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We human beings have no control over our destiny, and it is arrogant and foolish to think as such. Our fates are decided by a group of dark gods who control the strings of time. It is they who design a destiny for us, molding and shaping it to suit their purposes. No matter how hard we resist or what actions we take, it will inevitably reach the conclusion that they desire. Every few hundred years, a special individual is chosen to join this pantheon, either as a reborn god or a demonic servant. This is done through an artifact called a behelit, which requires a sacrifice of all those a person holds dear in order to activate. This artifact finds its way into the hands of an individual during a time of extreme tragedy, finally pushing the individual past the moral event horizon.

My protagonist has been singled out by this pantheon to become one of them, and has shaped his destiny in such a way that it would lead to him making that choice to become a monster. He is generally a decent guy, but is meant to suffer a large number of personal tragedies in life in order to slowly break him down, guaranteeing that there will be no resistance when the time comes. However, I don't want this person to appear as a sympathetic Sue who collects tragedies like baseball cards. It isn't supposed to seem as if I demand that the reader feels sorry for them by heaping angst on them one after another. How can I write this successfully?

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    The question is both a bit too broad ("How can I write this successfully?") and a bit too specific, since you're asking for advice specific to your story. What I'd like to say is: you have to figure that out. It sounds like you know what you don't want to do (be too edgy, be too dismal, etc.) but only you can really create it the way you're wanting to. The best advice I feel I can give is to balance it and to work from the end backwards. Don't think about "how can I ruin the character's life now?" but rather, think about the minimum steps it will take to drive them to that horizon. – Erdrik Ironrose May 1 at 12:56
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    Character has no agency and murders his family…. I understand what you are asking about a "Sympathy Sue", but there isn't really any character in this question. Your answer lies in character development. Work on the character because as described there is nothing here to feel sympathy for. He's a tragic villain trope, not a Sympathy Sue. – wetcircuit May 1 at 13:03
  • Kentaro Muria called, he wants the plot of Berserk back. – user29299 May 2 at 9:40
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You have a logic problem. If humans have no control over their destiny, then why does this human need to "make a choice?" He can't, his destiny is to "sacrifice everyone he holds dear". Period. In your words, it is arrogant and foolish of him to think otherwise.

That said, the way to make somebody sacrifice what they hold dear is NOT to make them a monster, but to make them principled and give them faith. You need a person that thinks, for example, that "right is right and wrong is wrong", no matter who does it, so his principles override his emotional attachments, his love attachments, everything.

Then you manipulate the people he holds dear into violating his principles. His brother suffers a gambling addiction, and is going to lose everything, but to get out of this he commits a murder. Right is right, and wrong is wrong: Your hero turns in his brother. Sooner or later he sacrifices everyone he loves to his principles.

Now, if you meant he had to literally commit a blood sacrifice of everyone he loves, then pretty much the same answer. Your guy needs to want so badly whatever power or riches or immortality the artifact gives him, that he just doesn't really care about the cost in lives or who has to die. Perhaps it is the power to save humanity, and his principles say sacrificing a few dozen to save millions is worth it, that he couldn't live with himself if he let millions of people die to preserve the life of just those he holds dear. You need a guy that believes with all his heart in his logic and principles, so he will force himself to do what he must to gain the power he needs. His principle is simple: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; and in particular the needs of the millions, or billions, outweigh the needs of the few dozen he loves.

Of course, for the literal type of sacrifice, he must be absolutely certain with zero doubt that what he does will accomplish what he wants; or he won't do it. So that is something you need to engineer into the story, the reader has to believe he truly believes he is saving the world.

To avoid your logic problem, I would not make the gods "shape his destiny" to engineer this decision. You've made your protagonist a puppet without a choice, without free will. I'd change the story so that every few dozen years, the Gods for the fun of it give somebody actual free will, both to see what they do, and to then try to convince them to make the sacrifice with the reward of joining the pantheon. Most don't make it. Your protagonist discovers he is one of these people, a free agent amongst puppets.

  • One reason this is a great answer points at what is missing in the setup of the question--The character needs to choose his fate. The OP has him being a victim of fate. No--he needs to make choices--Amadeus' framework allows him to choose a spiral into hell. The fundamental problem in the original set up is that the character shows no personal agency, at all. Consider Anakin, who became a monster by sacrificing what was good about himself to attain immortality for himself and Padme (who didn't want it.) That's a different setup, but same idea--Make the character choose to become a monster. – DPT May 1 at 19:07
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You really have two questions here. First, how do you write a story with no free will? Second, what would make someone choose to become a monster?

For the first question, your character needs agency. It doesn't matter if the outcome is predetemined, the character still needs to do something to try to change the course of events. Oedipus was always going to kill his father and marry his mother, but he didn't sit at home waiting for that to happen. He left home and tried to avoid his fate. Characters who sit at home and accept their fate are boring and unrelatable.

For the second question, it does not matter how many tragedies the character suffers, but what he is thinking about at the moment the decision occurs. Your character needs to want something badly at that moment and believe that becoming a monster will accomplish it. Using DPT's Anakin example, Padme isn't even dead when Anakin accepts the dark side, but in that moment he is so convinced that the Dark Side will save her and so afraid to lose her that he does whatever will save her.

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