Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Prophecy

Everyone's familiar with the Prophecy. You know, that trope that somehow manages to find its way into nearly every single fantasy book in some way or the other, and in a lot of other genres as well?

No, seriously, that's just how much the Prophecy is overused. And at most times, no prophecy is actually needed for any reason. One certain way to mess up your query letter is to talk about the plot for a paragraph, and then suddenly mention a prophecy at the end. (A whole lot more people do this than you might think.)

But keeping in touch with formality, let me define the Prophecy for you. A prophecy is usually a poem (though it may not rhyme) that says that such and such will happen, usually someone being born to kill someone. It will drive most of the plot as people try to escape the prophecy, and generally it comes true in the end. All types of visions, oracles, etc. also in part, can be considered a type of prophecy.

Most people seem to use them simply for the fact that there's nothing else to drive the storyline. So, we need conflict, right? And conflict needs a reason, so why not use a prophecy to fulfil that?

But the thing is that in most cases I've found that a prophecy is almost completely unnecessary. I can think up of a lot, but let's talk about the one in Harry Potter, because I'm sure that most of you will have read that prophecy in which it's said that one of Harry or Voldemort must kill each other.

I found that the whole thing wasted quite a few pages. For one, it was introduced in the fifth book, and it was completely unnecessary. I think we can all say that Voldemort had a good reason to kill Harry anyway without the prophecy, as his parents were members of the resistance, and he might have wanted to send a message to everyone. Also, it seems to drive the fact that Harry must kill Voldemort, but I think that's sort of blatantly obvious since Harry would want to avenge his parents, and after all that Voldemort did, he'd do it anyway. I'm also supposing that Voldemort would have wanted to kill Harry 'by his hand alone' since Harry was his biggest rival and they were connected.

Another thing is the Great Prophecy in Percy Jackson. I understand that that was probably necessary, since prophecies drive a huge part of Greek and Roman stories, but my problem here was that the last one was sort of thought up pretty sloppily and didn't make sense with what had been mentioned earlier. It contradicted what had been mentioned for a lot in the series. I won't mention all of them here, but that might make a good post for later on.

But in the end, I'd like to say that if you do wish to use the Prophecy, do note that it is overused, and also think about if you really need it. Otherwise, there are a whole lot more ways to generate tension and conflict.

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