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loquax
12-05-2005, 09:48 PM
- Cliched automatic plot-generators or as integral as magic, dwarves, and dragons?

scarletpeaches
12-05-2005, 10:01 PM
Cliched, IMHO. A bit like clunky foreshadowing, and lends itself to the dreaded deus ex machina plot device.

MadScientistMatt
12-06-2005, 12:04 AM
Usually an annoying cliche, if it's presented as a straightforward plot like this:

X was prophesied to happen.
X happens more or less as described.

The "prophesy doesn't quite mean what you think it does" has also been done to death. It appears in enough famous sources, from MacBeth to Tolkien's defeat of the king of the Nazgul, that fantasy readers will be looking for alternative interpretations. If you have an oracle tell the villain, "No weapon shall prevail against you," readers will see it a mile away if he gets killed by an unarmed opponent. There is no more obvious death sentance in fantasy than a slightly ambiguous prophesy that implies you are invincible.

A prophesy can work if given enough interesting and unusual twists. For example, David Eddings's tales about Garion had two unusual twists: There were two competing prophesies, and the prophesies were actual characters that talked to the other characters.

Other strange twists that I could see that might set a prophesy story apart, if done well:

1. The protagonist finds a prophesy that implies he is to be a horrible villain who destroys the world.
2. False prophets achieve widespread credibility.
3. Due to a quite reasonable misinterpretation, everyone thinks a prophesy has already come true - and it hasn't.
4. A religious figure takes a vague prophesy and develops it into elaborate, full-blown specifics (such as with Rapture / Dispensationalism theology). And turns out to be dead wrong.

Nexusman
12-06-2005, 12:10 AM
Depends, really. A prophecy can be integral to the plot when used as a device -- the hero having a set time interval to decipher the prophecy, perhaps -- but otherwise tends to function as a mood-killer that could ruin an otherwise good plot twist.

One type I like to use is the "false prophecy" or vision of what <i>could</i> happen if the hero <i>doesn't</i> succeed, but not what will happen if they do.

Ultimately though, it's only a prophecy if the event occurs as prophecied. Otherwise, it's just words.

-Nick

Jewel101
12-06-2005, 01:22 AM
how about a prophesy of a chosen one to detroy the evil people. But she wasn't really chosen, and it's not really her, she just powers the real 'chosen one' who isn't chosen either, he just happens to stumble in because a god saw his power and decided to use it, he wasn't really part of the world, it was all a mistake (or would you consider that as chosen?http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/emoticonidea.gif...http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/EmoteShrug.gif)? it's kinda confusing i guess

Shadow_Ferret
12-06-2005, 01:27 AM
So... the subplot where my modern day sorceror is having an affair with the Oracle of Delphi is clichéd?

Did I mention that even though she's several hundred years old she's still hot? ;)

Sage
12-06-2005, 02:46 AM
My thought on a good way to use prophecy is to make the outcome unknown even to the one that's making it. Even in a "chosen one" situation, the phrophesizer (is that a word?) doesn't know whether they will succeed, only that they could succeed. Something about that person makes them special (bloodline, extraordinary luck, the evil chick is his type & he hers & they'll fall madly in love... well, hopefully), but that in no way guarantees a success. I also prefer for it to make sense (w/in the rules of that world). Don't just chose Joe Regular with absolutely no reason why he is the "chosen one" except that the oracle says he is. It doesn't have to be obvious why it has to be him or her right then, but somewhere in the story I want a logical reason why.

But really, I've never understood where the suspense is when a prophecy tells that the "chosen one" WILL defeat the Big Bad. Yes, the journey is interesting, but the climax is much less climatic.

(All this said, I have a fortune telling character in my WIPs, but there are certain events she can't see past for each person (or for everyone, if it's an important enough event). The only "prophecy" is based on events that happen each 5000 years, so it's really a combination of history & suggestions provided by the fortune teller)

Sage
12-06-2005, 02:47 AM
So... the subplot where my modern day sorceror is having an affair with the Oracle of Delphi is clichéd?

Did I mention that even though she's several hundred years old she's still hot? ;)

No, I think you're okay w/ this one :ROFL:

Jewel101
12-06-2005, 04:16 AM
My thought on a good way to use prophecy is to make the outcome unknown even to the one that's making it. Even in a "chosen one" situation, the phrophesizer (is that a word?) doesn't know whether they will succeed, only that they could succeed. Something about that person makes them special (bloodline, extraordinary luck, the evil chick is his type & he hers & they'll fall madly in love... well, hopefully), but that in no way guarantees a success. I also prefer for it to make sense (w/in the rules of that world). Don't just chose Joe Regular with absolutely no reason why he is the "chosen one" except that the oracle says he is. It doesn't have to be obvious why it has to be him or her right then, but somewhere in the story I want a logical reason why.

But really, I've never understood where the suspense is when a prophecy tells that the "chosen one" WILL defeat the Big Bad. Yes, the journey is interesting, but the climax is much less climatic.

(All this said, I have a fortune telling character in my WIPs, but there are certain events she can't see past for each person (or for everyone, if it's an important enough event). The only "prophecy" is based on events that happen each 5000 years, so it's really a combination of history & suggestions provided by the fortune teller)

i never said the 'chosen one' would succeed (did I? *scrolls down* nope...well, maybe, I didn't say all prophesies come true). Like in david edding's books, the prophesy needs help, i think. Anyway the prophesy isn't the drive of the book.

Sage
12-06-2005, 04:20 AM
i never said the 'chosen one' would succeed (did I? *scrolls down* nope...well, maybe, I didn't say all prophesies come true). Like in david edding's books, the prophesy needs help, i think. Anyway the prophesy isn't the drive of the book.

Oh, I was just philosophizing about prophecies in general.... :Shrug:

Nateskate
12-06-2005, 05:50 AM
There are ways around super glueing a plot to a prophecy. In other words, you can foreshadow an event or a person, but also imply the outcome is not known.

IMO you should avoid prophecy giving outcomes. In other words, Aragorn would come, but there was still a chance it wouldn't make a difference. Or there was never a guarantee that if Aragorn took the throne, that until Sauron was destroyed, his kingdom could fall again.

If you give an outcome, put it in such language as to be "veiled" or hidden, and the meaning would only be revealed when the time came. What does "duck duck soup at ten" mean?

TheIT
12-06-2005, 06:07 AM
The other question is where does the prophecy come from? In my fantasy WIP, prophecies for the far future don't work. This world has a pantheon of gods similar to Greek and Roman mythology, i.e. each god has limited powers and controls specific aspects, like war, change, etc. Not even the gods are powerful enough to predict what will happen given that mortals have free will and freedom over their own actions. The gods are able to extrapolate events in the short term and can give mortals hints through dreams and visions as to what actions they can take to create a good outcome, but the universe itself prevents the gods from acting directly in mortal affairs. The last time the gods tried, they nearly destroyed the world so the universe kicked them out.

Part of this is to keep the characters doing their own thinking rather than relying on all powerful entities to come in and save the day. It also allows me to use a more powerful entity as guide, but the characters need to figure out what the gods are trying to tell them, and then decide for themselves whether they'll go along with the plan. I might have a couple of catch-all prophecies kicking around, but they'll be rubbish (though the characters might not know it), and who knows, maybe some parts will actually come true through sheer coincidence.

narselon
12-06-2005, 07:09 AM
I find prophecies to be interesting. Almost all of the strories I think of involve them, but not in the way they are commonly used.

In one it is a central plot that a character finds a torn page of a prophecy that has predicted the future with accuracy beyond just guessing. Unfortunately, from the few pages he finds he discovers how he will die. He also learns there is nothing he can do to stop it as he has tried before but failed. The entire universe is adhering to the prophecy that brings it in a never ending loop of birth and destruction, but he doesn't know the reason why it has been happening. Yet this time everything appears to be different. History seems to be heading to a point where humanity can finally reach paradise, but he knows that man's ascension has been foretold in those scattered pages. Even if the current path may lead to heaven, would it be of any meaning if it has already been predicted or is he just being a character in a story where he cannot change the outcome?

Another has a self-proclaimed prophet claiming an ancient prophecy to foretell the fall of the gods and seeks the descendent of the legendary Titan. He uses ancient texts to put people in fear and carry more weight to his words along with a few magic tricks to show his power. But even he is surprised when he discovers the bloodline has left an heir who happens to be a depressed stock broker who happens to be one of the enemy. Still it builds up to the descendent's ascension, which finally happens until it is uncovered as ayet another deception.

The last one is about a guy who by luck ends up fulfilling a prophecy and is selected to be a religious leader/holy warrior. Unfortunately that means all his dreams will be put aside for a life of celibacy spewering speeches from the corrupt leadership. When trying to escape, aided by a friend, his friend is killedand they interpret it as the coming of a great evil. He is sent on a quest to vanquish a monster that doesn't even exist. The only way he could ever escape such a life is if he were to break the prophecy.

Basically, I think prohpecies tend to take away value of what the characters do. What was so special if he was supposed to do something regardless of the choices or decisions he makes? Thereis no free will. Their lives have no meaning because nothing they can do will make a difference.

Jewel101
12-06-2005, 07:46 AM
What about prophesies that anyone can fill, I mean not that literally anyone can fill it but it's a description, encrypted or not, such as Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton's Halfblood chronicals. That holds the whole question about whether or not the charcter is the prophesized one. But then most readers will assume so. There a few twists you can play up, however.
1. there are three candidates that can fill the prophesy and the reader doesn't know which one.
2. the author leads on the reader with one when its really the other
3. someone, how doesn't match the prophesy ends up fulfilling it so that the reader goes, 'wait what? the prophesy said...'
4. The prophesy is fulfilled by the one who is supposed to but in a way that the reader doesn't realize it
5. the reader doesn't know what the prophesy is, just that the MC will do something important to the salvation of the world. and lastly
6. the MC is not the prophesized one but there's a prophesy anyways. This last one can go several ways, for example,
A.the MC could do something to affect the prophesy or prophesized one, or even be the parent of the prophesized one (a friend of mine did that).
B.Or the MC could have absolutely nothing to do with the prophesy but everyone thinks he does, including himself maybe (kinda like narselon said) C.or even the MC is not the prophesized one and the prophesy is just in there to confuse the hell out of everyone (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif)

Sage
12-06-2005, 08:17 AM
Ooh, or when it turnes out that prophecy needs to be fulfilled by more than one person....

Vomaxx
12-06-2005, 08:51 AM
Prophecies are one of my pet peeves (along with dead characters coming back to life). I cannot understand why fantasy authors so often use prophecies, which tell the reader what is going to happen. Robert Jordan's entire plot is revealed in the prologue to his interminable series, isn't it? It makes no sense to me at all. There should be a moratorium declared on prophecies.

From Diana W. Jones's "Tough Guide to Fantasyland" (p. 201):

Prophecy is used by the Management to make sure no Tourist is unduly surprised by events.... All Prophecies come true. This is a Rule....
(She then goes on to categorize eight kinds of prophecies.)

britlitfantw
12-06-2005, 10:20 AM
What if there were a prophecy and, based on what is assumed about prophecies, a reader assumed that it was true about the MCs? Then, you find out that the prophecy has already been fulfilled years and the people actually die differently than it says they will in the prophecy?

I believe this has been touched on in the point Jewel101 made here:

the MC is not the prophesized one but there's a prophesy anyways.

Perhaps it's just me, but this possibility seems like an interesting twist. Would this take the idea of a prophecy out of the mundane for you, assuming that the prophecy does not drive the story (it's more of a character sub-plot?).

WVWriterGirl
12-06-2005, 10:33 AM
I'm torn over prophecies. In my first novel, there is no prophecy, just a vague destiny that the characters know they're part of, but nothing else. Only one character knows what is supposed to happen, and she's keeping the rest of the characters out of the loop because of her own fears that her companions will abandon her. Oh, did I forget to mention that the one who knows is a goddess?

In my second novel, the MC goes to have a meeting with an oracle at his father's behest, but only because he's forced to. He puts no stock whatsoever in what the woman tells him; it wouldn't really matter, anyway, because her prophecy for him is so vague that it makes no sense at all. I'm hoping that it won't become clear to the character (or the reader, for that matter) what it really meant until it's too late for everyone to stop, and the main thrust of the book will deal with the aftermath.

Are these "bad" uses of prophecy? I dunno. I suppose that if it's done with style and with a different approach, prophecy can be quite interesting. Even what starts out as seeming cliched can be turned into something more with a twist done right.

Jewel101
12-06-2005, 12:22 PM
Even what starts out as seeming cliched can be turned into something more with a twist done right.

yuphttp://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

SeanDSchaffer
12-06-2005, 01:02 PM
- Cliched automatic plot-generators or as integral as magic, dwarves, and dragons?

I don't know. I usually don't use prophecies that directly have anything to do with my storyline. Yet for the story I'm working on now prophecy is an integral part. It's a prophecy that someone takes upon himself to change to what he thinks it should say, instead of what it really does.

I don't usually care very much for prophecy stories, simply because many of them take the fun out of the read. But if the prophecy is somehow tainted and people don't know this until, say, the middle of the book (when everything is going awry because of belief in the tainted prophecy,) then I believe the prophecy story becomes a good read again.

Another fun one to read is a prophecy story where no one knows where the prophecy came from or believes it's really going to come true. That's a kind of story I really do enjoy. The book I'm reading right now is like that, and it's a very enjoyable story.

But in my opinion, if the prophecy is a definite thing and we know from the beginning what exactly is going to happen, that is just not something I want to read, because to me the fun is in the idea that I don't know what exactly is going to happen next.

So for me, it really just depends on how the prophecy is used.

loquax
12-06-2005, 09:06 PM
Prophecies can become one of two things - bland endings or endings with a twist. One is where the prophecy comes true, the other is where it does something unexpected, but understandable.

My problem is that if the author wanted a twist, then there are so many other ways to achieve them. Prophecies almost have them built in. I won't be impressed by a twist if it involves a prophecy, because anyone can do it.

If, however, prophecies are regarded as an important part of fantasy - regarded as just another type of magic that exists alongside lighting fires with your staff - then I see no problem. The greatest hero story of all time - the Illiad - begins with the prophecy of Achilleus' death. It gives him a choice. If he chooses pride, and kills Hector, he will die a hero. If he chooses not to, he will live until he is old, but a coward.

Such simple prophecies can be woven into any fantasy story. It's when the author takes the prophecy as the be-all and end-all of story elements, that it gets boring.

badducky
12-06-2005, 11:21 PM
Culture is the answer.


In ancient Greece, prophecy was a part of daily life. Taoism utilizes prophecy as well as other eastern religions as a matter of course.

However, in America, and most of Renaissance-era Western europe, prophets are laughingstocks.

Stay true to your artistic vision. Just be sure your prophecy is more complex than just "Take Magical Item X to Magical Place Y and Shove it into Magical Villian Z".

TheIT
12-07-2005, 03:57 AM
Prophecies also tend to be self-fulfilling. In a lot of Greek myths a prophecy is made, the person the prophecy is about does something to prevent the prophecy from coming true, and in so doing causes the event to occur. If they didn't do anything at all or hadn't heard the prophecy in the first place, they would have been fine or at least wouldn't have met the same terrible end. Prophecy can be a punishment as well as a blessing.

A prophecy is a great way to play mind games with a character. Even if the character doesn't believe the prophecy, their behavior still may be altered. Have someone tell a character they'll be killed by a flock of flying monkeys. They might not believe it, but they still might cringe every time they hear the sound of wings. Kind of like the flying carpet that only works if you don't think of white elephants.

Dhewco
12-07-2005, 04:43 AM
I had to look up deux ex machina because I'd heard the term, but never paid attention to the definition. In my alt. history about Edward V, I created a race of humans from a parallel Earth who will, by the end of the series, turn out to be the main antagonists of the series. On one hand, one can argue they're a device of DEM, but only if you don't understand how important they become in the series. The series is heading toward a great cataclysm my alternate Earth humans want to avoid. In the end, they turn out to be the cause of the disaster.

But, in the beginning, the only thing these alternates do is convince Richard of Gloucester (real-life Richard III) to support his nephew as King, rather than assume the throne based on the Bishop of Bath's weak evidence of the princes' illegitimacy.
Oh, and they give Edward V gold to pay his army...save stress on the Kingdom and prevent most of the English from grumbling about excessive taxes.

So, they help in both DEM and non-DEM ways. In that regard, I think I present it effectively. (To make sure I actually say something on prophecy, these alternates have the ability to send and receive information from the future---but not actual travel, just info---which is not the same thing as prophecy)

David

Jewel101
12-07-2005, 06:28 AM
what if a prophesy says that the MC is going to kill the the bad guy but then the bad guy tourns out to be the MCs parent or sibling or best friend. Would you read that? I mean since the reader knows that the prophest has to come true but the MC just can't do it, wouldn't you want to see what happens? I would

MadScientistMatt
12-07-2005, 06:53 AM
David,

I'm not sure if that qualifies as Deus ex Machina at all. Usually, a Deus ex Machina solution is one where the author gets his characters in such a bind, he can't see how his characters can possibly solve the problem. So he says, "I know! I'll bring in some extra-powerful character who has no good reason for being here and have this dude solve it!"

Having a group of 1,000 friendly cavalry ride in for no apparent reason when your hero is trying to hold off twenty enemies is deus ex machina. Having a group of 1,000 friendly cavalry show up after your hero's companion has summoned them, only to have the cavalry encircled by 10,000 enemy troops, is not deus ex machina - it's escalating things.

batgirl
12-07-2005, 09:57 AM
what if a prophesy says that the MC is going to kill the the bad guy but then the bad guy tourns out to be the MCs parent or sibling or best friend. Would you read that? I mean since the reader knows that the prophest has to come true but the MC just can't do it, wouldn't you want to see what happens? I would

Didn't something like that happen to Oedipus?
-Barbara

Jewel101
12-07-2005, 10:55 AM
Didn't something like that happen to Oedipus?
-Barbara

not sure i recognize the name Oedipus

HConn
12-07-2005, 10:01 PM
not sure i recognize the name Oedipus

Oy.

Oedipus Rex. (http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/oedipus.html)

Sharon Mock
12-08-2005, 01:56 AM
I don't think prophecy is a cliche -- quite. There are still a lot of interesting things that can be done with them, but you can't get away with just plopping one in without thinking about the purpose it's meant to serve.

I must admit, though, I'm no fan of prophecy as a plot device. The one time I've used a prophecy in recent years, it's engineered to serve a particular purpose, and it ends up destroying the person created to fulfil it in ways the prophecy's designers could not have imagined. An anti-prophecy, if you will.

Dhewco
12-08-2005, 04:04 AM
Oedipus is the guy who left for awhile, came back, got married...only to find out he married his mother. (that's the basic gist anyway, I don't remember much more. Hopefully, others can fill in the gaps to my info.)

David

Euan H.
12-08-2005, 05:31 AM
SECOND MESSENGER My tale is quickly told and quickly heard.

Our sovereign lady queen Jocasta's dead.

CHORUS Alas, poor queen! how came she by her death?

SECOND MESSENGER By her own hand. And all the horror of it,

Not having seen, yet cannot comprehend.
Nathless, as far as my poor memory serves,
I will relate the unhappy lady's woe.
When in her frenzy she had passed inside
The vestibule, she hurried straight to win
The bridal-chamber, clutching at her hair
With both her hands, and, once within the room,
She shut the doors behind her with a crash.
"Laius," she cried, and called her husband dead
Long, long ago; her thought was of that child
By him begot, the son by whom the sire
Was murdered and the mother left to breed
With her own seed, a monstrous progeny.
Then she bewailed the marriage bed whereon
Poor wretch, she had conceived a double brood,
Husband by husband, children by her child.
What happened after that I cannot tell,
Nor how the end befell, for with a shriek
Burst on us Oedipus; all eyes were fixed
On Oedipus, as up and down he strode,
Nor could we mark her agony to the end.
For stalking to and fro "A sword!" he cried,
"Where is the wife, no wife, the teeming womb
That bore a double harvest, me and mine?"
And in his frenzy some supernal power
(No mortal, surely, none of us who watched him)
Guided his footsteps; with a terrible shriek,
As though one beckoned him, he crashed against
The folding doors, and from their staples forced
The wrenched bolts and hurled himself within.
Then we beheld the woman hanging there,
A running noose entwined about her neck.
But when he saw her, with a maddened roar
He loosed the cord; and when her wretched corpse
Lay stretched on earth, what followed--O 'twas dread!
He tore the golden brooches that upheld
Her queenly robes, upraised them high and smote
Full on his eye-balls, uttering words like these:
"No more shall ye behold such sights of woe,
Deeds I have suffered and myself have wrought;
Henceforward quenched in darkness shall ye see
Those ye should ne'er have seen; now blind to those
Whom, when I saw, I vainly yearned to know."
Such was the burden of his moan, whereto,
Not once but oft, he struck with his hand uplift
His eyes, and at each stroke the ensanguined orbs
Bedewed his beard, not oozing drop by drop,
But one black gory downpour, thick as hail.
Such evils, issuing from the double source,
Have whelmed them both, confounding man and wife.
Till now the storied fortune of this house
Was fortunate indeed; but from this day
Woe, lamentation, ruin, death, disgrace,
All ills that can be named, all, all are theirs.


See? That's what happens when the Gods take a dislike to you. You gotta watch out for them Gods. Nasty beggars.

fallenangelwriter
12-09-2005, 08:18 PM
There's plenty ot be done with prophecies. my current WIP involves a prophecy, whihc says the MC is a chosen one who must retrieve the magic widget of ultimate power ot save the eatern empire.

I also knew that he was afraid of magic, and didn't want power or responsibility, and when he reacheds the end of his quest, he ran away and one of his companions took the widget instead. possibilities for what happened that i considered:

the prohecy didn't really apply to anyone in particula,r it was jsut a set of instructions for saving the world

the prophecy wasn't real

the prophecy actually could have referred to either character, since the guy who ends up wiht it is actually his nsister

he really was the chosen one, and since he messsed up, fate itself gets messed up. that means determinism goes out the window, so thigns oculd work out much bettter than was originally intended... or much worse.

in the end, i decided that the prophecy was actually a lie made up by the "oracle" as a way or manipulating events. it gave people someone to rally around, and because the hero belived he was destined to do X, Y, and Z, he would try his best to do so.

Nateskate
12-10-2005, 12:40 AM
This topic triggers a great deal of questions for fantasy novels. I had no intention of having a "Silmarillion" for my novel series. At the very most I wanted to imply there were more forces than could be seen battling on the pages. Philosophically, as Tolkien believed, you want to create a realism, where the reader can imagine this world, and this scenario actually exists/existed.

I didn't want to have a "Messiah" figure in the story. That has been so overdone IMO, that for one it is difficult to pull it off without sounding like so many other stories. Things fall into the lap of an everyman, and they are not destined to succeed. But you imply that like Frodo, "If you don't do this...no one will..." What do you do when something you hate is thrown into your lap, and your life is ruined; your life is ripped out from under you?

The implication I wanted to convey is that in one sense, the war never ends, and each age is threatened, and new heroes have to arise and if they don't...

However, I painted myself into a corner with such a complex theological structure (not used as a religious term) that I wound up writing book one to avoid an info dump the size of a phone book. The hardest thing possible is to write a fantasy creation account without sounding like you are creating a new religion, preaching an Old religion, or making a cartoon. Eventually, I chose a mythopoetic style of writing for the beginning of book one, in order to give it the feel of something written in ancient times.

The key is that there are powers, seen and unseen, but the characters have to be free, and their outcome has to be uncertain. Evil has to have a chance to win for the reader to be engaged. The concerned powers may have the ability to stop evil, but now you have to establish the reason why they are not going to intervene, and not determine the outcome, but leave this in the choices of the characters.

In a sense, that was how it works in the Silmarillion. You know Illuvatar can smash Morgoth, but he doesn't. And so there is a constant mystery in the background. Frodo could have failed, as could have Aragorn.

Jewel101
12-16-2005, 11:22 AM
one good use for a prophesy would be to be able to create a book to be a stand alone to the bone with the ability to make a sequel to the book.

mdin
12-16-2005, 11:58 AM
I like prophecy.

My current wip has a "prophecy," but it's not from an ancient source. It's more like a psychic prediction from someone who has been right before. And the person involved in the prediction finds out about it and freaks out. A Moses sort of thing. I haven't decided yet if it's going to come true or not.

My first book also revolves around a prophecy, but everyone interpretes it differently. The characters expect a literal deus ex machina, but he never does show up.

zeprosnepsid
12-19-2005, 12:21 AM
Prophecy is a convention of the genre. So are magic, dwarves and dragons. Conventions are tools for the genre writer and I don't think any of the them should be thrown out for being too overused or silly. You don't need to use every convention every time, sometimes you need a Phillip's head and sometimes a Flathead, but that's what they are there for. To help you tell your story.

The reason conventions are important, especially in Fantasy, is because when you are creating a world that is entirely foreign, the reader needs somethings that are familiar and that they can relate to. A prophecy -- having some idea of what is going to happen -- helps the reader relax and explore the world instead of trying to figure out what the world is like and what is going to happen.

Conventions are important because otherwise you can alienate your reader. Just because in Westerns there is very often a guy or group of guys that comes in and saves an unfortunate town or group of people doesn't mean that both The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven aren't good in their own ways. They use this common convention to tell their individual stories.

Nivarion
09-09-2008, 03:47 AM
not all prophecies have to be the opposites or funny. mine is strait out, but its very confusing, so confusing that it took me more than an hour to write the first time, just because i kept getting it backwards. but the main jist is about this.
and the five which were not lost, and six and seven that were lost, shall all return to the hands of men, the calamity will befall, behold a hero great shall rise in the dark, and the hero will rise by the day, the hero will not fall by the hands of his enemy, but the hero will fall by the hero, and again the hero will fall by the hand of the hero. three of the seven will be shattered, and the two will be lost, the six and the seventh will hold until the hero dies by the hero then shall the six be broken, and on it the shattered edge will the seven be broken. the hero will slay the heroes shade, and the heroes shade will still his heart on the hero's ending the heroes. and the second shade will rise to return balance with the death of the hero.

so far, no one but me has been able to tell what that load of jargon means, but if you ask nicely ill tell you. i think it will make a large amount of confusion as to the question of "what does that mean?" over and over i try to make parts that fit that stuff, but aren't the part. if you want send me a pm of what you think it means

katzenjammer
09-09-2008, 05:48 AM
.... I just wrote about 200 words on prophecy. Then I thought how odd it was that this obvious topic had only just been broached on this forum.

Then I realized that all but one of the posts on this thread are from 2005.

Then in my surprise I somehow managed to close the entire window, thereby deleting everything I'd written, which was apparently 3 years too late anyway.

...I'm going to go to a contemporary thread now. And that's one prophecy you can rely on. *sigh* :gone:

Phoebe H
09-09-2008, 06:59 AM
I'm doing something a little different in my current WIP. I presented a prophecy in the Prologue, and then have it come to pass in Chapter 5.

At which point, everything that that particular character says from that point forward acquires a certain gravitas, even though he never actually makes another prophecy.

Darzian
09-09-2008, 10:51 AM
What if the person who uttered the prophecy has been knows to make both correct and incorrect prophecies? Then this prophecy may actually be a complete fake/lie.

Or, the prohpecy says that the MC will destroy the world in some way. The MC desperately tries to avoid that fate. At some point, he is presented with a choice- the outcome of which may or may not fulfill the prophecy. He decides to go against the prophecy and chooses the 'good' side. The prophecy fails.

Then a nice wise man comes along and explains that a successful prophecy is one that fails.:D

AuthorGuy
09-09-2008, 03:48 PM
In my first book I invented the Book of Prophecies, volume 14 (with, presumably, other volumes). Everything that gets written in the book is a prophecy and will come true, even if the bad puts it there. It just may not come true the way they want. In book 2 I invented the Prophecy Police, a department of Interworld Publishing that monitors when and to whom prophecies are revealed, but without trying to interfere or prevent them in any way. As one of them says, "Prophecy boulder headlong interfere squish."

In other words, I don't think they have to be cliched plot devices.

Tsiamon
07-14-2011, 01:21 AM
Three years later:

I'm playing with the idea of including...the idea of prophesy in my current WIP. Personally I tend to hate prophesies in high fantasy so including one in my own work leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So, does this sound like it could work?

One of the main antagonists in the story, an aggressively imperialistic king whispered to have some mysterious powers of foresight invades a neighboring region to apprehend and eliminate another man (MC) with supposedly similar powers. The general opinion throughout the continent is that the king is acting on a prophesy that he himself devised, but is only fully known to his inner circle, and if the prophesy is ever made known to the MC, it will be only at the very end of the story. The MC, a radically free spirit, remains contemptuous of the ideas of prophesy and destiny throughout his entire life.

TheRob1
07-16-2011, 08:10 PM
I'm not a big fan of prophecies in verse. If you are not a good poet then don't write your prophecy as a poem.

MissTiraMissSu
07-17-2011, 01:27 AM
Yay prophecies. I love them!

When they are totally wrong and are BS. Or when the MC received the prophesy from the bad guy. Maybe something like,
"You must trek through the land of fire to get the jewel of fate for the world's fate."
And when they do the weather gets messed up and they hand the jewel to the bad guy and end up killing the world. Good job huh? Totally useless, morally conflicting or overly complicated ones with very simple and evident answers are great, because it messes with the MC's head.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-17-2011, 03:00 AM
Reminds me of a story idea I had a while back. There was a cycle of prophecies, but it dealt with matters on a large scale and left details pretty general and explanations full of holes.

So when the it begins to seem like parts of the prophecies are coming true, anybody with any amount of influence in the world starts trying to interpret and manipulate events to their advantage, claiming various acts were described in the prophecy to justify terrible things and frighten their enemies.

They try to grab the various agents mentioned in the porphecy and manipulate them into doing things that will enhance the manipulators positions in the world, and damage the reputations of enemies.

This actually works pretty well, because the prophecy and the powers behind it don't really have all that much interest in human affairs, and the writers of the prophecies had entirely different views of the world, and so while the humans are interpreting everything in regard to how it will affect themselves, the actual events described in the prophecies have no relevance to them at all.

Turul
07-18-2011, 04:48 AM
I find the straightforward prophecy/Chosen One trope boring and have always wondered how there can be so much certainty. I mess with the idea of prophecy in my WIP series. My protagonists are prophesied to be Important People, but they don't know what they're supposed to do, exactly. Every person and group in the novels has their own idea and agenda for what they're supposed to do (save the world, bring about the Rapture, be the fathers of new races, etc) and part of the protagonists' conflict is negotiating what people want from them vs. what they really feel is right.

glutton
07-18-2011, 07:17 AM
what if a prophesy says that the MC is going to kill the the bad guy but then the bad guy tourns out to be the MCs parent or sibling or best friend. Would you read that? I mean since the reader knows that the prophest has to come true but the MC just can't do it, wouldn't you want to see what happens? I would

How would the reader know the prophecy has to come true? It could just turn out to be wrong.

jasonmac4490
07-18-2011, 11:06 AM
Prophets and prophecies are prevalent in my WIP...but that does not mean they will come true. Humans have always tried to foresee the future with Prophecies of this and that but in my WIP, I clearly explain that every person in the world has the choice to make a zillion different decisions in a lifetime, making it impossible to foresee the future. Time is just too unpredictable. So if a "prophecy" were to ever come true it is out of sheer damn luck. (*At least in my WIP haha)

dirtsider
07-18-2011, 06:38 PM
I liked how Babylon 5 dealt with prophecy. Turns out the prophecy one of the major races was following turned out to be history. One of the characters went back in time and the prophecy turned out to be based on his own memories of what happened to him in his own time. Once the 'prophecy' was fulfilled, the 'future' was open for interpretation again.

This whole discussion got me thinking about prophecy and how to manipulate them. Such as the MC (the "Chosen One") being told about a prophecy involving him but the prophecy doesn't actually exist. It was just a tool to get him off his butt and do what the prophet wanted him to do. Or the "Chosen One" being told a prophecy, only to have him fight it and actually fulfilling the prophecy because the messager told him the 'wrong' prophecy, knowing the Chosen One would do everything in his power to do the opposite of what he was told.

ave
07-18-2011, 07:29 PM
I find it interesting when prophesies are interpreted after the event has taken place. As happens so often in the real world. This can be used to great advantage in your work.

They can also help set the stage. For example in Robert Jordans wheel of time, the whole world is waiting for the dragon to be reborn.
For generations they grew up hearing tales of the terrible things that will happen in those days, and then in turn, like any good parent, used the prophecies to frighten their own brood into submission. So when the prophesy is finally fulfilled, fear grips the heart of the nation. The dragon doesn't have to convince the world of who he is and what he is about. They all know, and quake in their bloomers.

Prophesies can also help build tension, as in a thriller when your protagonist is scratching through his bosses personal files and you just know that someone is going to walk in on him. In the same way, your hero can receive a prophecy that hints at some kind of evil, and then, you are left waiting for it. He goes to take a leak and you are just waiting for that deranged someone to stick his head over the stall and say "helloooo chap, fine weather we having"

Rachel Udin
07-18-2011, 08:09 PM
Since the legend I'm using had no out for the "It was a prophecy" I decided instead of focusing on the contents of the prophecy, to focus on *why* it was given to that character. That character doesn't know why and can't figure out why. In the grander scheme she can figure it out less and less.

I made the prophecy pretty direct (like the original legend) and instead of the character just sitting there waiting for it to happen, she's a bit too proactive to try to make it happen. In another words, you aren't sure if the prophecies are becoming true because of the characters are making them true, or if they are happening because it's a prophecy. Either way, the character has to work for it.

Generally, I hate prophecies to pieces, but I had no good way around this one, so I figure I should twist it with some local culture.

Buffysquirrel
07-18-2011, 10:32 PM
I love prophecies provided they are subverted in some way. I have a trunk novel where there's a prophecy and the protag's allies are going around explaining to everyone how it's obviously a fake and they shouldn't take any notice of it, because they are, after all, the good guys, and they know it's a fake. The protag gets Really Annoyed and tells them to stop doing that!