don’t take my titles too literally, either. The prophecy is a very standard
device in sci-fi and fantasy, particularly. It’s really not a bad thing in
itself, and I used it in the Stardrift Trilogy and am using it in The Art of
Lightplay, the fantasy I’m currently writing. Like practically all clichés, the
prophecy can go from a predictable bore to a satisfying thrill with a little
Authors have different ways of handling
prophecies. Some write them, without context, in the beginning of their book,
before chapter one. Some don’t bring them up until the plot is already moving.
Some show the prophesy being told for the first time in the beginning of their
story. The placement makes little difference. Do whatever you want.
People get particularly lazy when it comes to
the actual writing of the thing. Here’s where things get really predictable if
you’re not careful. Things to watch out for:
sure you use natural-sounding language that matches the way people speak in
your story. Please don’t use, or attempt to use Elizabethan English if you have
no reason to.
the prophesy was written by a poet—preferably one who had no idea they were
writing a prophesy—please don’t rhyme it. Why would it rhyme?
use the term “Chosen One.” Think of something else.
have an old woman say it.
go on, but I would rather move on to talking about ingenious ways to twist it.
I wouldn’t advocate throwing the whole prophecy device out of literature.
People like prophesy, for some reason. And in a time when people are beginning
to think history is just a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing, I think it’s inspiring to know that the human spirit still
wants there to be a greater destiny.
So, ideas for manipulating the cliché to
surprise people. First of all, let me say that the best model for prophesy in literature
comes from the bible. The original “Chosen One” prophesy—the oldest in the
world, originated there. If I wasn’t a Christian, the accuracy and detail of
biblical prophesies would be one of the things that freaked me out.
Great ideas inspired by biblical prophesy:
of my favorites—the reoccurring fulfillment. The major prophesies in the bible
are rarely fulfilled just once, on just one level. Some of the old testament
prophets appeared to be referring to their own lifetimes—and later, Jesus Christ
would fulfill them again—and in the future, some will occur yet again.
blind prophet. Like I mentioned above, sometimes prophets may even seem to be
referring to their own personal circumstances—but later, something cosmic
happens that sheds new light on their words.
what people believed to be poetic wording turns out to be quite literal. Other
times, what people expect to be literal actually implied something else
a prophesy is presented as a story. This happens constantly in the bible. The
reader isn’t even told that the event—typically a true story—is going to have
significance later on—then it does.
are good ways to keep a reader guessing. They serve as foreshadows, and
riddles. If the wording is more abstract, or symbolic, the reader really
doesn’t get it until they look back on events. That won’t keep them from
trying. And just like in real prophesy, the trying is half the fun.
So, enjoy writing prophesies. But remember,
they take mental effort. Writing a story about prophesy being fulfilled is
almost as strategic as writing a murder mystery. Give it the time and thought
it needs to be epic.