Ancient Prophecies

Ancient Prophecies

A Lesson by Dusty
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Prophecies are a dime a dozen in fantasy novels. Learn how to make yours stand out....

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To write a fantasy, it is usually best to avoid prophecies and ancient lore or predictions, because while it may add to the story, it also has the potential to destroy it. Real life isn't predictable, and how many prophecies have you known to actually come true? Granted, this is a fantasy, but what makes a fantasy book great is the fact that it can be thought of as real. Am I confusing you yet? I hope not...

Anyways, if you think a prophecy is needed for your fantasy story, then allow me to give you a bit of advice.

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1.) Don't make it predictable. "There will come a son of Adam speechless from the mountains to slay the Great Dark Lord that hath done some evil deed unto the Fated One" is not a prophecy, but a summary of your story. If you HAVE to use a prophecy in your story, make it vague, and your character can have an interesting time making out the impossibility of the prophecy.

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2.) Do not try to make the character fight against the prophecy when we all know it will happen anyways, that is just a boring waste of pages in your book.

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3.) Remember that if your protagonist knows who is the prophesied one, most likely the antagonist knows as well. Plan your story accordingly, unless your antagonist is a blubbering idiot. =P


4.) Perhaps put the prophecy into some form of poetry or something less obvious. You need not point out right away that your protagonist is the prophesied one, or perhaps your antagonist is the prophesied one. Either way, don't make your prophecy a great blunder of a painfully obvious authorial intrusion. It should be quiet. If your prophecy is about one who will save the world or free the people or something important like that, wouldn't the author have gone through great lengths to be sure it couldn't be used against the one who would fit the prophecy?

 

5.) Include a debate. A prophecy has many open sides, especially if you make it vague like it should well be. Perhaps there is more than one person who fits the qualifying features of the Fated One, maybe they form sides. Confusion and disagreement among one side while they are still fighting another would make for great conflict and emotion.

 

6.) This is just a warning. If you include a prophecy in your fantasy story, the ending is already written in stone and predictable if you follow the prophecy as it usually is. Don't make your protagonist seem like an idiot by making them surprised by the time they finally fullfill the prophecy. Whatever the reader knows, by the end the protagonist should know it as well. If the prophecy says that someone will die, perhaps even the protagonist themselves, you can incorporate that into your story. A great sense of realization and dread or acceptance and courage with a small dose of dark self-pity could make a great conflict in your protagonist as they decide whether they are willing to pay the price of the prophecy.

 

7.) Remember, prophecy automatically eliminates surprise in a story if you plan on having it come true. Don't make yourself seem stupid by trying to surprise the reader in the end even though the entire story has been about the prophecy and the reader knows fully well how it will end.

 

Now, prophecy does not have to make a story predictable. A prophecy tells the reader the beginning and ending of a story, but not the middle, and that is what really makes the story count. Nobody wants a sandwich of just two slices of bread, they want to taste the meat in the middle, have thick slices of cheese that can combat the taste of meat. Make your sandiwch a triple decker. Put so much in between the already predicted beginning and end that the reader forgets it is there.  



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Comments

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Posted 1 Year Ago


Great article! I read a book where the prophecy didn't come true, apparently it was corrupted by pure evil oracle, so it was kind of a lie.

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Posted 3 Years Ago


Thanks! Just what I needed to read today. I'm struggling with writing my prophecy but this helped.

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Posted 4 Years Ago


If you have, I'd like to know where, cause that person would be stealing my work...

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Posted 4 Years Ago


Have I read this somewhere before?

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Posted 4 Years Ago


The atomic element thing is something I have no clue where it came from... When I attempted to edit this course, there was nothing there to indicate the phrase's presence. I suppose I will have to learn a bit more about computers to fully be able to identify its source.. :p

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Posted 4 Years Ago


I am truly impressed! Although fantasy is not a metier that I have examined at any length, I have read extensively from it's masters, C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkein, as well as Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Koontz, leGuin, and many others. True, Science Fiction is not precisely the same as fantasy, but in fact, it's not all that different, either. I see in your carefully thought out suggestions many of the techniques most of the older, better established writers have used, and it gives me hope!
You might want to define for your readers exactly what you mean by "protagonist" and "antagonist". And I would like to know what the interjections "<:atomic element:>" mean. Were these supposed to have been symbols or paragraph breaks, which did not translate properly?
There is another way you may avoid the inevitability of the prophecy, so that it is not necessarily the "bread to your sandwich". Try keeping it hidden from all but a select coterie, perhaps a priesthood, who have become so entrenched and corrupt that it is not in their best interests if it were to become generally known--not unlike the way the birth and life of Jesus played out, in fact: the Protagonist and the Priesthood are the ONLY ones who know the truth, and they are in a constant struggle to open the truth, or to keep it shut, until the climax is achieved...just one thought!
I have read many of the other so-called "courses" offered here, and so far, yours is the only one that is even literate, let alone helpful. Keep on pluggin, gal! Mark



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Author

Dusty
Dusty

Crown Point, IN



About
Hey everyone! My name is Aly. I am 15 years old and live with my mother and brother in a house with our 7 pets. We have two cats -Matti and Amber, a dog- Skunky, a hedgehog- Harley, a hermit crab -Aug..