1. potters_pimp
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    potters_pimp Member

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    Prophecies?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by potters_pimp, Nov 18, 2007.

    What are your thoughts on them? Do you think they're overused in fantasy and sci-fi? I used two in my first book, but I just wanted to see what you thought.
     
  2. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    They are used a lot in fantasy.
    But they are still usable as long as its done intelligently.
    If its "All prophecies are true. All important people believe all the prophecies. Trying to subvert the prophecy is always evil. And the prophecies are easily understandable." Then its not good.
    One thing I'll give a thumbs up to Robert Jordon and the Wheel of Time books, is this. The entire series was prophecy driven. But they weren't all easily understandable. They had so many different meanings, and quite a few false prophecies that no one knew what exactly was true, and tried to use the prophecies to their own ends. Quite often trying to follow the prophecy exactly for the main character led to many unrelated problems even as he struggled to fulfill them.
    And the prophecies let the reader keep guessing and occasionally figure out what would happen next.
    That was used well.
    Other prophecies are so straight forward, and so obvious that you know automatically that the hero is the chosen one, and as he reads the prophecy all the true forces of good will fall over themselves to help him. And the few people who don't will be evil or shown the errors of their ways. Rah! Rah! prepare the victory parade.
     
  3. ANT (Bar YOSEF)
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    ANT (Bar YOSEF) Contributing Member

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    Some prophecies of doom prompt the hero to action to save the world or something..
     
  4. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    But if those prophecies aren't done well, then the hero knows there is one hope, and usually that he or she is that one hope, who will succeed. So its not so much averting the prophecy as using the built in escape clause.
    I like prophecies of doom that don't spell out how to stop them.
     
  5. ANT (Bar YOSEF)
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    ANT (Bar YOSEF) Contributing Member

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    True enough. I like them ones as well as no matter how hard they try to avoid it, it happens anyway.

    In my novel, I was debating whether to feature Jesus' prophecy of the Temple's destruction, but then again, it could have been inserted into the Bible after the event.
     
  6. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I use prophecies alot but I try not to overuse them. I always thought the key thing for prophecies is the same as the bible or Nostradamus. Keep it ambiguous. I can find you a prophecy in the Book of Revalations and had you a half dozen different meanings for it. Most of Nostradamus' prophecies were so vague that they were bound to happen sooner or later simply because they have no specific meaning.

    Another good example is Star Wars. Anakin Skywalker was suppose to bring balance to the force. Then he destroys the Jedi, unbalancing it. At first it appears the prophecy will never come true but then in Episode VI he kills the emperor and then dies himself. Most people have overlooekd that Anakin destroyed both the Sith and the Jedi effectively bringing balance to the force by forcing both groups to start over. The key was that the prophecy only said "He will bring balance to the force." It never stated how he would get there.

    I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to use a prophecy, but I find that if you just want one or two prophecies in your book as a sort of suspense driver (Get the reader to ask themselves if the prophecy will be fulfilled or not sort of thing) its key to maintain a good degree of ambiguity so there can be multiple meanings to it.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The essence of Greek tragedy centers upon specific prophecies, and disaster always visits upon the character who attempts to derail destiny.

    To an extent, Frank Herbert took the Greek tragedy approach to Dune. No matter what path Paul Atreides chose to avoid it, he could not prevent a bloody jihad centered around Muad'dib.

    Another approach to prophecy is ambiguity of the prediction, especially an ambiguity that only reveals itself when the assumed dire outcome has been successfully averted. I don't have an example that jumps to my mind at the moment, though.
     
  8. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I forgot about Greek Tragedy. Now that I think of it, in some of his plays doesn't Shakespear come out and give the viewers the ending in the very beginning (Romeo And Juliet)?
     
  9. assassin
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    I was going to say that I've never used a prophecy in my stories, but no ... there's a definate one in one of the sequeals and shades of one in another.
    But like many said: ambiguity.

    lordofhats: Yup. "A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life." Kinda spells it out there.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Yes, but I wouldn't have called that a prophecy any more than the blub of a book is a prophecy of it's story...
     
  11. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Prophecies: Useful, or Cliched?

    If you've seen any of my previous threads, you may know that my story is sort of a... special case. Since a large cast of my characters are teenage (psychic) nobles attending a boarding school, it'll be hard to add in some of the action without sounding like The Honorable J.K. Rowling. Since there are real psychics in the world I'm writing in, I've considered using the prophecy narrative device to initiate the plot movement and action. I'm smart enough not to shoot myself in the foot with the cliche gun, so the main character WOULDN'T be the main focus of the foretelling.

    But I've still got to ask, would adding a prophecy be an overly safe move? And yes, I do know that everything's been done before. But prophecies have been done so many times that there's practically no way to write them new or exciting. I'm willing to put in the work, though. But before I let my mind start churning out ideas, would a prophecy be in good, or bad taste?
     
  12. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    Prophecies get played out a lot. Generally, I think it's like taking the easy way out.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you must use prophecy, make it ambiguous, and misinterpreted by all parties.
     
  14. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    I like the way prophecies are done in the Percy Jackson series. They have multiple parts, and involve the adventuring party as a whole, rather than just one person. You never know who is going to be affected by which part.
     
  15. Anonym
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    It might be because i mainly write within the realm of sci-fi, but i rather like it when a prophecy is portrayed as an implausible delusion, only for it to be slowly & uncannily fulfilled in way that ambiguously proves the prophet right, if that makes sense. that's just me.
     
  16. Cardboard Tube Knight
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    Prophecies are fun and can be well used, especially when vague and deceptive. I think that when you look at their use in pop culture I can think of two times when I was utterly floored with the use of a prophet prediction.
     
  17. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I agree with Cog. Ambiguity will really help out.

    You could make like Rowling and so many others, and have the out come of the prophecy have no clear winner. Whether this suits your book or not is another question...
     
  18. Flyingfishphilosopy
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    Next to the most important thing that prophecies shouldn't be too easy to understand, they also shouldn't be too big.

    Some books have immense poems of half a page long wich are most likely forgotten at the next page, by all your readers who do not have photographic memory. My view is It could only work by repeating it atleast five times in your book.

    Also if your novel is makes it to the international front, the poem would hardly make any sense. No matter how hard the translators try.
     
  19. Cardboard Tube Knight
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    That rules too hard and fast, if its long and hard to understand, the protagonist might not even know what it is and gloss over it and then when it comes up again and things connect back to it, the reader and the protagonist come to the realization together.
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    No plot device is overused if you use it in an interesting way that engages the reader. All plot devices are overused if you use them in a predictable, boring way.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In your novel, it's up to you whether or not it was inserted into the Bible after the event.
     
  22. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Good point, my current draft is concise, but I don't want to sound to preachy. As in, I don't want to make the connection in the end and have a character explain it, and the reader would be like, "OMG she thinks we're morons." Or, "OMG this protagonist's a moron." Or even worse, "OMG this AUTHOR'S a moron!"
     
  23. jacklondonsghost
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    My thoughts on Prophecies:

    DON'T. Unless you do them in a brilliantly written way that makes them ambiguous and truly suspenseful. I think author's that did this well were Rowling and Suzanne Collins in her series, the Underland Chronicles. IMO Robert Jordan's were well written prophecies, but the whole series you already know Rand, Mr. Personality, will be the Chosen One to defeat Evil.

    If your protagonist is a farmboy "destined" to Save Fantastyland from the Dark Lord, please just... don't...

    Again, these are just my opinions; take them with a grain of salt.

    OR: Even better, maybe they read the prophecy completely wrong. Could create a cool plot, if they botch the understanding of it completely and ruin everything.
     
  24. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to agree. The more ambigious the prophecy the better. Give it multiple meanings and many possibilities. Never do something to direct and straightforward.

    If I were to use a prophecy it would be vague and open for multiple interpitations and probably the fullfilment of it would be something obscure.
     
  25. JTheGreat
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    Sounds like Eragon to me XD.
     

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