It is most probable that we’ve all encountered a book with a “special snowflake.”
And no, my fiendish pineapple frond, I am not talking about THE WEATHER. Although we can discuss that later. I’m talking about the delightful trope that features characters like (A) Chosen Ones, (B) characters no one can survive without, (C) characters everyone of ever, even that pine tree yonder, is desperately in love with, and (D) characters with stunning hair and eyes like the sea after the storm on the 5th of April during the Blood Moon. THEY ARE SPECIAL AND THE WORLD NEEDS THEM.
“Special Snowflakeism” is a not a bad trope, per se. Because I don’t believe any trope is bad if it’s done well! But it is a very very very very very used trope. And this can make it quite tedious. I often wither a little inside when I encounter the special snowflake trope, because I’ve just read it SO MANY TIMES MY BRAIN IS HURTING WITH ALL THE SNOW.
Signs There Might Be A Snowflake Special In That Book
- The character is irreplaceable.
- Like, seriously, the apocalypse is coming if they get bopped on the head, ergo everyone must protect them with their life 1000% of the time.
- Due to the aforementioned reason — EVERYONE AROUND THE SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES DIES.
- You might say they’re Snowflakes Of Blizzard Destruction.
- THEY HAVE POWERS NO ONE ELSE HAS.
- They don’t fit in with the crowd because THEY HAVE POWERS NO ONE ELSE HAS.
- Rules don’t generally apply to them because THEY HAVE POWERS NO ONE ELSE HAS.
- The fate of the world rests on their shoulders, or hands, or perhaps on their knees if they need to sit down while they hold the world. We ain’t all Atlas, folks.
- Despite being called “snowflakes”, they are actually not part of the weather.
- I agree that this is disappointing.
Is this trope DONE LIKE A DEAD DOORKNOB?
I frequently see people moaning in their reviews about tedious flakey snows. I whinge about it myself! Should Special Snowflakes please retire and melt somewhere? Should we calmly bury it 20,000 leagues underground and beseech the universe for some normal characters to come save the world? OR. Does it just need to be overhauled a little? Is it still entertaining?
DO WE STILL NEED SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES IN LITERATURE???
Lucky for you, today I am here to write a Pros & Cons list for special snowflakes. And then naturally I want your opinion, but not yet, Bob. Sit down. I have so much to say first.
T H E P R O S
- IT’S EXCITING. I mean, c’mon, look me in the eye and say it isn’t exciting to realise the fate of the universe rests in the hands of a 16-year-old with no battle training whatsoever??? DEFINITELY EXCITING. Everyone is basically guaranteed to die! Fun times!
- IT MAKES US FEEL SPECIAL. Because, really, who doesn’t read and sort of quietly probably maybe think they’re particularly special sometimes??? It happens to the best of us, don’t fret. Most teenagers feel WEIRD or like an ODDBALL as they grow into their adolescent bones. And when your hair just won’t lie flat, don’t you catch yourself thinking, “Maybe I’m a wizard? THE LAST OF MY KIND????” So reading about Special Snowflakes can make you feel like special snowflake.
- IT RAISES THE STAKES OF THE STORY. Because without the Snowflake, this planet is going dooooooown, my friend. WE NEED THEM ALIVE. Ergo it adds a lot of tension to the story to get this piddly little teen to save the world and not die and not kill everyone and still have time for their afternoon nap. *
- THEY RUIN EVERYTHING AND THAT’S NICE. I mean, one minute your world is being nice and dystopian and then — KABOOM — you get a Thomas or a Tris who trots in and ruins everything. Which is fun! And you have to admire this capability for destroying things too! They break everything they touch! #talented
* No I’m not confused. Teenagers need naps. I think the world would be a much happier place if EVERYONE took regular naps.
T H E C O N S
- IT’S OVERDONE. Well this is mildly obvious. There are tons of tropes out there that aren’t done as much so therefore don’t make one’s head bleed when encountering it. I think a whole lot of the problem here is just that WE’VE SEEN IT TOO MUCH.
- IT’S INSULTING TO EVERYONE ELSE. Because without the Special Snow of Flakes the world would END. And everyone else is…oh, who are you again? Just a minor character. Special Flakes tend to DROWN EVERYONE ELSE OUT. #rude And you know what? No one is that important. Lives shouldn’t be worth more than other lives because you have superpowers. C’mon now.
- THEY CAN BE UNRELATABLE. I mean, sure, like I said: most of us envision ourselves as special once in a while. But most of the time? WE ARE ALL POTATOES AND WE’RE OKAY WITH THAT. I mean, would you really have fought Voldemort??? I would’ve tried to appease him with snacks, probably, and then just died of anxiety on the spot. When the Flakey Snows dash around for 36 hours without sleep/food and fight a bazillion bad guys and HAVE PERFECT HAIR THE WHOLE TIME and never lose sight of their ultimate goal….I mean, GAG. It’s irritating.
- THE SURROUNDING CLICHES ARE OFTEN UNREALISTIC. I mean, not ALWAYS. Never always. But often times a Special Sowflake appears with cliches like (A) they become epic swordmasters in like 3 days, (B) they have perfect bodies but spend a lot of time saying they’re ugly, (C) and usually are orphans, and (D) everyone in the story is in love with them while we readers want to kill them, (E) their mistakes are never truly ruination, and (F) they can sometimes be so good that they’re truly boring to reading about. We need a little maiming and evil escapades here, thanks.
And I do have Special Snowflake characters that I LOVE.
I quite adore Harry Potter, whom dear Voldey had to kill or else. And there’s Aragorn of LOTR whom the world needed to sit his royal butt on the royal throne if he’d just stop frolicking across the country with pretty Elves. And Nathan from Half Bad is an adorable tragic hero AND ALSO a very special snowflake considering his powers alone could end the war. Then there’s Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic who is one of the only two magicians left who can walk through dimensions. And Kell is an adorable moody creature whom I adore monstrously so.
I personally think Special Snowflakes CAN be done well! Provided the average cliches are baked into delicious pies and served on pretty plates.
Sure, let the character be the special last wizard of their kind! But also let them be morally complex and please oh please don’t let them take themselves too seriously.
But generally? I’m tired of characters being selfishly special. I want to see the save-the-world-responsibility shared! I want to see mistakes that you can’t bounce back from. I want to see Morally Grey Snowflakes. I want characters to NOT be so special that nothing ever touches them. Like I said A LITTLE MAIMING AND BRINGING DOWN TO THE REAL WORLD FOR THESE FLAKES WOULD BE GREAT. Please and thankyou.