Hello book bees and welcome to another discussion post! I especially hope to hear from some of you in the comments or on social media about what your thoughts on this topic are. Essentially I want to discuss prophecies as a framing device. Stories that involve prophecies and whether those predictions come true or not, and how those predictions shape the actions and thoughts and feelings of various characters.
This post is largely inspired by my reading of the Furyck Saga by A.E. Rayne. In this series, the largest fantasy element is the introduction of “Dreamers” who are people, largely women, who can see the future. In general, their predictions always come true but in a way that doesn’t always produce the expected outcome. A Dreamer may see someone being violently attacked and draw the conclusion that this person will die, but without seeing their death this may not be the case. Dreamers are highly respected and their prophecies shape the actions of kings, who follow their advice alongside the advice of war strategists and warriors.
For the context of that series, prophecies are used to guide many characters’ actions. Those with Dreamers close by often shape their future around what the Dreamers see. On the other hand, there are those that actively try and thwart the visions of Dreamers and so prophecies are seen as something not yet come to fruition that can be halted.
Other series see prophecies as immovable and tend to reveal them to the reader but not to the characters to create a sense of dramatic irony. Seeing a character head towards their destiny without knowing gives the story a lot of tension, especially when that character is one you like and admire. Other prophecies are false prophecies, or designed to come true in a roundabout way that surprises readers and characters alike.
While I think it can be quite interesting to include a prophecy in a story, sometimes the limitations of a prophecy being expected to come true can make characters’ choices frustrating. A character that constantly fights against a self-fulfilling prophecy, or resigns themselves to the constraints of a prophecy, loses a degree of agency and can also become flat as a result.
What about you book bees, how do you feel about using prophecies as a narrative device? What are some successful examples of prophecies in a story that made for an interesting narrative?