Classic Plots: The Hero Versus Fate

The concept of fate is an extremely ancient one, existing probably before the idea was popularized by famous philosophers. The idea that the outcome of your life was predetermined by some outside source could be haunting or encouraging, depending on who you were and what you believed.

Whether or not fate exists in this world, you can certainly make it (or make the appearance thereof…but more on this later) exist in your fictional world. You could make it so that there’s these three shriveled hags in a giant tree that are responsible for determining the inevitable (like they do in Norse myths).

Just the presence of fate (or the appearance of the presence of fate) causes conflicts left and right. If you can help what you do, do you even have free will? Are you even responsible for your actions at all? Say that the one creating the fates is a Cartesian Demon. Are they responsible for effectively murdering people by leading everyone on earth to their deaths? Is there some way that faith and free will can coincide?

All excellent questions, all possible arcs to create a story out of. The most popular, however, is when our lovable hero goes toe-to-toe with the inevitable. This classic ploy could be effectively labeled The Hero Versus Fate.

Essentially, something is decreed to be inevitable–someone’s death, the invasion of a foreign army, the rise of a wicked ruler, and many other alternatives–and the hero or heroine(s) says, “Heck no.” Thus begins the efforts of the good guys to thwart that which cannot be prevented (or so it seems…).

The only reason why the good guys want to delay or prevent fate is because they believe that fate to be evil or harmful. Thus, the villain is either fate, the thing (or person) behind fate, or the detached followers of said fate whose goal is to speed it along. The hero(es) will oppose anyone who stands in support of fate.

Before you begin the story you need to decide whether the fate in question is legitimate or a fraud. True fate in theory cannot be avoided. If the good guys are no win, you need to either make fate non-circumventable or fake. The first option is more widely used, for a number of reasons.

Over the course of history, mankind has made some pretty crazy bounds. We made it to the moon when our ancestors would have called us insane, we quit living in sod huts and built skyscrapers, we built incredibly complex computers that can almost do the job of a human being. We have achieved that which we previously though to be impossible many times.

Sometimes the ability for mankind to determine their own fate by sheer force of will is illustrated literally in making the good guys able to circumvent what all of their enemies say is impossible. Technically this is still “The Hero Versus Fate”, even though a true concept of fate is absent.

You can do this one of two ways: either fate isn’t really set in stone (as I mentioned before) or the hero/heroine has some kind of ability to transcend the limitations of mortality and fate. In other words, they are “special”. Even though the concept of “fate” still exists, they are exempt from it by some special phenomenon (but that’s up to you to decide).

Of course, you could just make the appearance of fate, and then nullify it altogether by making the hero or heroine triumph by a close shave. This isn’t true fate either, but it will suffice if you so choose.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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