growth, while his desire to do no harm makes it tempting for him to give up or not want to do it (as he rejected the burden the first time.) There is also a lot of internal tension when it comes to Aang being a pacifist, and the fact that he's now a symbol of a rebellion and supposed to "take down" the most powerful military and nation in the world. There's suspense and uncertainty as we see him grow and become less naive, but have to worry if his central tenant of pascifism will stay strong through his fighting and travels. The finale is not only a culmination of his external chosen one plot, but his internal battles as well. This is why it's such a fantastic story.

In a normal story, plot happens because the character wants something or because they have to make the decision to act and do so. There's motivation and weight to the character's decisions because they're their own. The chosen one takes that initial decision to get involved out of the MC's hands. You need to make sure even when it's thrust upon them, that it's relevant to their character and the make meaningful decisions, and aren't just sweapt up by fate without contributing anything.
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top