1. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    Prophecy

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CrystalDreamer59, Jul 16, 2012.

    Ok so for my story about the two planets at war with each other that I've been meantioning about I'm thinking about having a prologue in which someone predicts that there will be a great war and that a young warrior is destined to end the war. Do you think this is forshadowing the events of the story too much. Should I scrap this idea.
     
  2. Warde
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    Warde Member

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    I'm tempted to meet this question with the "depends how you write it" answer. However, I would note that I have never seen a prophecy presented at the beginning of a book which came of well. I have no doubt that someone could pull it off, but I suspect it would be extremely difficult to do well. Prophecies have a terrible tendency to a) come off as cliche, b) feel overly melodramatic, and c) give away way too much of the story.

    That said, I have read several very good cases of prophecies being introduced later in the story. In this case, the reader is already drawn into the world of the story and suspension of disbelief is already established. At that point, the reader is free to either deliberate over whether the prophecy is true or not within the context of the story, or accept the prophecy as true and wonder how this is all going to play out for their much loved MC and whether said MC has the power to influence his/her fate. Either way, *cue reader angst* - in good way (if done properly).

    All that said, I'd be extremely wary of including prophecies wherever you include them in your story. Is the fact of there being a prophecy an important part of your storyline? If not, it's probably not serving much of a purpose.
     
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  3. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    Warde put it perfectly with this. For me, I think the most effective and least cliche way of doing prophecy is to make the prophecies as vague and as open to interpretation as possible. If a half-dozen characters have very different views on the prophecy, drawing debate, argument, and perhaps even bloodshed, it makes the prophecy, as a plot device, much more useful, opening up the different kinds of stories you can tell. Using your brief blurb about the piece you're writing, the prophecy can be entirely vague as to how this warrior is to end the war. Perhaps one side interprets it that the warrior will lead them to glorious victory, or that the warrior is destined to make so many bad decisions as to ensure that her side in fact loses, thus ending the conflict.

    Though, I suppose it is entirely based upon your own belief/disbelief in fate. If you believe in fate, and this is a core virtue of your story, then having a clear, but decidedly dangerous, prophecy would work more than something vague and unclear, the latter of which I personally favor as I believe that fate is what you make.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Warde. This is a cliche. It also sets up your young warrior as a "Chosen One," and in the world of fiction you can't heave a brick without hitting some Chosen One or other right between the eyes - that's how common and usually dull these characters are. Without the prophecy, it is uncertain which planet will win the war, so there can be actual suspense in your story. With the prophecy, you have not only a war, but a young Chosen One and a destiny and a practically guaranteed victory for the Good Guys who support the Chosen One and a one-way ticket to Snoozeville. You haven't written this story yet and your potential readers are already yawning.

    Scrap the prophecy.
     
  5. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I could try keeping it vauge where everyone is unsure of who the warrior that will end the war is. By the way I don't believe in fate. I believe the future is what you make it.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    where the mind is without fear...
    If you remember the movie "The Matrix", it kind of uses the same thing, you know, the prediction and the search for "the one". We came to know of the predictions as part of his 'soul searching' process rather than being told up front about it. I think this is more effective. Anyway, foreshadowing is effective only when done subtly.
     
  7. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I agree completely with the above posts. It sounds like this prologue is setting up a pretty common sci-fi/fantasy cliche as described by minstrel. The concept sounds interesting but the prophecy will dilute the idea into something which readers may feel is predictable and familiar. If you use exposition in the prologue (even if it's vague), the reader may not feel a sense of urgency or suspense when reading because they assume knowedge from previous works.

    In my opinion you should either get rid of the prophecy and let the reader work out the details themselves as the story progresses or get rid of the prologue. Or both. It's really up to you to see what works and what you feel best represents your ideas.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I agree with the others. Prophecy is generally overdone these days. But that isn't to say it can't be done again and done well. But you'll need to be inventive. So craft your prophecy carefully. Down to the word. And then arrange it to mean something completely different when the time comes.

    Best example I can think of is a prophecy by the oracle of Delphi where she told Thermistocles to put his faith in walls of wood. He took this to mean ships and so survived. Those who thought she meant wooden pallisades, weren't so lucky.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. emines
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    emines New Member

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    Yeah. They can be cliche or well done. For popular examples of well-done prophecies, check out the prophecies in the Harry Potter book, "The Order of the Phoenix," or in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Greek tragedies featured a prophecy which the protagonist did not want to see come to fruition, and the plot was the protag doing everything possible to prevent the prophecy from coming to be and in so doing bringing it about.
     
  11. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    ^---- This.

    Prophecies are purposeful inclusions of false drama... unless turned to a better use by a skilled writer.

    Now, in some settings, they are entirely acceptable. If you have a world that is driven by prophecy, then having one insert itself is expected. If it wasn't there, the reader would demand it. After all, with all the interesting things that are supposed to be going on with your Hero, a relevant prophecy tucked away on the back of a napkin somewhere would be the very least they could expect.

    However, if anyone does a prophecy then, to avoid the cliche'd prophecy theme Warde explains, the writer should take pains to turn it into something interesting, rather than a paint-by-numbers plot summary. What if the prophecy is wrong? What if the prophecy leads up to a "Eureka" moment for the reader, but the characters are clueless? What if the prophecy is actually some attempt at political/religious manipulation by an antagonist, rather than a true prophecy?

    In other words, simply writing down a prophecy does absolutely nothing for the story or the enjoyment of the reader unless the writer uses their skill to make it something interesting.

    Edit - Excellent point! A prophecy as an antagonist is a prophecy being put to a creative use, rather than a simple exposition of future events.
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's a prophecy, make it a bit cleverer and mysterious than that. What's the purpose of this piece of "foreshadowing" at all? It's just telling the reader what they're about to find out in the next few chapters, which makes for bad storytelling. If you have it, it should ADD to the story, not simply tell the story that could be much better told in other ways.
     

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