1. TheDarkWriter
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    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    Is a prophesy cliche?.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by TheDarkWriter, Oct 18, 2015.

    I personally don't like them I feel you might as well be telling the ending by using one the only way I find them interesting is if they turn out to be a lie or misinterpreted. Like the hero is said to either destroy the world or save it and then he sort of does both.
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, especially in fantasy.

    I can't stand the petulant little brat who is the subject of the prophecy and his "why me? Why me?" foot stamping. Harry Potter does it, Luke Skywalker does it (as much as I love the original trilogy, Luke is a dick). It is just tedious.
     
  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    There is no prophesy surrounding Luke. He's referred to as the last hope, obliquely once, and then as a chide. But there's no reference made to prophecy in the original trilogy.
     
  4. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    There was in the original drafts of the first movie (Son of the Suns) and although not referred to in the final film it strongly influences the narrative in A New Hope.
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    In what way? Luke isn't given preferential treatment in A New Hope at all. He's the third pilot to try the bombing run, mocked by other pilots, etc.
     
  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK Jack, I'm sure you are right.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Is that your way of saying you can't back anything up?
     
  8. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is my way of acknowledging that you will employ your usual argumentum ad infinitum on a subject I truly do not care enough about to engage in. If you want to take that as a little victory and feel smug for a while, then have this one on me.
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, that's not quite right
    Fixed it for you.
     
  10. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll leave you to your baiting. Have fun.
     
  11. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    I am sick to death of the reluctant hero character. Yeah, I agree about Harry Potter and the whole attitude of "why me" and so on. I read most of the HP books, and I couldn't stand that little arrogant bastard personally. I liked the side characters a lot, but I felt that Harry did not truly show appreciation towards the people that kept bailing his ass out of trouble. I don't think Rowling meant for him to come off that way though. I could not relate to him in anyway.

    As far as there being a prophecy regarding Luke Skywalker, I don't know because I am strictly Star Trek kind of person.

    I am not fond of prophecies in stories, however I think they can be worked in effectively and even without giving too much away, if the prophecy is extremely cryptic. If it is done in a way where it is hard to interpret, then it may add to the story in a positive way.
     
  12. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    I don't like prophecies period. What the heck is the point of them - not only are 95% of them the exact same they pretty much give you the story right then and there. Poor downtrodden hero, overcomes all odds, beats bad guy. There's your book right there. You don't need the 300+ pages when in the long run those first 3 pages give you the story... it's just the blow-by-blow you're missing.

    If you think your story needs a prophecy - write the story first and then write the prophecy around the story. Otherwise you're trying to model the story to the prophecy instead of the other way around. Makes for a rather crappy read.

    I won't comment to Skywalker - Trekkie myself and I preferred the original Star Wars well above the remakes and newer releases.

    But Harry Potter for example was an excessively long series built around what was a rather well abused cliché prophecy. Hero - odds - death. When all is said and done it could have been condensed into one maybe two books... I mean most of it is about Harry's whining, lack of gratitude to those that did help him, and well even more of his whining about "fate" and "why me". Yes we got it, pretty much by the 1st book and yes he was a self-centered little prig that you'd like to swat on the back of the head more than once.


    Most of the better fantasy books I've read don't have prophecies - so yeah I'd say its cliché. As for Aerisfullofwhimsy's suggestion as cryptic - how cryptic without making it seem to the readers that the author is scatter-headed and who is making it up as they go along.
     
  13. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    I'm not sure how cryptic it should be, but enough the reader would have to make a few guesses to be on the right track of the actual meaning. I think it could come off as scatter minded, nonsensical or even confusing and be fine-at first. It would need to make sense eventually though. So towards the end or climax, the reader would see signs/incidents that the prophecy actually relates to the situation or person. Or if I had to write a story with a prophecy (I don't write sci-fi or fantasy) that is how I would go about it.

    I agree with you regarding the Harry Potter series. But to be fair, it seems to be a little more acceptable for cliches to be used frequently in books aimed towards Young Adults. Not sure if it is because it makes it more predictable for impatient youth or because it isn't predictable for the literary inexperienced.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
  14. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Maybe prophecy is clichéd. But who cares? You're bound to tic off a few curmudgeons one way or another, why not with a prophecy?
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You might find it interesting to read about a real prophecy, just to find out what they're like. Movie prophecy all concern a lone hero, but actual prophecy usually doesn't work like that.
    Here's Lee Brown, one of four Hopi who was authorized by the Hopi elders to talk about their prophecies in English for the first time in the 1980s.
    http://www.crystalinks.com/hopistonetablets.html
     
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  16. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I'm going to err on the side of "It's about the journey, not the destination."

    Despite what you think about prophesies, they sell. I would imagine that's because readers are interested in knowing what happens in the middle of the book, not just the beginning and the end. How many boy meets girl, boy gets girl stories are out there? Millions. And they still sell. How many good triumphs over evil stories are out there? Millions. And they still sell.

    What makes a story compelling is what happens in the middle. I've got books that I've read multiple times, hence I know the beginning, middle, and end, yet they are still enjoyable. People are attracted to well written stories, even when they know how they are going to end.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    "Prophecy" in and of itself isn't cliche. What may be cliche is a particular use of it, but as a writer you have the ability to bring a fresh approach to any subject matter.
     
  18. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prophecy is so prolific in human storytelling and religion that I'm not sure you can call it cliche. Is having a hero cliche? There are, however, ways both of those are used that can be a cliche.

    The best prophecies are the ones that have uncertainty and can be misinterpreted. For a real world example, look at the Bar Kokhba rebellion against Rome. Its leader, Simon bar Kokhba, was considered by some to be the Jewish Messiah. Despite some considerable success in the beginning, the revolt was utterly crushed by the Romans, with many Jewish villages razed to the ground. An estimated 580,000 Jews were killed, and they were barred from Jerusalem for centuries. Having someone who's believed to be your chosen one, but turns out not to be and leads a lot of people to ruin, could be a rather interesting twist.

    Another good example is Macbeth, where our titular character misinterprets several prophecies. And those misinterpretations lead directly to his demise.

    For fantasy, I'd say Tolkien did it well. The Witch King was long prophesied to be unharmable by any living man, but was slain by a woman (a take that at Macbeth, in fact). The wolfhound Huan is prophesied to be killed by the greatest werewolf to ever live. Sauron tries and fails to defeat him, as it is Carcaroth, not Sauron, that is the greatest.
     
  19. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Eh. I actively try to avoid prophecy nowadays. I used to be crazy about it, but not so much anymore. For two reasons, one, because I've grown to think that predicting the future when it can be so uncertain is a bit absurd, and two, because I was using prophecy as a cheap crutch to create drama and intrigue.

    But I don't think prophecy in and of itself is bad. It's like all fantasy elements, it's only terrible if it isn't written well.
     
  20. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    It can be, but if you write your story well enough it shouldn't be. I think if you do use a prophecy you should delve into some more important details, such as how do prophecies exist in your universe and do they always come true? Do people have magical powers or gifts of foresight? Is the future set it stone? If it is, who set it that way? The fates? God? and most importantly why?
     
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  21. FadedSpectrum
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    FadedSpectrum New Member

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    It depends on how you play it off. The cliche Harry-Potter-style of prophesy that basically says "this guy is important, he will save the world from so-and-so evil force" is dull and far too overused.

    There are ways to provide twists to prophesies, however. Riordan had some interesting stuff in Percy Jackson, I feel. There, they're handed out about once a book and they provide a lot of tension, and they aren't fulfilled the way the heroes speculate they will. And then there are the horrible occurrences that are a part of them, and the question of whether you can avoid them or not.
    But whether or not you like presentation of prophesies that is up to personal taste.

    Can you avoid fate? Can you change it? Who determines fate?

    Prophesies have a small role in the fantasy world I'm working on right now. It's more like fortune-telling, and it's highly subjective, with different "paths" someone could potentially follow. There aren't any big prophesies declaring so-and-so a great future hero. The only reason any of the MCs have an interest in them, is that it could give them a useful tip on where to go to complete a particular goal.
     
  22. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    When I think of "prophecy" it is typically an insight from the divines or the wisest individuals, but they are also very vague. Very far back in the beginning of my WIP, the divinities discuss the need to establish certain rules to ensure the stability of society. A "prophecy" ends up being made via a simple realization, "One day they will splinter and manage to break away from us. Will you let your children spill their blood endlessly?"

    Nothing more... the simple realization that "they" will manage to break away and create another society. The two societies will result in open conflict. It takes four hundred years, but emerging from darkness is a child who manages to do that in ways that horrify everyone. There is no "hero" in this prophecy, only the certainty of conflict and the painful realization that their children will head out onto the battlefield to preserve a way of life.

    It is prophecy of conflict and suffering - one without an answer or resolution - rooted in the nature of an ever-changing world. Gods bound by rules, unable to interact as their children kill one another, it this the wheel of fate or merely our nature?
     
  23. Lemon flavoured
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    Lemon flavoured Active Member

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    I think prophecy twists can be quite cool if they are done well. For the most part though prophecies are a bit pointless because they either give away the story or are nonsense.
     
  24. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    The funny thing is that you'll see all the cliches again in a super successful film, so I'm not sure that avoiding them is the right goal.

    Jesus' story has cliches in it: the Prophecy, the Scrolls, the One, and so on...

    Basically, you could argue that the hero's journey itself is a cliche, but there are arguments that all successful stories contain these elements (read kalbashir.com who also has a huge list of the elements).

    I actually don't think of the elements as cliches, but as techniques that aid dramatic storytelling. I bet you Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens has a ton of these elements.
     
  25. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Only the king of high fantasy cliches :p
     

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