In reading certain fantasy novels I find that prophecy often plays a big part. Take Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels for example. Even Robert Jordan’s novels play with prophecy. The prophecies in both these author’s work are twisted in that written prophecy doesn’t always mean what it says it means.
When I first started writing a fantasy novel, I knew I wanted to use prophecy. I had an idea to have a prophecy about a boy, also known as the Third Dragon, and everyone interpreted the prophecy differently and tried to manipulate it to their own ends. But to write something that sounded like a prophecy and played on words was a huge challenge for me. I’m not even sure I played it off.
If you are reading this, perhaps you want to know how to write prophecy for your fantasy novel. Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the magical answer. I can tell you what I did and hope it helps you. You will need two things: a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary. You can visit Thesaurus.com and rhymezone.com or purchase them at our Amazon bookstore (Amazon a-store affiliate).
The first thing I did was write down what I meant to happen. Then I tried to think of ways to say the same thing but use words with a double-meanings or words which evoke a certain image.
Terry Goodkind’s prophecy regarding the Bringer of Death, for example, could have meant someone who kills. But in the Sword of Truth series, we learned that it also means someone who allows the spirits to enter the world of life. Spirits represent someone who is dead, so you see how the word death can have a different meaning.
Let me give you my example. Let’s say our hero will find a magical object to save his people by accidentally falling through a hole in the ground and into a cave. So, who is our hero? Does our hero go by a nickname or is he known for something he did? Perhaps he is a great warrior with an axe so he is known by some as the Axe-Master. What is the magical object? Is it an object that looks like an animal? Let’s say it is and it’s called the Jade Lion. What does it do? Perhaps it makes the person who holds it invisible. So maybe we can call it the invisible green lion.
Think about the cave or the hole. What are some other words you can think of which describe a cave? It’s dark, it has a hole, it’s cold, it may have cave-dwelling animals such as bats, etc.
Brainstorm. Jot down different ideas. And be sure to use the thesaurus. For example, I looked up hole and found gap, orifice, mouth, fissure, cavity, cleft, and more. The word mouth has double-meaning and could be perfect for our make-believe prophecy. I also used the thesaurus to look up the word accident and found the word misfortune. But our hero finding a magical object is a fortune. And what about the word fall. Using the thesaurus, I found many synonyms including the word descend.
After jotting down many ideas, here is what I came up with:
Fortune will be found in the Axe-Master’s descent into the shadowy mouth of the invisible green lion.
Sounds ominous, right? Hearing a prophecy like this, our hero might be intimidated. Perhaps his enemy has a lion rampant in a field of green on his crest and our hero thinks he has to go into his enemy’s castle dungeons in order to defeat him. It doesn’t cover the invisible part, but what else is our hero (and your reader) supposed to make of this prophecy? Keep your reader guessing. And when the truth is revealed that all your hero has to do is fall down a hole, your reader may think , “Aha! That is so clever.”
But wait, why a rhyming dictionary? Perhaps the prophecy is spoken as a poem. The prophecies in my fantasy novel were longer than this one sentence example so I wanted them to read like a poem. In writing a fantasy novel, you don’t have to have your prophecies rhyme if you don’t want them to… just a suggestion.
Perhaps next week I will show you some of the prophecies in my fantasy novels, “The Third Dragon” and “The Raven’s Fire”.