1. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    Self-Fulfilling Prophesies?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Adam Bolander, Feb 21, 2021.

    I know prophecies are considered boring and cliche these days, but what about self-fulfilling prophecies? Like, ones that only come true because of the efforts taken to make it not come true? Let's say the bad guys find out that a chosen warrior is destined to stop them. The destined warrior lives all the way on the other side of the world and has no idea the bad guys exist or what they're trying to do, and has absolutely no interest in stopping them--until they show up, kill his family, and drive him to seek revenge.

    Are those any better?
     
  2. Malum

    Malum Offline Supporter

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    If it's well written. Sigh.
     
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  3. alw86

    alw86 Member

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    TBH this is the kind of thing which could work really well in a parody or satire, like a Discworld type thing, but that I would have a hard time swallowing in anything serious. It's just too convenient. Just my own opinion of course!
     
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    as with any element of plot (and character and setting) it really depends on the writing.. prophecies may be old hat but some very successful books have been written around them (the Da Vinci code being the stand out, but also lots of other adventure type books..... the same applies to a self fulling prophecy, written well it will be entertaining and the audience will suspend disbelief, written badly it will come off as unbelievable or trite
     
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Member

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    If it's well written like a Philip K. Dick story, especially one that is unexpected, then it wouldn't be boring.
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I hate these boldfaced statements like "prophecy is overdone now". Sorry @Adam Bolander I don't mean you, I'm talking in general about this weird anti-culture we seem to exist in now where people, rather than do some real research into prophesies, just go on TV Tropes or some other shallow modern (smug) outlet and find a TL;DR blurb to substitute for actual thought or research.

    Why do people always seem to connect the idea of prophecy with "The Chosen One"? I guess that's what it must say on the various Trope sites or something. I don't claim to know a lot about prophecy, but I do know today's left-brain society scoffs behind its cuff at anything religious or mystical and disregards the profundity behind it. If you want to write about prophecy, dig deep—go to Archive.org and Project Gutenberg, blow the dust off that old Bible on your grandpa's bookshelf and dig in. Try to find some actual, honest-to-goodness insight into the profound aspects of it, not just the surface tripe written by some ivory tower Postmodernists who believe all tradition is garbage.

    Try looking up some of Jordan Peterson's Biblical lectures on YouTube, or some of Jonathan Pageau's videos on the symbolism behind religious icons.Find some writers who take it seriously and who have some respect for the ideas. Read the thoughts of great minds from earlier eras, from before 'critical theory' reared its ugly head and made criticism out to mean nothing but word games and snarkiness.

    Sorry, /rant.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    essentially everything has been done to death... everything. But it doesnt matter if you write it well (or at least well enough)

    For example every single Jack Reacher story is basically a 1950s western... heroic gunslinger rides into town, meets a woman in trouble, kills the bad guys, gets the girl, rides out of town... total cliche, but it hasn't stopped Lee Child being wildly popular
     
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  8. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    I think like most people have said here, it's how it's told and not just the idea behind it. Having said that, I would like to read a story where one of the characters is obsessed with a prophecy and acts accordingly, takes it as their driving force and then it turns out it is actually just a made up story someone told them once. I guess that could either become a self-fulfilling prophecy and they get what they want because they were driven to ensure it happened, or (and I think this would be more interesting to me, though maybe less satisfying to a wide audience), it could lead to their downfall because the other players make sensible decisions rather than ones based on a mythological fairy-tale. Their leaps of faith decisions don't pay off because it isn't real. I guess it's like a certain moment in Game of Thrones (the show, I've not read the books) where a certain someone gets burnt to death for what turns out to be no reason...
     
  9. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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  10. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    A skilled writing can pull off anything to an extent. However I'm not a fan of prophecies of any kind because they are used to a clutch and cause the character to sometimes lack any depth. What's is the character's goal? To see the prophecy is/is not for filled. What's the villains fear? That the prophecy will come true. Why did they do this? Because of the prophecy. I also think if you have a character doing something just because of a prophecy, even a self for filling one, it can be a weak character who is reactive. Nearly every new spin you could take has been done. Even someone ignoring a prophecy has been done. What you've offered isn't any better because the set up is cliche (I know it was just an example). I've even read a book where the prophecy from a witch was, if the main character stood up to the villains he would die. He still did the heroic thing and didn't die! So the prophecy was a bit pointless. I never totally understand self for filling ones because aren't they all self for filling? Did the prophecy not happen because it wouldn't have anyway or because someone did something to stop it?

    You could sit and brain storm. What about a machine that gives mathematical predictions? Or an unreliable narrator. In order to put a spin on something that is very samey is to read as many of those works as possible and look at what hasn't been done. The skill of the writer is important but I've still put down well written books because I just wasn't feeling the writing or the characters because they felt cliche. Harry Potter was one of them. Despite the writing I felt like I was reading a book I'd all ready read before and couldn't continue. So it's really a mixing bowl of everything.
     
  11. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    How could I forget that gem?!
     
  12. FlyingFishPhilosophy

    FlyingFishPhilosophy Member

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    Not a big fan of (most) prophesies..

    Though they can be fun if: it is not the sole thing driving the plot and/or if it turns out unexpected. (Spoiler: like in mistborn where the prophesized 'hero' turns out to be someone else entirely..)
     
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    cf Asimov's Foundation series and psychohistory.
     
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  14. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    It's been done but not as much as the prophecy thing...nearly everything has been to some level if you look hard enough to find it.
     
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Well, in Foundation, it was a prediction rather than a prophecy, and it was supposed to be largely done by people rather than machines. But same principle.
     
  16. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Huh, you mean the exact same way that "Harry Potter" did it? How unoriginal, tropey and derivative! :)

    Look, there is nothing new under the sun. Execution matters far more than originality for the sake of originality, and most readers are okay with being able to guess where a story arc is going if it's well-realised and feels satisfying.


    Well said.
     
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  17. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Personally I can't stand stories with prophesies, chosen ones and destiny. They've always been boring. It takes away any interesting agency from the character. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a little better, but why would you need it at all?
     

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