{DISCUSSION} Prophecies

Are prophecies good plot elements?

Alright! We’ve had some heavy topics as of late and I think it’s time to have a nice fun topic…



Anyway, as I was saying: the fun topic we’re discussing today is a plot element: prophecies. Prophecies have existed forever. They are iconic. They are one of those aspects that no matter how many times it appears, it never becomes a cliche aspect (for whatever dumb reason. >.> ) But they exist. A LOT! And people continue to love them and use them and support them.

And I don’t agree with that.

No, no. I’m not just saying that to be a Devil’s Advocate (Though you all know how much I love playing that role.) No, I legitimately do not like prophecies. And I have a number of reasons to back up my dislike for this pathetic plot element. So, let’s get to it!

1. Prophecies are often too basic.

Prophecies can be a fun way to start a story because they are an easier builder, they are well known, and they are a great call to action. And they’re also almost always TOO FREAKIN’ BASIC. The author doesn’t try to develop them or add twists to them or anything like that. They’re just: “So and so will save the day” or some garbage like that. They never interpret them differently. They never convolute them or make them super cryptic or complex. They’re just… simple.

2. Prophecies leave no room for spontaneity.

Prophecies are way too straight-forward. Writers think these great, pre-built calls to action are fantastic, but in reality they’re just boxes. They are boxes that you end up shoving around your story so that it can’t actually develop and grow naturally. You confine it. You cage it in. And it ends up leaving a very dry, very brittle, very see-through story that doesn’t keep the reading going at all because you end up following a framework that’s been passed down for centuries. Lame.

3. Prophecies are weak plot, safe elements.

Prophecies are just so safe. They do not take a lot of effort. They don’t involve a lot of risk. They are flimsy. They are patchy. Literally anyone can come up with a prophecy and it’s soooo much easier to rely on a prophecy to push your story forward than to actually create real characters that take matters into their own hands or worlds that just create chaos. A prophecy is a fail-safe for whenever you run into a wall. “Well, the prophecy said this” is the most pathetic way to write and your readers will know.

But what do you think?
Are prophecies good plot elements?
Leave your thoughts below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
No One Dies


6 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Prophecies”

  1. I’ve definitely read a fair number where they essentially justify the protagonist’s status as “the chosen one”, and create a certain sense of “you are obligated to do this, you have no choice.” I’ve also seen them used as “self-fulfilling”, the event only happens because the character learned of the prophecy, or tried to prevent it.
    Most of the time they feel like a justification of one sort or another. Because of the prophecy, the villain takes a specific action, which itself represents a new “low” in their personal darkness.
    I don’t generally care for them, but I also don’t particularly dislike them, if they are done well. I find I favor the ones that are more like a clue or riddle, something that guides the characters, but also something that is too vaguely worded to be more than a “vague” guide. The Dark is Rising series did it well, I think.


    1. See, but I have issues with ‘fate’ stories as well. I understand the point of ‘well, they made this choice so that has to happen,’ but there’s no guarantee. There’s never any guarantee and I just kind of hate them all being set out because then its’s like there’s nothing interesting that’s going to happen. There’s no spontaneity. They are just kind of tired and predictable for me. I could probably get behind more vague guidelines, but still… Too much structure for a plot is bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mmm. I think a lot of it is how the story engages the issue of fate and destiny. If they are going to invoke a prophecy then they have to address “what if I refuse the call” and I think how the story answers that question says a lot about the quality of the story. I remember one (won’t say the name to avoid spoilers) where a guiding character pointed out that even if the protagonist had never learned of the prophecy, their nature and values would have led them to fulfill it, and I thought that was respectable. The story doesn’t deny choice, it simply recognizes that often “who we are” makes the choice a bit of a foregone conclusion.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Blergh. 😛 I just have issues with the whole concept. It just feels so premeditated and boring. I’d much rather read about a ‘hero’ who didn’t want to answer the call and DOESN’T have some magical saving grace moment or some garbage any day because it’s more interesting and, in my opinion, more realistic. A character who changes over the course of the story is better to me, but NOT if they become ‘good’ or whatever. (I actually really hate the ‘villain sees the light’ trope. SOOOO ANNOYING!)

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Huh. I guess I’m not thinking about just books. I’ve watched a TON of fantasy movies with prophecies in them (because I watch movies more than I read books) and it gets soooo boring because it’s the same stereotypical garbage over and over again. Always some white male “Hero” going on a stupid quest to “save everyone.” Just no.

      Liked by 1 person

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