Monday, November 17, 2014

Cliche with Kendra - Prophecies

All right, first off, you can now add My Kingdom for a Quest to your Goodreads page! I'll hold tight while you go do so. If you're feelling especially generous, I wouldn't minded it if you voted for it on this list. (It may or may not be there yet, depending on whether or not someone else was nice enough to vote for it. I have a non-interference policy when it comes to my books on Goodreads. I don't rate them, and I don't vote for them on lists. It just feels tacky to me.)

I have a prophesy in Water Princess, Fire Prince. In fact, the whole series is very much driven by them. And I'm willing to say that they are very well done.

However, the use of a prophecy is one that is frowned upon in a lot of fantasy author circles. And I do agree with their reasons.

These days, the prophecy, like the love triangle, is called more and more to be less of a plot element to being more of a plot crutch. It's a simple formula, really, A kid is either a. whisked from another world (usually earth) or b. just going about their daily lives inside the fantasy world when they meet with this elderly man who may or may not be a wizard and probably won't even appear in the story again. (Or at least not until the end of the book where he shows up to give the hero the reward or something like that) The man tells them this prophecy that no one knows the meaning of (which is about two pages long and in beautiful rhyme), and tells him of the terrible evil that is plaguing the country.

The Hero dismisses the man's words, but through some event, sets off on a series of events that somehow brings him to the realization that he (or she) is the hero of the prophecy, at which point they attempt to rebel against their fate for a short while, until they personalize the goal, defeat the villain in a way that was obvious in hindsight (though so frustratingly vague when looking at the prophecy), and then ride home to a terrific celebration.

I'm not saying that every prophecy in every book pans out this way, and truth be told, I've never read a book that pans out exactly like this summery. However, the point I'm trying to make is that the writer depends on the prophecy as sort of their outline. The only difference is that the prophecy actually gets into the book, is a bit vaguer, and is in rhyme. I'm not sure where the practice began, since most of the books I find prophecies in are newer. There is, of course, the small prophecies in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but for the most part, the founders of fantasy left the device alone.

But this does not make prophecies bad things. In fact, I believe that we, as Christian writers, should use them. Why? For the simple reason that God uses them. We're big promoters of Biblical Prophecy in my house, my Dad even has a show on Rapture Ready Radio. I can list a whole slew of interesting facts about them, but I'll limit myself to one (for now):

Every book in the Bible contains prophetic passages.

It's true! Even if it's a prophecy already fulfilled, such as those about Jesus' first coming, or Elijah telling the king it won't rain for three years, it's still prophecy. God likes giving hints about what is to come, and as such, I believe it is an element that we can, and even should include in our own writing.

However, we must do it right.

And to find out how to do it right, we need to look at the Bible. What is prophecy's role in actual history? To show us where and when we need to act and to foreshadow the future. The same should be true for a prophecy in a book. You use it to tell your characters what they need to do, and to foreshadow the plot for your readers. Take WP,FP, for instance. Pretty much the whole thing has been fulfilled as soon as Clara and Andrew arrive. It was just there so that the Klaranders would know the Water Princess and Fire Prince when they came. However, there is some foreshadowing in that last line.

Prophecy comes in varied forms throughout scriptures. A lot of it is in poetry (the Hebrew version, but that's a topic for another day if you don't understand it already), but then there are the dreams (which I also see a lot of), parables, and fingers on the wall. I love rhyming prophecies as much as the next next author over, but I'm sad that we've limited ourselves to it (and dreams, because everyone knows that dreams are cool). Why can't your prophecy be the fairy tale bedtime story that your hero has grown up listening to? (I actually have something like this in a future Bookania Quest) Or if you must have it in verse, try coming up with a new version of poetry for your people - which is a wonderful facet of worldbuilding. For instance, the prophecy in The Trilogy of One are written in what I call Hourglass Poetry, which doesn't rhyme. I'll share more about this when I'm closer to finished, though.

Very important is where the prophecy comes from. Of course, as Christian authors, we need to have them traceable to the God-figure of the world, but even so, you need a way to verify it coming from him. In Rizkaland, prophecies predominately come through one of two sources, either through the Book, or through a Bookdaughter. To just have a prophecy floating around with no source is tacky. Also remember the test God gives for a prophet: short term prophecies. Make sure your prophecy source had successfully predicted something during its own time.

Remember that Biblical prophecy isn't exactly nice and neat. Yes, there are long prophecies devoted to one event or another, but usually those are small events, such as the destruction of one city or another. For the big events, God gave the hints a little bit a time. First telling us that the seed of the woman would bruise the the head of the snake, and not for hundreds of years later before it's hinted at the Crucifixion, and then several hundred years after that before the virgin birth is mentioned. Frequently, the so-called big prophecies were tucked into the smaller prophecies where they're hard to notice.

And don't forget that double meanings are always fun. For instance, the prophecy about the virgin birth also had a short-term meaning based on a looser meaning of the word. Play with words and see what you can come up with. Perhaps a line may mean one thing at one point in the book, but when you apply it to another scene, it takes on a larger, much more profound meaning. It mean both things, depending on how you define the word.

And last, but not least, remember that not every message that a prophet brings from God is one that tells the future. Yes, future-prophecies are fun and make good outlines, but a lot of them were actually rebukes or instructions. Not nearly as much fun, but just as important

So, I hope I've given you some thoughts to think about as you write your prophecies for your prophecy stories. Any thoughts of your own that you'd like to mention? A facet of prophecy that I missed?


  1. You've got some interesting things to say about prophecies that I've never thought of before. I do use some prophecies in my fantasy, but they're more the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe type, being short things that tell a little bit about what's supposed to happen, basically so that the people know that the Time Captives are coming to help them. But I agree with all you said about the use of prophecies.

  2. Very interesting post! I've never thought much about prophecies as a writing/plot device before—at least not one that I would use often. I'm interested to read your use of it in Water Princess, Fire Prince!

  3. Very nice, thorough review of the use of prophecy in fantasy. I've never minded them in stories, but I've run across a few people who really hate them. Thanks for pointing me to your post! I missed a lot of blog posts that I normally read in November!

  4. This is truly a wonderful post; thank you! I really loved how to talked about the Biblical role of prophecy and how we should use fictional prophecies in our novels for the same reason. I will definitely incorporate this into my novel; thank you!

  5. Thanks for this very interesting post! I haven't used a lot of prophecy in my stories, but I do read quite a few books involving such things. I like how you used properties of Biblical prophecy as tips for fantasy prophecy. :)
    Oh, and BTW, your books look really cool. They're on my TBR list. :)

  6. Hey! Visiting from the GTW link-up. I actually don't think I've ever read a book with prophecies (at least not for a loonnnggg time), so I'm not versed on the subject. I have heard a lot of readers/writers talking about them though. :)


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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