Writing a character trope such as a Chosen One can be tricky, because there are so many ways you can fall into the trap of being predictable. Too often they end up as the reluctant hero (Neo in The Matrix, Katniss in The Hunger Games) or the easily distracted and imperfect person who needs to learn how to ascend in status (Daniel in The Karate Kid, Karou in Daughter of Smoke and Bone). But they sell, and readers love them, so I won’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing.
With Denni Johnson, I wanted her to be all of that — a reluctant hero, easily distracted and imperfect. But I also wanted her to be aware that she was being put into that situation as well. That’s part of her role as the One of All Sacred: she’s aware. Which ups the ante with internal and external conflict, doesn’t it? How do you play the role of deity without being pigeonholed into the role of savior or superhero? That was one of Denni’s first pronouncements, even as she was entering Moulding Warehouse for the first time: she was a deity, but she was a human, just like everyone else there. Don’t expect miracles.
The role of the One of All Sacred within the Mendaihu Universe is that of overseer, really. They don’t necessarily have to change the world or make it a better place…their role is really just to make sure its problems don’t spiral out of control. The spirit of the One is resurrected every twenty to twenty-five years (roughly once a generation or so) to keep an eye on things, gauge where we are in our evolution, and make a few changes or tweaks if necessary.
Denni Johnson is the Ninth Embodiment on Earth. [There were many embodiments prior to Earth’s, both on Mannaka and Meraladh, but that’s another storyline entirely.] Right away she’d decided that instead of trying to play the expected role, she’d change it to something that made more sense to her. That in turn changed the expectations of all the parties involved. Her personal choices affected everyone else in the process. Instead of turning off Nehalé Usarai’s awakening ritual, she kept it going. She saw it as a way to start with a bit of a clean slate; no one was prepared for this move, so everyone’s on the same page and fumbling a bit, including her.
Giving her the awareness of her situation was quite the trick; in essence, she’s in a constant state of paying attention to what’s going on and having the ability to change events if necessary. She needed to be able to think on the fly, accept that she may make mistakes, and know when to let nature and/or fate take its course instead.
On a more spiritual level, I had to make sure that she wasn’t exactly seen as The Goddess That Is (an analog to the main gods and goddesses of current religions, and who pretty much runs — not rules — the known universes). The One is more of an Earth Goddess, the one in charge of the planet. The position has been held by all kinds of people; young, old, man, woman, Meraladian, Earther, and so on. Each Embodiment had their own strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. What makes Denni different? Well…you’ll need to read the books to find out!
And then there’s Saisshalé.
As I’d said previously, there’s a yin-yang to everything in the Mendaihu Universe. Yes, even the Dearest One has an opposing force, one who embraces chaos just as the One of All Sacred embraces order. More about him on Friday.