Anonymous asked: Kind of building upon the ask about cliches in fantasy writing. My series is centered around a prophecy. While I don’t plan on erasing that, because that is a key feature in the books, do you think that prophecies are extremely overdone, and, if so, do you think that, if done correctly or uniquely, they could be considered less cliche?
Prophecies are exceptionally commonplace in fantasy writing, it’s true. There are lovers of fantasy out there that do not want to read another prophecy story. They conveniently present a series of internal and external conflicts to characters, and oftentimes those conflicts are played out very similarly across different fantasy works.
- It is very hard to say that an idea is always a bad idea. Being cliché does not mean being wrong in every case. While the prophecy is hackneyed, it could still work. For example, the Harry Potter series relies on the prophecy heavily as one of Harry’s sources of frustration through the story. Harry Potter is a successful series (please don’t kill, us Potter fans!), but prophecies were cliché before it was released just as they are cliché now.
- Be intensely honest about your writing. This question does beg to be asked: do you really need to leave it in? If you had started the story over and didn’t put the prophecy in at all, would you still have a story? Would it be better? This is a question that you must ask yourself. Be honest. If the answer is yes, you need it, then have at it. If the answer is no, or maybe “I could be more creative here”, then it’s time to break of the red pen and edit.
- Correct and unique do not go together.You asked if prophecies could be done “correctly or uniquely,” and if that would make them effective. You cannot do a prophecy both correctly and uniquely. They are opposites.
- “Correctly” implies that there is a right way to do it, which seems that it’s going to end up being remarkably cliché if that’s the way everyone else has been doing it all this time. Nobody describes a work of literature as “correct”.
- “Uniquely” means that you look at the normal plot situations presented by the prophecy cliché and tackle them in a way that surprises you and your reader. People have been at this for a long time, and it will not be easy, but if you can write a prophecy uniquely (and well) then you will be successful.
When all is said and done, if you read your story and say “Hey, this reeks of Author So-and-So,” then you have a problem. If you read it and say “Hey, I’m proud of the way I twisted this classic element and made it unique,” then you’re in good shape.
Thanks for your question! As always, if you have any comments or suggestions on this topic or writing in general, please send a message to our ask box!