I want to do a story revolving around the inverse of the Christian tale in the bible. In it, the savior sent by God is tempted by the adversary, similar to how Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert. However, he ultimately succumbs to his human weaknesses and betrays his purpose, becoming subservient to this devil-like figure. The rest of the story plays out in a similar way, with him gathering apostles to spread the corrupted word, and then disciples ti further that cause, leading to a darker portrayal of the Christian faith, as it is successfully hijacked by Satan.

The point of the tale is that there are no chosen ones, and that gods are susceptible to the same failings as their creations. This is similar to what the prequels tried to do for an Anakin Skywalker, a messianic powerhouse who was destined to lead the Jedi order to a new future according to one individual but wound up destroying it. However, people hated those movies for various reasons, and felt that the payoff wasn't adequate enough.

How should this fall from grace be represented and done better?

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    As written, this is too specific to your individual story, but the overall question might work. Could you edit this to be broader and less detailed? The Chosen One trope doesn't have to tick every box from a Judeo-Christian bible checklist to be recognized and inverted. Sep 8, 2019 at 12:38
  • @LaurenIpsum That looks like it should be posted as an answer rather than a comment. Sep 8, 2019 at 14:48
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    @PaulJohnson Nah. While Lauren's answers are excellent, writing one that basically says "please edit your question in a way that will invalidate my answer" is generally not the way to go.
    – Cyn
    Sep 8, 2019 at 14:59
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    @Cyn thank you! you're very kind. :) Sep 8, 2019 at 21:49

4 Answers 4


How should this fall from grace be represented and done better?

"Better" is a subjective term, but the more general question "how do I represent a fall from grace?" can be answered.

To me it sounds you're writing a tragedy, and your not-the-Messiah is undergoing what is called a negative character arc. It's a type of arc in which a character starts in a good place (god's Chosen one) and at the end of the story ends up somewhere worse (having led astray mankind due to his personal failings).

The article I linked to describes three types of negative arc in great detail and it's good to read through it in its entirety. (As is always the case with writing advice, don't take any of it for gospel. Or worse, as a recipe or checklist.) But the main thing to take away from it is that your character should have a Want and a Need.

The Want is something your character, well, wants, and stems from some lie the character believes. The Need is not a tangible thing and ties into some sort of truth that, at the start of the story, the character either rejects or is unaware of. In most stories the main character is ultimately forced into making a mutually exclusive choice between his Want and Need. In a tragedy, the character clings to his lie, rejects the Need and chooses the want.

The trick to writing a negative arc, then, is in defining the Want and Need and how they interact with one another in the story. Generating those ideas is all up to you. But if you need a worked example, the Want could be "establish a kingdom in God's name and rule it myself". The Need could be "learn humility." And they come to a clash when the not-the-Messiah's enemies join forces and storm the besiege his kingdom with overwhelming force. The only way for the MC and his kingdom to survive is through an act of god, so he goes to the nearest temple and makes a sacrifice to his god.

God is irate at the corrupted kingdom the MC has built for himself, but is not without mercy. If the MC renounces his heretical title and casts his wealth on the sacrificial pyre, all children under the age of 12 and unwed women shall be saved. The MC chooses not to; he'd rather die on his sword than surrender his kingdom. The invading forces break through the city's gate and slaughter every last man, woman and child.

  • Welcome to Writing.SE Anna, glad you found us. We have a tour and help center you may find useful. Thanks for starting off with a strong answer.
    – Cyn
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:46

I would say the central problem in an anti-Messianic story is two-fold; in particular for a known religion like Christianity.

First, you need a compelling lie; one that the people want to believe and even need to believe lest they lose hope in life and despair. I have a vague idea of how to do that, but in general look to the cult messiah religions, like the Branch Davidians, from which sprang David Koresh and his rabid followers. You can Google Religious Cults or see this Wiki on Cults.

Second, you need a charismatic character that people can admire. Charisma is the power to persuade when you do not have the power to compel; in general charisma is the road to power, corrupt or not. For example, although in the USA it is possible to steal an election by criminal means, a charismatic person can run for an office against an uncharismatic person, and win "clean", no matter how vile they are on the inside, and then continue to leverage actual power and natural charisma into ever more power.

They don't even need to pursue official political power, there are been numerous straight-up Christian leaders building mega-churches and taking millions of dollars for themselves, while eventually being exposed as sinners of extreme hypocrisy and corruption; thieves, sexual deviates, pedophiles, philanderers, homosexuals, gamblers, and worse. How do they do that? Charisma, or more specifically terrific acting; people love them and believe their lies even in the face of evidence they are lying.

Like that joke, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin' eyes?"

I am an atheist, I know several dozen other atheists, and this is what we believe is actually the case in most religions: There have always been charismatic leaders, so obviously, some handful of them have been the most charismatic and most successful at gaining followers, and at some point those groups reach a tipping point and become "too big to fail", i.e. they are large enough that when the original leader passes, there are members of his religion that also have enough charisma to hold together the group, and grow it. Even in the Bible, Christianity begins with one man finding disciples that are supposed to find followers, to become "fishers of men".

We've seen the same thing happen with Mormons, with Protestants, with Branch Davidians, with the David Koresh group, with Heaven's Gate.

Now Wiki says there are about 4200 public-facing religions in the world (i.e. not counting privately held spiritual beliefs), so I cannot speak to all of them, but I'd bet nearly every one of them was founded by a charismatic leader that recruited followers to recruit followers (or raise their children as followers); in a spiritual pyramid scheme.

You need a two-faced Messiah capable of selling outrageous lies because his followers love him to death, believe he loves them, and they cannot believe he would lie to them. So under the ruse of "guiding them to understanding" as a "wise teacher", he questions them to get them to tell him what could make them believe the lie is true, how it could possibly be true, then lets them assume that is what he meant all along and could have told them, he was just withholding it in order to guide them to understanding. It doesn't have to be the same thing for every follower, he only needs to convince his initial followers and "generals", they will convince their subordinates with their fervency and appeal to the Messiah's authority.

All of this equally true for a female Messiah. Also, religions naturally exclude (sometimes by violence) people that question, disrespect, and challenge authority (blasphemers), they need far more followers than leaders, because the leader needs followers willing to pay for his preaching, and the more the better. And they don't want anybody applying actual logic to their claims or debunking their claims. There are more followers than doubters, so the fake messiah's tend to insulate themselves from doubters (even to the extent of having private compounds), expel them, and selectively keep the most vulnerable followers that will not challenge them.


Study and compare christian dogma vs. actual history. In actual history, there is of course no "jesus succumbed to the devil's temptation" event, since these are mythological characters, but all the "spread the corrupted word" storyline is right there for you to study.


This is super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Have a world with multiple multiple demons/devils all pretending to be a god and trying to gain power over each other by gaining followers. And they all tell lies to the humans trying to convince them that they are the true god, as their goal is to gain followers and power. So when the agent of one demon gets tempted by another demon, it can be written in exactly the way you want.

Another bonus is, you are not actually offending any particularly faith. It becomes a fantasy novel about an alternate world, of demons pretending to be god for their own power and glory.

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